7 Things White People Can Do – Because Enough Is Enough!

by Kassandra Lamb

I’ve thought of a dozen different ways to start this post. They all seemed either inadequate, or too much about me, or too controversial.

So I’m just going to say it:

It’s not okay that bad cops are harassing and killing people just because of the color of their skin, and it’s not okay that anyone is shooting at police officers just because of the uniform they wear.

Furthermore, it is not okay that anyone has to be anxious every time they or their loved ones leave their homes, afraid some police officer will misinterpret their actions as threatening, or some bully cop will try to find an excuse to harass or even kill them.

Ironically, what brought on this rant from me wasn’t the latest shooting of a blatantly innocent man, lying on his back with his empty hands high in the air. I started writing this post before that happened, because of a newsletter I received from a young lawyer named Rachel, from whom I took a webinar a few years back.

Until last week, I didn’t know much about her personally, hadn’t really given any thought to what race she was. I just knew that she gave good legal and business advice.

Last week, her newsletter deviated from its normal format to tell a story of something that happened to her last May. I’m going to summarize the event but I suggest hopping over to her blog and reading the whole story (click here). It will give you a much better idea of what black people all too often encounter in interactions with certain police officers.

Rachel was on her way home from work one day, when she entered the EZ Pass booth at a toll plaza, slowing her car appropriately but not stopping, because that’s not required if you have an EZ Pass.

Then a man in a uniform stepped between the booths and in front of her car. She stopped.

The setting sun was in her eyes so she couldn’t see clearly, but she thought he was motioning her through, so once he had stepped out of the way, she eased her foot off the brake and let her car start rolling forward.

The officer made another, wilder gesture that again she couldn’t make out, and again she thought he was waving her through. At that point he started screaming at her, in language that was “the epitome of disrespectful.”

EZ Pass lanes on highway

Since when does driving slowly through an EZ-Pass lane justify lethal force. Oh wait, she was DWB — driving while black!  (photo by Otto Yamamoto from NY, NY, CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

He told her he could’ve shot her for threatening his life (rolling slowly through a toll booth after an officer has stepped out of the way is threatening his life?) And other police have “killed people for similar actions.”

Her attempts to explain about the sun in her eyes and misunderstanding his gestures were met with more screaming and threats – to take away her car, to arrest her. She kept her cool, even though she was royally pissed inside (as I would certainly be), and eventually he let her go on her way.

She had a colleague in the car with her. I can’t help but wonder if she might have been arrested, if there hadn’t been a witness present.

But for me the most revealing part of her story is that she didn’t tell anyone but her husband on the day that this occurred, because:

Encounters like this are so commonplace in black communities that it’s not really news. You just accept this as part of your life. I’ve accepted it as part of my life. (rodgerscollective.com, © 2016)

When I read that, I actually sucked in my breath. It’s part of life?

And I couldn’t help wondering how many times my black friends have experienced something like this, and didn’t bother to share it with me or their other friends, because it’s “just part of life.”

This is not OK!

Now back to last week’s shooting in Miami. Apparently, the police officer involved now claims he was not shooting at the black man lying on the ground. He was shooting at the 26-year-old, non-verbal, autistic man next to him and missed. Because he thought the autistic man had a weapon.

Meanwhile, on the cell phone video recorded by a bystander, you can hear the black man yelling “It’s a toy truck. He’s got a toy truck.”

What doesn’t jive about this cop’s story is the fact that both men were then handcuffed.

And Mr. Kinsey, who had been patted down and had no weapon and who had repeatedly identified himself as a behavioral therapist working for a nearby group home,  was left on the sidewalk, handcuffed and bleeding in the hot Miami sun, until paramedics arrived.

If he was the supposed victim of this non-crime, why was he treated that way? I seriously doubt they would have treated a white man that way.

And is it OKAY that the officer was shooting at an unarmed autistic man? And he just happened to be a poor shot?

As the grandmother of an autistic boy who is still fairly nonverbal at age 8, this scares the crap out of me! My grandson would be incapable of following a police officer’s orders because he wouldn’t understand what was going on

But all the noise and negative energy would overwhelm him and he might very well go into a meltdown. And if he’s still nonverbal as an adult…

What would a cop do if instead of dropping the toy truck, he started screaming at the top of his lungs because he was overwhelmed and scared? In today’s culture, that cop might very well shoot my grandson because he wasn’t following orders and he seemed to be a threat.

I understand that cops need to be cautious, that they are putting their lives on the line, and often have to make snap decisions (and I think they should be paid much, much more than they are). But under these circumstances, while I can certainly understand drawing their weapon and approaching with care, I can’t understand why they didn’t try to get close enough to see what the guy was actually holding before they started shooting!

I’m convinced that nothing is going to turn the tide with this shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later culture until WHITE PEOPLE start doing something about it.

We say “Oh my! That’s terrible.” And then forget about it until the next time.

We need to do more than that! First, we need to put ourselves in the shoes of our black friends and neighbors and imagine what it’s like to be a little nervous every time you leave the house, to feel your throat close with fear if a cop pulls you over while driving.

And to fear for your loved ones’ lives every time they are out in the world (and now those of us with autistic loved ones will be feeling that fear too!)

Secondly, we need to pressure our local governments and police departments to make changes, before the next person dies! Here are some things we can actually DO that will make a difference:

1. Encourage and support black people who have experiences like Rachel’s to report them to that officer’s superiors.

And by this I don’t mean, saying “Hey, you should report that.”

I suspect most blacks are wary of reporting such events. They don’t really want to draw attention to themselves, and maybe become more of a target. Not an unrealistic fear considering the tendency for some police departments to close racks and protect their own.

So offer to go with your friend, in person, and be their witness (and respect their wishes if they choose not to report it). Once there, use your privilege (sad but true, you may get further than your black friend might) to insist on talking to the highest ranking person available at the police department. Follow up with a letter to that person summarizing the meeting and send a copy of that letter to the mayor of your city, the county executive of your county, and/or the governor of your state.

2. Write to or go visit your local police department’s chief of police or sheriff and ask what measures are in place to identify and deal with overly-aggressive officers or deputies.

It’s really not that hard to identify them BEFORE they’ve shot someone. I have heard from good cops that the easiest way to do this is to look at how often, when this officer arrests people, the other charges are accompanied by a resisting arrest charge.

Frequent resisting arrest charges can mean this officer tends to use verbally aggressive tactics and/or excessive physical force.

3. Follow up with these law enforcement authorities suggesting implementation of mandatory anger management counseling and additional training in deescalation tactics for officers who are accused of using excessive force or who have filed a higher than average number of resisting arrest charges.

And if these officers do not change their ways, insist that they be removed from the police force. Better that we have too few cops on the streets, than we have even a few cops who are hurting, harassing and killing innocent people – and giving all cops a bad name, which paints a target on the backs of their uniforms!!

4. If you get stonewalled, and most definitely if you are threatened because of your efforts to bring about these changes, go to the local press and tell them your story.

Going public makes it very hard for the bad cops and those who might be trying to cover up for them to retaliate. (Note: I am not anti-cop; just anti bad cops. To paraphrase a cliché from the 1960s, some of my closest friends are police or former officers.)

If you’re a white person and wondering at this point, why you need to do these things, here’s why. Sadly, those authorities are more likely to take you seriously and those who might retaliate against a black complainant will think twice before doing so when their white friends are standing by them.

And yes, folks, it is that serious! People are getting shot out there. Everyday people like you and me, who are driving home from work or escorting their autistic charge back to his group home. And good cops are getting killed because of the actions of the bad ones.

5. Pressure your local and state governments to provide better funding for police departments so they can implement these programs and can also attract more high-quality officers.

6. Keep the pressure on until the bad cops have been weeded out and the good cops can once again feel like they are part of the community they serve, not its enemy.

7. And finally, stop expecting black people to not get angry and talk back when they are being harassed by a cop. It may not be the smartest thing for them to do, but it is certainly a natural reaction. Wouldn’t you be pissed if you were minding your own business, and suddenly a police officer is yelling in your ear and threatening to shoot you?
Please, take action to make these changes happen! Enough people have died senselessly. Enough families have been shattered.

Enough is enough!

(I do suggest you click on Rachel’s blog and read her entire story of the event. It will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck.)

Do I Look Like a Threat?

Can you think of anything else that we – black and white people, all people – can do in our communities to change them to the safe places they should be?

(Note: Please keep the conversation civil and constructive. Any blatantly bigoted or obnoxious rants will be deleted as will any vitriol against all police officers.)

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. :) )

Creativity and the Baby Boom Woman

by Kassandra Lamb

I recently became more active in an online writers group for women of a “certain age.” I’m noticing some interesting psychological trends there.

If you read the bios of the members, your mouth will hang open in awe. These are very accomplished women! I’m honored to be a part of their group.

And yet as our lives have often changed due to divorce, death of a spouse, and just plain aging, there’s a tendency to slide back into the insecurities we thought we had left behind.

Creativity, by definition, requires thinking outside the box – being innovative, taking risks and trying new things. But our generation of women was taught to conform, to listen to authority, to make nice-nice. Conformity and creativity make strange bedfellows. Indeed, they don’t get along very well at all.

(Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers, "Leave It to Beaver" -- public domain) On Air: Thursdays, 9-9:30 PM, EDT. "Beaver" Trio Barbara Billingsley, who stars as Mrs. Cleaver, poses with television sons Tony Dow (Wally) left, and Jerry Mathers (Beaver) on the set of ABC-TV's "Leave It to Beaver" Thursdays, 9-9:30 PM, EDT.

(Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow and Jerry Mathers, “Leave It to Beaver” — public domain)

Our role models were Donna Reed and June Cleaver — who woke in the morning without a hair out of place, vacuumed her house in pearls and pumps and always knew just the right thing to say or do to make her boys feel better (unless of course discipline was involved, and then her husband Ward took over).

These lessons of childhood, many of us are finding, haven’t die; they just went underground.

So when we are faced with tragedy, a crossroads, or just feel ourselves burning out, while our innate feminine resilience usually kicks in, so do those old messages. We get up and brush ourselves off, but we’re much more vulnerable in those moments to the old recordings in our heads.

Be self-effacing.
“Nobody likes a stuck-up woman,” echoes in our brains. Except the definition of “stuck-up” as it relates to females – taught to us in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s – is not true arrogance. It’s being confident that what we produce is good, and that we are good people, with sound judgement.

In other words, good self-esteem equals being uppity.

Please others.
Other people’s approval of what we do is more important than our own. We will stay in jobs that “eat our souls” because others think we should. We will not follow our dreams because others think they are silly or unreachable.

We will allow editors or agents or publishers to dictate how our stories will be changed, even though we know in our hearts that the story was fine to begin with, maybe even great!

Another role model -- Lucille Ball, who was constantly doing dumb things either to please or impress her husband, so he would let her pursue her dream of performing in his club. (public domain)

Another role model — Lucille Ball, who was constantly doing dumb things either to please or impress her husband, so he would let her pursue her dream of performing in his club. (public domain)

Others’ needs are more important than our own.
I was about eleven when the first bra was burned, and I’ve considered myself a liberated female ever since. So when a student interviewed me for an assignment in her Gender Studies class and asked me if I had ever sacrificed my career for my husband or family, I immediately said no. Then I stopped and thought about that.

I found my first true vocational passion (and my second career) a bit late, after I was married with a small child and a large mortgage. When I was looking at educational options to get the credentials I needed to become a psychotherapist, I discovered that to get a PhD in psychology I would have to go to school full-time and might have to move elsewhere in the country to get into a program. “Well, that won’t work,” I thought. I couldn’t uproot my family, ask my husband to give up his good-paying job, etc. So I settled for a masters degree I could get locally and part-time, while still working full-time to help pay the mortgage.

I can’t say that I’ve regretted that choice. I had a good career, even though I didn’t make as much money as I would have with the classier credentials. But one thing blew my mind as I recalled all this when that student was interviewing me.

I had never seriously discussed the “move to another state so I can get my PhD” option with my husband. I never gave him the opportunity to sacrifice for me (and for the ultimate greater well-being of the whole family if I ended up making more money). I just assumed it was my job to make the sacrifice.

Not only was June rarely without her pearls but Ward was rarely without his tie. Not even all that realistic for the times, much less today. (public domain)

Not only was June rarely without her pearls, but Ward was rarely without his tie. Not even all that realistic for the times, much less today. (public domain)

The day of that student’s interview was the first time I realized how subtle the lessons of our youth still are for women of my generation. We can think we’re being all liberated and modern, while our knees are jerking away, following the old patterns without our conscious awareness or approval.

When I first joined this writers group for middle-aged and beyond women, I wasn’t all that active. I was already a member of an online writers group that is awesome in its level of support and encouragement.

But now I’m realizing that these women of a “certain age” can offer a different and more specific support – the recognition of these old patterns and the kick-in-the-butt/cheering section needed to break out of them.

Something women writers of my generation may very well need, again and again, in order to remain creative, and sane.

Your thoughts? Are you a woman (or man) of a certain age, still fighting those old messages?

And now I’m totally not going to act my age as I give you all a sneak peak of the cover for my next Marcia Banks and Buddy mystery. Squueeee!! (In case you hadn’t figured it out, I love this cover!)

ArsenicAndYoungLacy FINAL

COMING SOON!!

And this is the last week to get 75% off of Vinnie Hansen’s book, Black Beans & Venom, during the Smashwords’ Summer/Winter Sale.

This is a fabulous story. Hop on over and get yourself a copy.

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. :) )

Things that Go Bump in the Night in The Carolina Hills

by Kassandra Lamb

Marcia Meara headshot

I am delighted today to introduce you all to a guest blogger, a writer of mysteries and romantic suspense whom I recently stumbled upon.

Please welcome the delightful Marcia Meara…

Appalachian Legends and Myths

Right up front, let me say that I am absolutely besotted with the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. The Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Smokies, in particular. Part of the Appalachian chain—the oldest mountains on the planet—they are stunning in their ancient, mystical beauty.

mountains

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

And vast. It’s rather amazing how many, many miles of wilderness they encompass, along with the mountain towns and villages like Asheville, Lake Lure, and Bat Cave.

Highway sign for Bat Cave, NC

(photo by Stratosphere, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons)

(Yes, there is actually a small town named Bat Cave. You can’t make stuff like that up.)

I also love the legends, folk lore, and outright myths that have sprung up over time throughout these hills.

Some tales arrived in the area via settlers from England, Ireland, and Scotland, and have a solid basis in Celtic mythology. Others apparently have been made up out of whole cloth—unless, of course, they aren’t legends at all, but strange truths that our modern minds refuse to accept. (Is that the theme from The Twilight Zone I hear playing in the background?)

Here are some examples of stories passed around in “them thar hills.” Some might make you grin, others might give you a shiver, but all are part of the overall body of strange tales you run across in these mountains.

The Moon-Eyed People
A race of small, bearded men, with pure white skin, who were called moon-eyed because they were unable to see in daylight, the moon-eyed people eventually became totally nocturnal. So the story says.

historical plaque re: moon-eyed people

(photo by TranceMist, CC-BY Generic, Wikimedia Commons)

The Cherokee believed them to be responsible for ancient stone structures that line many mountain ridges from North Carolina down through Georgia and Alabama. The most famous is Fort Mountain in Georgia, which gets its name from an 850 foot long stone wall that varies in height from two to six feet and stretches along the top of the ridge. This wall is thought to have been constructed around 400-500 C.E.

Were the moon-eyed people early European explorers? Legends refer to them as a race of small, pale people, rather than mystical beings unrelated to humans, but so far, no one has come up with any information on who they might have been, or if they were real at all.

Boojum and Annie
The Boojum is reported to have been an 8’ tall creature, not quite a man, and not quite an animal, covered in shaggy fur. (Does the name “Bigfoot” ring a bell?) He is said to have had two very human habits, though. He liked to collect gems, and hoarded them in discarded liquor jugs, which he buried in secret caves. (I do have to wonder how they know this, if the caves are so secret.)

He also was a bit of a Peeping Boojum, as he apparently liked to watch women, particularly when they were bathing in mountain streams. Bad, bad Boojum! But when a young woman named Annie spotted the hairy creature watching her, instead of screaming in fright, she fell in love with his sad eyes, and—wait for it—ran away with her hirsute admirer, presumably to settle down in a cozy little cave somewhere, and raise a whole passel of little Boojums.

There’s more to the tale, but this is a G-rated blog.

The Brown Mountain Lights
The Brown Mountains are home to a genuine and puzzling phenomenon. In the autumn, on crisp and cool nights, ghostly blue orbs are seen floating a few feet above the ground. They have been documented repeatedly by a large number of reputable witnesses. So far, there is no scientific proof as to what the lights are. Swamp gas and other known possibilities have all been ruled out. So when the nights get cool, people (presumably people with too much time on their hands) head to the Brown Mountains to observe and wonder for themselves.

The Phantom Hiker of Grandfather Mountain and the Chimney Rock Apparitions
Both of these are full on ghost stories, one a little shivery, and one just downright bizarre.

Sunrise in the autumn over Grandfather Mountain (photo by http://kenthomas.us public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Sunrise in the autumn over Grandfather Mountain (photo by http://kenthomas.us public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

According to the first, there is an old man who has been hiking the trails on Grandfather Mountain for generations, passing by groups of modern day hikers without a word, and disappearing into the distance, never looking back. He’s dressed in clothing not appropriate to today, and appears and disappears before anyone knows he’s coming.

And he never answers when spoken to. Indeed, he never even seems to see other hikers.

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock State Park, overlooking Lake Lure (public domain)

Now, the apparitions at Chimney Rock occurred long ago, though it’s said that many people witnessed them for several days, and they were widely publicized in the newspapers of the day. In the first tale, ghostly white figures gathered in the air over the chimney formation itself, circling it for some time, before several larger figures rose above the rest and guided them all straight into the heavens above. A sort of airborne revival meeting, without the sermon in the tent.

And as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one of my favorite places to visit, there are still more tales about military men on horseback, who fought an epic battle in the skies over the chimney for several days, before just up and disappearing. This, also, was witnessed by many people over a period of time, and reported on in all the best papers.

old photo of still

Official inspects moonshine (tough job, hunh?)

 

Moonshine — more than just an afternoon refresher.

(Okay, I’m being a bit skeptical here, but can you blame me? Pity there were no cell phones on hand at the time. The cavalry would never get away with a stunt like that today!)

 

Ol’ Shuck
Tall tales for every taste abound in the Appalachians, but of all of them, my personal favorite is the legend of the Black Dog, or Ol’ Shuck, as they call him. This one is based on truly ancient Celtic legends of a huge, hellhound of a dog who is thought to be a harbinger of death, and many variations appear throughout literature. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle loosely based his famous book, Hound of the Baskervilles, on one version.

But beware! When you see Ol’ Shuck, someone you know (maybe you!) is going to die. Obviously, you don’t want to wake up one day, and find him sitting on your doorstep. And you’ll know it’s him if you do. We aren’t talking your everyday black Labrador retriever, here. Oh, no. An impossibly large dog with gleaming red eyes, sent straight from the devil himself to escort you to . . . wherever you’re going next. Be afraid. Be very afraid!

As the theme for my latest book makes clear: You can run, but you can’t hide.

Harbinger book cover

HARBINGER: Wake-Robin Ridge Book 3

“. . . he felt the wet slide of the dog’s burning hot tongue on his face, and the scrape of its razor sharp teeth against the top of his head. A white-hot agony of crushing pain followed, as the jaws began to close.”

The wine-red trillium that carpets the forests of the North Carolina Mountains is considered a welcome harbinger of spring—but not all such omens are happy ones. An Appalachian legend claims the Black Dog, or Ol’ Shuck, as he’s often called, is a harbinger of death. If you see him, you or someone you know is going to die.

But what happens when Ol’ Shuck starts coming for you in your dreams? Nightmares of epic proportions haunt the deacon of the Light of Grace Baptist Church, and bring terror into the lives of everyone around him. Even MacKenzie Cole and his adopted son, Rabbit, find themselves pulled into danger.

When Sheriff Raleigh Wardell asks Mac and Rabbit to help him solve a twenty-year-old cold case, Rabbit’s visions of a little girl lost set them on a path that soon collides with that of a desperate man being slowly driven mad by guilt.

As Rabbit’s gift of the Sight grows ever more powerful, his commitment to those who seek justice grows as well, even when their pleas come from beyond the grave.

Marcia Meara lives in central Florida, just north of Orlando, with her husband of over thirty years, four big cats, and two small dachshunds. When not writing or blogging, she spends her time gardening, and enjoying the surprising amount of wildlife that manages to make a home in her suburban yard. At the age of five, Marcia declared she wanted to be an author, and is ecstatic that at age 69, she finally began pursuing that dream. Three years later, she’s still going strong, and plans to keep on writing until she falls face down on the keyboard, which she figures would be a pretty good way to go!

Marcia has written six books so far: the Riverbend series, the Wake-Robin Ridge series, and a book of poetry. She’s a very social being. You can find her hanging out on Twitter (@marciameara),  FacebookPinterest and at her two blogs, The Write Stuff and Bookin’ It (for book reviews). You can sign up for her newsletter to get news and giveaways at either site, or just give her a shout via email at mmeara@cfl.rr.com.

BLACK-BEANS-&-VENOM w BRAG medallion

NOTE: Vinnie Hansen is participating in Smashwords’ Summer/Winter Sale. Her awesome novel, Black Beans and Venom is 75% off for the entire month of July!!

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. :) )

4 Reasons Why I Love Being an American*

by Kassandra Lamb

(*Note: by American, I mean resident of the U.S. Please don’t take offense, my Canadian and Central/South American friends, but “resident of the United States” is just too big a mouthful to say again and again.)

This year, as I contemplated what to write for yet another patriotic post for Independence Day, I was tempted to go light again, as we have sometimes done in the past for Memorial Day or the 4th of July, with recipes and nostalgia about childhood cookouts and fireworks. With all the ranting and ravings by politicians right now, it’s easy to think, “No, no, no, I don’t want to get involved in any of that heavy stuff.”

And I don’t, but I think that I do want to remind myself and others of just how great this country is. In many ways, it’s one of the best in the world.

So here are my 4 top reasons why I love being an American:

1. This country was founded by some pretty smart people.

We humans have a tendency toward short memories. And thus history repeats itself again and again, because we forget the lessons of the past, and sometimes even the recent past.

Our founding fathers were smart, even if they did dress funny.

Our founding fathers were smart, even if they did dress funny.

But our founding fathers got that this was a great hazard for our fledgling country. They wove into the very fabric of its foundation — in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — clauses that were designed to keep this new country they were forming from making the same mistakes the European monarchies had recently made.

Instead of designing a government that would stifle the populace in order to maintain control, they guaranteed certain “inalienable rights” to everyone in this country. That was a profound and rather novel concept at the time.

It might have taken a few generations for Americans to get it that everyone truly meant everyone (women, African-Americans, Native Americans, Asian-Americans, LGBT folks, etc.), but when these groups got up the gumption to speak up against their exclusion from those inalienable rights, we had to admit (grudgingly sometimes) that they had a point.

2. This country was founded on good moral values.

While the Constitution and Bill of Rights guarantee freedom of religion and separation of church and state, the founding fathers were God-fearing men. They strove to shape a society that was based on Judeo-Christian values, such as tolerance and compassion.

We even have a Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles: "...designed to examine racism and prejudice around the world with a strong focus on the history of the Holocaust. " -- Wikipedia (photo by Cbl62 at English Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

We even have a Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles: “…designed to examine racism and prejudice around the world with a strong focus on the history of the Holocaust. ” — Wikipedia (photo by Cbl62 at English Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

Again, we may have taken a couple of centuries to get anywhere close to fulfilling that vision, and we have a ways to go yet in certain areas, but we do strive toward these goals. Not all nations do, and not all societies even see tolerance as desirable.

3. Americans are survivors.

We come from gritty pioneer stock. Our ancestors braved the perils of a hostile ocean and an unknown land to start a new life. They had a variety of reasons for coming here, from escaping religious persecution to seeking a better life to being shipped here against their will as prisoners or slaves. But they survived a lot of hardship and struggled to carve out a life for themselves and their descendants.

That’s the genetic pool from which we’ve sprung.

So when something knocks us down, we get up, brush ourselves off and keep trucking. And when others are knocked down, we rally around with help and encouragement. I was never prouder to be an American than these past few weeks as this country supported the LGBT community after the horror in Orlando. Even most of those Americans who might not approve wholeheartedly of their lifestyle got it that it wasn’t okay for 49 people to go from happy dancing to dead in a matter of minutes. The whole country is still mourning their loss and praying for the fifty-some folks who were injured and the families of all of the above.

4. America grows over time.

We may do it in fits and starts and sometimes fight it tooth and nail, but we grow. We adjust. We move on. As I watch the evening news each night, I see a society that is struggling with letting go of the past, or what we perceive the past to have been, and at the same time, is struggling to keep up with a rapidly-changing world.

I’ve lived long enough to have experienced some of the good old days. Some of them were indeed good, and some not so much. Those are best left behind.

By the same token, we should not be too quick to toss out the old just because it is old (says the woman who recently gave up her flip phone and got her first smart phone). To paraphrase the saying from the 12-step programs, we should “keep what works and leave the rest.”

Our history as a country (and I’ve seen this personally for the last 6 decades) has been one of pendulum swings on a variety of issues – to the right, to the left, back and forth – and eventually we find the balance on each issue, often somewhere in the middle.

Personally, I have faith that the United States of America will continue to eventually find the balance. Because we are a great country!

(photo by Ian Kluft, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

(photo by Ian Kluft, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Happy Birthday, America!!

(Please, no political rants in the comments.)

Note: Today’s the last day for Vinnie Hansen’s giveaway of 3 copies of her new release, Squeezed and Juiced, over on Goodreads! Check it out!!

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. :) )

The Global Security Consultant Biz (and a New Release)

by Kirsten Weiss

When I worked in Eastern Europe and Afghanistan, I got to know many security consultants. And there were a lot of… characters.

But the consultant who stood out the most in my mind was a woman. British, with freckles and curly hair, she looked more barmaid than badass, though she’d worked in personal protection (that’s what they call “bodyguarding” in the biz) and helped companies develop security strategies.

She gave us an unforgettable training on security in warzones. I learned just how much damage an automatic weapon can do and to look people in the eye when in a hostile crowd.

And FYI, landmines only explode when you step off them when they’re made in Hollywood. In real life (well sort of real life), this is what happens:

I got a lot of great and sometimes unbelievable stories from the security consultants I met while overseas. (Sorry I can’t share them with you now; I’m going to use them in future novels. :) )

Note: Do not believe anyone who tells you they’re the hostage negotiator the film Proof of Life was based on.  I’ve heard that from at least five guys. In the global security consultant biz, it’s a thing.

Bottom line? It’s a crazy business. People go into it from all sorts of backgrounds and for all sorts of reasons. And they get thrown into hostile situations on a regular basis.

The idea of a female global security consultant as a fictional heroine stuck with me. It took me a while to develop it, but eventually, Rocky (short for Raquelle) Bridges was born.

When we meet Rocky, in The Mannequin Offensive, she is seriously considering getting out of the biz after losing a client in a hotel bombing overseas… but life is what happens while we’re making other plans.

The ebook version of The Mannequin Offensive is going to be on sale for 99 cents for one day only – launch day, July 1st. You can pre-order it now at the discounted rate, or buy it July 1st. So give Rocky a chance!

Here’s a bit about the book:

book coverAfter an overseas assignment goes bad, all Rocky Bridges wants is out of the global security business. No more personal protection gigs. No more jaunts to third world countries. No more managing wayward contractors. But when her business partner is killed, Rocky must investigate her own company and clients.

Rocky’s no PI, but she’s always trusted her instincts. Knife-wielding mobsters, sexy insurance investigators, and a Russian-model turned business partner are all in a day’s work. But her inner voice has developed a mind of its own, and she finds herself questioning her sanity as well as reality as she knows it. Rocky can’t trust those around her. Can she trust herself?

The Mannequin Offensive is a fast-paced novel of mystery and suspense with a hint of magic.

Pre-order it here, only 99 cents until July 1st:    AMAZON     KOBO

S&J cover

 

(Also Vinnie Hansen has a giveaway going over at Goodreads. Three copies of her new release, Squeezed and Juiced. Check it out!)

 

Kirsten Weiss worked overseas for nearly twenty years in the fringes of the former USSR, Africa, and South-east Asia.  Her experiences abroad sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives.

Now based in San Mateo, CA, she writes genre-blending steampunk suspense, urban fantasy, and mystery, mixing her experiences and imagination to create a vivid world of magic and mayhem.

Kirsten has never met a dessert she didn’t like, and her guilty pleasures are watching Ghost Whisperer re-runs and drinking red wine. Sign up for her newsletter to get free updates on her latest work at: http://kirstenweiss.com

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. :) )

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.

Just $0.99 for a limited time on…

AMAZON US    AMAZON UK    AMAZON CA    AMAZON AUS    APPLE    KOBO    NOOK

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. :) )

A Peek Behind the Curtain: 6 Challenges Cozy Mysteries Present for Writers

by Kassandra Lamb

Not all of us started out as cozy writers, but now all of the misterio press authors have written at least some cozies.

I first stuck my toe in the cozy pond with my Kate on Vacation series that parallels my regular Kate Huntington series. (I have a new release! See below.) This started out as a fun way to give my readers a light Kate snack while they were waiting (sometimes not all that patiently) for me to finish the next full-length novel/meal.

What I discovered was that I really enjoy writing cozies. They’re fun!

But there are some challenges involved when one switches over from writing regular mysteries (which I’m still doing) to writing cozies.

Here are 6 differences between this subgenre and the main genre of mysteries, and the challenges cozies pose for authors.

1. The main character is an amateur sleuth.

This may also be the case in regular mysteries, but it’s a requirement in cozies. No police officers or private investigators allowed, except as significant others and/or secondary characters. But the amateur sleuth has to do the bulk of the sleuthing, or at least has to figure out whodunnit around the same time as law enforcement does.

magnifiying glass on antique desk

photo by Stéphane Magnenat CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimeida Commons

The challenge here is coming up with plausible reasons why an average citizen would keep stumbling over corpses. In police procedurals or private detective stories, this is not a problem.

And there has to be a good reason why the amateur sleuth gets and stays involved in crime investigations, even when the local law enforcement folks are often telling him/her to butt out.

The stakes have to be high for the main character personally.

2. Something – the setting, the main character’s vocation, etc. – is out of the ordinary.

Cozy readers want a peek into places and activities that they themselves might have never experienced. So the settings may be small towns or exotic locations, and the characters may knit, or give dance lessons, or train dogs for a living.

There are a lot of cozies that involve food, in which the main character owns a restaurant or is a caterer or writes a baking blog. But something has to be unusual, in a way that makes the story more fun and interesting.

Maui beach

A beach on Maui (photo from our Hawaii vacation last fall)

For my Kate on Vacation novellas, this means going to the interesting places I will have Kate visit, so that I can include a lot of local color in the story and get the details right (it’s a tough job and all that 😀 ).

For my new cozy series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries, it was a little more challenging. I had to invent a small town and give it an odd-ball history.

Fortunately, in Florida, that’s not hard to do. It’s a bit of an oddball state. I created a now-defunct tourist trap, an alligator farm, and the town that sprang up around it, which is now struggling to avoid ghost-town status.

3. At least some of the secondary characters are quirky.

cafe with coffee cup on the roof

Wouldn’t this make a great setting for a cozy? (photo by beige photos CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

So I had to populate Mayfair, Florida, with some unusual neighbors, like the eccentric elderly owner of the Mayfair Motel. And with each book, I have to come up with new ways to develop their quirkiness and yet not make them totally unbelievable. I’m finding this challenging but also fun.

In my new Kate on Vacation book, I didn’t have to invent a quirky character. Instead I borrowed one from JoAnn Bassett, our author emeritus (with her permission, of course). Her protagonist, Pali Moon isn’t that much of an oddball–just a little bit of one–but she definitely has a penchant for ending up in oddball situations.

4. Crimes happen, usually murder, but minimal on-screen violence and no gory descriptions.

I’m fine with this. Despite the fact that I write crime fiction, I’m a pacifist at heart, so I’m just as happy to have most of the violence happen off-screen. The challenge comes with the final confrontation scene that is a requirement in the mystery genre, including cozies. The protagonist and/or someone near and dear has to be in jeopardy, and usually comes face to face with the bad guy(s) or gal(s).

One needs to make this scene scary and exciting without too much gore and with no one actually dropping dead in front of the protagonist’s (and reader’s) eyes.

5. Sex is off-screen.

You can elude to it, but nothing more than a few fully-clothed, preliminary kisses are allowed on screen.

This is my one major regret with writing cozies. Because I can do a wicked sex scene!

6. No cursing.

Nothing stronger than a “darn” or “heck.” I usually avoid cursing as much as I can in my books anyway, because I know it’s a turn off for some readers, but I am also trying to write realistic characters.

It can be hard to come up with ways for characters to express strong emotions without cursing (’cause after all, bad things are happening) and without sounding totally dorky.

The work-around in my new series was that my main character, Marcia Banks, comes from a religious family–her father was an Episcopal priest (and yes, they marry and have kids).

With the Kate on Vacation stories, this is tougher, because she does cuss some in the main series. So in these cozy stories, I sometimes have her not finishing a sentence:

“What the…” Kate trailed off, shocked speechless for once.

How about you? Which do you prefer to read, regular mysteries or cozies? Or some of both? Mystery writers, have you written cozies? What did you find most challenging about them?

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.

Just $0.99 for a limited time on…

AMAZON US     AMAZON UK     AMAZON CA     AMAZON AUS     APPLE     KOBO     NOOK

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. :) )

This Ain’t Your Grandmother’s Old Age Home!

by Kassandra Lamb

My husband and I are starting to look into retirement communities. Now wait, before those of you under 50 freak out and click away to some other post… we’re not talking your grandmother’s old age home here.

birthday cake

You get to a certain point where some of the candles represent a decade, not just a year. (cake for an 87-yr-old, public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Seniors today have lots of options. And that’s a darn good thing, because people are living longer and living healthier for longer.

“Old age is not for sissies,” is one of my brother’s favorite lines. This is true, but aging isn’t all bad.

Retirement brings the freedom to do the things for which there just wasn’t time and energy when one had to make a living (for me, that was writing fiction!) And there are a variety of places we can live while doing those things.

The concept that old age means either living with one’s children (still an option) or deteriorating rapidly in a dehumanizing nursing home is – for lack of a better term – old-fashioned.

We’ve got 55+ communities and retirement communities and assisted living and multi-level care and…

A 55+ community is basically a housing development that is limited to those over age 55. Children under 18 aren’t allowed. These typically have community centers that offer activities ranging from cards to rumba lessons to monthly parties or shows. They have clubs and pools and fitness centers and shuffleboard and tennis courts, etc. – all right there.

My 68-year-old brother recently moved into a 55+ community. He had lived in the country, about 45 minutes from our home in a medium-sized city. He loved his house and his neighbors, but it got to be too quiet out there in the boonies. He was lonely and bored.

He is loving his new home, and all the activities available, including lots of clubs and an on-campus golf course and restaurant.

For us, the issue that will eventually prompt us to move is taking care of a house. Maintenance, cleaning, yard work gets harder as you age. For me, it’s not so much that I can’t do it, but rather that it takes so much out of me. I’m exhausted afterwards, which makes it hard to enjoy the glow of satisfaction of getting the task done.

me and bro in front of house

My brother and I love projects!  Just a little over a year ago, we painted our house. It took several months. We were glad we did it, but we knew it was our last hurrah!  Big projects now get hired out.

Hubs and I are back and forth between a 55+ community or a retirement community. The latter have apartments and cottages you rent (you own your house in a 55+), with more services such as housekeeping, and all maintenance, grounds upkeep, etc. is taken care of, plus there are many of the same amenities as 55+ communities. Retirement communities often, but not always, offer assisted living and hospice services as the residents’ needs change.

Assisted living is a step above the old-fashioned nursing home. Here the residents often can have some of their own belongings with them and retain a certain amount of autonomy. But professional nurses are available to administer medications and such.

I should pause and comment that these services are not free. Those who have a decent retirement plan–whether it be a pension, private IRAs or other savings, Social Security or some combination of these–have options. (For the working poor, retirement is not nearly so lovely.)

Another thing that has brought these options to mind recently has been my sister misterio author, Vinnie Hansen’s re-release of her book Squeezed and Juiced (previously titled Tang® Is Not Juice — see below). A subplot of this story is the protagonist’s mother’s search for the right retirement community. And the protagonist, Carol Sabala, is struggling with the fact that her mother is old.

It kind of tickles me when younger people freak out over aging. Often I got that reaction from students when I was teaching human development classes. I’d try to point out the positives that come with age – wisdom, more self-confidence, no longer caring all that much about what others think, more time and freedom to do what you really want. But I could tell by the expressions on their faces that all they wanted to do was stick their fingers in their ears and sing, “lalalalala.”

old woman

public domain, Wikimedia Commons

So what’s the take-away message here – old age is not necessarily a bad thing! As a good friend of mine likes to say, “It sure beats the alternative.”

Old age may mean wrinkles and moving slower, but most old people are actually pretty happy. It’s the young who fear aging.

And if you’ve got a decent retirement income (something to give serious thought to if you’re pre-retirement age. Those who stick their heads in the sand on the subject are called…wait for it…still working in their 70’s), there are lots of housing and lifestyle options.

Old age doesn’t have to mean boring, lonely or decrepit. It can be lots of fun actually!

How about you? Where are you in the “adjustment to the reality of aging” process? And where do you think you’ll want to live out your senior years?

Squeezed and Juiced, A Carol Sabala Mystery by Vinnie Hansen

book cover

Her first real P.I. case, an ailing mother, and a stalled relationship. As Carol Sabala attempts to juggle the components of her life, they all threaten to crash.

Training to be a private eye, Carol wrangles a job to investigate a woman’s will. The more Carol probes the retirement home where the woman died, the more she grasps how easily one could kill an elderly person in such a facility. It is, after all, an expected last address.

With Carol’s mother intent on moving to the same retirement home, the stakes are high. Will Carol prevent this facility from being her mother’s final address? Can she keep all the pieces of her life in the air as she enters a world of drug addicts and murder?

For those of you who enjoy the grittier female protagonists like Kinsey Milhone or Aimée Leduc, discover how Carol Sabala reacts when squeezed.

AMAZON US      AMAZON UK     AMAZON PAPERBACK

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. :) )

Memorial Day ~ Honoring the Fallen and Launching the Fun

by Kassandra Lamb

As a kid, I loved Memorial Day. I had no clue what it’s real significance was. I just knew it meant the beginning of summer.

kids in poolOur local community pool opened, and we swam no matter how chilly the May breeze in Maryland still happened to be (even if the lifeguards were in their sweats, as they sometimes were).

Summer meant swimming and going “down the ocean, hun.” But it also meant freedom – mostly from school.

at the beach

Me and my brother in Ocean City, MD; I’m about 5 here.

Weeks and weeks of summer vacation spread out before us. It seemed like infinity at the time. The possibilities for fun were endless.

Today I still get excited about the beginning of summer. It still means freedom – from coats and jackets and closed-toe shoes and socks (from shoes completely around the house or at the beach). And from heating bills (although in Florida, the AC bills can be worse).

We can open our windows and air out the winter staleness.

My mood lifts considerably when the weather warms toward summer and the days grow longer. The flowers are blooming and the grass is growing, soft underfoot. Right now, my magnolia tree in the backyard is about to burst into big gorgeous white blossoms.

cemetery

Alton National Cemetery (public domain)

The beginning of summer is when I feel most alive, so it seems particularly poignant when I remember what Memorial Day is really supposed to be about – to honor those who have given their lives for their country, to protect freedoms far greater and more important than being able to go barefoot!

It is a day that, like no other, brings to the forefront both the dark and the bright sides of human existence — the losses and tragedies, some of them quite senseless, and the exciting possibilities.

Being an eternal optimist (some have called me a Pollyana :) ), I tend to focus on the possibilities.

How about you? What does the beginning of summer mean to you?

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. :) )

The Keys to Success in Any Field

by Kassandra Lamb

No, I’m not going to tell you how to dress or what to say to your boss to get promoted.

The way I define success in a career, and in life for that matter, is doing work that utilizes our talents and strengths and brings us satisfaction. So this post is about how to identify the job/career that will do that for you, and also the strengths you bring to that career and where you might need to bolster those strengths.

I was inspired by a recent post by author and editor, Jami Gold–What Helps You BE a Writer? She lists several internal traits and external factors that can help writers be successful (i.e., keep at it long enough to reap the rewards), and then asks her blog readers (mostly writers) to make their own lists of the things that help them stick with writing. (If you are a writer, definitely check out her post.)

What Helps You BE a Writer?

I’m going to give my list here, and in the process, extend some of her ideas to all careers.

Internal Characteristics
Under this category, Jami says: “We might have personality traits that help us want to be a writer, such as a love of storytelling or a desire to entertain, educate, or inspire others.”

I love that she starts off with this. Our jobs/careers need to satisfy some inner desire. That inner desire might be self-centered – just to satisfy our love of the task – and/or it may be more altruistic – to help others in some way or to make the world a better place.

painting of storyteller and children

Me in a previous lifetime.  (Brodtmann’s Geschichtenerzählerin, public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve always been a storyteller, but the part of Jami’s sentence that rang most true for me was a desire to educate others. My life calling has been to help people, myself included, better understand our psyches and live mentally healthy lives. I fulfilled that calling as a therapist and then as a college professor, and now as a writer. I used storytelling in all of those professions – I told stories to my clients and students to illustrate my points and get past their defenses. And now my stories spread awareness of certain psychological disorders and issues in a pleasant and entertaining way.

So first and foremost, the work we chose must fulfill an inner desire about which we are passionate. If it does, we will (a) be satisfied by it and (b) apply that passion to learning to do it well.

Jami goes on to list a lot of inner traits – beyond talent obviously – that may help writers stick with it when the going gets rough. These range from being so clueless you don’t recognize the obstacles until you’ve stumbled past them (I can relate :) ) to being stubborn, patient, and having a thick skin.

It is VERY helpful to objectively list the inner traits needed to succeed in any job/career we are considering. Then we can compare that list with our own strengths and weaknesses.

I am definitely stubborn, but patience has never been one of my virtues. However, writing was important enough to me that I had to do something to overcome my impatience.

Lacking a trait doesn’t mean we can’t do the job, but we do need to somehow compensate. For me and my lack of patience, two things helped. One, I am sooo stubborn that I refused to give up when my impatience made me want to quit (most often when I looked at my shrinking savings account; I was spending more money than I was making).

And two, I did an internal reframe. I told myself that I don’t need the money from writing. I’m retired with a decent income. I should think of writing, from a financial standpoint only, as a hobby. Retirees who can afford to do so put some money into hobbies; mine happened to be writing. That worked! I stopped ruminating over sales and focused on enjoying the writing and editing. (And eventually my bottom line did shift from red to black.)

As for a thick skin, I can’t say that I normally have this. But I have learned through the years to judge my own capabilities fairly honestly. I’m good at stepping back from what I have produced and comparing it to the objective criteria for good work, as defined in that field of endeavor.

And most important of all, I am good at focusing on those who like my work, rather than those who do not. And as long as the likers well outnumber the dislikers, I feel pretty confident that I’m doing a good job. So I can dismiss the one and two-star reviews as long as there are many more four and five-star ones. (And, thank God, there are.)

Which brings us to…

Support Structure
In Jami’s second category of things that help writers stick with it, she lists the support of family, friends, teachers, agents and publishers, readers, and, most of all, other writers.

That list pretty much applies to all careers. We are more likely to succeed if our families, friends, teachers, etc. (substitute bosses for agents and publishers, and customers/clients for readers) are behind us and are telling us we’re doing a good job.

But what if they aren’t? If our family members and friends aren’t behind us, then we probably need to rethink those relationships. Maybe we need to stop talking about our work with unsupportive family members, and maybe we need new friends if those we have are bringing us down rather than encouraging us.

As for bosses, customers and clients, if most of them like our work, then we’re probably good at it. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. If a boss dislikes your work without offering constructive feedback on how to improve it, but others have often praised it, then consider that it may be that boss, not you.

Dealing with unhappy customers/clients/readers is when we really need that thick skin. Keep reminding yourself that you do indeed do good work, but it may not be this person’s cup of tea, or they may be particularly picky. Try not to get defensive since that will only prolong your contact with them. 😉

The other support system Jami mentions, other writers, is also pretty darn important. I seriously doubt I would have stuck with writing or had the fortitude to get through the publishing process without the support of my friend (and cofounder of misterio), Shannon Esposito. And she introduced me to a wonderful online writers’ group that has been a Godsend more than once.

Likewise when I started teaching, I had a great mentor who kept me going through those early stages of self-doubt in a new vocation. She gave me guidance, but she also normalized the new things I was experiencing. One day I complained that the students just sat there staring at me during the lecture that I thought was the most fascinating of the entire semester.

Jean laughed and said, “Yeah, sometimes you do your dog and pony show and they just sit there.” I felt so much better. This also happened to her, an experienced teacher.

So find a support group and/or a mentor in the field, who will advise you but also cheer you on.

Other Tricks and Tools
Under this category, Jami lists miscellaneous helpful things – everything from gallons of coffee to extra skills we bring from other jobs and life experiences. This last item struck a chord with me.

When considering changing careers or jobs, we shouldn’t just consider the skills that obviously carry over but also subtler capabilities we may have honed in our previous work.

a SomedayIsHere FINAL (1)

When I was writing Someday Is Here! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing and Publishing Your First Book, I was trying to figure out how to help novice writers improve their dialogue. This required some thought because writing dialogue has always come easily for me.

Then I realized that this wasn’t a natural talent I’d started out with. I had spent twenty years, as a psychotherapist, carefully listening to people. I knew how folks tended to phrase things. I’d also carefully observed body language and tone of voice – when a person paused or looked down, etc. – because all this gave me additional information about what was going on with them, beyond the spoken words.

So that’s the advice I gave to novice writers–observe, listen, pay attention to how people talk and not just what they say. But I’d already had a head start with this skill, because of my previous profession.

How about you? What inner traits, external supports and other skills do you bring to your job? Are there areas that need bolstering or compensation? Are you rethinking your current vocation?

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.

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