Masking Up

Halloween has always represented a spirit of fun for me. Putting out candies, celebrating fall harvests and colored leaves, and of course, getting dressed up in creative outfits that hide who you are is big, really BIG!

But am I getting too old to enjoy the fun, games, and dress up? I mean, I was always told as a kid that I could dress up for Halloween until sixth grade was over. Then it was time to get into the serious business of growing up. What a great way to sell that concept, right? You can’t put on costumes any more, and your participation is reduced to handing out candy, not hoarding pillowcases full for yourself.

Thank goodness they invented Trick-or-Treat for UNICEF just in time to stretch out costuming for a couple more years. And bonus! Lots of the moms in our neighborhood were softies, gave me quarters for the donation and a few pieces of candy as well. How cool is that?

Fast forward to today. I am no where near age appropriate for dressing up, and yet here I am, planning my second Halloween costume of the season. That’s right. Two costumes in one year. I can sense my mom rolling over in her grave right now.

But I believe that dressing up for this creepiest night of the year started among adults. Forgive me, but I have limited access to the Internet today, so can’t verify the research I did quite some time ago. My memory, while faulty these days, has a picture that Halloween, or All Hallows Eve was started at the end of the harvest season hundreds of years ago. In those days it was believed that the spirit of death could wander with more freedom for a night and steal away the souls of good people everywhere. In defense, people would dress up as someone or something unrecognizable so as to be able to wander in safety to their neighbors’ homes. While we live more sophisticated lives today, dressing up to protect our souls remains with us.

And that leads me to ask, don’t we regularly dress up and put on mask? What women today haven’t put on make up to “hide wrinkles” or “be you–only better?” And what about men, who find strength in the uniforms they wear? Standing 20 yards out, can you really tell one fully clad football player from another? Do you know who is hurt and who is healthy?

The same is true in writing characters–especially mystery characters who have a lot to hide. Who’s telling the truth and who’s hiding something from your detective or amateur sleuth? That’s both the fun and the core of being human. We all wear masks. We all have something to protect or hide.

So yes, I’m dissing up tomorrow night. I’ll go celebrate Halloween with my daughter and granddaughter, then go celebrate more with friends from dance. And you know what? I’m definitely NOT too old for this.

How ’bout you? What mask will you wear this holiday? What masks do you enjoy wearing or observing in others? Where will Halloween take your spirit this year?

P.S. Writing from the road today. Apologies for no pictures

A Littleton Autumn

I have always been fond of the autumn season. As a kid, it meant school starting, Halloween, and crunching through dry leaves.  There were great times meeting friends I hadn’t seen all summer, going to the cider mill with my family, and color everywhere.  My folks would occasionally go for drives with all eight of us stuffed into the station wagon (this was before the ubiquitous mini-van had even been dreamed of).  Dad would exclaim and point out some fire-like looking tree and mom would exclaim and draw his attention back to his driving.

In my younger adult years living in Tampa and then in Dallas, the fall season didn’t have such drastic changes.  But here in Littleton, Mother Nature has come out with a pallet of color and charm that steals my heart away.  The trees are brilliant in a range of reds, greens, oranges and gold.

Fall in Littleton, CO

Seasonal change is in the air.

I think autumn makes me feel generally wistful, like my body knows another year is coming to a close, and I am about to “lose summer” once more.  The golden sun rays are just that–rich and inviting, all the while too  elusive, and storm clouds build, and temperatures drop.  I can’t go out on my back deck with the dog in the morning any more.  Fewer leaves to hide my fashionably frumpy pajamas, and temperatures that discourage rather than encourage my attempts at doing push-ups and other morning blood stirring.  But the days are still full of sun and promise, here in Littleton.

Another great thing about living in this town is the chance to watch birds.  I know. I know. Birds? Really?  You need a life, Liesa.

Birds at Chatfield, Littleton, COBut my friend, I have to say, nowhere else have I enjoyed the fluttering in the skies as I have here.  In Littleton, I can see the tiniest hummingbirds (spring and summer) to the largest Canada geese. I’ve seen Bald Eagles and magpies.  There is color, flight, drama, and more in the bird community.  Apparently, Colorado is part of something called the Central Migratory Flyway, which brings a large variety of birds through our area, and this time of year provides a great opportunity watch them.  I wrote an article last week on birds and birding for my client, DeckTec (the post is scheduled for this upcoming Saturday), and enjoyed interviewing a local Wild Birds Unlimited for the post.  One of my favorite quotes from store owner Scott Menough was that “you don’t have to know birds, to enjoy watching them.”

Audubon Society, Chatfield State Park, Littleton, CO

Knock, knock. Nobody home.

During my research, I also stopped by the Audubon Society at Chatfield.  Unfortunately, the place was closed while I was there, but the birds didn’t seem to care.  They were everywhere, and flitted about a variety of feeders for my personal enjoyment.

I love it when the season and the weather draws attention to itself.  For a brief moment I feel that Mother Nature is still in charge, and the seasons are rolling in at just the right time and in just the right way.  No worries about climate change when you stand in the crisp autumn air and see the birds flitting about.  The scratch in my throat (an annual bronchitis visit that lasts a few months) is another response to the season change.

And for one brief morning moment, I feel that all is right in the world.

What about you?  What’s your favorite season?  Do you do anything special outside in these last days of warmth before the winter chill sets in?

Wishing you a week full of color, movement, and inspiration.

 

It’s A Mystery: High Crimes on the Magical Plane

I read an article the other day about how scientists at some ivy league school are proving that there is no such thing as ESP — extra sensory perception.  What a let down.  I mean talk about telling people there is no Santa Claus! As many as three out of four people in the States believe in some form of ESP–that’s more than the number who believe in their political parties right now, for sure. And the belief system keeps palm readers, psychics, and ghost hunters in business for the long haul. If the researchers prove too conclusively the lack of woo-woo in our lives, an entire industry could disappear–or at least remove to another plane of existence.

Book cover: High Crimes on the Magical Plane

Great, fun read!

Is it any wonder, then, why I might have picked up High Crimes on the Magical Plane for a cozy mystery read?  Author Kris Neri explores what happens when a fake psychic, Madame Samantha Brennan, meets up with the real deal in the guise of a FBI special agent, Annabelle Haggerty.  The clash is exhilarating, funny, and well worth the hours spent between the pages of this delightful book.

Samantha Brennan hasn’t had a psychic moment in her entire twenty-eight and three-quarter years of living. Doesn’t believe in the stuff.  But she loves the clothes you get to wear as a psychic, and this profession let’s a girl meet very interesting, and often high-powered people, like the ex-Vice President’s widow. Pretty cool, huh?

And it is while Samantha is on her way to meet with the widow, that an SUV full of clowns–real clowns in make-up, frizzy wigs, and big red noses–nearly run her down and mark a huge change in the psychic’s life.  These clowns are no real funny men, but bad guys who have just kidnapped an L.A. honest-to-goodness movie star, Molly Claire, from the same apartment building where the VP widow lives.

Samantha relays her psychic vision of kidnapping for the benefit of the FBI. She doesn’t bother them with the detail that she found Ms. Claire’s empty apartment and a dead body inside, when she broke into that home to do a little cold calling on Ms. Claire.  That’s when Annabelle Haggerty, a serious-minded FBI agent takes Samantha in hand and transfers her real visions to the con-artist’s brain. Oops!

And things get complicated from there. The search for the missing Molly Claire reveals a new and monumental assault on Los Angeles by gang members–make that ALL the gang members of all the gangs in the city of angels. Did I mention the monumental assault? And that Samantha is the middle of the stew? And Annabelle is heroically trying to find the movie star, and bring justice back to the city, all while trying to keep her special powers as a Celtic Queen under wraps?

The book kept me engaged right to the end.  I hope you’ll take the chance to read this cozy and let me know what you think.  Even if you don’t believe in magic.

ABOUT KRIS NERI

Kris came to Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Colorado Gold Conference in September, where she spoke on “Becoming a Clue Master–How to Plant Clues” in your mystery.  I walked away from that lecture with whole new approaches to writing that I’ll be excited to try in future books.  Then we met at the book sale, and I couldn’t resist picking up her book.

Kris has two book series, the Magical mysteries and the Tracy Eaton mysteries, and has published approximately 60 short stories.  She has also been nominated for several writing awards including the Lefty, Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity.

As this is Halloween month, you may want to pick up High Crimes on the Magical Plane — just to get in the spirit and all.