Halloween Goodies from Our Authors (Recipes and Book Bargains)

by Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the whole gang)

We’re celebrating Halloween this year with some autumn recipes and a bunch of sales on our books!! See below for the bargains, but first browse our recipes for some stick-to-your-ribs dishes and some lip-smacking sweet treats. We hope you enjoy these Halloween goodies from our authors.

First up is K.B. Owen with one of those sweet treats ~ Because life is short; eat dessert first!

K.B. here. In our household, nothing says autumn and Halloween quite like pumpkin fudge. The spice combination, the creaminess, not to mention real pumpkin being in it…yum! I make it at least once in the season.

It’s a particular favorite of our youngest son, Corey. In fact, I’m about to make a batch to bring up to Rochester when we visit him next week (he’s a freshman at RIT…7 hours away! sniff). Enjoy!

Pumpkin Fudge (makes 3 lbs)
Halloween goodies from our authors
Corey has always loved pumpkin. Here’s a pic of him (from a few years ago) taking a bite out of one.

Ingredients:
3 cups sugar
¾ cup butter
5-oz can evaporated milk
½ cup canned pumpkin
1 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
10-oz pkg butterscotch flavor pieces
7-oz jar marshmallow crème
1 tsp vanilla
Optional – ½ cup toasted chopped pecans

Directions: Line a 13x9x2 baking pan w/foil, extending over edges of pan. Butter foil; set aside.

In a heavy 2-qt saucepan combine ingredients down through the cloves. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils. (Clip candy thermometer, if you have one, to side of the saucepan.)

Reduce heat to medium-low; continue to boil at a moderate, steady rate, stirring constantly, until reaches 234 degrees Fahrenheit OR mixture reaches soft-ball stage (20-25 min).

sweet treat Halloween goodies from our authors
K.B.’s pumpkin fudge

Remove pan from heat. Stir in butterscotch pieces until melted. Stir in marshmallow crème and vanilla until well combined. Pour mixture into prepared pan, spreading evenly. Sprinkle with pecans, if desired. Score into 1-inch pieces while warm.

When fudge is firm, use foil to lift it out of pan. Cut fudge into pieces. Store in fridge up to 1 week.

Gilian Baker asked the main character of her Digital Detective series, Jade Blackwell, to share one of her slow cooker recipes. Yum!

Jade Blackwell, Gilian Baker’s protagonist here. As the weather turns each autumn, we get a hankering for homemade soup. If you are anything like me, you want to keep your time in the kitchen to the barest minimum. Enter the slow cooker! Here’s one of my favorite fall soups. It’s a family favorite too, and you can’t go wrong with it.

The best time to make it is when you have veggies in the fridge that are looking kind of sad, and/or when you need to free up space in the freezer or the pantry. If you plan it just right, you can make up a big batch and won’t have to cook for a few nights! We like to eat it with a hunk of sharp cheddar and a crusty baguette from Tea & Sympathy, the tea shop/bakery in our small (fictional) town of Aspen Falls.

Jade’s Slow Cooker Clean-Out-The-Fridge Soup
stick-to-your-ribs Halloween goodies from our authors

Ingredients:
A couple of squash and/or zucchini
A couple of small potatoes
Some carrots
Some celery
Some cabbage
Some onion
Some tomatoes ( From the garden, if we have any left, especially if they are a bit overripe.)
Any other veg in the fridge that is looking a little like now-or-never
Homemade chicken stock (or store-bought)
2 or 3 cans of beans (or dry) — Whatever you have in the pantry will work. Dust off the cans that have been hogging up space and plop them in the slow cooker.

If dry beans are what you have, soak them overnight with half a potato. (The potato will absorb all the gas-causing enzymes from the beans as they soak. This little tip makes bean soup much more enjoyable for everyone. DON’T eat the potato; pitch it!)

Directions: Cut up all the vegetables. Dump the chicken stock, crunchy veggies, and beans in the slow cooker. Wait to add the softer veggies that don’t take as long to cook—zucchini, squash, and celery—so they don’t get mushy. Once the crunchy veggies are soft, it’s safe to add them. If you want some chicken in your soup, shred some and toss it in.

Cook on low for 6 hrs. or so, depending on what vegetables you used and when you added the quick-cook ones.

And here’s another stick-to-your-ribs recipe from Vinnie Hansen that actually makes me want to eat vegetables (not usually my fave foods).

Vinnie here. To me, autumn means eating more root veggies, so one thing I make as the weather gets cooler are roasted roots. That includes potatoes and yams for sure, definitely onion, carrots probably, but also possibly turnips, beets, and parsnips.

Stick-to-your-ribs Halloween goodies from our authors
(Photo by Beatrice Murch CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

I slice them up, put them in a large cake pan coated with olive oil, sprinkle them with the spices that call to me–salt and pepper for sure, but then maybe thyme, or if it’s closer to Thanksgiving, maybe rosemary and sage (this is never a measured thing).

Then I roast them at 400 degrees, for about 45 minutes or until soft, flipping the veggies around once or twice during the process.

We need to wash that all down, so how about some mulled wine, from Shannon Esposito
liquid libation Halloween goodies from our authors
photo by element5-digital on Unsplash

Ingredients:
1 bottle red wine (I like cabernet sauvignon)
1 cup apple cider
1 cup cranberry juice
1/3 cup sugar (or your preferred sweetener)
1 cup fresh cranberries
2 oranges (zested and juiced)
12-14 whole cloves
2 whole cinnamon sticks
1 Tbsp star anise


Directions: Combine all ingredients in a slow cooker and stir. Cook on high until warm (about 30 minutes).

Garnish with leftover orange peel or cranberries and serve warm.

And yet another sweet treat from Kirsten Weiss — Autumn spice cookies.

(Um, after posting all these recipes, I need a snack! Bad!!!)

Kirsten here. These cookies are easy to make and lots of fun. Use Halloween-themed cookie cutters for the season!

sweet treat Halloween goodies from our authors
Vampire Bat Cookie (photo by Ralph Daily CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Ingredients:
Dough —
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
10 Tbsp softened, unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
Icing —
2 egg whites
2 ½ cup powdered sugar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
Food coloring (Halloween-themed colors of your choice)

Directions: Whisk the flour and spices for the dough in a medium-sized bowl. Set aside. In a larger bowl, beat together the butter and sugar (electric mixer on high) until the mixture is fluffy. Add the 1 whole egg and the vanilla extract. Mix well.

Reducing the speed to low (so you don’t end up breathing in a flour cloud), gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture. Beat until the dough is thoroughly blended.

Lightly flour a cutting board or other smooth surface. Turn out the dough and knead lightly. Divide the dough in half and flatten halves into two disks. Wrap them individually in plastic wrap and chill until firm, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 F and grease two baking sheets.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/8” thick. Cut into Halloween shapes using cookie cutters that are roughly the same size (so the baking times will be the same). Re-roll the scraps and repeat. Bake 8-10 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned.

For the icing, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer on high until soft peaks form. Add the powdered sugar and lemon juice. Keep beating until the mixture is thick and shiny. Separate into small bowls and add food coloring. Ice the cookies when they have cooled.
Enjoy!

And now, more Halloween goodies from our authors~Book Bargains for You!

alchemical detective book cover

FREE!!

Kirsten has Alchemical Detective FREE through October 31st!

And Fate, her new Doyle Witch Cozy, is just $2.99 during preorder!! (Price goes up after release on 11/15.)

Fate book cover

99 Cent Sale! (click on links under covers for book descriptions and buy links):

Legend of Sleepy Mayfair cover
Buy Links
Thru 11/2
Murder over Medium cover
Buy Links
Thru 11/2
Lady Luck Runs Out cover
Buy Links
Thru 11/2
Entire Series! thru 11/15

~~~~~~

Grab these bargains before they’re gone!!

~~~~~~

Also, if you click on each author’s name above, you might find more free stories available. Most of us offer free ebooks to folks who sign up for our newsletters.

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 sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to 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. 🙂 )

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An “Off” Week Book Review: The First Time I Fell

Book Review: The First Time I Fell

by Kassandra Lamb

Yay!!! Garnet McGee is back!

We brought you all an interview awhile back with Joanne (Jo) MacGregor, author of The First Time I Died, and I told you how much I loved that first book in this new series.

Well, Book 2 is here, and what a treat. My review is below, and to celebrate the new book’s release, Jo is having a little contest, just for us.

The Contest

The First Time I Died book cover
Book 1 on Amazon

She’s giving away two e-copies of Book 1, the winners to be randomly picked from commenters on this post.

So let us know you stopped by with a quick hello below, and you might land one of these free copies—an excellent read.

My Book Review: The First Time I Fell:

Garnet McGee is back in her Vermont hometown, and she’s once again stumbling over bodies and communing with the dead. With her psychic abilities improving and her completion of graduate school looming, she must decide what to do with her life. Her kooky mother suggests she become a psychic detective and drags her unwillingly into the investigation of the body Garnet found in the local quarry.

Local law enforcement, led by Garnet’s former classmate turned police chief, Ryan Jackson, are assuming the woman’s death was a suicide. But Garnet’s “visions” suggest otherwise, and Ryan is not as skeptical of her insights as Garnet assumed he would be.

From there, the clues unfold, leading Garnet back and forth along a twisted trail. The mystery would be solid and intriguing even without the psychic twist, but I particularly liked how Garnet struggles with and finally manages to integrate traditional investigating (interviewing potential suspects) with her psychic glimpses of what happened.

I also like the development of Garnet’s character, as she struggles to let go of the “ghost” of her old love, her dead high school sweetheart, and begins to let herself experience her attraction to Chief Jackson.

I’m looking forward to more Garnet McGee stories and to seeing how she grows and changes over time.

fingerprint to rate books in reviews
fingerprint to rate books in reviews
fingerprint to rate books in reviews
fingerprint to rate books in reviews
fingerprint to rate books in reviews

Four and a half fingerprints!

Grab your copy today on Amazon!

What are you reading at the moment, or have read recently and particularly enjoyed?

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 the cozy series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy 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 sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to 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. 🙂 )

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Random Holidays in October

by Kassandra Lamb

Did you know that there are over 130 random holidays in October?

When we think of this month, the first holiday that comes to mind is on its very last day, Halloween. But if you go to the website https://nationaltoday.com you’ll discover all kinds of interesting special days this month.

photo by element5-digital-unsplash

There are the more serious holidays and “awareness” days of course, such as Yom Kippur (Oct. 8th this year), World Mental Health Day (Oct. 10th), and World Teachers’ Day (Oct. 3).

But we also just missed No Bra Day (it’s actually serious, meant to raise breast cancer awareness) and National Transfer Money to Your Son Day (the check is in the mail, Jonathan).

Yesterday, Oct. 14th, was Columbus Day, but it was also National Dessert Day and National Kick Butt Day.

photo by curology-unsplash

And today, the 15th, is—among other days of acknowledgment—National I Love Lucy Day, National Cheese Curd Day, and Global Handwashing Day.

We may laugh at that last one, but did you know that as recently as the mid 1800s, even doctors did not routinely wash their hands.

In 1847, Dr. Ignatz Semmelweis, considered the Father of Hand Hygiene, demonstrated to his fellow doctors that “childbed fever” is contagious and could be reduced by doctors washing their hands. And plagues in ancient times could have been prevented if people had known to wash their hands more often.

Let’s see… coming up tomorrow, we have Global Cat Day and National Boss’s Day.

created on https://imgflip.com

And if your boss is your cat (as is the case for many of us writers), you can roll these celebrations in together.

Friday is National Chocolate Cupcake Day (Yum!) and Saturday, the 19th, is National New Friends Day.

Sunday is both International Sloth’s Day and National Day on Writing.

Hmm, I wonder if that’s a hint that I should stop procrastinating about starting my next book.

a Costa Rican sloth (photo by Javier Mazzeo–Unsplash)

Next week is going to be hard on our poor waistlines.

We have National Nut Day on Tuesday, the 22nd. The following day is National Boston Cream Pie Day. Then Thursday, the 24th, is National Bologna Day, followed immediately by National Breadstick Day, National Greasy Foods Day and World Pasta Day (all on Friday, the 25th).

And my all-time favorites of the month are National Grouch Day (started in honor of Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street) and Slap Your Annoying Coworker Day (Oct. 23rd).

Fortunately, I don’t have any coworkers at the moment, but I still think that is an absolutely awesome holiday!

How about you? What’s your favorite of the random holidays in October, besides Halloween?

alchemical detective book cover

And speaking of Halloween, in honor thereof, Kirsten Weiss has her book, Alchemical Detective, free all this month!

Plus, watch for our post on 10/29, when we’ll be bringing you some fun Halloween recipes and lots more bargains on our books!!

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 the cozy series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy 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 sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to 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. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

When Your Garden Tries to Kill You

One of my houseplants, doing it’s darnedest to escape from my kitchen window sill.

by Kassandra Lamb

Gardening has never really been my thing. I don’t have a black thumb per se, more of a brown one. I unintentionally torture plants for a while, before they finally expire.

So I laughed out loud for several minutes when I read this delightful blog post by Barb Taub. I had to share it with you all.

My Garden Wants To Kill Me

by Barb Taub

I had a college roommate who talked to her plants. Her side of our dorm room was filled with overachieving explosions of green. My side had an ever-revolving range of plants in my two little pots, doomed visitors who would linger bravely for a week or two before wanly accepting their fate.

This wasn’t really a problem over the next four decades. With jobs, kids, and a husband who likes to mow large swaths of lawn, my black thumb couldn’t do too much damage. Then I blew it. I moved to the UK, where gardening is a sacred passion.*

(*I’m totally not imagining this. Recent UK census and surveys show that almost 60% of people spent time gardening within the previous month, but only 12% attended religious services.)

When we bought our house on a wee isle in Scotland, it came with an absolutely wonderful gardener who kept the jungle from closing in. Sadly, he told us he was retiring and the garden was all down to us now. This wouldn’t be a particular issue, except for our neighbors. Downhill below us is one of the most spectacular gardens I’ve ever seen, kept immaculately and with such a flair for color and casual design that you could charge admission. Uphill above us is a cottage with a hedge so flawlessly straight I’m completely convinced our neighbor Peter manicures it with a surgically-sharp but very tiny pair of scissors.

And between these two lovely gardens, there’s… us. After two years without anyone who knows what they’re doing, our garden would be an excellent understudy for the next Tarzan film. When guests go for a stroll, I feel the odd machete would not be amiss.

So the Hub bought me a scary pair of enormous loppers, and I told the dog I was going in. At first it was almost fun. Without a clue what I was doing, I started to hack a path from the greenhouse. Then somehow I was holding my jaw and listening to a peculiar whining noise. Oh, wait… it was me moaning, and my cupped hand was filling with blood from my nose and split lip. When things stopped spinning, I slowly pieced together that the branch I was lopping had released the other branch it had been holding back, sending it on a flying assault to my face.

(The real attempt on Barb’s life is yet to happen. Read about it HERE. I’ll give you a hint: below is the alleged murder weapon.)

(photo copyright by Barb Taub)

My garden’s attempt to do me in was perpetrated by a bag of mulch. More on that in a later blog post. But I do have to admit that something good came out of it.

While I was laid up recuperating from my garden’s assault, I finally finished the first draft of Multiple Motives, which would become my first published book!

How about you? Are you a green thumb, or a brown or black one? Has your garden ever tried to retaliate and kill you?

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 the cozy series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy 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 sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to 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. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

7 Life Lessons From My Summer Vacation

by Kassandra Lamb

Remember those essays we had to write in school…What I Did on My Summer Vacation?

Well, I went to Europe on mine.

It’s a trip that hubs and I had begun to plan multiple times (starting in 2015), and something always happened to derail the plan. So this year, we were determined.

The trip was all about seeing some sights we’d been wanting to see for years—which we did—but I also picked up a few life lessons along the way.

Lesson #1 — People can be family even if they don’t speak the same language.
Our friend Nathalie, with the baguette for dinner, in the town nearest her home.

The first week of our trip was spent in Brittany, France, visiting a friend of twenty some years now. My husband, the linguist, speaks fluent French, but me, not so much. He sees this friend and her family every couple of years, when he’s overseas doing what linguists do (after 43 years of marriage, I’m still trying to figure out what that is). I’ve been over there four or five times now.

Dessert our second evening in France.

The French are fairly reserved with strangers, but once they get to know you—and if they decide they like you—then you’re family. We were welcomed with open arms, bised (kissed on the cheeks) by every man, woman and child in the extended family, and then fed until we almost exploded!

And every meal was accompanied by lively conversation (most of which washed right over my head) and lots of laughter.

It was a wonderful, joyful time and a great way to start our adventure!

Lesson #2 — Our lives today would be radically changed, if a few things had happened a bit differently in the past.

Our second stop was Brest, France, the city where our friend’s eldest daughter lives and works.

View of Brest from our Airbnb’s window.

Brest is a major French naval port. During a visit to the naval museum there, we discovered that the French Navy, and this port in particular, played a pivotal role in our War of Independence.

Four-hundred and fifty ships of the Royal Navy were dispatched from Brest to intercept and blockade the British Navy near Yorktown in 1781. They kept supplies and reinforcements from reaching land, a turning point in the war that eventually led to the signing of the peace treaty.

The tip of the iceberg. Underground are several stories of the German installation, now a museum.

On a more somber note, a visit to a World War II museum, in a former Nazi artillery bunker on the coastline near Brest, poignantly reminded us of how much France and Europe had suffered during that war.

The artifacts of the war included possessions, drawings and photos of specific, real people—military from both sides and French civilians—accompanied by audio recordings of actors playing those people and telling us about their experiences (based on diaries, journals and letters). The hair stood up on the back of my neck a few times.

A profound sight: the juxtaposition of these remnants of a devastating war against the tranquil countryside and the sea beyond.

Brest was a very strategic port for the Germans, and therefore it was bombed regularly by the Allied Forces. Most of the city was destroyed and had to be rebuilt.

It was quite an experience, looking out over the cityscape of modern buildings from our Airbnb’s window, and suddenly having one’s eye stopped by a surviving church spire, a castle tower or an ancient house—the only reminders left that this city was founded before the Middle Ages.

Can you spot the castle? (No, it’s not the tall tower slightly to the left; look a bit to the right instead.)
Lesson #3 — Online friends can be just as wonderful as IRL friends.

Next up was a visit with a friend in Glasgow, Scotland, and a trip to her “wee cottage” on the Isle of Arran.

The side wall of my friend’s “wee” cottage and the view from her front window.
I discovered when I got home that I hadn’t taken any pics of my friend. 🙁 But I did get this one of her wee dog, and my friend’s shoes.

This friend is someone I’ve “known” online for several years now, and I was so excited to finally meet her in person.

She showed us a delightful time!

And I am now proud to call her an in-real-life friend.

Lesson #4 — Some things resist being checked off the bucket list.
No, it’s not Hogwarts, it’s the University of Glasgow on a typical Scottish cloudy day.

We felt like we “did” Glasgow sufficiently (plus a day trip to Edinburgh).

But the Isle of Arran gave us a taste of the beauty of the highlands that left us wanting more. So we’re hoping we can spend some time again on the island, soaking up that beauty at a more leisurely pace.

Maybe we’ll rent one of the lovely holiday cottages that are so plentiful on the island.

Lesson #5 — Sacred spaces come in all shapes and sizes.

High on my bucket list was Stonehenge, and hubs and I are also cathedral junkies. So a trip to Salisbury was the centerpiece of our week in England. After a stop-over in Stratford-upon-Avon for a Shakespeare fix, our train chugged into Salisbury on one of the few sunny afternoons during this leg of the journey.

We dumped our bags in our room and walked the few blocks to get a look at the outside of the cathedral. And stood with our mouths hanging open for a while.

Salisbury Cathedral, built between 1220 and 1238, is one of the biggest and most magnificent cathedrals we’ve ever seen (and that’s saying something).

The next morning we attended the 10:30 mass before shifting into our tourist roles. It was a lovely service, especially in such an awe-inspiring space.

And we visited with the local parishioners for a while afterwards, during the “coffee hour” that is part of almost every Episcopalian/Anglican service in the world (I’m Episcopalian).

Then we wandered around the cathedral’s interior for quite some time (with more mouth-hanging-open moments), before having tea and scones for lunch in the refectory.

The next day, we went to Stonehenge, and we weren’t nearly so lucky with the weather there. It was rainy and dreary the whole time.

We kept asking ourselves why we were walking around in the rain just to look at a bunch of rocks. And yet, we kept walking, and staring.

And stopping to take “one last photo” of those stones that were obviously intentionally placed in that field, in some particular arrangement for some sacred reason, many centuries ago.

Indeed, some of the stones have a blue cast to them that identifies them as a type of rock NOT naturally found in that area. The constructors of Stonehenge had dragged those huge rocks on sledges across many miles to that spot.

Archeologists are still piecing together the whys and wherefores of the phenomenon that is Stonehenge.

Lesson #6 — The justice we take for granted in the West is not universal.

Salisbury Cathedral houses one of the few remaining original copies of the Magna Carta. I hadn’t given much thought to that part of the visit beforehand, assuming that this would just be another historical memento I would glance at and think, “That’s interesting.”

But the Cathedral folks have done a really good job of pointing out the significance of this document, signed begrudgingly by King John of England in 1215.

With various displays around the room, they remind visitors that rights we take for granted in “Western” countries—such as the right to not be arrested without due process and being considered innocent until proven guilty—all stemmed from this incident in British history.

And these concepts are not universal in other countries.

Lesson #7 — Nobody’s getting any younger, so go where you really want to go sooner instead of later.

We were really sorry we’d waited so long to make this trip, especially since we found the lugging of suitcases, the climbing of steps and the many miles of walking much more challenging then in the past.

So our next big adventure will be happening a lot sooner. Before our old bodies give out on us completely.

How about you? What did you do on your summer vacation? And what’s still on your bucket list?

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 the cozy series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy 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 sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to 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. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

Killer Nashville

I’d been to two conferences this year and wasn’t about to attend another. Then this happened. Since I last attended, Killer Nashville has moved from Nashville proper to a hotel in an industrial park in nearby Franklin. No pedal pubs hooting by on the street! No sneaking out to hear music! I also found this new hotel/motel disconcerting with elevators where you’re on display like a bug. No fluffing your hair or wriggling in your dress to prepare for a grand entrance.

Don’t look down!

Even though the outside temperatures weren’t bad for the end of August, the conference rooms were cold enough to chill wine. Fortunately, when packing, I had heeded my friend Mary Feliz’s sage comment that there’s only one temperature at conferences. Hotel temperature. Still, I could have used warmer clothes!

Enough whining. I finally met face-to-face two authors I’ve worked with and known for years, Paula Benson and Maggie Toussaint. Because of them and the Sisters in Crime Guppies Chapter, I immediately found my tribe.

The Guppies table at Friday lunch. Out-going president Debra Goldstein was there, as well as three Silver Falchion winners: Maggie Toussaint (front left), who won in Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror; Carmen Amato (out of frame), who won in Short Stories; and Bradley Harper, who won for Mystery. Of course, the table also included moi, a Claymore finalist, and the young woman in red who solved KN’s staged crime scene.

Bradley Harper, the gentleman at our table, not only won the Silver Falchion for best mystery, but also co-hosted my favorite panel, How Autopsies Really Work. The presentation was full of grist such as surgeons often sign bullets they remove (as part of the chain of custody). In Germany, Medical Examiners don’t use the Y incision but rather a straight line because there are no open casket funerals in Germany.  

A highlight at Killer Nashville is the staged crime scene. Attendees get to act as CSI and try to solve what happened. I didn’t win, but the killer was in my top two suspects. 🙂

The crime scene covered the entire hotel suite and was quite complex. To grasp the crime, one also had to listen to many taped interviews.

Because this was my second time as a Claymore finalist and my second time at the conference, Clay Stafford, the founder, assigned me plenty to do: three panels, many signing slots, and a position as presenter at the Awards Banquet. But the stars of Killer Nashville were, of course, Joyce Carol Oates, Alexandra Ivy, and David Morrell. If you’ve never seen Joyce Carol Oates, she’s a wren-like woman with a great deal of self-possession. Because I was the first presenter, I was able to sit in Clay Stafford’s banquet chair for a bit and rub shoulders with greatness, the three stars all lined up at my side. But my favorite star experience happened during one of my many forays outside to warm up and to breathe some real air. On the weekend, the industrial park was completely deserted. I was the single sole walking about. That is, until Joyce Carol Oates came walking toward me. I figured she was out there for some peace, so we passed wordlessly. It was enough to catch her fleeting aura.  

How about you? Have you ever had occasion to attend a conference? Which are your favorites and why? Any Joyce Carol Oates experiences?

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie fled the howling winds of South Dakota and headed for the California coast the day after high school graduation. Still sane(ish) after 27 years of teaching English, Vinnie is retired. In addition to writing, she plays keyboards with ukulele bands in Santa Cruz, California, where she lives with her husband and the requisite cat. She’s the author of the Carol Sabala Mystery series, and LOSTART STREET, a cross-genre novel of mystery, murder, and moonbeams. Her short fiction has appeared in a variety of publications and anthologies, with four publications this year. Her latest is a caper story in the Sisters in Crime Guppies’ anthology, Fishy Business. Who are the Guppies? 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 sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to 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. 🙂 )

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6 Things I’ve Learned About Labor — An Encore

aerial of crowded beach on Labor Day
Traditionally, beaches are jammed full on the last big weekend of summer. (photo by John Murphy, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Another Labor Day has rolled around. For many of us this is just another three-day weekend, an excuse to have a cookout or make a trip to the department stores to grab some bargains.

Or we may look upon this holiday as the bittersweet end of summer.

But the day was originally set aside to honor people who worked for a living (which is almost all of us). Back when this holiday was a new thing, in the late 1800s, many more people did actual physical labor in their jobs than we see today.

Indeed, the word “labor” implies hard physical effort. We talk about a woman laboring to give birth.

But what about if our work is something we are passionate about. Then we may call it a “labor of love.”

Here are 6 things I’ve learned about labor during my lifetime:

1. Find work that you enjoy, and preferably work that you can feel passionate about.

There are lots of different vocations available today. Don’t settle for one that you can barely tolerate, if you can help it.

2. Accept the bad with the good.

Not all of the tasks involved in that work will be ones you like. I try to deal with the less pleasant tasks first thing, so I can enjoy the rest of my day without them hanging over my head.

3. Take time to experience a sense of accomplishment.

The next time you finish a task, stop and notice what that sense of accomplishment feels like for you.

For me, it’s a light feeling in my chest and I find myself smiling even if no one else is around. I experience this feeling, to varying degrees, every time I accomplish something, no matter how small. Even something mundane like changing the sheets on the bed comes with a small sense of satisfaction.

image of joy
(image by Camdiluv ♥ from Concepción, CHILE CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

When the accomplishment is a major one, there may be bubbles of joy in my chest and the urge to jump up and down. I get that more intense feeling when I finish a first draft, and when I hit Publish for a new release.

Once you’ve discovered what “accomplishment” feels like for you, stop to let yourself experience that feeling every time you finish a task. Take the time to savor it; it’s your reward!

4. Realize that passion can burn out eventually.

We have much more permission to change careers today than previous generations did. Don’t hesitate to at least explore other options when what was once pleasant is now burdensome. I’m now working on my 4th career.

5. Don’t make what has come before wrong because it is no longer right.

Things we once felt passionate about can become mundane. Tasks that we once tolerated can become excruciating. But that doesn’t mean that particular passion wasn’t right for us back in the day. Things change; cherish the memories and move on.

My first career was as an administrative assistant in Human Resources (we called it Personnel back then). The tasks I did in that job would bore me to tears today, but I was excited to be part of the business world and to use my interest in psychology to help my employer hire good people.

line drawing of Labor Day parade
The first Labor Day parade, in New York in 1882. (public domain)

When I hit the glass ceiling (which was a lot lower in those days), I went back to school and then became a therapist. I loved that work.

For two decades, I loved it, until I didn’t anymore. But that didn’t make what I had accomplished any less meaningful to me or my clients, nor did it change the fact that I had indeed loved that career for a very long time.

And then I loved to teach, until the other aspects of the job (like grading papers) got to be more trouble than it was worth. (I miss the students though.)

And now I’m writing fiction. I’m still passionate about it, but not as much so as I once was. It feels a bit more like “work” these days. Nonetheless, I suspect I’ll be at this until I’m old enough to finally be content with full retirement.

Each of my careers was fulfilling in its own season, and I cherish all the memories.

6. Balance work with play.

There is much truth in the old adage: All work and no play makes one a dull girl/boy. If work is nonstop—no matter how passionate we are about it—we can become dull shadows of our fully alive selves.

I learned this one the hard way. It’s easy for the business of writing, polishing, publishing and marketing books to become all consuming. I let this happen for several years until a vague sense of discontent had grown into a low-grade depression.

Now, twice a week, I make myself take time off from my business and writing tasks and go to the senior center to play cards or mah jongg. I call them my “old lady days” but really they are my mental health days.

Any thoughts about “labor” you all would like to add?

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. 🙂 )

An “Off” Week Goodie: How To Write Multiple POVs Right

(NOTE: Our blog will be on hiatus for August. Please check back on September 3rd!)

by Kassandra Lamb

A couple weeks ago, I was a guest on Jami Gold’s wonderful blog for writers. I talked about my experiences writing the Kate Huntington mysteries with multiple perspectives, and what I had learned about how to write multiple POVs correctly. For writers, or for readers who’d like a peek behind the scenes regarding how we writers do things, here’s that post.

How To Write Multiple POVs Right

Once upon a time, writing in more than one point of view was a no-no, unless you were writing romance, and then you were supposed to stick with just the hero’s and heroine’s POVs. But it’s becoming more common these days to see stories that include other perspectives, like the villain’s and/or secondary characters.

There are reasons for doing this, but it can get complicated. So it’s important to figure out how to write multiple POVs right.

Having just completed a ten-book multiple POV series, the subject is on my mind right now. I’ve been contemplating how I naively started with multiple POVs without much pre-thought and now I am deftly (or at least more deftly *grin*) using it for very specific purposes.

So here are some reasons for using multiple POVs and some Do’s and Don’ts for writing it right.

5 Good Reasons to Use Multiple POVs

#1: Character Importance

I had to re-write this story, after I learned how to write multiple POVs right.
I’ve learned a lot about how to write multiple POVs, since the first edition of this book.

If you have two characters who are close to equally important to the story, it’s appropriate to show both POVs. This was my reason for this approach in the first book of my series, Multiple Motives. That story is about two platonic friends, and someone seems to have a murderous grudge against both of them. I wanted to show how the adversities they were dealing with strengthened their friendship, so it seemed appropriate to show parts of the story from each perspective.

#2: Plot Logistics

More than one POV also allows you to show what is happening at times and places when the protagonist isn’t present. This was critical in Multiple Motives, because at a point in the story, the two friends are separated; one is in danger and the other is trying to find/rescue him.

The only other way to do that would have been to have one of the friends “tell” what happened on their side of things, once the rescue happened—not nearly as powerful as showing what each is going through in real time.

#3: Necessary Insights into Character Motivations

Multiple POVs also allow for showing the motivations of more than one character’s actions. I ran into this issue with one of my important secondary characters. Not being inside her head when she came to a particular decision would have made her actions seem totally out of character. Again, I could have had her explain her motivation to the others, but that would not have been nearly as powerful as having the reader witness her internal struggle.

#4: Contrasting Perspective

A character’s nature (especially their flaws) can be revealed through another character’s perceptions. Nothing illuminates a character better than the reader seeing them through another person’s eyes, especially when that is compared to what the character believes about themselves.

In my new release and the last book in the series, Kate is doing something she feels is necessary to protect others, but those close to her have a different opinion about the wisdom of her actions. Their concerns are summarized in a secondary character’s internal dialogue.

“And Kate’s going to meet this guy by herself?” Judith asked, fighting the urge to shake her head. Kate was a brilliant psychologist, but she sure could be stupid sometimes.

#5: Manage Reader Emotions

Multiple POVs can be used to modulate emotional intensity. Most of the time, we want readers to feel what the characters are feeling, and just as intensely. However, sometimes this is not desirable.

There are times when we want to back the reader away from the intense emotions.

  • One is when the emotions may be too overwhelming for our audience. I can show raw, dark emotions in my romantic suspense stories, for example, but not in my cozy mysteries (thus the different pen name). We don’t want our readers to stop reading because they can’t handle the emotional intensity.
  • Another time is when intense emotions would slow down the story’s pace too much.

In both cases, showing the character’s reactions through the eyes of another character can create just the right amount of distance.

In Multiple Motives, Kate’s first husband is the murder victim. I show some of her initial shock and grief through the eyes of her friends and family, both to keep the story from bogging down and to not overwhelm the reader.

While multiple POVs have these advantages, there are some pitfalls to avoid when using this approach.

For the 7 Do’s and Don’ts on how to write multiple POVs, READ MORE HERE

We will be on hiatus now for August. Have a wonderful rest of the summer, everyone, and we’ll see you in September!

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 the cozy series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy 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 sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to 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. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

Do We Really Know the People We Know? (and a New Release)

by Kassandra Lamb

While writing my July 4th novella (which is releasing today, 19 days late, but, hey, it’s still July at least), I stumbled on an interesting and disturbing question. How well do we really know the people we know?

Unless we own a lie detector, how do we really know who we know?
Unless we own a lie detector (and our friends and acquaintances are willing to submit to it) how do we really know the people we know? (photo by Marcin Wichary from National Museum of Crime & Punishment, Washington, CC-BY-2.0, Wikimedia)

When we meet someone new—a new neighbor, co-worker, friend of a friend we meet at a party—we ask them about themselves. Where are they from, what do they do for a living, etc. And unless their eyeballs are bouncing around like jumping beans or they break out in a cold sweat, we take their answers on face value.

And after we’ve “known” them for a while, we assume we do truly know them, and all the things they’ve told us about themselves become solidified in our minds as fact.

But how do we really know the people we know are telling the truth?

A new employer or landlord will run a background check, or at least check one’s credit, but those we meet socially, we assume they are who and what they say they are.

In A Star-Spangled Mayfair, the mystery the protagonist Marcia (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha) is trying to sort out revolves around her friend, Jess, who runs the local diner. When Jess becomes the prime suspect in her fiancé’s murder, Marcia discovers that the fiancé is not who he said he was.

Then Will Haines, Marcia’s significant other—who also happens to be a police detective—raises the issue of whether they truly know Jess:

“Look,” Will said, “when you think about it, what do we really know about Jess? All we know of her background is what she’s told us, and that’s precious little. She could be a Black-Widow type, on the run from other jurisdictions after knocking off multiple husbands and fiancés.”

I pulled away from him a little. “Will, she’s terrified of fireworks. No way would she have gotten anywhere near where they were actually setting them off, much less pick up one, light it and point it at her fiancé. It’s just ludicrous.”

He shook his head. “And how do you know she’s phobic of fireworks?”

“She–” My body slumped. “She told me so.”

from A Star-Spangled Mayfair, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, #8

By the end of that scene, Marcia is even questioning if she truly “knows” Will. After all, she’s yet to meet his family.

I don’t have an answer to the question do we really know the people we know. I just found it rather amazing that I’d never really thought about it before. Oh, it’s often a premise in fiction—the character who isn’t what they seem—but in real life, most of us blithely go along assuming everything that everybody has told us about themselves is true.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten you, and myself, all paranoid about our friends and neighbors, here are the details about the book. It wasn’t intended to raise profound questions … mostly it’s just a fun read.

A Star-Spangled Mayfair, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, #8

A Star-Spangled Mayfair cover

A flamboyant fiancé, a “Mob Killer” Roman candle, a yappy rescue dog, and a bison bull named Tarzan.

A recipe for chaos and calamity for Marcia’s introverted friend, Jess Randall.

When not serving up her to-die-for eggs and biscuits at the Mayfair Diner, Jess just wants to live quietly on their farm. But her fiancé Dan has impulsively offered to host the Mayfair Independence Day Extravaganza.

The day of the big bash, Marcia and her dog Buddy witness a public fight between the couple, and just hours later, Dan is found with a Roman candle through his chest. Was it an accident, or was it murder? And is Jess a killer, as the sheriff’s department believes?

Between dog-training sessions, Marcia feels compelled to investigate, especially when there are signs that the real killer may not be finished… Could Jess be the next target?

Just $0.99 for a limited time! (Goes up to $2.99 later.)

Available on:

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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 the cozy series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy 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 sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to 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. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

Do You Really Know What’s On Your Plate? (And a New Release)

by Shannon Esposito

The murder victim in my new release, Pushing Up Daises (A Pet Psychic Mystery No. 5) is an infamous food critic who exposes local restaurants’ false claims—and flat out lies–about what they’re serving their customers. Unfortunately, seafood fraud is a real problem.

Is this really what you ordered? Seafood fraud is a real thing.

I always thought one of the perks of living in Florida was getting to eat fresh seafood, until I started doing research for this book and found out ninety percent of the seafood consumed in the US is imported from countries with loose aquaculture laws.

Okay, so it’s not fresh caught off our coastal waters. Is that so bad? Well, yes, it is.

When fish is imported, it has little oversight.

According to a recent study by Oceana—a non-profit ocean conservation organization—one in five fish sold in the US are conveniently “mislabeled”. Cheaper fish are sold in place of more popular fish. These are fish that contain higher mercury levels and fish that are farmed, instead of wild caught, which means you are consuming antibiotics, pesticides, artificial coloring and other toxins.

Restaurants in Florida have been caught serving foreign crab meat touted as Atlantic blue crab, Asian catfish as Florida Grouper, foreign shrimp as domestic, and Escolar—a fish with gempylotixin which causes gastrointestinal distress—as white tuna. Ordering red snapper? Odds are high that’s not what you’re getting, since it’s mislabeled eighty-six percent of the time. But one of the most troubling deceptions discovered is King mackerel, a high methylmercury-content fish, being served as grouper. 

Can something be done about this deception?

The good news is it can be fixed. Europe had the same problem, but after voting for stricter labeling laws, and educating consumers about the issue, they managed to cut seafood fraud and mislabeling from thirty-three percent down to four percent.

What can you do? Learn what fish are in season in your area. Ask where the fish is sourced. You may not always get the truth, but if they know consumers are educating themselves about this issue, they may start thinking twice about their deceptive practices.

Does seafood fraud in the US shock you? Or were you aware of this problem?

Pushing Up Daisies (A Pet Psychic Mystery No. 5)

The dog days of summer are back, and Darwin Winters, pet psychic, is excited to attend the St. Pete Seafood Festival with her sister. Unfortunately, the festival gets shut down early when a despised, local food critic dies from ingesting pufferfish toxin while judging the Chef’s Golden Lobster Contest.

When Hana Ishida, the chef who served pufferfish to the victim, is taken in for questioning, Darwin agrees to dog-sit the woman’s dachshund, Daisy. Darwin receives a vision from Daisy showing Hana in a heated argument, but for Daisy’s sake, Darwin desperately wants to dig up the truth and help her boyfriend, Detective Will Blake, prove Hana’s innocence.

Though Will does have a few fishy restaurant owners on his suspect list, none of the clues are pointing to anyone but Hana. Can Darwin help him reel in the right suspect? Or will this killer be the one that got away?

Available on Amazon (free with Kindle Unlimited)

Posted by Shannon Esposito. Shannon lives in a magical gulf coast town with fluorescent sunsets, purple dragonflies and the occasional backyard alligator. Her mysteries transport readers to Florida without the hefty price of airfare. You can visit her at murderinparadise.com

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 sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to 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.)

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