Friday, December 12, 2014

Mass of the Rooster#Christmas #TheGiftofChristmas

I’ve never had the pleasure of being in another country during Christmas, but I love learning how other cultures and nationalities celebrate the holiday. My book Secrets of a Mayan Moon is set in Guatemala in the jungle and not during the holiday, but I wondered how Christmas was celebrated and gathered snippets from the blog, Guatemalan Genes. The woman who writes the blog, Cynthia, was born in Guatemala, lived in the U.S. for a while, and then moved back to her country.  She helped me keep things authentic in Secrets of a Mayan Moon when I couldn’t travel to the area.

There are many recipes that are served in Guatemala during the holiday on Cynthia’s blog so I won’t put any here, you can find them under her Christmas posts.

However, you will find mention of a Venezuelan Christmas dish, Hallaca, a plantain leaf-wrapped food that required days to prepare in my short story Isabella's Christmas Box found in the anthology, The Gift of Christmas by Windtree Press authors. Isabella prepares this dish for Tino during their first Christmas together. If you're an Isabella and Tino fan you might want to get the book. It's available in ebook and print. I'll be signing and selling copies at Jan's Paperbacks in Aloha, OR this Sunday the 14th at 5pm. 

One of the interesting stories I learned about a Guatemalan Christmas is the Misa de Gallo, or Mass of the Rooster. This sounds strange thinking of a rooster as being linked to Christmas and a mass. The Guatemalan legend says that at midnight Christmas Eve as the baby Jesus was born a rooster crowed. Everyone knows that roosters don’t crow at midnight, they crow when the sun is coming up in the morning. Because of this reality, “Midnight” mass is held early in the morning when the roosters really do crow
The other interesting event that Guatemalan’s do to celebrate, which is what you find in the United States during the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve, they have fireworks displays at midnight.  I’ve found this to be true of other countries such as the Netherlands.

What you believe and how you celebrate Christmas is up to each individual. What is a tradition you have for Christmas?

Monday, December 08, 2014

How Mysteries Discovered Me By Sally Carpenter

Hi Paty, thanks for hosting me today. I didn’t set out to write mysteries; the genre found me.

Having grown up on the science fiction TV shows of the 1960s and having read many of the classic SF writers, I started writing SF. But my ideas were few and publication non-existent.

I turned to playwright as I’d acted in amateur productions and found that reading a script was faster and less tedious than plowing through a 300-page novel. I had some success writing short plays for churches.

I went back to college for a theater degree. Two of the plays I wrote for class were finalists in the prestigious North American College Theater Festival One-Act Playwrighting Competition. Six finalists were selected from a region covering several states. The plays were given a staged reading at the annual conference.

One of my plays was “Star Collector,” a two-hander about an aging, frustrated pop star meeting one of his grown-up fans. The play was well liked and one of the adjudicators told me, “I see a bigger story with these characters.”

After college I moved to Los Angeles to, hopefully, break into TV wring, I pursued a number of leads and met interesting people, but nothing panned out.

To pay the rent I got a job at a community newspaper. One day a press release crossed my desk about a Sisters in Crime/Los Angeles panel of mystery authors appearing at a local library. Something inside my head said, “You should go to that.”

I went and listened to the authors discuss their books. I thought, “I could write a mystery series with my teen idol character.” When the panel finished speaking, I asked how I could join Sisters in Crime (men can become members as well).

I knew nothing about writing mysteries, so I did a crush course on the genre. I bought mystery books to read and raided the local libraries. I attended author signings at the mystery bookstore. I attended SinC meetings, which had excellent guest speakers. And I wrote.

At the time I didn’t know that cozy mysteries were suppose to follow a formula, so I wrote to please myself. Years ago I had read a fun mystery called “Bimbos of the Death Sun” about a murder at a science fiction convention. I’d attended Beatles fan conventions so I figured that’d be a good match for Sandy Fairfax, my teen idol character. Thus came my first book, “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper.”

As the old saying goes, “write what you know.” For the second book, “The Sinister Sitcom Caper,” I drew from my experiences working as a page at Paramount Pictures.

Book three is “The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper,” inspired by a Monkees fan cruise I went on years ago. This time Sandy and his sister, who is blind, are performing aboard the SS Zodiac, bound for Key West and Nassau. But there’s stormy weather ahead when Sandy finds a body in his backstage dressing room. While investigating a cast of colorful suspects he dodges an old flame, attempts to woo his choreographer away from her boyfriend, handles his sister and finds himself caught in a watery deathtrap.

What’s ahead for Sandy? In the next WIP, “The Bloody Black Tie Benefit Caper,” he tries to save his father’s orchestra, teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, while competing on a TV game show, pursuing romance, parenting his kids, and yes, solving another murder.

Sally Carpenter is native Hoosier now living in Moorpark, Calif.
She has a master’s degree in theater from Indiana State University. While in school her plays “Star Collector” and “Common Ground” were finalists in the American College Theater Festival One-Act Playwrighting Competition. “Common Ground” also earned a college creative writing award and “Star Collector” was produced in New York City.
Carpenter also has a master’s degree in theology and a black belt in tae kwon do.
She’s worked as an actress, college writing instructor, theater critic, jail chaplain, and tour guide/page for Paramount Pictures. She’s now employed at a community newspaper.
Her initial book in the Sandy Fairfax Teen Idol series, “The Baffled Beatlemaniac Caper,” was a 2012 Eureka! Award finalist for best first mystery novel.
Cozy Cat Press has published “The Sinister Sitcom Caper” and “The Cunning Cruise Ship Caper.”
She has short stories in two anthologies: “Dark Nights at the Deluxe Drive-in” in “Last Exit to Murder” and “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet” in “Plan B: Omnibus.”
She’s a member of Sisters in Crime/LA. Reach her at Facebook or

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Picking a Color...Ugh!

The domestic well for the house was drilled this week, and we'll soon have water at the house. The mudder/taper for the sheet rock is doing his magic. That means next week I'll be painting and we'll install the kitchen cabinets. It's starting to look like we will make it in before Christmas. All the little details won't be completed, but we'll be out of this cold cabin and right there at the house to keep working on things.

After the cabinets are installed we'll call the flooring company. They are bringing the flooring and the
fabric I picked for couch
appliances and furniture I ordered from them. I'm pretty excited to see my special order couch. I saw one at the store and asked if it could be made with different fabric. They asked the furniture company and they said I could pick from any of their fabrics. I guess the color combination I picked looks really good together. I don't know because I haven't seen the couch yet. I'll be having an early Christmas when the appliances and furniture arrive.

Guest bath tile
Right now I'm trying to pick out colors to paint the walls. I like having continuity, but I don't like the whole house the same color. That's institutional to me. I like color and variety and warmth. I think the main color will be a warm off-white called White Glove. The guest bath will have a color called Pale Gingersnap which is a pale peach/brown color.

The master bed bath will be either a pale blue(Polished Cotton) or a pale green (Raindance) it depends on the walk-in shower tile. We're picking that up on Friday. I ordered it a  month a go and am having trouble remembering the tones in it. I'll use whatever color is in the master bath on one wall in the master bedroom as an accent. The room/wall that is bothering me is the kitchen. I'll have the space between the counter and upper cabinets and above the window over the sink. I haven't picked out the granite for the counter and I've only seen the finished cupboards once so trying to remember the color and figuring out what will work is hard. My oldest daughter thought a light gray, but gray doesn't feel warm/inviting to me. I'm leaning toward a more vibrant color though the cabinets are a reddish hue. *sigh* I'm also thinking the Pale Gingersnap might work...

When I get the rooms painted, I'll post them here for you to see what I ended up with.

Monday, December 01, 2014

A Visit from R.V. Reyes

Hola, I’m R.V. Reyes and I am so happy to be visiting, if only virtually, the Southwest again. I spent five years in Albuquerque. The high desert holds a special place in my heart. New Mexico was my abode (in a 100 year old adobe) during my college years and I devoured Tony Hillerman novels while I lived there. Florida is my residence now and to get my SW fix I love to read a good regional mystery since fresh roasted Hatch green chilies don’t cross the Mississippi. Some of my go-to SW mystery writers are Shannon Baker, Aimee Thurlo, Mardi Oakley Medawar and Kirk Mitchell. I am adding Paty Jager to my list as I can’t wait for the Shandra Higheagle series. Hurry up and get here 2015 so I can get the downloads.

Gracias, Paty, for inviting me to guest blog. Your readers can have a virtual visit to Florida via my blog Cozy in Miami - Adventures with a Mystery Writer. As the name implies, I write cozy mysteries. My novel-length manuscript about a Cuban-American diamond appraiser is making the agent rounds. Not to worry though, I have a duet of Ossie Piñero PI short stories available on Kindle, Nook and Itunes. Ossie is a private investigator in training. She comes from a large Puerto Rican family that sucks her into their dramas. The mysteries and crimes usually take place at family celebrations as the short story titles, The Vegetarian Wedding and The Baby Shower, imply.  My Ossie character is fun to write because she is unabashedly sexy and sassy. Yes, there are other Ossie Piñero stories in the pipeline.

Paty asked me to talk a bit about why I write and what I am passionate about. Well, you might have guessed by my nombre and the clues I have sprinkled through this guest blog post that I am Latina. Writing Latina characters is my passion. As a young person, I rarely found a protagonist that shared my background or hue. As an adult, I see the need for diversity in books. It is in our human nature to seek the familiar and be wary of the unknown other. My job as a writer is to bridge that dichotomy. I want to show the non-Latino reader the common ground we all share as humans. My stories revel in the American melting pot. They are purposefully light-hearted and humorous. I, also, want to highlight the Latino-Caribbean culture so that those readers find themselves in the pages of books.  After you’ve read my Ossie Piñero stories let me know how my bridge building is going. You can tweet me @writerRVR, contact me via my blog Cozy in Miami, and find Cozy in Miami on Facebook.