Monthly Archives: August 2014

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged – Mourning Robin Williams

by Kassandra Lamb

Almost everyone familiar with Robin Williams’ work is mourning the loss of that talent and the tragic way that his life ended.

His death hit close to home for me for so many reasons. He was just a year older than myself and I spent my early adulthood years laughing at his hit TV show, Mork and Mindy, and at his comic routines on The Tonight Show.

Robin Williams--2007

Robin Williams–2007

But the main thing he and I have in common is Bipolar Disorder. I’m not sure if he ever said in public that he had this disorder, but I’m relatively comfortable making this armchair diagnosis (armchair because although I’m a psychologist, I never met the man in person).

A few days after his death, his wife shared that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. This had apparently sent him tailspinning into anxiety and depression. This again hit close to home as a dear friend of mine has PD. And the saddest part of my friend’s experience with this disorder (so far) has been watching this previously calm and upbeat man struggle with the anxiety and depression the disorder has caused.

But back to Bipolar Disorder. This biologically-based psychological disorder is not well understood by the general public, partly because it is not extremely common (1-2% of the population). It is believed to be genetically-transmitted.

Like most diseases, physical and mental, there is a continuum of severity. I, fortunately, have a mild case. Robin Williams had a much more severe case. In my case, the out-of-kilter brain chemistry affects my emotional state. In more severe cases, one’s mood is often almost completely dictated by the brain chemistry. It is not unusual for people with bipolar to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol as they search for a way off this emotional roller coaster.

Most of the time I am mildly manic, which makes me an outgoing and cheerful person. But irritability, a symptom of both depression and mania, lurks close to the surface (ask my family; they’ll be happy to give examples). And if something happens in my life that is depressing, I plummet much faster and further than the average person would.

So I have had a taste of what Robin Williams must have suffered even before his PD diagnosis.

Unfortunately, a few people, shortly after his death was announced, insisted on showing their ignorance of mental disorders and their insensitivity to the man’s family by making obnoxious comments about his decision to kill himself. I can’t answer for Mr. Williams’ decision but I can tell you that if I were diagnosed with PD or some other debilitating illness that would eventually kill me anyway, suicide would certainly cross my mind as an alternative.

depressed woman huddled in a cornerCould I cope with having such an illness–probably if I wasn’t bipolar. But it takes a lot of emotional energy to cope with adversity, especially an adverse situation that you know is only going to get worse, not better. What I might not be able to cope with is that illness plus the depression it would inevitably trigger. Because when one is depressed, emotional energy is nonexistent!

Now before my family totally freaks out, I’m not saying that I would commit suicide, but I can certainly put myself in Robin Williams’ shoes and understand why he did what he did.

I will post more about bipolar disorder at a later date, but right now I need some time to mourn this wonderful man, who brought so much pleasure and laughter into my life and the lives of millions of people around the world!

One of the positives that has come out of this is that so many people are speaking out, sharing their stories and perspectives. Here are a few:

Depression: No Blame No Shame No Stigma – Pirkko Rytkonen

Losing Robin Williams—The Dark Side of Those Who Make Us Laugh – Kristen Lamb (no relation to me)

A good article on Williams and bipolar disorder at Psych Central.

And the man himself on the subject of drugs and sports (warning: foul language and hysterical laughter are involved)

Rest In Peace, Robin Williams. You will be sorely missed!

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 (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.)

Walking the Paths of the Past

by Kassandra Lamb and guest blogger, Jennifer Jensen

I love living history parks. Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia and Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts are among my favorites. I love to learn about history by walking their dusty streets and watching folks in era-appropriate garb go about the tasks of life in times past.

So when children’s author, Jennifer Jensen, asked if she could guest post on our blog and tell us about Connor Prairie, I was thrilled.  Jen’s new release, Through the Shimmer of Time, is a time-travel adventure. Granted it’s aimed at 9-12 year olds, not our usual readership, but the story is chock full of mysteries: how did Jim get zapped back in time, who is behind the random thefts in the village, and how can Jim and Hannah prove that a suicide was really murder?

And I’ll tell you all a secret – I read this book and loved it!

Jen Jensen headshotSo here’s Jen to tell us about the park that inspired her fictional setting of the book, and provided her with a fun place to do her research.

Take it away, Jen!

First, thank you to the misterio press authors for inviting me here.  As the first guest blogger, I feel very privileged!

Conner Prairie is a fabulous living history park in Central Indiana, and my kids and I were frequent visitors.   When we started going, the 1836 Prairietown was the only area, but the park has expanded to include a Lenape Indian camp, Morgan’s Raid during the Civil War and baseball in the 1880s.

Connor House

(photo by Derek Jensen, CC BY 2.5, Wikimedia)

woman in costume making pottery

Woman making pottery (Photo by Derek Jensen, CC BY 2.5, Wikimedia Commons)

With so much history being acted out in front of us, what better place to ask “what if?”  What if you could really travel back in time instead of just talking to actors in costume?  What if a boy went exploring where he shouldn’t? What if he got accused of a crime when he arrived?  What if there was a ghost who wanted her name cleared?

When you don’t actually have a time travel machine, a living history museum can be the next best thing for research. Conner Prairie’s “1836” cabins are all historic buildings, moved onto the site from around the Midwest.  When you step onto those hand-planed boards, you know what it felt like in olden days.  The doors really were short, the stairs to an upstairs room really were narrow, and the mud really does crumble out of the chinking.

costumed woman by fireplace

(photo by Paul J. Everett, CC license via flickr.com)

storekeeper

the storekeeper (photo by Paul J Everett, CC license via flickr.com)

At Conner Prairie, the staff aren’t just in costume – they stay in character.  They have background information about their character’s personal life, his/her business and chores, and even where they moved from.  It’s fiction, but it’s all historically accurate.  If Mr. Whitaker talks about receiving goods for his store from Cincinnati, you can bet that central Indiana shops in 1836 got their stock there.

I helped make biscuits at the inn, and watched the blacksmith work the forge.  I could ask questions about a housewife’s herb garden, what she grew and how she kept pests away, but she would look blank if I asked what the modern name of something was.  I got good tips on what plants were used for which ailments, but once I had that clue I went back to modern research for details.

blacksmith's anvil

(photo by Paul J. Everett, CC license via flickr.com)

There were a few places where staff members did not have to stay in character.  One particular area, where kids could do some activities and ask questions, kept me from making a fool of myself.

In my book, Jim sleeps in the loft with the other children.  I had pictured a Little House on the Prairie loft from the television show, without thinking that Little House was set 50 years later.  But here I was, standing in an authentic cabin from the right time period.  And it turns out that to get to the loft, the kids would climb a straight-up ladder and go through a square cut in the ceiling.  The only real light in the loft was from the fireplace downstairs.  No happy children looking down on parents here!

Another tidbit: in the summer, families would remove the chinking between the logs in the loft to let some air flow through, and then re-chink when the seasons turned cooler.  Bunches of herbs were often hung to dry in the loft, and both of these tidbits made Jim’s reactions a bit richer – those shadowy shapes can be spooky!

log cabin

(photo by Paul J. Everett, CC license via flickr.com)

I still relied on historical records and books to verify and expand on the details, from food and medicine to journalistic style, but it was the hands-on research at Conner Prairie that let me capture the atmosphere for my fictional Granger Village.

If you could travel back in time, to “when” would you go?  Have you found a living history park that brings that favorite time period to life, and what sorts of mysteries can you imagine happening there?

Through the Shimmer of Time book coverThrough the Shimmer of Time

A mysterious pottery shard . . .
A haunted cabin . . .
A shadowy stranger . . .
And no way home
Present Day: Jim has a talent for getting into trouble. Grounded from his model rockets, he goes exploring where he shouldn’t and gets zapped back in time. Can he find the way back home or is he marooned in the past?
1838: Hannah’s life in her frontier village is filled with a little play and a lot of hard work. A seemingly harmless trick lures a strange, dazed boy from the old haunted cabin. Now Hannah must make a choice – and face the dangers.
Together, Jim and Hannah struggle to unmask a thief and solve a murder while they search for the key to unlock time.  It will take all their courage and wits, plus the rocket motors in Jim’s pocket, just to stay alive.

Jennifer Jensen is an award-winning writer who wouldn’t be without her computer or smart phone, but still dreams of living in the olden days. Until someone invents a working time machine, she lives in Indiana and makes do with plenty of imagination, loads of books and as much Dr. Who as the BBC will produce.

Through the Shimmer of Time is her first novel. Connect with her at her blog, through Facebook or on Twitter (@jenjensen2).

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. 🙂 )

10 Inspiring Pinterest Boards for Mystery Writers (and fans of all things creepy and mysterious)

by Kirsten Weiss

Pinterest is a visual way for people to document their likes and dislikes, post what inspires them, or just hoard recipes for squash casseroles. For writers, who spend a lot of time in the world of words, it can be a refreshing change from other social media sites.

Lately, I’ve been turning more and more to Pinterest – both for inspiration and for world building. These Pinterest boards were chosen based on quality (admittedly subjective) and quantity, but here are my top 10 mystery writing faves, in no particular order.

1)  Faerytaleish: For fae-lovers and mystery writers whose mysteries take a paranormal bent? (Check out the steampunk cat!)

Photo Credit: country_boy_shane via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: country_boy_shane via Compfight cc

2) Crime History: Real crimes. Real criminals. Real creepy.

3)  Neo Noir: Tough girls, odd girls, surreal girls. If you’re looking for inspiration for a noir heroine, this might be the spot.

4)  Noir: Haunting, mostly black and white images.

5)  For My Inspiration: Edgy and imaginative, these images and quotes provoke laughter and intrigue.

6)  Gothic: A board for mystery writers (and other Gothic fans) who favor the creepy classics.

7)  Writers and Writing: A wheel of emotions, inspiration from successful writers, and other writerly goodies.

8)  Writing: A board of writing prompts, tips, and inspiration.

9)  Writing Prompts: Just the prompts, ma’am.

10)  Writing Quotes and Inspiration: Because sometimes, we need a pithy quote to get us writing again!

Kirsten Weiss is the author of Steam and Sensibility, a steampunk novel of suspense, and the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mysteries: the urban fantasy, The Metaphysical Detective, The Alchemical Detective, The Shamanic Detective, The Infernal Detective and The Elemental Detective. She uses Pinterest for research and world building.

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. 🙂 )

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Remember those dreaded first-day-back-to-school essays? 🙂

We just spent the better part of July in a vacation rental in Maryland, and I’ve gotta say that it’s kinda weird being on vacation when you’re retired. (Or semi-retired as my husband and I are; he still teaches part-time and I try not to let my writing totally consume my life).

picture of our summer rental

Our summer rental this year. It was so nice to not have to worry about maintenance.

This wasn’t an extremely exciting vacation–not one where you go someplace you’ve never been and do a lot of sightseeing. (We’re planning one of those for next year–to Europe. Yay!!)

We went back to the small town near where our former summer cottage is. So no new sights. Just the same familiar small harbor, tiny beach, homemade ice cream parlor, seafood restaurants, etc.

I did some writing, when I felt like it–finished a manuscript in fact. But I put the rest of my writing-related tasks on hold as much as I could. Tom spent most of his hours, as he would at home, glued to his laptop screen. (The rest of the time, he was out taking pictures.)

the local beach

The local beach–small but as you can see, definitely not crowded.

But somehow it still felt like a vacation. We gave ourselves permission to relax, to do what we felt like in the moment. Not that we don’t do that a good bit in our ‘retired’ status anyway, but there’s something about being away from home, away from your normal routines… And something about announcing to yourself and the world that you are “on vacation.”

We took long walks, read, visited friends and family, went sailing a couple times, gained some weight on restaurant meals. Oh and we went to a wine tasting. That was fun!

picture of Kass and her husband

A selfie after the wine-tasting. We were very mellow. 🙂

And we watched a lot of gorgeous sunsets.

The sun is beginning to set.

 

 

 

 

 

 

sinking lower

 

 

Then we came home when we felt refreshed and, as Tom put it, “vacationed out.”

It was low key, but definitely a vacation from our ‘retired’ life. It was good.

How about you? What elements of vacations make you feel like you’ve truly been “on vacation”? Is seeing new sights a requirement?

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 (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.