Tag Archives: free books

Announcing Our October Halloween Contest

We’re taking this week off from blogging, but we wanted to announce our October Contest. It’s all about Halloween, of course!

Here are the prizes:

Our October Halloween contest prizes
Our October Halloween contest prizes

Click HERE for more details and to Enter!

Coming up on the blog in October, preserving our relationships during these strange and challenging times, plus a fun interview with chick lit/mystery writer, Lois Winston!

Family Dynamics in Fiction (And Our Contest)

by Kassandra Lamb

Family Dynamics in Fiction

Family dynamics make fascinating fodder for us fiction writers. Even in mysteries, where the main plot revolves around whodunnit, we can weave in some interesting aspects of our characters, based on their pasts and the often complex dynamics in their families of origin.

The main character in my new story, Marcia Banks (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha) has always described her relationship with her mother as “basically good.” That is, until Mom falls in love with a Florida sheriff. She unexpectedly leaves her home state of Maryland to take up long-term residence in Marcia’s guest room, while she and the good sheriff work out the details of their new life together.

And Marcia discovers that she doesn’t really know her mother as well as she thought she did:

…..“Honestly, Marcia, I think you see me as some two-dimensional cutout that’s still standing on the sidewalk back in Maryland, hand raised in a wave, as you drove off in that ratty old van.”
…..“That’s not fair. I see you as a person.”
…..“Do you?” She shot me an exasperated sideways glance.
…..“I do. It’s just that I thought you were more…” I trailed off, trying to find a word for prudish that wasn’t insulting.
…..“People don’t stop growing and changing in their senior years.” Her voice was still huffy. “All that stuff about you can’t teach an old dog new tricks is hooey.”
…..“I know,” I said, though I honestly hadn’t given it much thought before now. I’d assumed that Mom was Mom and would always be the same.
…..It was a tad disconcerting to realize that might not be the case. Who was this woman sitting in my passenger seat?

Excerpt from My Funny Mayfair Valentine

Slowly, Marcia and Mom work toward a better understanding of each other and a more adult-to-adult relationship (while also trying to figure out what gives with the mysterious newcomer to Mayfair who’s dating the town’s “favorite daughter”).

More Mother Issues

Family Dynamics in Fiction

In Kirsten’s new release, Oolong, Farewell, Abigail Beanblossom is dealing with a more blatantly dysfunctional relationship with her narcissistic mother, who abandoned her at age two in order to seek “spiritual enlightenment.” Most of the time, she can ignore her woo-woo mother, but now she has returned to town and is staying with her grandfather.

At her tearoom, Abigail receives a phone call from her Gramps:

…..“Hi, Gramps. How are you doing?” My chin dipped, my chest squeezing, because I knew my mother was driving him crazy. I just didn’t know what I could do about it.
…..“You’ve got to get out of the tearoom,” he said. “Now.”
…..I stiffened. “What? Why?”
…..“She’s on her way. I’m sorry, Abigail. I couldn’t stop her.”
…..My blood ran cold. I didn’t need to be told who she was. My mother.
…..“I don’t know what’s gotten into her,” he continued. “I think… I think you may be her new spiritual quest.”
…..“What?” I yelped.
…..“I know it sounds nutty,” he said, “but she had an odd look in her eye over breakfast when she was talking about you.”
…..My heart gave an odd lurch. “Oh?”
…..“And she threw out all the milk and replaced it with that soy stuff. And she replaced my favorite peanut butter cereal with nuts and twigs. It’s supposed to be healthy, but it tastes like sawdust.”
. . . .
…..I leaned against the cool, concrete wall. “Aside from the milk and cereal, how are things going? With her in the house, I mean.”
…..“The incense burns Peking’s eyes. She knows we hate incense.”
…..Peking was his pet duck. I wasn’t sure if ducks could smell, but I knew Gramps hated incense.
…..I shut my eyes. “Look. If you need a break. She can stay at my place.” Because the only thing worse than the thought of spending time with my mother was the thought of my mother breaking my grandfather.
…..“No,” he said manfully. “It’s okay”….

Excerpt from Oolong, Farewell

Abigail’s business partner, Hyperion Night, tries to be supportive.

..…“My mother’s on her way to the tearoom.”
..…“Seriously? That takes some brass. No offense,” he added quickly. “It’s bad form to criticize other people’s relatives. But… what are you going to do? I know I said you should rip the proverbial bandage off, but I also know it’s not that easy.”
..…“No, it isn’t.” I slumped in the seat. I’d have to face her someday. Just… not today.
…..“Do you think it’s possible she wants to make amends?”
..…“For abandoning me at the airport when I was a toddler?” I rapped out. How do you make up for that? “No, I don’t. I don’t care how much self-actualization she’s gone through. There’s no coming back from that.” My panicked grandparents had raced to collect me while my parents flew to India. I hoped my parents had at least hit turbulence.
…..Hyperion was quiet for a long moment. “But what if there was a way? What if she could come back from it?”
…..“There isn’t, and she can’t.” But my heart pinched. A tiny part of me wanted to believe it was possible. I mentally gave that part of me a swift kick in the butt.
…..This happened every time my parents came back. I’d get my hopes up that they’d changed, that things would be different, that they wanted me. And every damn time I’d been disappointed.
…..I wasn’t going through all that again.

Excerpt from Oolong, Farewell

Between their efforts to clear a friend of a murder charge, Abigail continues to struggle with a concept that she gets intellectually, but is having trouble applying emotionally. That forgiveness is not about the other person, it’s for one’s own mental health.

Over to you all – As a reader, how do you feel about family dynamics in fiction, especially as subplots in mysteries?

Here are the blurbs and PREORDER links for the books…And don’t forget to enter out contest below!

Oolong, Farewell, A Tea and Tarot Mystery #3

When all the neighbors want you dead…

Abigail Beanblossom is finally getting into the groove of her new Tea and Tarot room. But in Abigail’s mind, when things are going right, that’s exactly when they’re about to go wrong.

She never could have guessed, however, that the mother who abandoned her as a child would suddenly return, looking for tea and sympathy. Now, all Abigail wants is to escape. So, when her grandfather’s friend, Archer, asks Abigail and her partner Hyperion to investigate the murder of his neighbor, the two amateur sleuths leap at the opportunity.

Abigail suspects Archer’s fears of arrest are a tempest in a teapot. The victim’s been renting out his mansion for noisy events and bringing the entire neighborhood to a boil. And the old money and nouveau-riche suspects are as plentiful as they are quirky.

But when Archer becomes suspect #1, Abigail and Hyperion must steep themselves in the fraught world of upper-crust homeowners associations and Instagram stars. Because this cockeyed killer is just getting started…

(Tearoom recipes in the back of the book.)

RELEASES ON 9/21/2020 ~ AVAILABLE NOW FOR PREORDER ON:

AMAZON ~ APPLE ~ NOOK ~ KOBO ~ GOOGLE PLAY

My Funny Mayfair Valentine, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, #10

A newcomer to Mayfair charms the socks off of Susanna Mayfair, the sheltered niece of the town’s elderly matriarch. In a panic, the aunt turns to service dog trainer Marcia Banks to dig into the man’s past.

What Marcia finds, with her detective husband Will’s help, is disturbing—a trail of broken hearts and outstanding warrants. But when the older gentleman is arrested, he claims it’s a case of mistaken identity.

While Will attempts to untangle the truth and Susanna struggles with her feelings, Marcia is worried about her friend’s mental health, unaware that Susanna may be in physical danger as well. Will Marcia figure it out in time to protect Susanna…and herself?

RELEASES ON 9/22/2020 ~ AVAILABLE NOW FOR PREORDER ON:

AMAZON ~ APPLE ~ NOOK ~ KOBO ~ GOOGLE PLAY

And don’t forget to Enter Our September Self-Care Contest HERE!

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 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. 🙂 )

Age Is Relative, Especially During a Pandemic (Plus a New Contest!)

by Kassandra lamb

My birthday and Labor Day are usually close together, sometimes on the same day. This year, they were three days apart, and both were bittersweet. On Labor Day, hubs and I grilled burgers, but it was just the two of us, as it has been now for months, and my birthday…well…

At the beginning of 2020, I didn’t feel all that old. I was 67, in my “mid-sixties.” *wink, wink* I was basically in good health, just some annoying chronic issues, but nothing that seriously impaired my quality of life.

And then we had a pandemic.

Age is Relative!
Not my birthday cake, but about the right number of candles, if six of them represent decades! (photo by Aneta Pawlik on Unsplash)

And I was in one of the “high risk” groups—those over 60. Of greater concern was that my husband was 70, higher risk still.

So we hunkered down, as advised by the CDC, for the duration. Only the duration has been a lot longer than we counted on.

And knowing that we have to stay home as much as possible has made us very aware of our age, on a daily basis.

Then, last week, I turned 68. I am now in my “late sixties.” Somehow, this year has aged me more than any year should. I feel like I’ve been robbed of my last year in my “youthful” mid-sixties.

Which brings me to the point of this post…

Age is relative!

And the older you get, the more relative age is.

As in, it’s related to a lot of different factors. One, of course, is how healthy you are. Another is how old you look. I’ve finally hit the age where it’s a good thing to have oily skin. I have virtually no wrinkles.

But one thing I’ve had to come to grips with during this pandemic is gray hair. I’ve gone to the hairdresser religiously every 5 weeks for years, having my roots touched up—not necessarily to cover the few gray hairs I had in my younger days, but because I like being a redhead. I’ve had auburn hair for so long now that my “natural” brunette doesn’t seem natural anymore.

But there’s been no going to the hairdresser for months, and I’m discovering that I am now MOSTLY GRAY! Yup, my “natural” color is no longer brunette; it’s a rather splendid silver tone!

So I keep debating…

Age is relative

Should I let the gray grow out completely, or go for a lighter auburn dye when I can finally get my hair done professionally again? *sigh*

Every few weeks, I hack away at my hair when it gets too long and heavy around my face… and put off the decision to gray, or not to gray.

Meanwhile, restlessness has set in. Time becomes more precious as you age. You become more aware of having only a limited amount of it left. So not being able to see my friends and extended family is starting to get to me.

Okay, I want to stop here and say that I am grateful.

I’ve not lost loved ones to this insane disease, and my heart goes out to those who have. And to the first responders, medical personnel and other essential workers who are putting themselves on the front lines every day! And to those who’ve suffered financial setbacks, sometimes life-changing, because of this pandemic. I do very much realize that I am one of the lucky ones who only has to deal with the self-isolation.

Now back to the concept that age is relative. Barring major health issues, aging is more and more a state of mind the older we get. As a friend of mine once said, on the occasion of her 50th birthday, “How did my 25-year-old mind get trapped in this 50-year-old body?”

I don’t particularly appreciate being reminded on a daily basis, by Covid-19, of my age. It makes it harder to keep myself “thinking young.” One thing that helps, though, is playing with my imaginary friends (i.e., my characters), many of whom are still younger than me. I have been writing a lot, during my quarantine. It’s a good distraction.

Maybe all of this is why the theme of “age is relative” ended up in my new story, coming out on September 22, My Funny Mayfair Valentine. Marcia Banks finds herself dealing with the interplay of age and romance, with her own mother and also other “older” members of the Mayfair community.

(And yes, I know it’s a little weird to release a Valentine’s Day story in September, but it was ready and I figured no point in making my readers wait for it. We can all use as much diversion as possible right now.)

How about you? Do you feel the pandemic is aging you before your time?

Oh, and we have a new contest! See below.

My Funny Mayfair Valentine, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery #10

A newcomer to Mayfair charms the socks off of Susanna Mayfair, the sheltered niece of the town’s elderly matriarch. In a panic, the aunt turns to service dog trainer Marcia Banks to dig into the man’s past.

What Marcia finds, with her detective husband Will’s help, is disturbing—a trail of broken hearts and outstanding warrants. But when the older gentleman is arrested, he claims it’s a case of mistaken identity.

While Will attempts to untangle the truth and Susanna struggles with her feelings, Marcia is worried about her friend’s mental health, unaware that Susanna may be in physical danger as well. Will Marcia figure it out in time to protect Susanna…and herself?

Available for Preorder Now for just $0.99 ~ Goes up to $2.99 after release on 9/22/20

AMAZON ~ APPLE ~ NOOK ~ KOBO ~ GOOGLE PLAY

And Our New SEPTEMBER SELF-CARE CONTEST!

Win a Self-Care Box of Goodies from Etsy and 4 Signed Paperbacks!

Age Is Relative -- Sept. Self-Care Contest
Age is Relative -- Sept. Self-Care Contest

Click HERE for more details and to Enter!!

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 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. 

Handling Stress, Part I: Stress Isn’t Always Bad (encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

Misterio press has started a new Readers’ Group and we’re finding it a bit time-consuming getting it off the ground (Check it and our August Beach Read Contest out HERE), so I figured this was a good time to re-run some posts on handling stress.

Here’s the first one, on why stress isn’t always a bad thing?

I was more than a little shocked, years ago, when my graduate school professor informed my class that stress is a good thing, up to a point. You might—as I did at the time—find this hard to believe.

But hang on! Here’s the definition of stress: The activation of our physical and emotional resources to cope with the challenges of life. Now when that challenge is a traffic jam or a deadline at work, that’s no fun.

handling stress -- it isn't always bad

But if we didn’t like getting activated now and again, why would we do things like ride roller coasters?

Or play sports, or read a mystery novel for that matter. If feels good to get the heart thumping a bit and the juices flowing.

But even when we’re not doing something quite as drastic as hanging upside down from a roller coaster, stress is a good thing, up to a point, in everyday life.

Let me go back and explain a few things first, so this makes more sense.

Why Stress has a Bad Reputation

Our bodies were designed to handle far more primitive challenges than we face today. Most of the challenges our cave-person ancestors encountered were physical, such as hunting for food or fending off wild animals and hostile tribes.

So our bodies have this thing called the stress response that prepares us for physical action to deal with those physical challenges. Heart rate and blood pressure go up, adrenaline’s released, muscles tense, you start sweating, and your digestive system temporarily shuts down (because it’s more important to deal with the sabertooth tiger trying to eat you than it is to digest what you just ate).

handling stress -- pacing tiger

Today, however, 90% of our challenges are psychological and emotional–coping with changes in our lives, relationships, deadlines, etc.

So you’re sitting at your computer all stressed out about the report/paper you’re trying to finish for your boss/teacher, while your body is preparing you to fight off tigers.

All those physical changes take a toll on your body, especially when you don’t actually do anything physical in response to the stressor.

There’s a part of our nervous systems, called the autonomic nervous system (ANS), that deals with all this. The ANS has two branches, the sympathetic branch (SNS) that causes all those changes listed above, plus several more (the flight-or-fight response), and the parasympathetic branch (PNS), that brings our bodies back to a calm state once the challenge or threat is over.

So after our ancestors fought the sabertooth tiger, their bodies would go “ah, time to relax.” (Assuming they won, that is.) Their PNS would kick in. Heart rate and BP came back down, muscles relaxed, digestion came back online, and life was good again. 🙂

In modern society, we tend to be stressed for longer periods of time, with no physical outlet. This is what does such a number on our bodies! You’ve probably heard the old expression, “All dressed up and no place to go.” Well, this is all revved up and no place to go!

Why Do We Feel Stressed?

We tend to assume that our stress level is dictated by how much we have on our to-do lists. But stressors are not the only factors involved when handling stress.

That grad school prof I mentioned above taught us a three-factor model to understand stress. His explanations regarding how stress works and what to do about it made so much sense, they have stuck with me for 30 years! And I’ve passed them on to hundreds of my students.

I’ll go into more detail regarding these factors in future posts. For now, a brief summary.

The first factor is the stressors. Some events–getting married, losing a job, etc.–are biggies in the stressor category, but a lot of little stuff can add up as well. And even good events contribute to our stress load, because they still require resources to deal with them.

photo credit: Lynn Kelley Author (from WANA Commons)

Take vacations, for example. We go on them to relieve stress, right? But they also cause stress! We’ve gotta plan them, pack for them, make sure stuff at work is organized to get along without us, deal with traveling hassles, worry about lost luggage… you get the picture.

The second factor in how stressed we feel is our body’s response to stress. There are several issues here. Do our bodies have any predisposed vulnerabilities to stress-induced illnesses? What is our innate tolerance for stress (called our stress threshold)? More on this in a moment. And last but not least, how often do we relax our bodies? This makes a huge difference in our stress level.

Third is our cognitive and emotional interpretation of the stressors. There are exceptions, but most stressors are not stressors until we interpret them as such. Quick example: I love to drive. I find it relaxing. For my husband, it is one of the most stressful aspects of life. How we perceive stressors is going to be affected by our personalities and our past experiences.

In later posts I’ll dissect these factors a bit more, plus talk about what we need to do to handle stress better. Today, I want to focus on the stress threshold aspect of the body’s response.

So Get to the Point; Why Is Stress Good, Up to a Point?

Okay, okay. Here it is.

We all have a stress threshold, the point at which our coping ability is exhausted. Below that threshold, stress is a good thing. It motivates and energizes us. Have you ever had a day (hopefully you’ve had many like this) when you’re feeling good, chugging along at a nice pace, getting a whole bunch of stuff accomplished?

I love days like that! The challenges are manageable and I’m being activated to meet them. That activation makes me feel alive and gives me a sense of achievement.

The problem arises when the stress level hits our threshold, and sometimes–no, make that often–we don’t see this coming. We may feel our best, the most energized and alive, when we’re hovering dangerously close to this threshold. And then one more little stressor comes along, and whammo, we’re over the edge.

This threshold is an on-off switch. When our coping ability is gone, it’s gone. One minute we’re handling everything, the next, we’re not handling anything.

So it behooves us to stop and think before we pile yet another stressor on an already full plate.

handling stress

Here’s another sneaky problem with this dang threshold thing. There are actually two of them. The one I just described is our psychological one.

The other is our health threshold. We’ve reached that one when our tissues and organs are suffering more wear and tear per day from stress than can be repaired that night while we sleep. When we’re past that threshold, we’re putting ourselves at risk for a whole slew of stress-related ailments, including heart disease and cancer.

And here’s the total kicker. The health threshold is lower than the psychological one. So we may still be handling stress well emotionally, may even feel great about all we’re getting done, when we are already doing our bodies damage from that level of stress!

Optimizing the Good Stress, Minimizing the Bad

So the moral of the story, folks: If we want to live long and prosper, we need to stay in the good stress level zone, comfortably below our threshold. That way, we’re not putting excessive wear and tear on our bodies, and we’re leaving some leeway for unforeseen stressors.

To accomplish this, one has to do two things. First, pay attention to your stress level for a while and get a sense of just how much stuff you can handle (i.e., where your threshold is). And while you’re doing that, pay attention to your early warning signs that you are not handling stress well, that you are getting too close to your threshold.

For me, it’s getting grumpy and short-tempered (my husband would say, getting grumpier and more short-tempered). The big flag is if I start losing it on the road when other drivers cut me off or are dragging their feet. Normally, I just mumble something sarcastic like, “Uh, ya see that pedal, the long skinny one on the right?” And then I let it go.

Beware of Cliff Edge sign -- handling stress
Sign at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

But if I find myself yelling at them (inside my car; I’m not crazy enough to actually get in their face) and I’m still fuming about it when I get to my destination…

As Jeff Foxworthy would say, “Here’s your sign.”

I am way too close to the edge of that cliff. It is time to pare down the stressors in order to get comfortably back in the good-stress-level range again. (More on how to do this next week and other tips for handling stress.)

I’ve learned the hard way that it doesn’t pay to stand too close to that edge; the ground might just crumble away beneath me.

What about you, what are your early warning signs that you’re getting too close to the stress-overload cliff?

More on handling stress next week. Oh, and don’t forget to check out our new Readers’ Group on Facebook and to enter our August Beach Reads contest there. You get two extra entries by joining the group.

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 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. 

MacGyver® Recipes for a Pandemic

We usually post every other week, but during these challenging times, we’re trying to come up with something helpful, supportive or entertaining each week. This week, we thought we’d lighten things up with a few MacGyver® recipes for surviving a pandemic.

What are MacGyver® recipes, you ask. One of our authors coined the phrase for a recipe that you cobble together from whatever ingredients you happen to have lying around.

So here are three main dishes (or one could be a side dish) that allow lots of flexibility, depending on what you have on hand.

First up, Kathy Owen (the author who coined the phrase)…

Here’s my mother’s Tuna/Spaghetti Casserole, which I’ve renamed the “Meat/Pasta/Cream-of-Whatever” Casserole:

Kathy’s mother’s original handwritten recipe.

Serves 4+

Ingredients:
14 oz tuna (2 cans, or you can substitute canned/cooked chicken/turkey)
8 oz pasta (any kind), cooked and drained
1 can cream of mushroom CONDENSED soup (you can substitute cream of asparagus/ celery/chicken/what-have-you)
8 oz milk
Topping (optional): breadcrumbs and grated parmesan cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350, grease casserole dish or spray with non-stick spray.

In a separate bowl, mix all of the above ingredients and transfer to baking dish, spreading evenly.

Sprinkle bread crumbs on top, if available and desired (I like to mix in some grated parmesan with the bread crumbs).

Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, or until edges are bubbly.

Enjoy!

Kirsten Weiss brings us a cheesy vegetarian dish that could be an entree or a side dish:
MacGyver recipes for a pandemic
photo by Andrea Davis on Unsplash.com — cropped

It’s super simple and you can sub other kinds of cheeses.

1 cup blue cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayo

Melt in pot on stovetop. Dump on any cooked pasta.

You can also add cooked vegetables.

And Gilian Baker has another, rather different tuna recipe for us:

Most of us are needing to get a little creative in the kitchen right now. But no matter. We can take on that challenge. If you are like my family, you always have these three things in your fridge and pantry.

Stir them together, bake for 10 minutes, and you have a delicious, nutritious snack or main dish! It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

1 can tuna (or as many as you have or want)
Ranch dressing
Shredded cheddar cheese

MacGyver Recipes for a pandemic
Not Gilian’s grand-kitty but this photo was too cute to resist. (photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash.com)

First, squeeze all the liquid from the tuna and feed the liquid to your cats. (Jane Eyre, my grand-kitten requested I include that important part.)

Mix the ingredients in a bowl, adding as much dressing and cheese as you want. Roll into small balls about the size of a nickel and place them on a lightly greased pan or on parchment paper (if you still have any left) and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees or until the cheese is melty and helps hold the balls together.

If you don’t happen to have these three ingredients, you can experiment with other cheeses, flavorings or cooked meats.

If you want to take it further, you can dip the balls in egg and roll them in panko, crushed corn flakes, or bread crumbs. Enjoy!

And from Kass Lamb, here’s an easy to make-and-bake bread to go with any of the above:

My husband and I love bread. Keeping enough on hand, with the shortages in stores, has been a challenge. So I was delighted when I stumbled on a recipe for flatbread online. No extensive kneading involved, no waiting for it to rise. Just mix the ingredients and fry it up.

But being the creative sort that I am, I couldn’t leave the recipe alone. I had to play with it—try it with whole wheat (yummy), with Italian seasonings (even yummier), etc.

MacGyver recipes for a pandemic
I took a photo of mine, but it was a lot less round and a lot more scorched than this one, so using this photo (by Anshu A Kus on Unsplash.com)

Makes 6

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour (or whole wheat flour* or probably any other kind of flour would work)
3/4 cup of lukewarm water*
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil (or canola oil or vegetable oil, etc.)
Additional oil for frying

Directions:
Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Slowly add about ½ cup of water, stirring to dampen the dry ingredients. Add 2 tsp. oil and mix that in, then add more water until all dry ingredients are mixed into a doughy ball.

Beware of using too much water which leaves the dough sticky. (*Whole wheat flour will require more water.)

Dump out on a floured surface and dip your clean hands into flour. Knead dough for few minutes, working a bit more flour into it until it is easy to pick up and handle. Place in greased bowl covered by a cloth or paper towel. Let rest for 30-60 minutes.

On a floured surface, divide into 6 pieces and flatten each out with fingers (or roll out with rolling pin to tortilla thickness).

Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet or griddle, stopping short of smoky hot.

Cook until golden brown spots appear on one side (this happens pretty fast so keep a close eye on it). While first side is cooking, dribble a small amount of oil on the top side. Optionally, you can sprinkle on seasoning (garlic powder, herbs, parmesan cheese, etc.) as well, before flipping it over to cook briefly on the other side.

These can be made ahead and kept under a flour sack towel or paper towel for a few hours. Can also be stored in the refrigerator in a zipper plastic bag (up to 2 days, although they never last more than a day around my house) or frozen for later use.

Makes a great breakfast, lunch or snack, warmed up with a slice of cheese gently melted on top.

How about you all? Have you had to MacGyver together some recipes during the last few weeks?

Five days left to enter our fight-the-boredom CONTEST. Grand Prize is a Bag of Free Paperback Books! Plus 4 other winners get free ebooks.

Click HERE to check it out. Winner will be announced next Tuesday.

MacGyver recipes and contest

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.

Random Moments That Change Our Lives (And a Contest!)

by Kassandra Lamb

Another author’s recent post, about how a random conversation changed her career dramatically, got me thinking of a few such random moments that have affected my life.

In a minute, I’ll tell you about my biggest random, life-changing moment, but first…

There is nothing more random than a pandemic.

What we are going through right now as a country and throughout the world is almost beyond comprehension. And it is likely to change our lives in certain ways, for better or worse, forever.

It would probably be worthwhile to give some thought to how each of us wants our lives to change, so that we can take control of that process as much as possible. More on this in a bit. Now back to my story.

The random moment that changed my life.

random moments that change our lives -- the glass ceilng
Even a lovely glass ceiling will still give you a headache 🙂

In my late twenties, I was trying to get ahead in the business world (we’re talking early 1980s) and banging my head rather regularly on the glass ceiling. I had a toddler, and I was very tired of working 40 hours a week, plus 10 hours of commute time, to make peanuts.

If I was going to be away from my son for that many hours, I wanted to be doing something more meaningful and more lucrative. But I had no idea what.

Around that time, my husband went to a hypnotherapist to quit smoking. He was worried about the secondhand smoke in the house. He was so successful that I went too. We both stopped smoking, which was the planned outcome.

But there was another unexpected outcome as well. I was fascinated by the hypnosis. I had a bachelors degree in psychology, and as I sat in the comfy chair in the hypnotherapist’s office and listened to his droning voice, a little part of my brain was thinking, “I could do this.”

So I enrolled in graduate school to get the required credentials, studied hypnosis on the side (there were no college classes on it; still aren’t at most schools), and investigated what I needed to do to set up a private practice as a hypnotherapist.

Two years later, I had a thriving practice. I wasn’t making great money but it was better than I had been making in the business world. And I had control over my schedule. I worked four 8 to 10-hour days, one of them Saturday, and was home two weekdays, which meant my son was only in daycare part-time.

And I was helping people. I’ve never looked back, other than to wonder occasionally how different things would be, if I hadn’t had that random experience that changed my life.

So back to current events…

random moments that change our lives -- learning not to take things for granted, like toilet paper

I haven’t totally sorted out what may change permanently in my life after this craziness is over. I’ve certainly come to appreciate certain things that I once took for granted…like my husband, and unlimited supplies of toilet paper.

(Not that those two are of equal importance. 😀 )

I’ve also been touched by the generosity of strangers to each other. And the bravery of those who are doing the “essential” tasks that keep our country running, from the medical personnel to the truck drivers to the guys who collect the garbage.

I think it behooves us to give some conscious thought to how we want to change ourselves and/or our lives in the future. What positive meaning can we find in this very negative event?

How do you hope this pandemic will change the country, the world and/or your life for the better? (Please, no politics!)

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And we have a CONTEST going, to help with the boredom. Grand Prize is a Bag of Free Books! Click HERE to check it out.

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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 a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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

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We’re Here For You (Plus a Contest for Free Books)

We at misterio press hope and pray that all of our readers and their loved ones come out of this crisis healthy and unscathed.

In the meantime, we are trying to offer as much support as we can. Please see this post and this post for tips to help you stay calm and de-stress during these difficult times. Plus, if you’re looking for a new way to make money while working at home, check out this offer to learn how to become a freelance writer.

And to help out with the boredom of staying at home, we have a CONTEST for Free Books!

Grand prize is a Bag of Free Books — this fun tote plus SEVEN first-in-series, signed paperbacks from 6 of our authors.

one of the books in contest for free books

Four more winners will receive a free ecopy of one of our books!! (Winner’s choice but exceptions may apply.)

Two ways to enter!

Go to the contest and click on the appropriate ways to enter. Then…

#1 — Comment on this blog post.

And tell us how you’re doing.

one of the books for this contest for free books

#2 — Get another entry (worth 5 points!) by signing up for our blog!

If you have trouble figuring out how to subscribe (“subscribe” area above on the right), you can….

one of the books for this contest for free books

Comment and include your email address and permission for us to subscribe you.

This contest for free books runs through April 25th.

one of the books for this contest for free books

Winners will be announced soon after that.

Best of luck!!

To enter the Contest to Win a Bag of Free Books please click HERE!

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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.

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

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Grab these bargains before they’re gone!!

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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. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

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.

6 Reasons Why a Little Free Library is a Wonderful Idea

by Kassandra Lamb

a little free library in my neighborhood

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

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

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

1st little free library

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

little free library with dogs painted on it

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

little free library in Albuquerque

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

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

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

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

On a wall in London

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

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

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

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

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

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

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. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.