Monthly Archives: January 2013

Do You get S.A.D. in the Winter?

I hate talking about depression because, well, it’s depressing. But if you’re one of those folks who gets S.A.D. in the winter, or you know someone who does, you may appreciate this post.

I’m talking about Seasonal Affective Disorder, i.e., folks who start getting more and more fatigued and listless for no apparent reason as the days get shorter and grayer.

If you’ve been told that you must have some deep-seated negative association with winter, forget that BS. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a biologically-based depression. It’s caused by a malfunction in a natural phenomenon that occurs in all of us. This natural phenomenon developed through evolution.

In cave-person times (tough to be politically correct when talking about that era), those folks whose metabolisms slowed down in the winter, so they burned fewer calories, were much more likely to survive until spring.They dragged their butts through the winters. But when spring came, they’d come bouncing out of their caves, full of renewed energy now that the sun was bright. Much to the annoyance of their skeletal cave-mates who just barely made it through the first hunt.

photo by Lynn Kelley Author (from WANA Commons, share-alike license) Doing her spring happy dance.

I have a mild case of S.A.D. When I lived in Maryland, I would get increasingly grumpy in the fall. I often wouldn’t realize just how depressed I became during the winter months, until spring came along and I started feeling sooo much better.

It was kind of like a low-grade, chronic case of the flu–one where you don’t realize just how sick you’ve been until you start to get better.

In the winter time, all of us (thanks to that evolutionary tendency inherited from our more wintertime-lethargic, springtime-energetic cave ancestors) have an increase in the release of the hormone, melatonin, from the pineal gland. This hormone regulates our sleep cycles and promotes deep sleep.This increased melatonin release makes us all a little bit less energetic in the winter.

For those with S.A.D., the melatonin levels increase too much, causing more severe fatigue and lethargy. S.A.D. can range from mild cases like mine to people who become severely depressed in the winter.

What can you do about it:

1.  The first thing to do (and this may be enough if you have a very mild case) is go outside as much as possible in the winter, especially on sunny days. Because it is not the cold that triggers S.A.D., it’s the lack of daylight. In my thirties, I started horseback-riding regularly year-round. My S.A.D. got a lot better. It went from a moderate to a mild case.

2.  Light therapy. There are light boxes, and other devices, that simulate sunlight. These are specifically designed to treat S.A.D., although they serve other purposes as well. More on light therapy below.

3.  Move to a southern clime, (or at least winter there, if you’re retired or filthy rich). My S.A.D. is one of the reasons–a major one, in fact–for our move to Florida when my husband and I retired.

More about light therapy boxes:

If you think you have S.A.D. these are a worthwhile purchase. They can change your life. But do your research first to find the best device for your needs. Check out this article from the Mayo Clinic about how to choose a light box. They range from $100 to $400, and unfortunately many insurance policies will not pay for them. (But they will pay for antidepressants that cost that much or more per month or for hospitalization when you’re suicidal. Go figure!)

Light therapy lamp (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

A light therapy box.

Even if you have to pay out of pocket, it’s worth it to get your winters back! Someone asked me, shortly before our move south, why I was moving to Florida. I said, “Because I’m tired of wishing away almost half of my life.” I would start dreading winter by mid-October and wouldn’t really come out of it until some time in April. At that time, light boxes were much more expensive, but looking back, I should have bought one anyway.

Life is too short to spend anymore of it than necessary depressed!

Here are more tips on how to use light therapy effectively from PsychEducation.org.

Does this resonate with you? Do you think you, or someone you know, may have S.A.D.?

(Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.)

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us by filling in your e-mail address where it says “subscribe to blog via email” in the column on the right, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!

My Next Big Thing (it’s kinda small)

I seem to be the last of my writer friends to participate in this fun Blog Hop called The Next Big Thing. I got tagged by the funny and talented fantasy and sci-fi writer, Samantha Warren. If you don’t think she’s funny and talented, just read her bio here.

My Next Big Thing is actually a little on the small side. It’s my first crack at a novella (about 1/3rd the length of my other novels).

Here’s how this works. I answer ten questions about my work in progress. Then I’m supposed to tag five other authors, but like I said, I seem to be the last one arriving at this party. So if you’re a writer, and you want to brag talk about your Next Big Thing, consider yourself tagged.

1.  What is the title of the work?

The title was going to be “Sal of St. Augustine, A Kate on Vacation Cozy Mystery” but then my daughter-in-law (one of my best beta readers) said that was kind of boring (she said it much more diplomatically than that, but that’s what she meant).

So I’m looking for ideas for a better title. After you’ve read a bit more here about the story maybe something good will come to you. And just to make it interesting, I’m gonna give a $20 gift card to anyone who comes up with a title so wonderful I decide to use it!

2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

I was joking around one day with fellow misterio press author, JoAnn Bassett. Her mystery series is set in Hawaii and her protagonist is a wedding planner (named Pali Moon) whose weddings always seem to go seriously awry.

Why not write a book together? I said. My protag, Kate Huntington, could come to Hawaii for her niece’s wedding (for those of you who’ve read Family Fallacies, wouldn’t Phyllis, Kate’s sister-in-law, make the perfect mother-of-the-bride from hell?) Then Kate and Pali (pronounced Polly) could end up investigating somebody’s murder together.

JoAnn pointed out we’d probably end up like the best friends who become college roommates, and end up hating each other after one semester.

I agreed and the writing it together idea got scrapped. But a seed had been planted in my fertile little brain. Why not write some shorter, lighter stories starring my main characters while they’re on vacation. Thus the concept of a parallel series to my Kate Huntington books was born.

This first one is set in St. Augustine, Florida, when Kate and her family go to visit her parents for Christmas. I have a second one planned, a locked-room mystery that will happen on a cruise in the Caribbean, and then the Hawaii wedding one (JoAnn’s going to be my consultant on that one!)

3. What genre is the book?

It’s a ‘cozy’ mystery, designed to be a light, fun read. (In this case, think Miss Marple meets Alex Delaware.)

4. What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Even on vacation, Kate Huntington can’t seem to stay out of trouble; while visiting her parents for Christmas in St. Augustine, she and her private detective husband get sucked into investigating when her parents’ friend disappears.

(Yeah, I know. I cheated by using a semi-colon to get in two sentences. I’m really bad about following rules.)

5. Which actors would you choose to play your main characters?

Gonna need some help with this one too. I am absolutely horrible at remembering actors’ names (names in general). Who comes to mind to play Kate and/or Skip, folks? I’d love some suggestions, just in case Hollywood ever comes calling with an offer.

Oh, and while I’m asking for help again, here are some pics I took in St. Augustine this past Christmas. I’m considering using one of them as the cover. What do you think?

Too busy maybe?

It’s sunny 362 days of the year in Florida. Wouldn’t you know it, the day I go to St. Aug to take pics is one of the three when it’s overcast! But I can probably get that doctored by a cover artist.

 Please vote for one (or rank them) in the comments. I’m having trouble deciding.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m a control freak, so self-published, of course.

7. How long did it take you to write this book?

About three weeks. Granted it’s a novella, but still I’m not usually that speedy. But when I tell myself a project is “just for fun” it tends to go much faster.

8. What other books would you compare this to?

Maybe Mary Daheim’s Bed and Breakfast series (if I may be so bold) in which the protagonist gets caught up in the shenanigans of the interesting (sometimes downright weird) people who come from all over to stay at her B & B. Only in this case, Kate is doing the traveling.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I think we’ve already established that it’s JoAnn’s fault. 😛

10. What else about your book might pique readers’ interest?

Part of the idea with this parallel series of cozies is to showcase some interesting vacation destinations so readers can do a little vicarious traveling.

Despite the mild temperatures, no place does Christmas quite like St. Augustine, and the town is chock full of historic sites. A Caribbean cruise and Hawaii speak for themselves. Who wouldn’t want to curl up with a fun book set in one of those exotic places?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Check out her Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us by filling in your e-mail address where it says “subscribe to blog via email” in the column on the right, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!

How Smug Kass Got Her Comeuppance Re: New Year’s Resolutions

(Sorry, our hiatus ended up being a little longer than intended due to illness.)

Image © Nevit Dilmen (Wikimedia commons)

I used to secretly look down on people who made New Year’s resolutions. Obviously they weren’t as in control of their lives as I am.

I’ve always felt that if something needed changing, one should make said change ASAP, not wait until the first of the year. I’m a big believer in taking action and being in control of one’s own destiny. Of course I know that there’s stuff in life we can’t control, but I smugly believed I had a handle on that reality. It was one of my basic rules for life:

We can’t always control what happens to us; we can control how we respond to it.

A little over three years ago, I had one of those ‘life is what happens while you’re making other plans’ experiences. The writing bug that had been nibbling at the edges of my brain for years decided to really sink its teeth in. I went from being a semi-retired psychologist–teaching part-time and enjoying life the rest of the time–to being a full-time writer.

I was okay with that. Yes, writing had pretty much taken over my life, but I was having a blast.

There was one aspect of being a writer that I had put off dealing with, however. Promotion. Finally, I had to face it. So last summer, I did some homework, talked to some more experienced authors, and figured I had a handle on it. I was in control. (Do you see a trend here?)

Ha!!! I’ve never worked so hard in my life as I have this past fall, and at least half the time I was spinning my wheels. Now I’m not adverse to hard work and I understand about learning curves, but this was a lot more than I’d bargained for.

“What happened to being semi-retired?” I whined to my friends.

They all just looked at me as if to say, “You’ve got control over this. If you’re not happy, do something about it.”

But I felt like I had a tiger by the tail. If I stopped promoting then everything I’d accomplished would be for naught. After awhile the readership I’d established would dwindle away. Writing would just become a hobby.

That was not okay.  Which bring us to another of my rules for life:

If you don’t like a situation, you have three alternatives: get away from it, change it or change your attitude toward it.

I didn’t want to give up on my writing career in order to get away from the promoting aspect. So obviously I had to change my approach to promoting. Again and again, I vowed to spend only a limited amount of time on it each day, stop at a certain point, take the evening off to wind down so I’d get a good night’s sleep, etc. But day after day I would spend hours tweeting, facebooking, blogging, setting up giveaways, advertising, and have maybe an hour or two to write before falling exhausted into bed.

Okay, vowing to change the behavior wasn’t working. By mid-December I realized that I needed a more concrete plan (I know; sometimes I’m a little slow). So I started a long list of New Year’s resolutions that included concrete plans.

(1) I will spend no more than three hours a day on promotion. (Concrete plan: I will set a timer. When it buzzes, I stop.)

(2) I will never spend an entire day on promotion. (Concrete plan: By 2 p.m. at the latest, I will stop promoting and start writing.)

(3) I will not work or write late into the evening causing me to go to bed too late…

Wait, wait, wait!  I’d already tried setting a timer and vowing to stop the promoting at a certain point, and somehow, most days, it didn’t happen. Why not?

1915 POSTCARD
(public domain; copyright expired in U.S.)

I didn’t have a good answer for that, so I gave myself permission to think about it over the Christmas holiday, while taking a break from promoting. The answer finally came to me a few days ago. (Give me a break; I already admitted I can be slow.)

I’m a finisher. I feel compelled to finish things. Once I’ve started something, I cannot stop until I’m finished! This has mostly been a good character trait to have.

But now it’s getting in the way, because the promoting will never be finished. So I have to change my attitude toward finishing. I have to tell myself that I’m finished “for today” when the three hours are up, or at the very least, when 2 o’clock rolls around.

It won’t always be easy. I’ll have to fight my finishing compulsion, and some days it may win. But now I know what the real problem is.

Moral of the story: It isn’t enough to make a resolution to change. Sometimes we have to stop and figure out what’s getting in the way.

So tomorrow I’ll finish my revised list of New Year’s resolutions. Why am I waiting until tomorrow? Because it’s 2:01 p.m.

Time to write!

What are your New Year’s resolutions? What tends to get in your way when you want to change something in your life?

(Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.)

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us by filling in your e-mail address where it says “subscribe to blog via email” in the column on the right, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!