Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rabbit in the Moon: The Moon Festival

Sunday, September 14th is date for this year’s the Moon Festival (also known as The Mooncake or Mid-Autumn Festival) In Catonese, this mid-autumn festival is "zhong qiu jie” in Mandarin and “Chung Chiu” in Cantonese..

What is it? According to Chinese tradition, it falls on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar when the moon is at its fullest and brightest for the entire year, an ideal time to celebrate the abundance of the summer harvest. It corresponds to the harvest festivals observed in Western cultures (In Hong Kong, it is held in conjunction with the annual Lantern festival)

In many ways, though, this holiday typifies Chinese Taoist philosophy- the union of man’s spirit with nature in order to achieve harmony.

Although many legends surround the origin of the Moon Festival, most involve the "Lady living in the moon" whom the Chinese refer to as Chang Er.

According to one version, Chang Er lived during the Hsia dynasty (2205-1766BC. One day ten suns appeared at once in the sky, creating havoc. The Emperor ordered her husband, General Hou Yi of the Imperial Guard, a famous archer to shoot down nine of them. As a reward, the Emperor gave Hou Yi great wealth. But the people were worried that the suns might reappear and dry up the planet so they prayed to Wang Mu, the Goddess of Western Heaven to make Hou Yi live forever. That way he could always protect the country.
Their prayers were answered and the Goddess rewarded Hou Yi with a pill or herb (depending on which version you read) of immortality. However, his wife, Chang Er grabbed it herself, put it in her mouth and either disappeared or was banished to the moon. When she got there she found a friendly rabbit under a tree. Because the moon is cold, she began coughing, expelling the pill from her throat. She decided to pound the pill into tiny pieces and scatter them on earth so everyone could be immortal. That’s why it is said there is a rabbit in the moon (referred to in Chinese mythology as the Jade Hare), pounding on the elixir of life. Chang Er built a crystal palace for herself and remained on the moon. During the Mooncake festival, her beauty is said to be greatest. Children are taught that she dances on the shadowed surface oft the moon.
The Chinese have a saying that marriages are made in heaven and prepared on the moon by an old man. According to another legend, this old man (Yueh Lao Yeh) keeps a written record of all the names of happy couples fated to marry and live happily ever after. During the Mooncake festival, people in China try to view the moon in the hope their happy futures are written there. In Hong Kong thousands of red candlelit lanterns made in all kinds of traditional shapes including rabbits, and butterflies, light up Victoria Peak and Morse Park in Kowloon. In Chinese mythology, the butterfly, like the rabbit is another symbol of longevity

Perhaps the most famous legend surrounding the Moon festival concerns its possible role in Chinese history. Overrun by the Mongols in the thirteenth century, the Chinese threw off their oppressors in 1368 AD. Chu Yuen-chang, and his senior deputy, Liu Po-wen, supposedly devised a strategy to take a certain walled city held by the Mongol enemy. Dressed as a Taoist priest, Liu entered the besieged city bearing moon cake, which the Mongols did not eat. He distributed these to the Chinese, advising not to eat them until the Moon Festival When the people finally opened their cakes, their found hidden plans for a rebellion. Thus, the emperor-to-be ingeniously took the city and his throne. As a result the Moon cake became an integral part of the Moon festival. Whether this Chinese version of ancient Europe's "Trojan Horse" story is true, no one really knows.

What is a Mooncake:

Mooncake is a special kind of sweet cake (yueh ping) the size of a human palm and prepared in the shape of the moon. They are quite filling and meant to be cut diagonally in quarters and passed around. Traditional moon cakes are filled with sesame seeds, ground lotus seeds and duck eggs. The salty yolk in the middle represents the full moon,
Because of the rabbit and the lady in the moon’s legendary importance, you will often find images of Chang-Er and the Jade Hare stamped on every mooncake. mooncake box, and Moon Cake Festival poster -.

Although mooncakes used to take as much as four weeks of preparation, today with automation, the process is much faster. Also, today’s creators of mooncakes may part with tradition by adding new ingredients like nits, dates, fruits- even Chinese sausages, A Southeast Asian variation known as “ping pei” or snowskin mooncake is cooked with glutinous rice flour. In some Asia markets you can find a line of ice cream mooncakes from Hagen Daz.
Because they are difficult to make, most people buy then from Asian bakeries beginning around mid-August.

So now you know why we titled our latest thriller, Rabbit in the Moon (by Deborah & Joel Shlian) !!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Interview with Mystery Author R. Barri Flowers is proud to have bestselling mystery author R. Barri Flowers with us for an interview today. Thank you for joining us.

M.A.: Tell us a little about your featured mystery, STATE’S EVIDENCE.

R.B.F.: STATE'S EVIDENCE is a spine tingling legal mystery where nothing is what it seems and no one is safe!

In Eagles Landing, California, Assistant District Attorney Beverly Mendoza is assigned the case of prosecuting a man charged with murdering a local judge, Sheldon Crawford, and sexually assaulting the judge's wife, Maxine. The suspect, Rafael Santiago -- who once vowed revenge against the judge for sending him to prison -- is picked out of a lineup by Maxine Crawford.

At the same time Wilmeta County Sheriff's Department homicide detective Stone Palmer is investigating the rape and strangulation of a local young woman, Adrienne Murray. A suspect, Manual González , is taken into custody.

What seems to be an open and shut case for Beverly and Stone is suddenly challenged when González, a career criminal, claims he murdered the judge. Is it a case of mistaken identity? Or two desperate and violent men looking to manipulate the system for their own self interests?

As Beverly grapples with her case, she must balance this with being a single mother of a headstrong 12-year-old boy and the daughter of an elderly father suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Her lover is handsome attorney-turned-judge, Grant Nunez, who has some jarring secrets of his own.

Beverly and Stone are put to the test as the plot thickens in ways neither could have imagined.

The dramatic and deadly conclusion will put both their lives in jeopardy and leave the reader hanging on every word!

M.A.: Can you share with us (without giving anything away, of course!) a personal favorite moment or line in your book?

R.B.F.: My favorite moment in book is when Beverly Mendoza and Stone Palmer meet outside a supermarket on Thanksgiving Day in what is literally a matter of life or death.

M.A.: Why mysteries? What makes them so compelling for you to write?

R.B.F.: I love writing mystery and suspense novels because I love reading these types of books. I enjoy the page turning thrills of mysteries and the unfolding drama of investigating the crime and solving the case. I also like getting into the head of the villain as he or she seeks to outwit the authorities in games of cat and mouse where only one side can win.

M.A.: What about other work? Do you write in any genres other than mystery?

R.B.F.: Yes, under a pseudonym, I write contemporary romance novels. As a fan of male romance authors such as Richard Paul Evans, Nicholas Sparks, and Robert Waller, I enjoy a break from the crime fiction by crafting passionate love stories that touch the heart.

I also write true crime books and criminology books, both of which lend credence to my mystery and thriller fiction.

M.A.: What was your funniest writing-related moment?

R.B.F.: My funniest writing related moment was a time when at a writers conference a female reader I was talking to told me excitedly how much she looked forward to meeting R. Barri Flowers and getting her copy of STATE’S EVIDENCE signed to show off to her friends. She didn’t realize at the time that I was the author, in fact.

Once I revealed my identity, we both had a good laugh and I signed her book!

M.A.: So, what's your current writing project? Is it a mystery, too?

R.B.F.: I am currently working on two mystery novels, DEATH CRIES and A KILLER IN PARADISE.

DEATH CRIES is a thriller.

FBI profiler Heather Augustine is assigned to work on a serial killer case with Homicide Inspector Jefferson Talbot in the town of Leopard Lake, Oregon.
The sadistic perpetrator known as “The Foot Fetish Killer,” has murdered three young women thus far, all seemingly at random but with something in common: they are beautiful, single, and recently moved to town.
The victims were raped, tortured, and mutilated--including bite marks on their feet and cutting off toes. The killer’s calling card is a single silver heeled stiletto left by the bodies dumped alongside the road.
Five years earlier, Heather’s FBI agent brother, Simon Augustine, vanished during a serial killer case, was found wandering around naked and in a daze, institutionalized, and eventually committed suicide.
When Heather freaks out after seeing the remains of the latest victim, bringing back old memories, she requests and is given a couple of days off to get her head together. But when she doesn’t show up for work afterward, her superiors believe she let the stress get to her and went AWOL following in her brother’s footsteps.
Heather’s replacement and best friend, Special Agent Diane Valdez, is convinced that she would never have run off and may have been abducted by the serial killer Heather was pursuing.

An expert on serial killers, Diane is determined to step in and finish the job Heather left behind, hoping to find her friend still alive; in spite of the initial resistance she encounters from Jefferson in having another FBI agent looking over his shoulder.

The last thing Jefferson Talbot needed was another FBI agent flaking out on him under pressure. But it wasn’t his choice to have Heather or Diane on the case. Nor did Talbot want to find himself attracted to Diane just six months after breaking up with a woman he’d thought was the love of his life. But he couldn’t help it or the hot romance that soon develops between them in the midst of their investigation.
Grace Marlow is a death specialist who assists families and law enforcement with grief counseling. Grace's latest mission is trying to figure why she happens to know each victim and what, if any, connection there may be to her.

The police are just as interested in whether or not Grace's role in the scheme of things is strictly professional or more personal than even she may realize.

As more women are murdered, Jefferson and Diane must pull out all the stops to try and stop a vicious killer in his tracks.
But they find a killer who is more than their match and determined to continue his reign of terror, while holding captive a pretty and tough to break FBI profiler.

A KILLER IN PARADISE is a police procedural.

In the first of a Hawaii based procedural mystery series, Maui County homicide detective and composite sketch artist Leila Kahana and her partner, Blake Seymour, investigate the execution-style murder of two prominent doctors who were having an affair.

After more doctors belonging to a medical association are shot to death, it becomes clear they have a serial killer on their hands. Assisting with the investigation are detectives Rachel Lancaster and Trent Ferguson.

Leila, a Hawaiian native, becomes romantically involved with Seymour, who still pines for his ex wife; even as Leila tries to help nab a thief, capture a parental abductor, and deal with a home burglary.

Other characters are also shown as three-dimensional, such as Detective Lancaster, who pours herself into work and alcohol to cope with the death of her husband two years ago in Iraq; and Detective Ferguson, who neglects his wife in favor of prostitutes.

By the time the killer is identified, Leila and Seymour must race against the clock to apprehend them before another person becomes a victim.

Additionally, I am the editor of a first mystery anthology from the American Crime Writers League, MURDER PAST, MURDER PRESENT (Twilight Times, Summer 2009). The collection will include stories from bestselling, award-winning mystery authors.

M.A.: Other than, do you have any websites where readers can find out more about you and your work?

R.B.F.: My homepage is:

I am also a member of the American Crime Writers League, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Kiss of Death, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America writing organizations. Information on me and my writings can be found through any of their websites.

Additional info can be found on my Crimespace and MySpace pages as follows:

Thanks again for agreeing to take a Minute for Mystery by joining us here today.