Monthly Archives: March 2013

When the Saints Come Marching In (and a New Release)

book cover

In honor of my new release, An Unsaintly Season in St. Augustine, I decided to write a Just for Fun Friday post about saints. (See below for details about my book.)

Now I know sainthood should be a reverent, serious topic but you go Google the list of patron saints and see if you aren’t smiling or even downright laughing out loud over some of them.

Most of us are familiar with St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, and St. Christopher who looks over travelers.

But did you know that St. David of Wales is the patron saint of doves and praying to St. Polycarp of Smyrna will probably keep you from getting dysentery?

stained glass window of St. David of Wales

St. David of Wales (photo by Wolfgang Sauber, CC share-alike license, Wikimedia Commons)

If you have arm pain, have a little chat with St. Amelia. If you’re going ice skating, a short prayer to St. Lidwina of Schiedam wouldn’t hurt (seriously, there is a patron saint of ice skating).

If you’re inclined to have fits of frenzy then St. Dennis is who you should be madly praying to (sorry, couldn’t resist the pun).

The various professions have their patron saints and the number of saints a particular profession has doesn’t seem to correlate with the degree of need for divine intervention. Accountants, librarians, bankers, barbers, chefs, engineers, engravers, gardeners, funeral directors, veterinarians, translators and whitewashers all have one each. (Yes, whitewashers have a saint.)

Soldiers have four which seems fitting but astronauts only have one, as do road workers, nurses and surgeons. Teachers have two, which doesn’t seem like quite enough considering all they have to deal with.

Prisoners have two while prison guards only have one. Hmm. Not sure I’d like those odds if I were a prison guard. Police officers and firefighters only have two each, while bakers and comedians have three. What’s up with that?

The ones I was most interested in were, well, interesting. The patron saint of therapists and psychiatrists is St. Christina the Astonishing. Oookkaay.

St. Francis de Sales and St. Lucy of Syracuse are the patron saints of authors and writers. St. Francis de Sales was a very pious fellow. He was the Bishop of Geneva during the Protestant Reformation and he used a lot of flyers and other writings in his attempt to convert Calvinists to Catholicism.

St. Lucia (or St. Lucy) of Syracuse is better known for being the patron saint of the blind. She was martyred around 300 AD and one story says her eyes were poked out before she was killed. Another version is that her pagan fiancé, whom she was trying to ditch because she was a devout Christian, had admired her beautiful eyes. So she plucked them out and gave them to him, saying something to the effect, “Okay, take them and leave me alone so I can dedicate myself to God.”

In artwork, she is sometimes shown holding a tray with her eyes on it.

Renaissance painting of St. Lucy

Renaissance painting of St. Lucy (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Eeeww! With all due respect to St. Lucy who, one way or another, died a gruesome death… Ixnay to the eyesway on the aytray!

But back to St. Augustine and my new book. It’s set in the city of that name in Florida. The city was named by the Spanish sea captain who founded it. He first sighted land on the feast day of St. Augustine in 1565. My guess is the scene went something like this:

Guy up in the rigging yells in Spanish, “Land! I see land!”

The captain, one Don Pedro Menandez de Avilla, falls on his knees and says, “Gracias, St. Augustine, for putting this piece of land between us and the edge of the world, because that Columbus was a fool. Everybody knows the world is flat.”

In addition to being the patron saint of brewers, printers and theologians, St. Augustine is the one to pray to for the alleviation of sore eyes. How apropos for me, since by the end of a day at the computer writing and/or editing, my eyes are quite sore.

Okay, you all check out my new release while I ask St. Augustine for some eye drops and then call my priest to set up an appointment for confession, ’cause I think I’m probably in trouble with the Big Man Upstairs after writing this post.

Then tell me about your favorite saint down in the comments.

(And because I love how this cover turned out, I’m gonna show it to you again!)

An UNSAINTLY SEASON in St. AUGUSTINE, A Kate on Vacation mystery

Even on vacation, Kate Huntington can’t seem to avoid other people’s troubles. While in St. Augustine, Florida for the Christmas holidays, she and her PI husband get caught up in trying to find a friend of Kate’s parents who’s gone missing. They soon discover that this isn’t just a case of a senior citizen wandering off. Can they reunite the elderly man with his wife before Christmas, or will others who mean him harm find him first?

This is the first of a series of novella-length mysteries with a cozy flavor to them. They feature the same characters from the Kate Huntington Mystery series. These are intended to be light, suspenseful reads that also allow the reader to travel vicariously to interesting and sometimes exotic places.

Available now as an e-book for just $1.99 on:

AMAZON    and    BARNES & NOBLE

 

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!

TWO MORE AUTHORS! (Somebody order more champagne!)

Shannon Esposito and I are dancing the happy dance today as we announce that two more wonderful mystery writers have joined our group here at misterio press.

old photo of two children dancing

Shannon’s the short one (photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-08238 CC-BY-SA)

Okay, that isn’t really us, but we’re that happy! We now have seven authors which is exactly the number we wanted for our indie press, so that we can provide a variety of mystery/suspense titles and maintain a high level of quality for our readers.

Since we’re introducing you to two authors this time, we got twice as much virtual bubbly, so grab a glass and stick around as we tell you about Stacy Green and Catie Rhodes. (Shh, don’t tell Kathy Owen that we’re throwing a bigger bash than she got.)

big tower of champagne glasses

(photo by Filaos, CC 2.0 license, Wikimedia Commons)

Whoa, that’s a lot of champagne!

Stacy Green already has two great creations to her credit: her adorable daughter, Grace, and her debut suspense novel, Into the Dark, (published by MuseItUp Publishing).

Stacy Green head shot

When Stacy isn’t taking care of her family or writing, she’s researching true crime and serial killers for her blog. She also enjoys gardening and healthy cooking. Her writing credentials are impressive. You can check them out over at her cyber home.

She has a new novel coming out in less than two weeks (April 8th to be exact) called Tin God. It’s the first in her Delta Crossroads series.

I have read it and can tell you that it is fabulous. I can’t wait for her to finish the next book in the series. Unfortunately, I can’t show you the cover just yet because Night Owl Reviews is having an exclusive Cover Reveal for Stacy today (Yes, she is quite the social butterfly, flitting back and forth between two parties!)

But I can tell you what it’s about:

Getting pregnant as a teenager and being coerced into giving her baby up for adoption left a festering scar on Jaymee Ballard’s life. Trapped by poverty and without many allies, Jaymee nearly gives up hope of getting her daughter back after her best friend is murdered. Now, four years later, a wealthy woman with legal connections hires her as a housekeeper, and Jaymee gathers the courage to seek her help. But Jaymee’s last chance ends up in a puddle of blood in one of the historic antebellum mansions in Roselea, Mississippi.

I just murdered your wife…again.

An unsigned letter consisting of six horrifying words turns Nick Samuels stagnant life upside down. Stuck in emotional purgatory since his wife’s unsolved murder four years ago, Nick is about to self-destruct. The arrival of the letter claiming credit for his wife’s murder and boasting of a new kill sends Nick to Roselea, where he and Jaymee’s worlds collide.

Jaymee and Nick realize exposing the truth about her daughter’s adoption is the only way to solve the murders. Up against years of deception, they rush to identify the killer before the evidence–and Jaymee’s daughter–are lost. But the truth doesn’t always set the guilt-ridden free. Sometimes, it destroys them.

 

Catie Rhodes will be the first to tell you that she’s that girl your mother warned you about…

Catie Rhodes head shotThe one who cusses and never washes her hands after petting the dog. Catie decided to turn her love of lying into writing fiction after she got fired for telling her boss the President was on the phone.

It didn’t take Catie long to figure out what she wanted to do when she grew up. With her faithful Pomeranian, Cosmo, at her side, she draws on her East Texas roots and her love of true crime and the paranormal to write the kind of stories she wishes the book stores sold.

And we’re thrilled to announce the release of one of those stories next week (April 5th), Forever Road. I gotta tell you that this is the best debut novel I’ve ever read.

cover of Forever Road

I’ll let Catie’s main character, Peri Jean, introduce herself.

My name’s Peri Jean Mace, and I’ve seen ghosts ever since I can remember. Don’t get too excited. Seeing across the veil branded me as a loony during my growing up years, and I learned to keep my yap shut about it.

Now I’m not sure I can anymore.

See, my cousin up and got herself killed the very same day I promised her a favor.  Now she’s back in spirit form and determined to make me pay. If I don’t solve her murder, she’s going to haunt me forever. Talk about the debt collector from hell.

That’s not my only problem. An obnoxiously hot cop wants to arrest my best friend for the murder.  My bigmouthed archenemy holds a clue to the killer’s identity. And there’s this mean—and ugly—woman who wants to beat me up.

None of this can turn out good.

You are going to love both of these books!

By the way, Catie also has a great blog called Long Roads and Dark Ends. Isn’t that the coolest name for a mystery writer’s blog?

I’m getting thirsty from doing all this talking so I’m gonna go get another glass of champagne. You all please make Stacy and Catie welcome now!

*dances off to get some more virtual bubbly*

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

This is Your Brain on Stress!

Why is it that some of us perform better under pressure while others are more likely to buckle under the load? Was it how the person was raised? Were they taught to believe in themselves? Did their parents and teachers push them to keep trying when they encountered obstacles?

We tend to assume that one’s ability to work well under stress is a function of character. But that’s not what brain research is telling us. It may be much more about differences in how our brains work–differences that are dictated by genetics.

A PET scan of a brain showing a very high level of activity (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Scientists have identified a specific gene, the COMT gene, that may dictate more than anything else whether we are the ‘push through the stress and shine’ type of person, or the one who collapses on the floor and feels like a failure when the load gets too heavy.

This may sound like bad news, but I’m not sure it is. Knowing that something is beyond our control can help us figure out a work-around. More on the real-life ramifications of this in a minute. First, let me try to boil the research down into a few paragraphs so I don’t bore you to tears.

This COMT gene controls how quickly a certain neurotransmitter, dopamine, is removed from a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain where our most complex reasoning occurs–problem-solving, moral decisions, conflict resolution, anticipating long-term consequences, etc.

Brainstorming with the prefrontal cortex

(Okay, it’s a lame cartoon. Give me a break. it’s hard to make the brain funny!)

Dopamine is the brain chemical that helps us think clearly by inhibiting unwanted thoughts and allowing us to concentrate. But to do this, it has to be at optimal levels. Too little and we are overwhelmed and distracted by random thoughts. Too much and the thoughts we want to focus on are also inhibited, i.e., our brains are too shut down.

There are two versions of this COMT gene, one that clears dopamine away slowly and one that removes it quickly (it’s originally released by the neurons, i.e., nerve cells, in the brain). Under normal circumstances, people with the rapid-removal version are at a disadvantage; their dopamine levels are often too low. The folks with the slow-removal version often have an advantage, and do better in school for example, because overall their prefrontal cortex thinks more clearly.

However, things change when you introduce high stress levels.

The study that tied all this together was done in Taiwan where researchers determined which gene was present in 779 junior high school students who were about to take a difficult entrance exam that would determine the quality of high school education they would receive.

The students with the slow-removal gene tended to have higher grades in school than those with the fast-removal gene. But when the stress of this high-stakes test flooded their prefrontal cortex with dopamine, their brains couldn’t remove it fast enough. Now their thinking was impaired by too much dopamine.

The fast-removal students (the ones with the lower grades in school) scored an average of 8 percentage points higher than the slow-removal students on this test. Their brains could handle the stress better, get rid of the excess dopamine, and allow them to excel.

(from en.wikipedia, public domain)

So what are the real-life implications of this? If something is genetically programmed, we can’t change it, but we can learn to cope with it and work around it.

If you were one of those kids who crashed and burned on big tests and class presentations, or if you have a child who falls into this category, you should find it comforting to know that this is not a character flaw. Knowing something is not our fault can help us be more matter-of-fact about dealing with it. It is what it is.

So how do we deal with it?

1.  Stop beating up on yourself for not coping well with pressure. You’re not dumb, morally deficient or mentally ill. Your brain just works differently than those who thrive on stress.

2.  Be selective about the types of situations you expose yourself to. Forcing yourself to deal with high-stakes situations is a set-up for disaster. For example, marketing, where you have to give make-or-break presentations to clients on a regular basis, may not be the best career choice.

I suspect that both my son and I have the slow-dopamine-removal gene. We both got good grades in school but tended to score rather mediocre on high-stakes standardized tests like the SAT.

My son had his heart set on a certain college. But his SAT scores were not high enough to get a merit scholarship despite his almost 4.0 GPA. At our insistence, he took the test again, without much improvement (despite tutoring beforehand).

If I’d known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have insisted that he take the SAT a second time. I would have gone immediately to our alternate plan. We found a couple other schools that did not place as much importance on SAT scores. He got accepted into the honors program at one of them, and received a scholarship!

3.  Use stress management and relaxation techniques to help lower your stress level, and thus your dopamine production, in high-pressure situations.

More on how to do this over the next few weeks. The last two installments in this Stress Management series will be on relaxation techniques and one of the most important aspects of stress management, changing our cognitive and emotional interpretation of stressors.

So talk to me. How well do you perform under pressure?  Do you think you are a fast-dopamine-removal or slow-dopamine-removal person?

How can we help our kids adjust and learn to cope if they tend to fold under pressure?

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!

Do You Experience More Ennui or Joie de Vivre?

This is the second installment in our Just for Fun Friday series on Emotion Words Around the World. And we have hit on what we think is a great prize for the best comment. Whoever comes up with the best story about our emotion word or words of the day will get a free e-book.

Yay! Who’s gonna turn down a free book, right?

Today we explore the deeper meanings of two French terms, ennui and joie de vivre. These may very well be words you’ve heard before, since they are often used in English as well. But just as often something gets lost in their translation.

Ennui is defined in English dictionaries as boredom and listlessness. Well, yeah, but in French it means a bit more than that. It often connotes a certain level of dissatisfaction with life, and maybe even an unwillingness to do anything about being bored. When someone is suffering from ennui they are mired down in a weariness and discontent that may be hard to shake. Indeed, the root of the word, from old French, means annoyance. So there’s a certain amount of low-grade irritability involved. The word is not synonymous with depression, but it is describing the feelings that we often experience when we are mildly depressed.

(photo by Jessica Mullen, CC 2.0 license, Wikimedia Commons)

Let’s contrast ennui with bored:

American teenager (with slouched shoulders and glazed-over look on face): “Mother, I am sooo bored!”

French teenager (with head thrown back, eyes closed, back of hand against forehead): “Maman, j’ai ennui!

American teenager isn’t annoyed so much as she is annoying–to her mother. French teenager, you’re starting to worry she’ll become suicidal. Either that or you want to enroll her in drama school.

Now joie de vivre on the other hand, does translate more directly into English–joy of living. And yet we Americans never say that. We don’t walk around saying, “I’m feeling joy of living today.” But it is okay to say, “I’m full of joie de vivre today.” Why is that?

My best guess is that because we’re not too comfortable with public displays of intense emotions in this country, it is somehow more acceptable to express feeling crazy happy with life via a French expression. That’s okay, because you know those French, they’re an emotional lot.

I’m a fairly intense person (just ask my husband; he’ll be happy to tell you all about my mood swings), so I feel both ennui and joie de vivre a good bit.

For me, ennui is definitely not simple boredom. I rarely experience boredom, except in doctors’ waiting rooms when I forget my kindle. But some days I do have ennui. Not because I have nothing to do; au contraire, I usually have too much to do on those days. And yet I don’t feel like doing any of the things I should be doing. For me, ennui is a vague, itchy-in-my-own-skin restlessness combined with a not-quite-depressed-but-definitely-less-than-happy feeling.

Needless to say, I’m not fond of ennui.

Joie de vivre, on the other hand, is wonderful. It’s chocolate ice cream with chocolate sauce, whipped cream and a cherry on top!

(photo by Zachariah Judy, CC 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

(And nuts. I forgot to mention the nuts! Because what would life be without a few nuts in it, right?)

Even though I’m not a morning person, I most often feel joie de vivre early in the day (maybe because I’m not all that tired yet). And it’s not usually associated with something spectacularly wonderful that’s happening in my life. I most often feel it when I’m driving somewhere in the morning or early afternoon–usually to someplace relatively mundane, like the grocery store or Zumba class. I’ll get this light, bubbly feeling in my chest and I’ll just feel happy to be alive!

How about you? When do you tend to feel either ennui or joie de vivre, and how would you describe your experience of those feelings?

Remember the most interesting (or funniest) comment will get you a free e-book. And you get to choose from any of the books put out by our misterio press authors. So make something up it good!

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!

WHAT DO YOU DO TO MAINTAIN YOUR “HEALTHY” DENIAL?

I want to be my dog in my next lifetime! Dogs have it so easy. All she has to do is sleep, eat, play and bug me to pet her. And she’s always in the moment–not planning tomorrow or ruminating about something dumb she did yesterday.

Kassandra's dog, Amelia

But the main reason I envy my dog is that she feels totally in control of her world (naively perhaps, but nonetheless). She knows that when she whines by the door, I will let her out. And when I open that door, she KNOWS she will chase those squirrels and that pesky neighbor’s cat out of HER yard.

Humans love to feel in control, and we absolutely hate feeling out of control. It’s the worst feeling in the world. When bad things happen to us, we are often traumatized as much by that out-of-control feeling as we are by the event itself.

As a result of that bad event, we have lost what I call our “healthy denial.”  Every day we get out of bed assuming that nothing bad will happen to us that day. We have to assume that, otherwise, we wouldn’t get out of bed!

My husband had a car accident recently. It was a very low impact fender bender, and yet it shook him up pretty badly. It shook him for three reasons: (1) it was his fault, (2) he had a vehicle full of his international students taking them to a sports event, and (3) it was in MY VAN!

It’s taken him a couple weeks to get back to not feeling anxious every time he has to drive somewhere. And he’s still avoiding that particular intersection!

After those inevitable bad moments in life, we have to get our healthy denial back. I do this by telling myself (repeatedly, ad nauseam) that I can’t control what happens to me; I can only control how I respond to it. This is my main motto for living.

Or to put it another way: You can’t control which way the wind blows; you can control how you trim your sails.

I’m also reminded of something one of my psychotherapist colleagues said one time on this subject. “If we live our lives worrying about what might happen, we aren’t really living our lives.”

So let’s hear it for the good side of denial!

To lighten things up, here’s another great example of the difference between fantasy (denial) and reality, and how sometimes the fantasy may be preferable. I know this video has already gone viral but I hadn’t seen it yet before today, and I just had to share. This is hysterical (in a sick kind of way)! But don’t let your little ones see this. They’ll be traumatized.

 

How about you? Have there been times when you’ve lost your healthy denial? How do you get it back, or does it come back on its own over time?

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!

Secrets in Stone: A Living(?) Mystery Novel

Today we have a special treat! Kirsten Weiss is taking us on a tour of old cemeteries, complete with ghosts.  Take it away, Kirsten!

In 2013, the idea of a fictional murderer attending his victim’s funeral seems old hat. And the heroes of modern mystery novels are less likely to prowl a darkened cemetery looking for clues.

But in the real world, cemeteries are experiencing a revival.

Perhaps it’s because of the rising interest in all things haunted. Or perhaps today’s modern cemeteries, designed for the ease of gardeners rather than for ornamentation, give us a greater appreciation for the overblown monuments of the past. Or perhaps it’s simply because they’re old and beautiful.

Whatever the reason, older cemeteries can make an intriguing wander. Interested? Check out these must-see American cemeteries.

headstones in Oakland Cemetery

Oakland Cemetery (photo by Ann Sullivan-Larson, CC 3.0 license, Wikimedia Commons)

Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta, GA. One of Atlanta’s most famous landmarks, this cemetery was designed as a Victorian “garden cemetery,” during the days when picnicking amongst deceased loved ones didn’t seem quite so odd. As the name suggests, the cemetery has the feel of a garden, dotted with spectacular monuments.

Colonial Park Cemetery, Savannah, GA. Located amidst Savannah’s famous squares, the Colonial cemetery is rich in history and ghosts. Look for the tombstone altered by Union soldiers during the occupation of Atlanta. The final resting place of prominent Savannah citizens, dueling victims, and 700 victims of the yellow fever epidemic of 1820, it’s little wonder that the cemetery is believed to be haunted.

It’s most famous specter is that of Rene Asche Rondolier (or Renee Rondolia Asch), a disfigured orphan who lived in the cemetery in the early 1800s.  He was accused of the murder of two girls whose bodies were found in the cemetery, dragged to the nearby swamps, lynched and left for dead.  But in the days that followed, more dead bodies turned up in the cemetery. The people of Savannah were convinced Rene’s ghost was the culprit, and to this day the cemetery is known by some as Rene’s playground.  It’s said his ghost roams the grounds at night.

One tourist believes he’s actually caught little Rene on video.

Unitarian Church Cemetery, Charleston, SC. This lovely, overgrown graveyard, its gnarled trees draped with Spanish moss, has lovely examples of death’s heads from the Colonial period, as well as its share of haunts, including an entirely fictional ghost.  According to legend, Annabel Lee was romantically involved with Edgar Allen Poe when he was stationed in Charleston.  But her father kept them apart.  Poe eventually left town and Annabel died months later of Yellow Fever.  Poe returned to pay his respects, but the irate father was determined to keep them apart even in death, and moved Annabel’s grave to an unmarked spot in the lower end of the cemetery. People swear they’ve seen the ghost of Annabel wandering the cemetery.

death head on tombstone

Death head tombstone (photo by Kirsten Weiss)

Saint Louis Cemetery No 1, New Orleans, LA. Because of the high water table, residents of New Orleans were forced t bury their dead above ground, making for a miniature cityscape of monuments. One of this cemetery’s most famous residents is voodoo queen, Marie Leveau. The cemetery is easy to find – just outside the French Quarter. Marie Leveau’s unmarked tomb… not so much. Several tombs within the cemetery are possibilities, and you’ll find them chalked by the x’s of supplicants and littered with offerings. Good luck figuring out which tomb belongs to the real Marie.

Above-ground graves in Saint Louis Cemetery No. 1, New Orleans

Above-ground graves in St. Louis Cemetery No. 1 (photo by Photoartel, CC 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Key West Cemetery, FL. What makes this cemetery unique are the epigraphs. Key West has always attracted its share of eccentrics, and this is where you’ll find headstones reading: “I Told You I Was Sick,” and “At Least I Know Where He’s Sleeping Tonight.”

statue of angel in Key West Cemetery

Key West Cemetery (photo by Averette at en.wikipedia, CC 3.0)

Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, GA . This cemetery catapulted to fame after the book, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil hit the bestseller lists. It’s a lovely southern gothic, shrouded in oaks dripping Spanish moss. Though, the famed “bird girl” statue from the book cover is gone, the cemetery is still worth a look.

graves in Bonaventure Cemetery

Bonaventure Cemetery (photo by Minipaula, CC 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, CA. This is the final resting place of America’s version of royalty – the celebrity. You can find the graves of silver screen idols, Rudolph Valentino, Tyrone Power, Fay Wray, and more modern celebs, like Johnny Ramone.

Johnny Ramone statue in Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Johnny Ramone statue in Hollywood Forever Cemetery (photo by Sean Russell, CC 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

 

How about you? Have you visited any haunted, or otherwise interesting,  cemeteries lately? What’s your favorite cemetery, or ghost story? Kirsten’s going to be hanging around today to chat, so please comment below.

Kirsten Weiss’s fictional detective, Riga Hayworth, hasn’t prowled any cemeteries lately, but she’ll be dealing with the undead in her upcoming paranormal mystery novel, The Infernal Detective. The cover for that book was inspired by the death’s heads from Charleston’s Unitarian Church cemetery. Watch for it in May, 2013.

 

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!

Welcome to the Family, K.B. Owen

I am thrilled to welcome a new author to our group! K.B. Owen (a.k.a. Kathy Owen) writes historical cozy mysteries and we have bribed lured enticed her to join us here at misterio press.

I have read her newly released novel, Dangerous and Unseemly: A Concordia Wells Mystery, and it is one of the best debut novels I have ever read! But more on her book in a moment.

First, I’ll let Kathy introduce herself.

Headshot of K.B. OwenHi! I’m a former college instructor, with a Ph.D. in 19th century literature. These days, I’m applying my background and interests to historical mystery writing, and have created a female professor as amateur sleuth. I’ve been a professor but never a detective, so I’m living vicariously. (Although I never taught college classes in a bustle and long skirts, either. Thankfully!)

I’m also married to the love of my life, and am mom to three boys, ages 12, 17 and 20.  In my *ahem* free time, I enjoy reading, baking, gardening, and backyard bird-watching.

 

Phew, Kathy, you are one busy lady! And, folks, she also has a delightful website and blog at K.B. Owen, Historical Mystery Author: Chasing the Cozy Thrill.

Now a bit more about Kathy’s writing. Her stories are set in the late 1800’s at a women’s college (women going to college was a newfangled concept back then). Kathy is a meticulous researcher and her descriptions pull you back in time so that you feel you are living in Concordia’s world.

This is what I love most about historical fiction. You get to learn about another era–not just the dry facts from history books, but the way that people dressed, talked, interacted, the attitudes and conventions, etc. At the same time you are being entertained by a delightful story, in this case a suspenseful mystery.

Kathy is also great at developing compelling, and sometimes quirky, characters. But wait, don’t just take my word for it. Here are some comments from award winning authors who have read Kathy’s book.

  • “What a perfectly enjoyable debut! The author seamlessly works in the finely wrought historical details that make the reader feel totally at home. …truly a delight to read. I’ll definitely be awaiting more adventures of the intrepid Miss Wells.” ~ Martha Powers, author of Conspiracy of Silence and Death Angel
  • “The exquisitely plotted mystery will keep you turning the pages well into the night, and the richness of the world will keep you thinking about the story long after you put it down.” ~ Janice Hamrick, author of Death Makes the Cut

Below is the blurb and links for her book, but before you run off to check it out, please join with me and our misterio press authors as we break out the virtual bubbly to celebrate.

(photo by ori2uru, Creative Commons 2.0 license, Wikimedia Commons)

 A Toast ~ Welcome Aboard, Kathy!

 

Dangerous and Unseemly, A Concordia Wells Mystery

Dangerous and Unseemly book cover

An unseemly lesson… in murder. The year is 1896, and college professor Concordia Wells has her hands full: teaching classes, acting as live-in chaperone to a cottage of lively female students, and directing the student play, Macbeth. But mystery and murder are not confined to the stage, especially when the death of Concordia’s sister, Mary, appears to be foul play. To make matters worse, the women’s college is plagued by malicious pranks, arson, money troubles, and the apparent suicide of a college official. With her beloved school facing certain ruin, Concordia knows that she must act. As she struggles to seek justice for her sister and discover who is behind the college incidents, there are some closest to Concordia who do not appreciate the unseemly inquiries and bold actions of the young lady professor. Can she discover who is responsible… before she becomes the next target?

Absorbing in its memorable characters, non-stop plot twists, and depiction of life in a late-nineteenth century women’s college, Dangerous and Unseemly is a suspenseful and engaging contribution to the cozy historical mystery genre. Fans of Harriet Vane and Maisie Dobbs will find in Concordia Wells a new heroine to fall in love with.

Available now:

Amazon Kindle

Paperback (Amazon)

Barnes and Noble Nookbook

Smashwords

Kobo

Scribd

Posted by Kassandra Lamb, co-founder of misterio press.

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!

 

Whaddaya Mean Good Things Are Still Stressful?

This installment in my stress management series is long overdue, I know. Things kept getting in the way–good things, like Valentine’s Day and August McLaughlin’s awesome Beauty of a Woman Blogfest (that I just had to participate in).

So speaking of good things, that’s what I want to talk about today.

As I mentioned in previous posts, we all have a stress threshold, the point at which we have maxed out our coping ability. If we want to avoid stress overload, we have to keep our stress level below our threshold. To do this we need to better understand the three factors involved in how stressed we feel at any given time. These three factors are the stressors in our lives, our body’s response to them, and our cognitive/emotional interpretation of them.

We’ve already talked some about our body’s response to stressors (and I have some new stuff to share on that next time). Today I want to clarify a couple things about stressors.

Yes, Happy Events Are Still Stressful.

Can I see a show of hands, ladies? How many of you were in a bit of a daze on your wedding day? I know I was. And it wasn’t a blissful, I’m-so-happy daze either. It wasn’t even an I’m-so-worried-about-what-can-go-wrong daze. It was more an I’m-so-overwhelmed-because-it-took-so-much-to-get-here daze.

just before my wedding

Heading into the church just before my wedding. Note the spaced-out look on my face, as compared to my mother’s smiling visage! She’s also hanging onto my arm; I think I was staggering a bit.

I actually remember very little of the ceremony itself, mainly the bloopers: my father tripping over my train, the fly that kept buzzing around our heads, and my husband forgetting the vows we had written together and supposedly memorized. And no, I’m not remembering those things because I was upset about them. I actually found them to be moments of comic relief that brought me out of my daze a bit.

I have a fairly clear memory of the reception, however, because that’s when the stress level finally got down below my threshold!

So yes, happy events still add to our stress level, because they use our resources: time, energy and emotional coping ability.

And here’s another thing about stressors that most people don’t realize.

Stressors Are Cumulative.

You don’t have to have some major stressor going on in your life in order to end up too close to or even past your threshold. If we’ve got too much little stuff going on, it can push us over the edge. And we Americans tend to carry around way too big a stack of little stuff, sometimes without even realizing we’re doing it.

cartoon: person buried under papers on desk

I used to teach a community education class on stress management (translation: cheap non-credit class for the general public for which I received very little compensation). The first class, I’d give my students a homework assignment. They were to list everything they normally do on an average weekday, including minor tasks like loading the dishwasher or making the bed. Then they were supposed to divide that list into two columns, labeled “hafta’s” and “wanna’s.”

When they came back to the next class, I would ask them how many things were on their hafta list vs. their wanna list. Often there were more hafta’s than wanna’s; sometimes they were about even.

I would then point out that if they had more than three things on their hafta list, it was too long. They’d all look at me like I’d lost my mind – until I started going down some poor volunteer’s list asking, “Do you have to make the bed? …go to work? …pack your children’s lunches?” (Yes, I’d even challenge the premise that they had to feed their kids!)

“Why do you have to do that?” I’d ask.

Usually the answer would boil down to some version of  because they were responsible adults.

“Do you have to be a responsible adult? What happens if you’re not a responsible adult?” They’d list a bunch of dire consequences, such as losing their house if they didn’t earn a living, or people looking down on them if their kids went to school in dirty clothes.

“And you don’t like those things, right?”

“Right.”

“So you choose to do this other thing (pointing to the item on their hafta list) to avoid those consequences?”

“Well, yeah.”

“So it’s a wanna. You want to do this to avoid that, because you don’t like that.”

“Well, yeah.”

I highly recommend this little exercise, by the way. Make your two lists without thinking about it too much. Then go down the hafta list and ask yourself what the consequences would be if you didn’t do that thing, or if you did it differently, in a less stressful way.

There are three objectives here. One, you take back your sense of power over your life. You are doing these things out of choice, not because you have to do them. Feeling in control of the stressors in your life has been scientifically proven to reduce the amount of stress experienced.

Secondly, you may identify some things you do that you really don’t hafta do, nor do you wanna do them. (Making my own spaghetti sauce from scratch got dumped the first time I did this exercise; why should I go through all that when Ragu’s sauce actually tastes better than mine!)

Last but not least, you hopefully learn to be more flexible about what you have to do on any given day. You learn to ask yourself if that thing is really necessary at all, or can you do it an easier, less stressful way, especially if you are having a particular busy day.

My son was a picky eater as a kid (what kid isn’t?) There was very little the school cafeteria had to offer that he would eat (except the pizza that was always an alternative to the hot lunch of the day). Now pizza isn’t as horrible nutrition-wise as most people think, but I didn’t want him eating it every single day. So I packed his lunch.

That is, I packed his lunch most mornings. Some days, life would be particularly crazy, so I’d give him a dollar (dating myself here; yes, school lunches cost a buck 25 years ago) and tell him to buy pizza. For the longest time, I felt guilty doing this. What’s the matter with me that I can’t take five minutes to wash a piece of fruit, put a chicken drumstick in a baggie, and throw that stuff in his lunch box?”

One day, as I opened my wallet to extract the dollar bill, I had an epiphany. First of all, it wasn’t just about the five minutes. It was about the long list of things I needed to do that day that was churning through my head. I just needed to get a few things off that dang list, and this was an easy one to dump. Secondly, I wasn’t really helping my stress level any if I gave him a buck to avoid packing his lunch, but then spent emotional energy beating up on myself over it! (See my post on managing guilt).

Packing his lunch was a “wanna” because I didn’t want my kid eating pizza every day, but some days, I chose the alternative.

Through the years, I’ve gotten into the habit of asking myself if a task is a hafta or a wanna, and then I ask do I truly still wanna be doing it. This habit has served me well. It’s kept me from tipping over into stress overload on more than a few occasions.

How about you? What’s on your hafta list that’s probably really a wanna? And do you still wanna be doing it?

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!