Tag Archives: Halloween

Hallowed Halloween Happenings (and other things)

October 31, 2019 by and
Photography by contributed, feature image Opera Omaha

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sugar skull

Thursday, Oct. 31 through Saturday, Nov. 2: 

El Museo Latino is featuring a Day of the Dead/Día de Muertos exhibit on display until Nov. 16. The Day of the Dead is a tradition that celebrates loved ones who have passed away with flowers, candles, and favorite foods. The exhibit showcases these elements and the history of the tradition. With the celebration taking place from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2, now is the perfect time to learn about how other cultures celebrate this time of year. Learn more here.

white owl

Friday, Nov. 1 and Saturday, Nov. 2: 

Get in touch with your magical side at several Harry Potter-themed events at Fontenelle Forest this weekend. On Friday, wizards ages 21 and over can attend A Night at the Forbidden Forest for a costume competition, pub quiz, and more. On Saturday, A Holiday at Hogwarts is an event the whole family can enjoy. Visitors can work on wizard-themed crafts, visit animals, and hunt for magical objects. Make your reservations here.

Nebraskon poster

Friday, Nov. 1 through Sunday, Nov. 3: 

This weekend, over 5,000 people will visit one of Nebraska’s largest and longest-running anime conventions. Anime  NebrasKon takes place over three days and features many prominent guest speakers from the anime community, including the voice actors and cosplayers. With 200+ hours of activities, a dance, video games, board games, and more, this is a don’t-miss for all anime fans. There’s also an art contest and auction, so you can show your skills or take home a unique souvenir. Get your tickets here now.

scene from Madama Butterfly

Friday, Nov. 1 and Sunday, Nov. 3: 

The popular opera Madama Butterfly tells the love story of a young Japanese woman and an American naval officer. The renowned opera comes to the Orpheum Theater for two performances this weekend. Artist, and founder of Omaha nonprofit organization KANEKO, Jun Kaneko, designed the set and costumes of this production that has been seen around the world. Get your tickets here while you can.

people at Fall Refugee Health Fair

Saturday, Nov. 2: 

The University of Nebraska Medical Center’s Bridge to Care is a student-led interprofessional organization. They are hosting their annual Fall Refugee Health Fair at Benson High School from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., offering free services such as vision assessments, dental screenings, Body Mass Index (BMI) measurement, blood pressure checks, and glucose level screenings. There is also a refugee cultural orientation with Alana Schriver, refugee specialist for the Omaha Public Schools. To learn more, click here.

Event times and details may change. Check with venue or event organizer to confirm.

Enter If You Dare

September 26, 2019 by
Photography by Sarah Lemke

Antolli Anesi has never been scared of anything.

“Except at night when I get up for water,” says the 10-year-old who has enough courage to rival most adults.

“Oh, yes. I forgot about the haunting old man who hangs from the wall,” his mother, Anitra Williams, remembers.

Every October, this mother-son duo, along with Antolli’s brothers, Dominic and Giovanni Williams, play roommates to a festoon of frights. And they wouldn’t have it any other way. Turning their home at 60th and Center streets into arguably Aksarben’s best-decorated haunted house, the family has invested an estimated $10,000 on things that go bump in the night, including ghosts, zombies, and serial killers by the dozen.

The whole front yard of their two-story residence is transformed into a cemetery filled with tombstones and bushes that project bloody hands. Lining the iron gate are skulls entangled in cobwebs, and those who are brave enough to make the walk from street to front porch will encounter towering statues of Michael Myers (the character from the Halloween films), a killer clown, and a guillotine. There’s even a pair of handmade coffins filled with the undead waiting to greet visitors.

doll in coffin

“The neighbors and everyone who passes by seem to really enjoy it,” Williams says. “That new blow-up stuff is so cheesy. To see something that’s handmade and realistic instead is probably what surprises most.”

That’s right, this scary scene won’t be found anywhere else and isn’t courtesy of a home supply store—it’s the work of Williams and her boyfriend, Todd Sterba, as a majority of the outdoor décor has been crafted by the couple.

“Todd’s more the saw and nails, and I guess I’m the mastermind,” Williams says. “However, I did get my hands dirty helping with the headstones.”

Then there’s the inside.

The scares don’t stop at the front door. Almost every inch of every room is covered with creepiness. Ditching cheap, plastic pumpkins in favor of mummified skeletons, deranged dolls, a toilet seat dressed in a sweater, and props to look like Nightmare On Elm Street’s Freddy Krueger, Williams’ aesthetic gives terror a place to call home.

Her favorite piece has got to be the animated corpse being eaten alive by a large rat that’s hung in no less of a prominent place than right above the dining room table.

“It’s all just for fun, and as long as it looks good, anything goes,” Williams says.

Keeping up with the Addamses wasn’t always her M.O. While Williams admits that Halloween has been a favorite time of year for her since she was young, it wasn’t until Anesi was born on the holiday in 2008 that it acquired an entirely new meaning. Her son was her October surprise, arriving a week earlier than expected. He was born shortly after 3 p.m., and by the early evening Williams was helping her other children get costumed for trick-or-treating without leaving her hospital room.

To celebrate and commemorate the moment, Williams started spooking up her space in 2009, beginning with just a few coffins in the yard. The decorations that once fit in a single tote now occupy dozens of them and a good portion of her shed.

“My son’s birth definitely made the holiday more special,” Williams says. “We throw a big party the Saturday before Halloween with over-the-top themes like Fear Factor, where the kids competed and ate real worms.”

After a decade of big scares and even bigger celebrations, the family has only encountered one incident that spooked even them. Last year, a man walking by one afternoon tried breaking into their home after taking one of their “Enter If You Dare” signs a little too literally. Sporting Fireball whiskey in his pocket, he began ripping down the décor when he couldn’t get inside and was quickly arrested and charged with trespassing and destruction of property.

Neighbors, friends, and even the Aksarben Elmwood Park Neighborhood Association encouraged Williams to keep her makeshift graveyard and continue the festivities. Not one to disappoint, she plans to go bigger than ever this year, toying with the idea of creating a walk-through haunted house on her property for Halloween night.

“My mom was more traditional and didn’t decorate when I was growing up,” Williams says. “I sort of got deprived of it, so once I got the chance to do it, I just ran with it and haven’t looked back.”

When it comes to Halloween, there can never be too much of a good thing for Williams. Once Nov. 1 rears its chilly head, she begins to suffer from self-diagnosed Post Traumatic Halloween Syndrome.

“Nobody does Halloween like we do,” she says. “So, the day after it all comes down, it feels like we just moved because the house is just so empty and sad.”

Not to fear. The next one is only 364 days away.

This article was printed in the October 2019 edition of OmahaHome. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Friday the 13th Jason prop

Best Neighborhoods for Trick-or-Treating

October is a month of fang-tastic fun for those who enjoy wearing creepy costumes, exploring haunted houses, and participating in old-fashioned trick-or-treating. With Halloween right around the corner, many parents have the tricky task of choosing a location for the 31st.  Those interested in finding the best treats while wearing eerie ensembles should check out this list of some of Omaha’s best neighborhoods for snagging sweets on Halloween night.

Dundee and Happy Hollow Historic District

Situated near Memorial Park and Dundee, this neighborhood is well-known by locals as a trick-or-treat treasure. Peruse the festive decor along lamp-lit streets, ring a few doorbells, and fill a Halloween bag with enough creepy candies to last the rest of the year.



Morton Meadows

Morton Meadows, located in Midtown, is a spooktacular spot for trick-or-treaters. This friendly neighborhood’s walkable streets and prime location regularly draws a large crowd of costumed characters looking for a place to spend Halloween evening.

Country Club District

Historic-style street lamps and curving streets offer the perfect lighting and ambiance for trick-or-treating in this neighborhood. Located south of Gallagher Park past Northwest Radial Highway, Country Club’s family-friendly community of residents is sure to stock up plenty of candy in time for visitors. 



Omaha’s Hillsborough neighborhood kicks off the haunted holiday on Oct. 26 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. with their annual Hills“BOO”rough Spooktacular, with hayrack rides, games, and lots of fun. Return to this well-lit, walkable community in Northwest Omaha on Halloween night for even more trick-or-treating fun. 

Minne-Lusa’s “Trick or Treat on the Boolevard”

South of Florence in North Omaha, Minne-Lusa’s residents take Halloween seriously. Their annual “Trick or Treat on the Boolevard” event includes themed street islands, free food, and plenty of sweets for everyone. With an active community of event organizers and volunteers, Minne-Lusa offers no shortage of decked-out displays on Halloween night.

192nd Street in West Omaha

Travel south from 192nd and Pacific streets in West Omaha and discover plenty of subdivisions that are perfect for trick-or-treaters to explore. Spooky scenes and homes stocked full of candy can be found in many of this neighborhood’s residential areas. With well-lit streets and ample sidewalks, 192nd Street makes a great choice for a Halloween celebration.

This article was printed in the October 2019 edition of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Standing Bear Pointe

February 5, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Sprawling and quiet in northwestern Omaha, Standing Bear Pointe is tucked a stone’s throw away from the intersection of 144th and Fort streets. Commuters undoubtedly pass by the neighborhood each day, likely giving little thought to the homes, the people, and the stories that live just beyond the stately stone entrance and large trees that open Standing Bear Pointe to the outside world.

It’s possible that many find their way to Standing Bear Pointe quite literally by accident, looking instead for the neighboring Saddlebrook or Hillsborough neighborhoods. That’s exactly how Shelley Callahan found her future home, nestled in a neighborhood that, some 10 years later, she says she and her husband could reside in forever.

“Even if we won the lottery, we probably wouldn’t leave the neighborhood,” she says.

As an image consultant, Callahan had traveled all around Omaha meeting with clients. A wrong turn one day brought her unexpectedly to Standing Bear Pointe. At the time, she and her husband, Ty, had been shopping for a new home; but even after a two-year search, nothing had felt quite right.
Until Standing Bear Pointe.


“I was drawn in by the size,” she recalls. “They were all custom-built homes, but with a uniqueness.”

The neighborhood’s approximately 125 completed homes (and its more than 480 residents) have easy access to the Standing Bear Lake Recreation Area: the water, the green space, the mature trees, and all that Mother Nature and her four seasons could offer within the boundaries of a suburban setting.

The couple returned to the neighborhood soon after their first visit, spending a mere 15 minutes walking through one of the homes for sale. It didn’t take long for them to decide that it would be the home where they would raise their future children.

“It was this feeling!” she says excitedly of their home. Something about the house itself and the nearby residences were all the confirmation they needed to stay for good.

In the 10 years since, the Callahans have welcomed two young sons—Montgomery and Marshall—and a 10-year-old fox terrier named Sam. But more than that, the family has developed deep connections with their fellow Standing Bear Pointe neighbors. Many of the residents moved into the neighborhood, raised their children, retired—and never left.

She cites the mixing of generations that has created such a strong sense of community among her neighbors. Unlike the stereotype of today’s subdivisions, where residents pull into their garages each night without paying much mind to their neighbors, Standing Bear Pointe, Callahan says, feels a lot like family.

The older families have bonded over the years, rearing children, retiring, and welcoming grandchildren—even great-grandchildren. The younger families also raise children together, often developing relationships through carpooling to school, walking the streets on Halloween, and visiting each other’s homes throughout the week simply to say hello. They have bonded during the annual block party and neighborhood garage sale, the impromptu backyard picnics that occur with little planning yet leave behind deepened friendships and fond memories.

“It takes time to develop that kind of neighborhood,” she says. “There is a culture of Standing Bear Pointe. It’s safe with a small-town feel.”

And while Callahan and her neighbors are a mere two minutes away from a Baker’s Grocery Store, Target, and the other modern conveniences that come with living in an urban environment, they find themselves routinely visited by wild turkeys, foxes, and even deer.

“Seeing the animals never gets old,” she says with a grin.

Homes in Standing Bear Pointe often sell fast, Callahan says. (Omaha annexed the area in 2015.)

New neighbors are routinely welcomed and join the family this community has created. Callahan points to a young man, a bachelor, who used to lived next door. He and the Callahans quickly became friends with a story to share: Shelley and Ty introduced their neighbor to his future wife. The couple eventually married.

“We truly feel blessed to have found this neighborhood,” she says.”

Visit standingbearpointe.org for more information.

standingbear3The Ponca Chief and the Area’s Name

Standing Bear Pointe and neighboring Standing Bear Lake are named for the Ponca leader Chief Standing Bear.

In Omaha in 1879, Standing Bear successfully argued that Native Americans are “persons within the meaning of the law.” The court decision came after Standing Bear and followers escaped from forced relocation to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).

Standing Bear had sought to bury his late 16-year-old son on their ancestral land, near Ponca Creek and the Niobrara River. The federal government’s removal of the Ponca (also known as “The Ponca Trail of Tears”) took place in 1877.

The 1879 case, Standing Bear v. Crook, lasted just 12 days. Judge Elmer S. Dundy in the U.S. District Court in Omaha ruled that Standing Bear and other Native people were lawfully allowed to enjoy the rights of other Americans. OmahaHome


Queen of the Nerds

January 27, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Amanda Fehlner has some opinions about superheroes wearing spandex.

“You’re about to go into battle, and what are you going to put on? A spandex suit? That’s not going to help you at all. So, I made the Rogue [costume] out of leather,” says the Omaha costume designer, explaining how she constructed a bodysuit for the X-Men character.

Fehlner says it was one of her earliest forays into the increasingly popular world of cosplay.

“First of all, cosplay is just a combination of two words. It’s costume-play. So it’s really any opportunity that you as a person get to dress up as someone that you’re not, and you get to play while you’re in that [costume] and have fun with it,” she explains.

amandafehlner3Fehlner is more than a hobbyist. She’s an associate costume designer at the Omaha Community Playhouse. Skills useful for her day job benefit her hobby, while the reverse is also true. For instance, a cosplayer might work with plastic to fabricate armor—techniques that translate to theater.

Cosplayers are typically spotted in places that celebrate nerd culture, such as comic book or sci-fi conventions. Fehlner explains that cosplay is similar to attending Renaissance fairs in costume or dressing in genre-inspired outfits such as goth or steampunk, but that cosplayers tend to portray specific characters in movies, comic books, cartoons, or Japanese anime.

On Facebook, where she goes by the name “Ezmeralda Von Katz,” there are photos of Fehlner’s diverse creations including an elaborate Ursula costume from Disney’s The Little Mermaid and the computer game character Carmen Sandiego. Because of her theater background, Fehlner explains that she sometimes enjoys getting into character when she’s in costume, but it isn’t required.

Her passion for constructing costumes started early. While growing up in Tabor, Iowa, she learned to sew Halloween costumes to meet her exacting specifications and participated in theater at Fremont-Mills High School.

“It started with Halloween. It was my very favorite holiday, still is my very favorite holiday, but as a kid that was my big thing,” she says.


Before heading off to study theater and anthropology at the University of South Dakota, Fehlner was cast in a Mills Masquers community theater production of  Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She begged them to let her make the coat.

“Of course being in theater now, I’m sure they were like, ‘Some person just wants to do this, and we don’t have to handle it. Done, done, and done!’”  Fehlner says with a laugh.

She likes a good challenge; her latest cosplay projects include an elaborate ball gown for a character from the anime series Vampire Hunter D and a hand-stitched Sally costume from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Not to mention the spring productions at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

“I’ll be working on The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, so I’ll get to do some fun Western stuff,” Fehlner says. “Of course, our closer is Beauty and the Beast. It’s exciting and a little terrifying at the same time.”

Fortunately for the playhouse team, Fehlner says she has already been experimenting with a Beast costume thanks to her cosplay side projects.

Visit omahaplayhouse.com for more information.

Clay Lidgett

August 5, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Clay Lidgett was about 5 years old, he was already dressing up in Ghostbusters outfits. While other kids pretended to be Michelangelo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or He-Man, Lidgett wanted to be Egon Spengler.

Like most childhood obsessions, his passion faded over time. He grew up, took on responsibility, and Ghostbusters fell to the wayside. Until just over a year ago. That’s when Lidgett stumbled upon a website devoted to all things Ghostbusters: cartoons, games, discussion forums, and yes, information on how to build your very own proton pack.

“I found out it was actually possible to build one of these myself. I didn’t know of the entire Ghostbusters community out there,” he says.

Lidgett set out to build the famous contraption designed to hold negatively charged ectoplasmic entities (i.e., ghosts). Over the course of one year, from March 2015 to 2016, Lidgett devoted five to six hours a week to soldering, gluing, screwing, and fitting together the roughly 100 pieces required to make an authentic Ghostbusters proton pack.

“There is an extremely vast amount of detailed information that is available. All of the exact measurements that you need, the exact part numbers, everything that you need is on the internet.”

ClayLidgett2His labor of love and rekindled passion for Ghostbusters coincided with announcements that a new Ghostbusters film would be released in 2016: “I started this before I knew the new movie was coming out. It was complete coincidence.”

His wife was supportive of his project, though their two children were the most excited. Lidgett actually purchased a proton pack for his children just like the one he had when he was a kid. This Halloween, he plans to create elaborate costumes with his children.

But when it comes to building another proton pack, Lidgett says, “No more packs…well, at least not as of right now.” He found a person who sells pieces for an exact replica of the original proton pack at 40 percent scale, and he has considered making them for his children.

Because of the support he received and the community he found in the process, Lidgett is quick to offer support to anyone else interested in creating their own proton pack or organizing to celebrate their love of Ghostbusters.

“I have been in contact with a lot of people who have been very, very helpful throughout the process. All of them have been very cool, very generous with their time,” he says.

In particular, Lidgett struck up a friendship with another fan from Michigan who helped guide him through the tedious construction process. Once Lidgett finished his outfit—he didn’t just build a proton pack; he also crafted his very own costume, complete with exact replica boots and a jumper with his name on the patch—the friend sent him a pin to celebrate his accomplishment and commemorate the late Harold Ramis, the actor who originally played Egon Spengler in Ghostbusters.

Come Halloween, Lidgett will be gearing up. His proton pack illuminates with flashing lights and hums like a radioactive generator. The pack also features a hidden speaker controlled by his proton gun. It blasts the Ghostbusters theme song, a warning to potential nefarious spirits: “I ain’t afraid of no ghost.”

Visit gbfans.com for more information. Omaha Magazine

The Old Market Business Association

March 25, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Potential business owners often dream of being independent and making their own decisions. Businesses in Omaha’s Old Market district have that freedom.

“We’re not in a mall where one management company organizes us,” says Troy Davis, the group’s president. Davis has owned Curb Appeal Salon & Spa at 10th and Jackson streets for 17 years.

At the same time, the business owners are not isolated. The common thread between these independent companies is the Old Market Business Association (OMBA).

The OMBA has neither office nor staff. But the nonprofit does have 50 members who meet monthly and share information about what’s going on in the historical business district. There are two member categories. An active member must have a business located at either side of 10th to 14th streets and Leavenworth to Farnam streets. Businesses outside the area can join as associate members.

Troy Davis

Troy Davis

They’ve got each other’s backs. In January, when a fire destroyed M’s Pub and devastated nearby businesses, the OMBA immediately jumped into action. Member David Kerr of The Tavern started a crowd funding page for the displaced employees within 12 hours of the disaster. Members called an emergency meeting and discussed how they would help.

“We’ve always been a tight-knit group, but it really shows in times of tragedy,” says Davis. “The whole Old Market community came together for the businesses, their employees, residents, and everybody who was touched by the tragedy.”

Shoplifters in the Old Market also face a band of brothers and sisters. “Within minutes, the police department notifies the Old Market Business Association, and we immediately notify members,” says Davis.

Sharing information at the group’s monthly meetings are representatives from the Omaha Convention and Visitors Bureau, MECA, the Downtown Improvement District, and the City of Omaha. Representatives from major events, such as concerts or conferences, also attend.

“We learn what groups are coming to Omaha, where they are staying, the demographics and how many [people], so we can be better equipped to take care of those people,” says Davis.

Another major member benefit is the website—oldmarket.com—which collected more than 170,000 visits last year. The website is a perk for members who can advertise their business and promote specials.

The group’s largest and best-known event is the annual “Old Market Trick or Treat.” Held the Sunday before Halloween, the event is a partnership with Metro Area Transit, Metro Community College, the Literacy Council, and a private donor. It provides children a safe place to trick or treat.  A unique event-within-the-event is “Books Are A Treat.” In October 2015, 12,000 new books—all from a private donor—were handed out to families.

Independent but united through the Old Market Business Association, the active businesses are an eclectic group ranging from galleries to restaurants. Contributing to this independence is the decision by property owners not to rent to franchises in the Old Market district, except those that are locally owned or businesses that started in Omaha.

“Unique, small, independently owned businesses are what makes the Old Market have the charm it has,” says Davis.

“That’s why the Old Market is cool. And the place to be.”

Visit oldmarket.com for more information.

Monster Stuffed Peppers

Photography by @Baldwin Publishing, Inc.

A simple spaghetti and marinara sauce gets a new look in these fun Monster Stuffed Peppers. Make the sauce the night before so it’s ready for dinner before the kids head out for some treats.

Find more great recipes at HealthyKohlsKids.com. The Healthy Kohl’s Kids program is a partnership between Children’s Hospital & Medical Center and Kohl’s Department Stores to educate children and parents about healthy nutrition and fitness. 


8 large bell peppers (assorted colors)

2 tsp olive oil

1 small yellow onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp black pepper

1 can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes

1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

10 oz multigrain spaghetti
or other pasta

2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese


Cut the tops off the bell peppers and reserve. Carefully scoop out the seeds and ribs of the bell peppers.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the bell peppers and their tops and boil them for 1 to 2 minutes, or until just softened. Remove the peppers and tops with a slotted spoon and transfer them to a bowl of ice water.

Remove the peppers and tops from the ice water and let them dry. With a paring knife, cut out 2 triangles for the eyes and a jagged mouth on each pepper. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until hot. Add onion, garlic, salt, and black pepper and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes, or until onion is softened.

Add tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Add parsley and simmer another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just tender. In a colander, drain pasta and return to pot.

Add 1/4 cup tomato sauce to pasta and toss to coat.

Transfer pasta to bell peppers, with some sticking out of the “head.” Top with some of the remaining sauce, cheese, and additional parsley, if desired. Top with the bell pepper top.

Nutrition Facts: Serving Size: 1 Stuffed Bell Pepper; Calories: 348; Fat: 4g; Saturated Fat: 0; Cholesterol: 2mg; Sodium: 381mg; Carbohydrates: 69g; Fiber: 10g; Protein: 19g
Yield: 8 servings


Alex Kava

Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Sure, Alex Kava is a best-selling mystery author, but as an aspiring writer she faced insecurities. Even now, with a six-figure contract from Putnam, there are uncertainties in this brave new world
of publishing.

Growing up in rural Silver Creek, Nebraska, her working-class parents considered writing frivolous. Word-struck Alex secretly spun stories from her imagination and committed them to the back pages of used grain co-op calendars, squirreling away the scrawled tales in a shoe box under her bed.

Convinced writing fiction couldn’t support her, she followed an advertising-marketing-public relations career path that, while successful, left her unfulfilled and burned-out. It didn’t help when her first novel-length manuscript received 116 rejection letters.

Kava may never have become the author of the long-running Maggie O’Dell and new Ryder Creed series had she not left her PR job to commit herself to writing at 38.

“There was too many hours, too many meetings. I really was at a crossroads in my life and I decided that while I’m figuring out what it is I want to do with the rest of my life, I’ll try writing. I told myself if I wasn’t published by 40 I would give it up.”

While completing the book, expenses for home and car repairs mounted. She went through her savings. She took a paper route to make ends meet.

She just squeaked under the self-imposed deadline when, three days before her 40th birthday, she signed advance reader copies of her debut novel, A Perfect Evil. Her 2000 portrait of a community traumatized by a serial killer was extrapolated from the actual terror that befell Bellevue and Papillion in the early 1980s when John Joubert murdered two boys there. Kava worked for the Papillion Times at the time.

“What surprised me,” she says in revisiting those events years later, “was that I could remember those feelings of panic that had taken over that community.”

Her stand-alone One False Move was another instance of real-life crime influencing her work. When the 2002 Norfolk, Nebraska, bank robbery gone fatally bad eerily followed a plot she was developing, she used evidence from the actual crimes to inform her novel.

Forensics expert and profiler Maggie O’Dell was among multiple characters on the case in A Perfect Evil, but Kava’s publisher pushed to make O’Dell the subject of a series. Kava resisted. A dozen O’Dell books later, she and Maggie are fixtures in the mystery-thriller genre.

Kava admits she didn’t like O’Dell at first. “We’re both very stubborn and slow to trust.” On the advice of a go-to expert, former Douglas County prosecutor and now district judge Leigh Ann Retelsdorf, Kava gave O’Dell shared interests in dogs and college football.

“Those two little things actually made it easier for me to relate to her,” Kava says. “The series grew, and I grew, and Maggie O’Dell grew. I love that character. She and I have been through so much together.”

Her new protagonist, Ryder Creed, is a K-9 search and rescue dog handler. He teams with investigators like O’Dell to help crack cases.

“I love Ryder Creed because he has this passion for dogs and I can really connect to that.”

Kava says it’s a relief after “so many years writing about something I don’t know—murder,” to write about her four-legged friends. She’s dedicated books to her pets, Molly and Scout, the latter named after Kava’s favorite literary character, Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird.

Kava’s steeped herself in the CSI-law enforcement milieu, even presiding over her own “crime scene dinner club” of attorneys, detectives, and techs who voluntarily plied her with case file details.

“I really do love the research. I’ve never had any problem with people opening up. I’m not sure why they do.”

She admires her expert sources.

“I’ve always looked at law enforcement officers in awe. I could never do what they do and stay sane.”

She’s toured the FBI’s Quantico facility in Virginia, interviewing behavioral science wonks there. She’s turned down opportunities to visit crime scenes and view autopsies. “Some of those things it’s best for me to leave to my imagination.”

Kava, who did a spring book tour for her latest work, Breaking Creed, is grateful for her success. But in this new age of ebooks, publishing mergers, and tenuous contracts, nothing’s guaranteed.

“There’s so much more for readers to choose from, and I think that added choice is great. At the same time it makes it more of a challenge for us as authors to figure out how to get those readers and stay in front of them. I’m now writing two books a year so I can stay in front and say, ‘Here’s the next one, and I’ve got another one coming out, and another one after that.’ You don’t want them to
forget you.”



October 20, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

In this issue we are taking inspiration from all things Wes Anderson! The masked characters on our cover were inspired by the strange, large painting hanging above the couch in the 2001 film The Royal Tenenbaums. The masks themselves were inspired by the disguises worn to hide from adults in Anderson’s 2012 Moonrise Kingdom. Whether you are a grown man posing intimidatingly on a four-wheeler, or a 12-year-old running from consequences, a good mask ignites adventure and makes you feel like you can get away with anything.

What You’ll Need:

  • Felt (assorted colors)
  • Scissors
  • Hot glue gun
  • Spray adhesive
  • 1/4” elastic band


  1. If you are not naturally gifted at visualizing shapes to build a critter, there are all kinds of great templates that you can find and print out on Pinterest or Etsy.
  2. Cut out shapes from paper, then place them on a piece of felt of the same color. Lightly trace around the shape with a pen, and cut out that piece of felt with scissors.
  3. Continue this until you have all of the shapes cut to form an entire mask. I doubled the felt for any piece of the mask considered to be a “base” in order to make the mask a bit sturdier by spraying one layer with an adhesive, laying it on top of another piece, and cutting my shape out of both pieces at once.
  4. When layering the mask together, flip over cut-out pieces so that you do not see any pen marks that you have made. Keep in mind that the mask will look backwards compared to your template, but the result will be much cleaner.
  5. Make sure that all of the pieces are in order before hot-glueing each piece in its place.
  6. Cut a hole on either side of the mask and feed the elastic band through the holes. Tie the elastics to the masks, and you are ready for a night as a woodland critter!