Monthly Archives: September 2014

A Mystery Writer’s Revenge (on Second Thought…)

by Shannon Esposito and Guest Blogger, Sheila Webster Boneham

I first met Sheila when I found the Facebook group called Writers and Other Animals. First of all, the name cracked me up. Then I joined and found it a great little group for writers and readers who love animals. (Here’s the link if you want to check out the group.)

Boneham_portrait_AussieKiss_600wAlong with supporting her fellow mystery writers with this group and her personal blog, Sheila writes nonfiction books about dogs and cats and has three books out in her mystery series: Animals in Focus Mysteries. Busy lady!

Luckily for us, she found the time to stop by our place. Here are her thoughts on the mystery writer’s favorite form of revenge.

 ~~~~~~~~

Be nice to me or I’ll put you in my book is a popular saying among writers. Mystery writers often add “and kill you” to the end. After all, revenge, served hot or cold, is a powerful motive for murder and mayhem, in life and in fiction.

Taking revenge on the meanies in our lives can certainly be tempting, and more than one writer has done it. I have. At least I started to take revenge in writing, and in the process I learned a few things, or perhaps I remembered things I already knew.

mug with author's revenge saying on itLet me back up to my first mystery, Drop Dead on Recall, which begins at a canine obedience trial. When I started the book, I had just emerged from a very dark pit of online harassment by a nasty little group of people whose agenda still mystifies me. In retrospect, it was a tiny bump in life’s road, but at the time it was all-consuming. In the first draft of my book, a couple of the characters were remarkably similar to the harassers. I even had one of them kill the other one. Ha! Gotcha!

Then came the first revision, after a several-month hiatus from mysteries while I wrote a nonfiction book about dogs. It was good that I had a break from Drop Dead on Recall. When I came back to it, I found that the revenge impulse had weakened considerably. In fact, the characters were no longer very interesting to me, in real “online” life or in my book. So I merged them into a single character known only to me (and my husband, but he’ll never tell). I changed the nature of that character, and by doing so, I changed the book and, I think, myself.

By the final revision of the first book, even I barely remembered the original inspiration for the character in question. In The Money Bird, that character has made a few changes for the better, and as I wrote that second book, I understood that allowing a character I disliked at first to become less loathsome was useful not only to the series, but to me as a person. That character has continued to evolve in Catwalk and in my fourth book-in-progress.

Sheila's Aussie Jay jumping a high jump.

Jay would much rather play than seek revenge.

And I guess along the way my “get even” character has taught me a lesson, too (because our characters become very real as we write them). I’ve realized that letting go of the revenge-by-literary-murder impulse has served me well. Revenge takes time and energy, and icky people just don’t deserve that much of our lives. I still have the urge at times, of course. Who doesn’t? But I’m working it.

Now when I see a t-shirt or mug with that “be nice to me” quote, I mentally attach a different ending. The best revenge, I think, is to forget those who harm us, but that’s never easy and may be impossible. Still, I rather like the ring of, “Be nice to me or I won’t put you in my book.” Or, with the character in my series in mind, maybe I’ll rewrite the saying to, “Be nice to me or I’ll change you in my book and make people like you—but they’ll never know it’s you!”

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject of revenge. (And no, I won’t tell you which character it is! You’ll have to read the books to figure it out.)

cover of CatwalkSheila’s newest book, Catwalk, is now available for preorder (due out 10/8/14 from Midnight Ink)

Animal photographer Janet MacPhail is training for her cat Leo’s first feline agility trial when she gets a frantic call about a “cat-napping.” When Janet and her Australian Shepherd Jay set out to track down the missing kitty, they quickly find themselves drawn into the volatile politics of feral cat colonies, endangered wetlands, and a belligerent big-shot land developer

Janet is crazy busy trying to keep up with her mom’s nursing-home romance, her own relationship with Tom and his Labrador Retriever Drake, and the upcoming agility trials with Jay and Leo. But when a body is discovered on the canine competition course, it stops the participants dead in their tracks—and sets Janet on the trail of a killer.

Posted by Sheila Webster Boneham. Sheila writes and plays with her animals at her home in North Carolina. She is the author of the Animals in Focus mysteries. Please visit her website’s Mysteries Page, and/or join her on Facebook or Twitter. Sheila also runs the Writers and Other Animals blog and Facebook group – for readers, writers, and animals of all kinds!

Autographed copies of Drop Dead on Recall, The Money Bird, and Sheila’s nonfiction books, including Rescue Matters, are available from Pomegranate Books. Also available from your favorite bookseller (think Indie!) and online: Paperback and Kindle editions HERE and Audible editions HERE

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. 🙂 )

15 Things You Should Do (or Learn) By the Time You’re 62

by Kassandra Lamb

This was inspired by a Huffington Post blog post my daughter-in-law shared on Facebook recently, called 30 Things That Will (Probably) Happen in Your 30’s. I highly recommend it.

So having just turned 62, I thought I would share the things I think are most important to do in life. I figured 62 things would be a little much, so here are 15:

woman's bare legs with bikini on pier next to her

photo by Gisele Porcaro from Brasília Brasil CC-BY 2.0

1.  Go skinny-dipping, at least once.

Do it again if you enjoy it.

2.  Buy something expensive that you don’t need but you really want.

Enjoy it without guilt!

3.  Enjoy sex! (Enough said.)

4.  Love passionately at least once in your life, even if you get your heart broken!

5.  Learn not to listen to negative people or those who put you down–ignore them, walk away, tell them to f**k off, if you must. Do not hit them; they are not worth going to jail for.

6.  Hang on through the bad times; they will pass. Savor the good times; they will pass.

7.  Hug your children and tell them you love them every day; if you don’t have your own, hug somebody else’s kids at least once a month (with their permission so you don’t get arrested).

As a matter of fact, hug the adults in your life as often as possible. Hugs are the vitamin C of the heart.

Couple hugging on a beach

photo by Mark Sebastian CC BY SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

8.  Acknowledge that you are angry at your parents for some of the things they did or did not do when you were a kid. Get some therapy about that, or at the very least, yell at an empty chair pretending it is your mom or dad (or both) sitting there.

9. Don’t talk to them about it unless you really think it will make your relationship better in the here and now. DO talk to them about it if you DO think it will make things better.

Then, work on forgiving them. They did the best they could with the parenting skills they learned from their parents. You will probably do better, but your kids will be angry with you for something different.

10.  Take care of your body; indeed strive to love it. It’s the only one you’ll get. So do the best you can with what you’ve got and then don’t worry about how you look.

Artist painting in watercolors

A watercolor painter in Italy (photo by Dongio, public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

11.  Find a career doing something that will make you glad to get out of bed in the morning; if your job doesn’t do that for you, pursue your passion through an avocation.

Life is too short to not spend at least some of it doing something that thrills you!

woman's hands, knitting

photo by Johntex, CC-BY-2.5, Wikimedia Commons)

12.  Along those lines, be creative! Paint pictures, write stories or poetry, carve duck decoys, knit scarves for people who won’t wear them–you don’t have to be great at what you’re creating, but there is something about being creative that feeds our souls.

13.  Learn not to say anything if you don’t like the person your son or daughter is dating. After the break-up, stifle your own anger and be a good listener/counselor (this will become your role more and more with semi-grown and grown children).

If they marry the person you don’t like, definitely keep your mouth shut! If they marry a good person, tell your daughter/son-in-law how glad you are that they’re part of your family. Repeat some variation of this message at least once a year. (Are ya listenin’, Gina? 😀 )

friends holding hands

photo by Mathias Klang from Göteborg Sweden CC-BY 2.0 Wikimedia

14.  Cherish your friends. At the end of the day, you will count them amongst your greatest treasures.

15.  Laugh with them often, for laughter is a healing balm for the heart.

Anything you think should be added to the list?

Oh, by the way, I’ve just re-released the second book in my series (after some revisions to improve the writing; the story’s the same). So if you haven’t read this one yet, check it out. And it’s got a spiffy new cover!

ILL-TIMED ENTANGLEMENTS book coverILL-TIMED ENTANGLEMENTS, A Kate Huntington Mystery

No good deed goes unpunished! When Kate Huntington agrees to help Rob Franklin’s elderly aunt with a problem, the “problem” ends up dead and Kate ends up in the middle of a police investigation. Kate’s second adventure in this series has a cozy mystery flavor, and a budding romance to spice things up.

AMAZON      BARNES & NOBLE    KOBO    APPLE

And it will be available in paperback on Amazon very soon!

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. 🙂 )

The Blurry Line between Imagination and Reality

headshot of Susan Reissby Kassandra Lamb with guest blogger, Susan Reiss

I’m pleased to introduce today’s guest blogger, Susan Reiss. Susan writes mysteries set in St. Michaels, Maryland, an Eastern Shore harbor town near where my husband and I stay when we summer in Maryland. Her stories also feature antique silver pieces… but I’ll let her tell you about that. Take it away, Susan!

Resized stairway Susans post

 

“The vault is down the basement steps on the right.”

First line of a mystery novel?  No, it was the beginning of my adventure at the Talbot County Historical Society, where I discovered that the products of our imagination are sometimes more real than we imagined.

I love sterling silver pieces so much that they are the theme of my cozy mystery series set in St. Michaels in Talbot County, Maryland.

While doing research, I discovered that a London silversmith came to the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay in 1655 and bought an island that still carries his name. Instead of making silver pieces, Thomas Bruff became a real estate mogul, buying and selling land until he became a gentleman. In the local historical records, there was a whiff of a rumor that he made some silver pieces while here. His male heirs—nine of them—worked as silversmiths but only some of their pieces survive today.

For my new book, I “created” a silver spoon made by the original Bruff and placed it at the center of the mystery.

Imagine my surprise when the invitation arrived from the Talbot County Historical Society to visit their vault and see silver spoons made by the Bruff family, including one from the hand of Thomas Bruff, the patriarch of the family.

The society’s museum is under renovation so it was down the steps to the vault on the right… the vault that was the size of several huge living rooms! On a desk lay five small packages of white tissue and brown felt. After putting on clean cotton gloves supplied by the collections manager, the adventure of unwrapping the treasures began.

There was a large spoon made by a very busy Bruff descendant who ran an inn, operated a ferry and made silver pieces. It dates back to the early 18th Century and was an excellent example of a British desert spoon, about the size of our oval soup spoon. Maybe they didn’t want to miss a morsel!

picture of silver soup ladle

Soup ladle made in the Bruff family tradition

The manager found another package in a stray box and we unwrapped a gorgeous silver punch ladle, also a product of the Bruff tradition.

Another spoon was made by the rogue of the family. His trail of silver pieces goes from one Eastern Shore town to another, then across the Bay to Baltimore, then New York and finally to Nova Scotia, always one step ahead of the law.

The last package on the desk, smaller than the others, held the treasure I’d come to see–the spoon made of coin silver and attributed to the original Thomas Bruff. I thought the manager was going to faint when I mentioned the value was probably four to five figures because there are so few in existence.

silver spoon

English teaspoon made by Thomas Bruff in the 1600’s.

Why so valuable? Because coin silver was a similar grade to that used in British money and the pieces were often melted down for their monetary value at the expense of the craftsmanship. The same thing is happening today with the price of silver so high.

The society’s inventory labeled the piece a teaspoon, but the conservator mused that it must be a tiny serving spoon, for jelly perhaps. Gently, I disagreed.

delicate china teacupThe English always preferred to drink their tea from a cup.  The spoon was meant to rest on the saucer after stirring. If you’ve ever tried to place a teaspoon by a cup, you know it’s hard to get it to stay put. That’s because our American teaspoons are large and clunky in comparison to the original English design that nestles nicely in the space on the saucer.

As I held the spoon, I thought back to the time I sat at my desk and “made up” the story about a spoon made by Thomas Bruff. Not a product of my imagination, it was real. This was a spoon made by a man who braved the Atlantic Ocean and established his family just a couple miles from where I wrote my story. The spoon had escaped the great-melt-down-for-cash and survived more than 340 years of use and storage to come to rest in a dusty basement vault … and in a mystery book.

Have you every made something up, only to discover it was real? Has your family silver survived, or did it get melted down somewhere along the way by ancestors desperate for cash?

Posted by Susan Reiss. Trained as a concert pianist, Susan spent many years as a television writer/producer.  She now lives in St. Michaels with her black Lab, Cody who is remarkably like Simon, the puppy in her series. The Bruff silver is at the center of her latest book, Painted Silver. The other books in the series, Tarnished Silver and Sacred Silver are also available on Amazon. Check out her website for more more about silver and Susan.

Painted Silver book cover

 

Painted Silver, by Susan Reiss:

Accidental sleuth Abby Strickland goes to the Plein Air Art Festival where gifted artists compete for big prizes and fame, and elite art collectors eagerly search for their next acquisitions.  Tension between rivals runs high as all are drawn into a web of creative envy, greed… and murder.  And, for Abby, love is in the air.  It’s a charming summer event… until somebody screams!

 

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. 🙂 )

Where Were You When? Flashbulb Memories

by Kassandra Lamb

I’m over at Jen Jensen’s blog today talking about our memories of dramatic world events and how they become entwined in our memories of our personal history. Between the recent release of her children’s time travel book and this week being the anniversary of 9/11, I’ve had the subject of history on my mind lately.

We read about history, write about history, hear about it and sometimes even see it in the making on TV. But what happens when historical events become entwined with our own personal histories in our memory banks?

New York skyline with the beams of light memorializing the Twin Towers

photo by Ekabhishek CC BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

This often happens when an event is particularly shocking, tragic and/or strikes close to home for us emotionally. Our brains will record what’s called a flashbulb memory. We will remember, years later, where we were and what we were doing (and sometimes even what we were wearing) when we heard the news of such events.

My first flashbulb memory is from the day President Kennedy was assassinated. (Yes, I am that old.)   Read more…

Zero Hero coverZERO HERO , A Kate Huntington Mystery

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11 the media replays the videos of that day’s devastation, and a national hero’s life begins to unravel.

When the first responder–already struggling with delayed PTSD and addiction–is accused of murdering his former drug dealer, psychotherapist Kate Huntington finds herself going above and beyond to help him. As she and her P.I. husband set out to clear him of the charges, they are thrust into a deadly world of drugs, prostitutes and hired killers, and end up questioning who they are and what it means to be brave.

 

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. 🙂 )

Yes, We HAVE Come A Long Way, Baby

by Kassandra Lamb

Do you know why this date, September 4th, is special this year?

There are two things that make it special. One, it is World Sexual Health Day, North America. And to celebrate, the WSHD organization is sponsoring a writing contest. This blog post is an entry in that contest.

World Sexual Health Day logoThe other thing that makes Sept 4th special this year is that it is my 62nd birthday.

cake icon

by eyehook.com CC BY 2.5, wiki

(Woot, gettin’ me some Social Security!)

I grew up in the bad old days when boys and young men were allowed, encouraged even, to “sow their wild oats,” while “nice girls” were expected to remain chaste until marriage.

Masturbation was a dirty word, and a mortal sin. Kids were told that their hands would fall off and they would rot in hell for all eternity if they touched themselves “that way.” And an old myth that teenaged acne was caused by masturbation was still believed by some members of the older generation.

I had horrible acne and would occasionally get very strange looks from people over fifty.

It was pre-Roe vs. Wade and if you were underage, birth control–other than condoms–could only be obtained with parental permission, and often only from Planned Parenthood. Some doctors wouldn’t provide birth control, or even information about it, to any single woman, of any age.

engraving of woman and baby in snowstorm

English engraving, 1804
(but this still happened in 1964)

If you “got in trouble,” and your father didn’t toss you out of the house, there were only two acceptable alternatives. Either you “had to get married” or you were shipped off to a distant relative’s house or to a home for unwed mothers until the baby was born. Then, of course, you put it up for adoption.

“Nice girls” were not supposed to keep their “illegitimate” babies. It just wasn’t done. The few who bucked this often ended up regretting that decision, and resenting the child. The unwed mother was doomed to a life of low paying jobs, no marriage and a lot of whispering behind her back.

In the early years of my psychotherapy practice (the 1980’s), I worked with a lot of women a decade or two older than myself who were struggling to keep loveless marriages intact. They would sheepishly admit to me that they “had to get married” because their oldest child was conceived out of wedlock.

I also worked with some women who had felt they’d had no other choice but to give up their babies for adoption. Thirty, forty years later, they were still grieving for those children, still wondering where they were and what had happened to them. In some cases, they didn’t even know the gender of the child because they had been discouraged from seeing the baby, or from talking about the whole “ordeal” ever again.

A few of my clients had been pressured by boyfriends or parents into having illegal abortions. Their grief, and guilt, were harder to witness.

No, we aren’t yet in an ideal place regarding sexuality–there are still quite a few vestiges of unhealthy attitudes lingering in North America. And there are some who would like to take us back to the “good old days.”

But in many ways, we have indeed come a long, long way.

Today we have The Pill, a mother keeping her born-out-of-wedlock child doesn’t even merit an eye blink, and cohabitation is considered a respectable preamble, or even alternative, to marriage by a significant portion of the population.

And we have the illustrious #Girlboner blogger and radio host, August McLaughlin, giving women tips for “solo sex” and telling us that orgasms are good for our health–physical and mental, as well as sexual. (And she’s hosting World Sexual Health Day, North America!)

Who’d a thunk it?

It gets frustrating sometimes when we encounter old attitudes, and especially when we run up against those determined to take us backward.

grandmother and me at a table

My grandmother and me, 1963
(and yes, I was a dorky kid)

But if you had told my grandmother there would someday be a World Sexual Health Day, she would have gone to the doctor to get the wax removed from her ears, because she would have been sure that she had misheard you.

Today, her granddaughter–now with grandchildren of my own–is proud to celebrate such a day!

Do you think we’ve come a long way? What else still needs to change? Talk to me in the comments. I love hearing from you.

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. 🙂 )

5 Positives of Getting Old–A Fun Look at the Joys of Aging

by Kassandra Lamb

You know you are truly old when you apply for Social Security. Yup, I recently signed up for what my grandmother called her “old age pension.”

When I taught Developmental Psychology, I was amazed at how my young college students didn’t want to hear about the positives of aging. They moaned and uttered “Eww!!” loudly whenever I mentioned a negative and seemed to tune out the positives. Or sometimes, to my astonishment, they groaned at the positives!

So here are some of those positives (a bit tongue-in-cheek), for the folks over forty, who haven’t clicked over to another blog by now:

1. Retirement: You get paid for not working. How cool is that!

couple on beach

photo by Hector Alejandro CC BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

And you pretty much get to do whatever you want. The best description of retirement came from a friend of ours. He said, “Every day is Saturday. It’s not that you don’t have things to do, but if you don’t feel like doing them today, there’s always tomorrow.”

Don’t feel like doing the laundry or grocery shopping? Unless you’re totally out of food or clean undies, you don’t have to do that today! (Or just turn your undies inside out; see #5)

2. Looking Good “For Your Age”: To a large extent, the pressure is off to look great. As long as you look better than most people your age, you’re doing fine.

very old, ery ugly couple--public domain

You look better than these two?  You are good to go!

And the older you get, the easier this is. Cuz there are more and more people who look worse than you do!

So, you want to lose a little weight? Don’t even aim for what you weighed in your younger years. Once you’re skinnier than most of your friends, you can go back to eating dessert.

3. Oily Skin Finally Pays Off: Look, Ma, no wrinkles! Now if I could just get rid of that crepey skin on my neck.

Of course this is only a positive if you have oily skin, but hey, I had to put up with really bad acne as a kid, so I deserve some bennies now from all that oil.

If you don’t have oily skin, my condolences (while I secretly gloat because I probably look better than you. 😉 )

4. Getting Out of Stuff You Don’t Want to Do: Those bad knees, poor eyesight, lousy sense of balance can have a great pay-off. You can get your grown kids to do all sorts of stuff for you. Or if you have the resources, pay somebody to clean the gutters and do other chores you once did yourself. And without guilt! After all, you’re old. You can’t *cough* won’t *cough* do those things anymore.

In other words you have the perfect excuse to pick and choose where you exert yourself and where you don’t. Indeed, research has found that doing this tends to make for healthier aging, both physically and mentally. The fancy term for it is Selective Optimization with Compensation. You select what is important to you and focus your energy and physical/mental strength on those things. Then you compensate in other areas with other resources.

Years ago, I called my mother to chat. She said, “I can’t talk long. Don (my stepfather) and I are going to the gym soon.” We chit-chatted for a few minutes, then she said, “Hold on. My cleaning lady is finished. I need to write her a check.” I cracked up at the irony of it. She was paying someone to clean for her, so she could go to the gym and work out!

very old couple in tie-dye hippie clothes

Hmm… (photo by Idran CC BY 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

But she was right to do that. She was saving her energy for what was important to her.

5. Not Caring What Other People Think: Of course, it is better, mental-health wise, to achieve this mindset earlier in life. But even if you haven’t let others dictate your feelings about yourself for years, there’s a whole ’nother layer to this when you’re old.

I’m not sure I can find words to explain it. You truly Do. Not. Give. A. Sh*t. It’s not that you’re arrogant, but you let go of any residual worrying about others’ opinions.

You’ve learned that life is too short to let other people live it for you!

How do you feel about aging? Do you think these positives outweigh the negatives?

(P.S. Stop back this Thursday, Sept. 4th–my birthday–for a 2nd post this week; a World Sexual Health Day contest post looking at how sexuality and out-of-wedlock pregnancy were handled in the bad old days.)

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. 🙂 )