Tag Archives: Shannon Esposito

5 Ways Blogging and Writing Fiction Do and Don’t Mix

by Kassandra Lamb

Mia culpa! I’ve been so busy writing guest posts this week that I didn’t come up with one for our blog… So here are the two fun ones I’ve posted elsewhere the last few days.

And I finally have my Hawaii pictures up on my own website (only took six months). Take a look!

~~~~~~~

Around the time I was getting serious about my writing, the buzz in the writerly world was all about how blogging was a must if you wanted to build a “platform” on social media.

Having no clue what a platform was, and knowing nothing about social media or blogging, I took the plunge. Shannon Esposito and I had just conceived of the idea of misterio press, and I was taking care of legal matters while Shannon set up the website. Since I didn’t yet have a blog established, I volunteered to be the main blogger here.

That was four years ago – it seems much longer than that – and I’ve been posting on our blog almost every week, sometimes twice a week. I’m starting to run thin on topics to cover, but part of me just isn’t willing to cut back.

So I thought I’d explore the pros and cons, at this point, of maintaining a blog. With tongue tucked into cheek on some of these, here’s what I came up with:

My_day_at_wikipedia
Con #1:  Blogging takes time away from writing books.

Pro #1:  Blogging takes time away from writing books (i.e., it’s a great way to procrastinate when you should be writing).

Check out the rest at Barb Taub’s site

And I had a lot of fun interviewing the main character in my Kate Huntington and Kate on Vacation series, over at Marcia Meara’s The Write Stuff. Check out what Kate has to say about all the corpses I keep putting in her path.

~~~~~~~~

book cover

Missing on Maui, A Kate on Vacation Mystery, #4

It’s an awkward situation at best, and a deadly one at worst.

Days before Kate Huntington is scheduled to leave for her niece’s wedding on Maui, she receives a frantic call from said niece. Amy’s mother–Kate’s rather difficult sister-in-law–is at it again, alienating the groom’s family and even the wedding planner. Can Aunt Kate come early and run interference?

Soon after her arrival, Kate discovers that young women are going missing on the island, and Amy’s maid of honor is hanging out with a notorious local player. Is he involved in the disappearances?

Hawaii is supposed to be a relaxing paradise, but Aunt Kate is kept busy locating a new wedding planner (the delightful Pali Moon), refereeing between Amy and her mother, and chasing down errant wedding party members… Oh, and facing off with a psychopath.

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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 suspense series, 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. 🙂 )

There Is a Season For All Things

With spring finally here, after a particularly brutal winter in a good part of the United States, we decided to reflect a bit about the seasons. So we asked our authors this question:

What is your favorite season and why?

Several of them waxed quite poetic with their answers.

shannonportraitShannon:

The seasons pull my soul along as surely as the moon affects the tides. Right now we’re heading into spring. Spring births restlessness. The kind that makes me want to plant herbs and fairy gardens, clear out clutter and polish everything in my life until it shines like the moon.

We’re just leaving winter behind and I say good riddance. Winter buries me in darkness. Just like a tulip bulb waiting in the suffocating, cold earth, I wait in stillness for the season to leave. My soul mutters, “This too shall pass” as the days grow darker and colder.

Before that came fall. Fall also brings restlessness for me, but a different kind. Fall brings a deep ache for bare Gypsy feet, a need to be blown into unknown places like the brittle leaves when the high winds howl. Fall brings longing for travel, exploration, to be anywhere but where I am.

Shannon and her boys, on the beach at sunset

Several years ago — introducing my sons to sunset on the beach

And then there is summer. My love. The season where I finally feel like myself.

Summer blows my heart wide open with bone- warming sunshine and precious ocean time. I am no longer restless or curled inward. I am alive. I feel my heart beating, overflowing with gratitude.

shuffing feet in sand

Summer brings salty hair and lips; sweet, lazy laughter-filled days with the kids. It brings peace on healing rays of sun. In the summer, I feel connected to Mother Earth and grounded in the moment as I dig my toes into warm sand. Summer is my long, contented sigh and when it comes, I am finally home.

K.B. Owen
Kathy

There is something about autumn that has always appealed to me: the fresh, crisp air after the humidity of summer; the blaze of golds, reds, and burnt oranges that sweeps across the landscape; kids starting the new school year (most of them ready to go back – the parents sure are); roadside stands and farmer’s markets spilling over with harvest bounty.

It’s a time when I feel more energetic and want to do more things, whether it’s visiting a pumpkin patch, going leaf-peeping, making a hearty stew, or cleaning up the yard. I find myself exploring new recipes to use up the surplus in my garden, or learning ways to preserve some of it for winter.

photo of pumpkinsIt’s a time to pull out the fall decorations, to spruce things up with pumpkins, gourds, and tea lights, and to pull out the backyard fire bowl and sit around it, swapping tales of our day while sipping cocktails.

Our family looks forward to the fall holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving, too. My kids have been able to enjoy Halloween in a way that I never could in my childhood, because my allergy-induced asthma often put me in the hospital in late October, especially during my trick-or-treat years. I carved my first pumpkin at 22. But I think I’ve now carved enough pumpkins to have made up for lost time! I consider myself very blessed to enjoy many Halloweens with my own children, and every year it feels like I’m just as much of a kid about it as they are. I don’t think I’ll ever “quite” grow up in that regard.

me with normal-sized headKass

The seasons really affect my mood. They always have. When we lived in Maryland, my favorite season was summer, hands down.

I hated winter with its short, gray days and icy roads. I would start to come to life in the spring, but that is Maryland’s rainy season. So while the temperatures were warmer and the threat of ice and snow faded away, it was still gray and damp all too many days.

Summer was what I lived for. Yes, it was hot, but the long, long days of sunshine were worth a little sweat. I love being outdoors and I love projects, and there was always something to be done on our little horse farm–a fence needing mending, an outbuilding to be painted. I was in my glory!

azaleas blooming in the woodsNow I live in northern Florida, and while I still like summer a lot, spring has become my favorite season. Unlike in Maryland, spring tends to be fairly dry down here. For days on end, the sun shines, the temperatures hover in the high 70’s to low 80’s and the humidity is relatively low. The mild but rainy winters produce lush greenery and gorgeous spring flowers.

Winter still depresses me a little, but I know it will be short-lived and I will come to life again in March, when our long, glorious spring begins.

1512492_1496572107233708_1637885544_nVinnie

I wonder if our favorite season might correspond to the arc of our lives. When I was growing up in South Dakota, I loved springtime, especially May, that sliver between freezing cold and hellish hot. As a young adult, I became a beach bunny in California and loved summertime beach volleyball. The long stretch of day meant more playing time.

Vinnie and her husband hiking in fall

Vinnie and her husband hiking in the fall.

Now, in the autumn of my years, my favorite season is fall.

When Emily Dickinson wrote, “There’s a certain slant of light,” I feel she must have meant the angled light of autumn. Here in Santa Cruz, that soft light ushers in our loveliest weather.

With the shortening days, self-reflection takes hold in me, a quiet repose that suits my current stage.

How about you? What is your favorite season, and why?

 

Posted by Kassandra Lamb on behalf of the whole gang. We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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

Word!!

by Kassandra Lamb on behalf of the whole gang!

Happy New Year sign

(image by Nevit Dilmen, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

When my son was in his early teens (circa 1993), he and his friends would greet each other with this 4-letter utterance: “Word!” It stood for “What’s the word?” or What’s happening?”

There seems to be a growing trend this year to substitute a single word for New Year’s resolutions. This struck our fancy here at misterio press. So here are our Words (sometimes we’ve cheated a tiny bit with two words) for 2015!

K.B. OwenFirst up, K.B. Owen:

My word for 2015: EMBRACE.

EMBRACE the satisfaction of the little accomplishments, such as resolving that plot twist that’s been plaguing my story.
EMBRACE hard work, because that either serves others or gets me to my own goals.
EMBRACE experimentation and risk, for that is how I grow.
EMBRACE setbacks and failures, so that I can learn from them.
EMBRACE quietness, always a challenge for me and my busy mind.
EMBRACE joy, for there are problems enough in this troubled world.
EMBRACE gratitude, for I am very blessed, even when I’m not mindful of it.
EMBRACE friendship, for we are all in this crazy life together!

Following up on the Embrace theme is Vinnie Hansen:

Vinnie HansenFor my word, I’m going with “Ridiculous” or “Embrace ridiculousness.”

The thought that I will appear ridiculous impedes my risk taking. I should ask, “So what?”

Most people delight in the ridiculous, especially if the person being ridiculous embraces it unabashedly.

 

On first blush, Shannon Esposito’s word(s) may seem the exact opposite of Embrace, but not really:

shannonportraitMy phrase is LET GO… of goals and plans, and instead enjoy every day as it unfolds.

This may seem counterproductive but I’ve spent my whole life believing I’ll be happy as soon as I reach (insert any personal or professional goal). But I move on to the next goal, without stopping to appreciate where I am or the journey it took to get there.

LET GO of wishing things were different and just deal with things as they are.
LET GO of physical things and unclutter my life.
LET GO of being a perfectionist and allow myself to be messy, wrong and a risk-taker.
And finally LET GO of worry. It has not served me and is getting a 2015 eviction notice!

And now my word: CHOICE.

Before I retired and got into this writing stuff, I was really good at asking myself what I WANTED to do on my days off. I savored the ability to choose amongst the many tasks/activities I could be doing. “What do I want to do now?” was something I asked myself off and on throughout my non-working days.

When I first retired, I reveled in the ability to make those choices every day. But once I got serious about my writing somehow I lost that habit of stopping to choose what I want to do next. And along with that lost habit, I have lost some of my joy in living. So I’m going to focus in 2015 on remembering to make choices again.

Each day I will ask myself “What do I want to do today?” I’m pretty sure most days the answer will be “Write!” But I’m going to get back in the habit of making the Choice.

Kirsten Weiss

 

And now on behalf of our 5th author, Kirsten Weiss, who is traveling in developing nations at the moment, doing her “day job” (with sketchy internet service), we will pick a temporary word: SAFE.

Safe travels, Kirsten! We miss you!

How about you? What’s your Word(s) for 2015?

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

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

The Things We Take For Granted…

by Kassandra Lamb, on behalf of the whole misterio press gang

All of us here at misterio have lived a few decades (we’re not sayin’ how many) and we’ve had our share of trials and tribulations, some of which have found their way into our stories.

But today we wanted to focus on the good stuff in life. And when we stopped to think about what we were most grateful for, we discovered that it was all too easy to take those things for granted.

So starting off on that theme is Kirsten Weiss.

getting a glass of water at the sink

(Photo by CSIRO, CC-BY 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

I’m grateful for my family and friends, of course. But everyone says that, so I’ll go deeper.

For my “day job” I travel to developing countries. Every time I do, I’m struck by two things. First, how easy and bountiful my life is – electricity, clean water (and good pressure), food, a nice home, phones that work, a health care system that keeps my family well…

Next, I’m struck by how quickly I forget how fortunate I am once I return home. This western luxury seems so normal, but for most of the world’s population, it’s remarkable.

And from Vinnie Hansen (also very much the world traveler):

Every night, before bed, my husband and I each say three things from the day for which we are thankful.  The difficult part of this blog was to limit my blessings to three:

1. My husband – Because Prague is more fun with a partner . . .

IMG_2736as is Caracas, Quito, Jacó, Barcelona, Havana, Vancouver, Paris, Zihuatanejo. . . .

2.  Good health – In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald creates a theme of the divide between rich and poor, and even the old rich vs. the nouveau riche. But his narrator Nick has the profound realization, “. . . there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well.” I don’t take this blessing for granted. I walk every day, bike, and practice yoga–all exercises that travel well. This pic is from Sayulita, Mexico with the yoga palapa overlooking the Pacific. 🙂

3. Creative pursuits – These feed my soul. In addition to writing, I enjoy playing keyboard with two ukulele groups.

And on the subject of health, from Shannon Esposito:

1.  Being alive. I don’t say this flippantly, as I’ve had a scary year health-wise.

2.  The internet, because it’s allowed me to find my writing tribe.
CDC_pomegranate pub domain
3.  Pomegranates

(I have no idea how that one made it onto her top three list; you’ll have to ask her about that in the comments)

And mine:

1.  I’ll start with health as well. I’ve had a healthy year, but not all my friends have. Shannon’s health scare, along with watching an older friend’s struggle with Parkinson’s disease, have reminded me just how precious and fragile one’s health is.

hand of a statue holding a pen

Hand holding pen on the statue of Isaiah at Piazza Spagna, Rome (by gnuckx, CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia)

2.  The gift of my talents, both in writing and psychology. We tend to take that which comes easily to us for granted, forgetting that not everyone shares those particular skills.

3.  All the wonderful people in my life. We hear about and read about the bad guys so much, both in real life and in fiction. But most of the world is populated by good folks–honest and caring. I’m blessed to know quite a few of them, including the ladies here at misterio press.

And finally our resident historian, Kathy Owen, couldn’t help herself. She just had to tell us about the origins of Thanksgiving Day as an official national holiday:

engraving of McKinleyPresident McKinley signed into law the national holiday of Thanksgiving in 1897. For me, this part of his accompanying speech aptly expresses the spirit of the holiday:

“On this day of rejoicing and domestic reunion, let our prayers ascend to the Giver of every good and perfect gift for the continuance of his love and favor to us, that our hearts may be filled with charity and goodwill, and that we may be ever worthy of his beneficent concern.”

The three specific things for which I am grateful this Thanksgiving aren’t particularly unusual. I’m sure we all value them: health, family, and humor.

For me, humor is especially important. Whenever the first two have their less-than-ideal times, it’s indispensable!

How about you? What do you tend to take for granted? What are you most grateful for this Thanksgiving?

cute Thanksgiving postcard, circa 1913

postcard circa 1913 (from painting by Frances Brundage, now in public domain)

Best wishes to everyone for a happy Thanksgiving!

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

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

A Mystery Writer’s Revenge (on Second Thought…)

by Shannon Esposito and Guest Blogger, Sheila Webster Boneham

I first met Sheila when I found the Facebook group called Writers and Other Animals. First of all, the name cracked me up. Then I joined and found it a great little group for writers and readers who love animals. (Here’s the link if you want to check out the group.)

Boneham_portrait_AussieKiss_600wAlong with supporting her fellow mystery writers with this group and her personal blog, Sheila writes nonfiction books about dogs and cats and has three books out in her mystery series: Animals in Focus Mysteries. Busy lady!

Luckily for us, she found the time to stop by our place. Here are her thoughts on the mystery writer’s favorite form of revenge.

 ~~~~~~~~

Be nice to me or I’ll put you in my book is a popular saying among writers. Mystery writers often add “and kill you” to the end. After all, revenge, served hot or cold, is a powerful motive for murder and mayhem, in life and in fiction.

Taking revenge on the meanies in our lives can certainly be tempting, and more than one writer has done it. I have. At least I started to take revenge in writing, and in the process I learned a few things, or perhaps I remembered things I already knew.

mug with author's revenge saying on itLet me back up to my first mystery, Drop Dead on Recall, which begins at a canine obedience trial. When I started the book, I had just emerged from a very dark pit of online harassment by a nasty little group of people whose agenda still mystifies me. In retrospect, it was a tiny bump in life’s road, but at the time it was all-consuming. In the first draft of my book, a couple of the characters were remarkably similar to the harassers. I even had one of them kill the other one. Ha! Gotcha!

Then came the first revision, after a several-month hiatus from mysteries while I wrote a nonfiction book about dogs. It was good that I had a break from Drop Dead on Recall. When I came back to it, I found that the revenge impulse had weakened considerably. In fact, the characters were no longer very interesting to me, in real “online” life or in my book. So I merged them into a single character known only to me (and my husband, but he’ll never tell). I changed the nature of that character, and by doing so, I changed the book and, I think, myself.

By the final revision of the first book, even I barely remembered the original inspiration for the character in question. In The Money Bird, that character has made a few changes for the better, and as I wrote that second book, I understood that allowing a character I disliked at first to become less loathsome was useful not only to the series, but to me as a person. That character has continued to evolve in Catwalk and in my fourth book-in-progress.

Sheila's Aussie Jay jumping a high jump.

Jay would much rather play than seek revenge.

And I guess along the way my “get even” character has taught me a lesson, too (because our characters become very real as we write them). I’ve realized that letting go of the revenge-by-literary-murder impulse has served me well. Revenge takes time and energy, and icky people just don’t deserve that much of our lives. I still have the urge at times, of course. Who doesn’t? But I’m working it.

Now when I see a t-shirt or mug with that “be nice to me” quote, I mentally attach a different ending. The best revenge, I think, is to forget those who harm us, but that’s never easy and may be impossible. Still, I rather like the ring of, “Be nice to me or I won’t put you in my book.” Or, with the character in my series in mind, maybe I’ll rewrite the saying to, “Be nice to me or I’ll change you in my book and make people like you—but they’ll never know it’s you!”

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject of revenge. (And no, I won’t tell you which character it is! You’ll have to read the books to figure it out.)

cover of CatwalkSheila’s newest book, Catwalk, is now available for preorder (due out 10/8/14 from Midnight Ink)

Animal photographer Janet MacPhail is training for her cat Leo’s first feline agility trial when she gets a frantic call about a “cat-napping.” When Janet and her Australian Shepherd Jay set out to track down the missing kitty, they quickly find themselves drawn into the volatile politics of feral cat colonies, endangered wetlands, and a belligerent big-shot land developer

Janet is crazy busy trying to keep up with her mom’s nursing-home romance, her own relationship with Tom and his Labrador Retriever Drake, and the upcoming agility trials with Jay and Leo. But when a body is discovered on the canine competition course, it stops the participants dead in their tracks—and sets Janet on the trail of a killer.

Posted by Sheila Webster Boneham. Sheila writes and plays with her animals at her home in North Carolina. She is the author of the Animals in Focus mysteries. Please visit her website’s Mysteries Page, and/or join her on Facebook or Twitter. Sheila also runs the Writers and Other Animals blog and Facebook group – for readers, writers, and animals of all kinds!

Autographed copies of Drop Dead on Recall, The Money Bird, and Sheila’s nonfiction books, including Rescue Matters, are available from Pomegranate Books. Also available from your favorite bookseller (think Indie!) and online: Paperback and Kindle editions HERE and Audible editions HERE

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. 🙂 )

Introvert vs. Extrovert — Do We Really Understand the Difference?

And do opposites attract, or are we birds of a feather?

flock of birds at sunset

On the subject of introversion vs. extroversion the answer to that question is some of both.

Introvert/extrovert – We assume we know the meaning of these words. Extroverts are outgoing and talkative. Introverts are quiet and shy. Right?

Well, yes and no.

Extroversion–introversion is one of the continuum in the Big Five Trait theory. This is a well-researched theory regarding how our personalities tend to be organized. There are five major continuum of traits in this theory, with quite a few other traits within each of these categories.

In addition to Extroversion–introversion, these continuum are:
Agreeableness (how ruthless vs. softhearted you are)
Conscientiousness (how reliable you are)
Neuroticism (how emotionally stable you are)
Openness to New Experiences (how adventurous you are)

Now with regard to most of these trait continuum, the phrase, “birds of a feather flock together” applies. We tend to be attracted to people similar to ourselves. But there are two exceptions.

One is the neuroticism/emotional stability continuum. Those folks like me who are more intense (more high maintenance, some–like my husband–might say) are usually attracted to people who are easy-going. But this is another whole post. So let’s get back to extroversion-introversion, which is the other continuum where opposites attract.

drawing of a gril talking to a silent boy

(‘Talk’ by Mr. Seafall, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia)

On the surface, I present as an extreme extrovert. I’m very talkative. I start conversations with strangers on a regular basis. (I draw the line at inanimate objects, though I do talk to animals, and the occasional plant. 😉 )

Roughly two-thirds of my friends, including my husband, are introverts. The other third are very close to the cusp between the two versions of this trait (sometimes called ambiversion, as in ambidextrous when it comes to these traits).

Most of my friends are introverts because their personalities complement my own. Introverts make a good audience for the extrovert. As one of my friends put it: “I like it that you talk so much. That way I don’t have to think of much to say.”

Other than relieving one of the obligation to make conversation, I can only speculate about our appeal from the introverts’ point of view. My guess is they find us extroverts entertaining.

But why are so many of my friends near the cusp–neither strongly extroverted nor blatantly introverted? Ah, this brings us back to the true meaning of extroversion–introversion. It is a lot more complicated than we tend to think.

You see, I am actually very close to being an ambivert myself. Despite my obvious extroverted traits, I score on the introverted side on one very important but little understood aspect of this continuum–how one experiences social stimulation.

diagram of the extroversion--introversion continuum

(by RCraig09 CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Extroverts draw energy from interacting with others; introverts are drained by such interactions and need to be away from people for awhile to recuperate. Regarding this crucial trait, I am an introvert. I crave large quantities of alone time. My mother was the same way. She referred to herself as an introvert who operated as an extrovert.

Now this doesn’t mean introverts dislike being around other people. They have social and emotional needs just like extroverts. But after awhile, they need to be alone.

And while we’re on the subject, let me point out another misconception about introverts. They aren’t all shy, nor do they necessarily have difficulty making friends. They are somewhat quieter, less quick to speak up, but they may very well be quite talkative amongst friends (my husband certainly is!)

And I know several introverts who are better at making friends than I am, even though I may appear more “friendly” on the surface. I’m quick to start a conversation with just about anyone, but I’m actually slow to make a friend.

Fortunately my cofounder of misterio press, Shannon Esposito, is one of those introverts who makes friends easily. We met at a writers’ conference. I initiated the conversation but she was the one who opened the door to friendship and invited me in with a flourish.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the Big Five Trait continuum are somewhat independent of each other. Shannon is quite adventurous. As bold as I am at trying new things, she is always right there with me. Indeed she’s often leading the way. This is not a trait we usually associate with reserved introverts. And it shouldn’t be, because it’s on a completely different continuum–Openness to New Experiences. An introvert can be adventurous; an extrovert can love predictable routine (I know a couple of them).

I guess the moral of all this is to not be too quick to label someone as introverted or extroverted, and don’t be too surprised if most of your friends are from the other side of the continuum. Unless you’re a true ambivert, in which case you will probably “flock together” with other ambiverts.

How about you? Do you consider yourself an extrovert or an introvert? Are you drained or energized by being around others?

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

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

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

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Have you ever wondered about the origin of April Fool’s Day? The most popular theory is it began in France in 1582 when the Gregorian Calendar was introduced, and New Year’s Day was changed from March 25 – April 1 (new year’s week) to January 1.

Apparently it took a while for everyone to get the news or even accept the change once they did hear about it. Those who stuck to celebrating the new year on April 1st were considered fools and opened themselves up to all kinds of practical jokes, like invitations to fake New Year’s parties.

By anonymous (Punch (the Danish) page 105) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, PD-ART- PD-old-auto-1923

By anonymus (Punch (the Danish) page 105) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons, PD-ART- PD-old-auto-1923

Each country now celebrates April Fool’s Day in their own way. In India, they smear colors on each other; in Portugal they throw flour on each other and in England they play small pranks but only before noon. It’s considered bad luck after that. We here in America play practical jokes on our friends and family throughout the day.

I’ll share one of my favorite practical jokes that didn’t actually happen because nobody could stop laughing long enough to make the phone call.

My mom is a big bird lover. When she lived in North Carolina she hung lots of bird feeders in her yard, full of seed for them. Unfortunately, hungry and determined squirrels also shared her yard and no matter what she tried; she couldn’t stop them from getting into the feeders. Until one day, she got so fed up she bought some traps and began trapping them. Every day she would catch squirrels and drive them to the local park where she would rehome them.

By Cephas (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

My husband thought it would be hilarious to have someone call her, acting as a game warden and tell her that she’s been seen dumping squirrels in the park. Unfortunately, she would have to pay a fine for each squirrel she dumped or take back thirty squirrels from the park. I’m not sure how stunned my mother would have been to get this call because the guys at work he tried to get to make the call couldn’t stop laughing every time they picked up the phone.

So, how about you? What’s the best joke you’ve played on someone for April Fool’s Day? Or has someone really got you good? Please share!

 

 

 

Tis the Season of Magic!

Two of our authors use elemental magic in their stories, so we thought, in honor of this magical time of year, we would give you a little insight into how this magic works in each world.

First up is Kirsten Weiss discussing the magic used in her  Riga Hayworth Paranormal Mystery series:

Here’s an issue I confounded one of my editors with in my upcoming book, The Elemental Detective. What’s the difference between magical elementals and elements used in magic?

Elementals are mythical beings or nature spirits that have an affinity for an element. And in certain types of magic, the magician may embark on a pathworking, journeying through an inner landscape to interact with these elementals. It’s considered higher level magic, because elementals can be capricious and dangerous.

As to the elements in magic, that story begins with the ancient philosophers, who divided the matter of the universe into four elements: earth, wind, air and fire. It really got going in the 3rd century, when Plato proposed a fifth element: spirit. These elements were seen as the building blocks for everything in creation.

zodiac

Book illustration from “Quina Essentia” by Leonhart Thurneisser zum Thum. Depicts the correspondences between the four humors, four elements, and zodiacal signs from an alchemical perspective.

While this elemental philosophy developed, Renaissance philosophers explored the concept of correspondences – that everything in heaven corresponded to something on earth. For example, they saw a hierarchy in the skies. Heaven was just beyond Saturn, the planets forming a sort of descending staircase of increasingly dense matter, with earth in the lowest, most coarse position. This hierarchy was reflected in the hierarchy among humans – from king to commoner. The planets had many other correspondences. E.g. the moon (considered a planet) corresponds to water, to cycles, to change. In turn, the water element had its own correspondences, such as the emotions and intuition.

So in magic, you could use an element that corresponded to your intended effect and help charge your spell. For example in a love spell, which affects the emotions, you might use something that symbolized water, like a sea shell.

(Kirsten works part-time as a writer and part-time as an international development consultant. She writes the Riga Hayworth paranormal mystery novels. Her fifth book in the series, The Elemental Detective, will be available December 21, 2013.)

In Shannon Esposito’s Pet Psychic Mystery series, the main character, Darwin Winters, is half water elemental. Her human mother fell in love with an elemental magician. They had three daughters, who each wield one magick element–water, fire, earth. In the newly released book, SILENCE IS GOLDEN, you get to meet her sister Willow, the earth elemental.

Esposito-Silence-Is-Golden-EBOOK-small

Darwin’s connection with water was the easiest to imagine because water is such a necessary component of life. Humans are made up of 60% water, and water covers over 70% of the earth’s surface. Add to this the fact that at the basic level everything is energy, including our thoughts, and it’s not hard to create magic.

Darwin’s gift allows her a higher level of concentration, compressing the energy of her thoughts and allowing her to feed that energy into the water molecules. By doing this, she can control the water or add specific energy patterns to it–like love and happiness.

But, like everything in life, practice makes perfect and Darwin has only recently begun to embrace her gift instead of shun it. This means she’s also trying to figure out the ethics involved in using her gift. In this recent book, she gets into a bit of hot water with her hunky homicide detective boyfriend when she gives him magic-infused water without his knowledge.

One man, Dr. Masaru Emoto, has dedicated his life study to the effects of our thoughts and words on water. He has some pretty interesting ideas about water taking on the resonance of the energy directed at it. Whether you’re a believer or a skeptic, his photos of water are beautiful and give one hope that we do have some control over our fate in this crazy world.

If you had the gift of elemental magic, would you use it without your friend’s consent? Or is that meddling with the natural order of things?

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

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

Five Holiday Gift Ideas for Pet Lovers

This is a big shopping week for us here in the United States. The day after we give thanks for what we have, we’re wooed from our warm beds in the wee hours of the morning to go out and buy more stuff. We call this day Black Friday.

For those of not you willing to brave the traffic, the crowds and the crazy motivated shoppers, here are some ideas for the pet lovers on your list that you can purchase from the comfort of your own home. (Fuzzy bunny slippers optional.)  After all, us crazy devoted pet-lovers spent over $50 billion dollars on our fur babies last year!

 

1. RESCUE CHOCOLATE

peanutbutterEDIT

100% of the proceeds are donated to rescue shelters around the country. It’s organic, cruelty-free and plus you know… it’s chocolate!  Purchase it HERE  (*for human consumption only)

 

2. BIG MUTTS DOOR MAT

big_mutts

“We like Big Mutts and we cannot lie.”

Wipe off paws, feet and scare off would-be intruders! Purchase HERE

 

3. PET PORTRAITS FROM A PHOTO

pet_portrait

These beautiful pencil sketches can be done right from a photo you upload to their website. So easy! They also offer watercolor and oil. Check it out HERE

 

4. WINE CHARMS

cat_charms

A nice bottle of wine is a great holiday gift, but why not add a little something special? These cute hand painted wine charms are available in CATS or DOGS

 

5. MAKE A DONATION IN THEIR NAME TO A RESCUE ORGANIZATION

Ask them what their favorite rescue charity is. Or if you want to surprise them, here a few of my favorite ones:

NOWZAD

ASPCA

STOP PUPPY MILLS

 

Also, I’m excited to announce the upcoming release of the third book in my Pet Psychic Series!

Esposito-Silence-Is-Golden-EBOOK-WEB

Should be available next week & books are always a great gift!

Happy Shopping! Do you participate in the Black Friday madness?

The Secret Ingredient–Some Autumn and Holiday Treats

Every few weeks, the misterio press authors do a joint post. Today, we thought we’d share some of our favorite stick-to-your-ribs, cold weather dishes and some ideas for holiday meals and treats.

We’ll start off with Kathy Owen, whose cooking skills make me absolutely green with envy. I can’t wait to try this recipe, an easy meal you can throw together on a  busy day. (Easy is my favorite word when it comes to cooking. 🙂 )

some of the ingredientsSo here’s Kathy with her Crockpot Beef:

Ingredients:
1 cup chopped onion*
1 cup chopped celery*
1/2 cup chopped peppers*
(*I use already chopped veggies from the supermarket’s salad bar, or the freezer section.)
30 oz tomato sauce
2-3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 cup water
3.5 lb eye round or rump roast (I used two small ones, adding up to about 4 lbs)
2 or more cloves of garlic, minced (I use the already-minced stuff in the jar.  See a theme here?)
ground black pepper

Directions:
1. Mix veggies together, and spread half of the mixture in the bottom of crockpot.  Set the other half aside for the moment.

2. Season roast(s) with garlic and black pepper.  I just use a fork; it’s awkward no matter how you do it.  Don’t worry if some garlic falls off.

2 small roasts, seared3.  Sear roast(s) on all sides in a heated pan or skillet with a little oil, until they look something like this.

4. Then plunk those little cuties in the crockpot, on top of the veggies. Put the rest of the veggie mixture on top of the roast(s).

5. Pour all of the liquid ingredients on top of that (no need to mix them; just splash them in).

Finished dish

6. Cover and set on HIGH for 6-8 hours.  The house will smell soooo good.  Be prepared for major stomach-rumbling.

7.  Then, it’s time to shred!  What I like to do is spoon the liquid into a separate receptacle temporarily, then use two forks to pull the meat apart right in the crockpot.

8. Pour the liquid back in, stir, and serve over rice or noodles.

Kass here again. While we’re on the subject of easy, I’ll throw in my contribution. This recipe actually comes from my cousin who is a fab cook. This is a variation on a popular holiday side dish that I just love.

Cranberry Yams: (NOTE: This makes a lot, so if you’re feeding a smaller group, you might want to halve everything.)

Ingredients:
2 large or 3 medium-sized cans (45-50 oz.) of yams (in their own juice, not candied)
1 ½ cans (16 oz.) apricot halves
½ can of whole cranberry sauce (or 1 cup fresh cranberries)
3 tbs. light brown sugar
2 tbs. cornstarch
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ cup golden raisins

Directions:
1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2.  Drain juice from yams and arrange in one layer in large casserole dish.
3.  Drain apricots, saving the liquid. Set it aside. Place apricots between the yams. Spread cranberries on top.
4.  Add enough water to apricot liquid to make 1 ½ cups.
5.  In a small saucepan, combine brown sugar, cornstarch and cinnamon. Stir in the liquid. Add golden raisins.
6.  Bring to a boil, stirring often. Syrup should thicken.
7.  Pour syrup over the yams, etc. and bake for 20 minutes or until heated through.

Makes 10-12 servings. And you can make it the day before, but allow more time for heating it through when it comes out of the fridge. It’s probably got a thousand calories per serving but I try to focus on all the good vitamins, minerals and fiber from the fruits and yams.

For a more health-conscious side dish here’s Shannon Esposito with another recipe easy enough even I can make it.

Spaghetti Squash Casserole:spaghetti squash casserole
Microwave 1 spaghetti squash for 12 minutes, then shred it.

Chop and saute the following:
2 carrots
1 zucchini
1 red pepper
garlic

Mix in 1 jar of Trader Joe’s marina sauce,
1 box of Trader Joe’s turkey bolognese,
1/2 pack shredded mozzarella.

Bake @ 350 for 30 min.

(You can substitute any marina sauce & plain ground turkey but it won’t taste as good, says the Trader Joe junkie that I am)

And now here’s Catie Rhodes with another holiday classic.

Southern Sausage-Cornbread Stuffing:

 What you need:
1 lb. ground pork sausage (I buy Jimmy Dean “hot.”)
2 medium white onions chopped*
4 stalks celery chopped*
6 cups cornbread crumbled (two envelopes of cornbread “mix” prepared will yield 6 cups.)
3 cups white bread cubes toasted (6 slices of bread will yield 3 cups of cubes)
2 tsp. rubbed sage
1/4 tsp. salt (or to taste)
1 tsp. pepper (or to taste)
4 cups chicken broth (If you don’t make homemade broth and reserve it for stuff like this, buy chicken bullion cubes. That way you always have enough.)
4 large eggs, slightly beaten (2 for the cornbread)

[*Celery and Onion Note: If you have a food processor, I recommend processing your onion and celery until nearly smooth. People seem to like this recipe better when it doesn’t have chunks of onion and celery.]

How you do it:
1.  Prepare cornbread according to mix instructions.
2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
3.  Cook sausage, onion, celery in a large skillet over medium heat, stirring and breaking up sausage as it cooks. When sausage is cooked through and celery and onions are soft, you may drain grease. (I don’t drain my grease.)
4.  In a large bowl, combine cornbread, bread cubes, sage, salt, and pepper. Stir well, making sure cornbread is crumbled. Stir in sausage mixture. Add broth and eggs. Stir well.
5.  Spoon mixture into greased 13″x9″x2″ baking dish.
6.  Bake at 350 for 45 minutes. When top is lightly brown, stuffing is ready to eat.

Yields 9 cups. (And there will be NO leftovers, I guarantee it.)

[Note: You can prepare this the day before and refrigerate it overnight. If you do this, it’s going to need at least an hour in the oven. Also, have some extra chicken broth on hand. Sometimes it can get dry.]

And for dessert, (here comes my favorite word again, ‘easy’)…

Also from Catie — Quick & Easy Pumpkin Pie 

This was my mother-in-law’s pumpkin pie recipe. It makes two pies, but I usually half it and make only one pie. This is an old fashioned recipe and is not as sweet (and decadent) as most modern recipes. To me, that’s part of its charm; however, I understand most people like knock-your-socks-off-sweet at holiday time.

pumpkin pie surrounded by pumpkinsWhat You Need:
1 can (29 oz.) pumpkin (15 oz. can works for 1 pie)
2 cans sweetened condensed milk
4 eggs
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
2 Nine Inch Pie Shells

(I make my own pie crusts. They’re delicious, and it’s nowhere near as hard as it sounds. For a tutorial, click here. This tutorial shows you how to make two pie crusts. I usually freeze one and use it later.)

What You Do:
(You don’t need an electric mixer for this recipe. I use a fork to beat the eggs and a spoon to mix the rest.)
1.  Preheat over to 400º F.
2.  In a large bowl, mix eggs and milk until eggs are slightly beaten.
3.  Add other ingredients and pour into unbaked pie shells.
4.  Bake 1 hour at 400º F.

(After the first ten minutes of baking, you’ll want to cover the crust edges with foil or a crust cover so they don’t burn. Here’s a link showing you how to make a crust cover out of tin foil, which is handy because those store-bought crust covers often don’t fit.)

piece of pumpkin pie with whipped cream

photo by Johnny CC-BY-SA 2.0, wikimedia commons

If you’re really feeling ambitious, here’s Kathy Owen again with  Spiced Whipped Topping for that pumpkin pie.

Mix together 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, and 1/8 tsp nutmeg; stir in 3/4 cup heavy cream and 1/2 tsp vanilla.  CHILL FOR ONE HOUR.  Whip until stiff, and serve immediately.

And yet another treat from Kathy

Peppermint Fudge:

Ingredients:
1.5 tsp plus 1/4 cup butter (softened, divided)
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
12 oz white baking chocolate, chopped
7oz jar marshmallow creme
1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy
1/2 tsp peppermint extract

Directions:
1.  Line a 9 inch square pan with foil, grease foil with 1.5 tsp butter. Set aside.
2.  In a heavy saucepan, combine sugar, sour cream, and remaining butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved.
3.  Bring to rapid boil; cook and stir until candy thermometer reads 234 degrees F (soft-ball stage).
4.  Remove from heat; stir in white chocolate and marshmallow creme until melted.  Fold in peppermint candy and extract.
5.  Pour into prepared pan. Chill until firm.
6. Using foil, lift fudge out of pan; cut into 1-inch squares. Store in refrigerator. Makes 2 pounds.

I don’t know about you all but I am now starving! LOL What’s your favorite holiday or cold weather recipe? Please share in the comments.

Women of Mystery boxed set cover

 

Oh, and here’s another holiday treat. A boxed set of three great mysteries, just $4.99 (only available for a limited time).

Available at AMAZON, BARNES & NOBLE, and KOBO

Volume 2 coming soon!

 

 

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

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