Monthly Archives: June 2015

What’s Your Favorite Holiday?

by Kassandra Lamb

Independence Day has always been my second favorite holiday, Christmas being the first. But now I think July 4th is edging toward first place.

1000px-United_States_flag_waving_icon pub domain.svgWhen I was a kid, we went to a big cookout at the house of my parents’ friends, the Chucklers (not their real name; honestly anyone named that should pay to have it legally changed). I’m calling them that because they were cheerful people and we always had a lot of fun there. My brother and I would romp around with their kids in the woods by their house.

Then when we’d worked up a good appetite, we’d see who could run the fastest to get back to where the food was laid out. The centerpiece of the meal was a huge pot of homemade Maryland crab soup. I can close my eyes and taste the tomato and Old Bay on my tongue. Indeed, Mrs. Chuckler’s crab soup spoiled me for anybody else’s.

bbottle of Old Bay seasoning

The not-so-secret ingredient in Maryland Crab Soup! (photo by Beeblebrox, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

As dusk settled around us, we’d pile into cars and drive a few miles to a huge field where the local volunteer fire company put on a fireworks display that is the best I’ve ever seen, bar none! The finale was always a picture in the sky, made up of fireworks. One year it was an American flag. Another it was the face of George Washington. I kid you not! I have no clue how they could be so precise with the fireworks to make that happen.

I think that our favorite holidays are influenced by our memories of those times in the past. Christmas has many fine memories attached to it as well, but it hasn’t been the same since my mother passed away. But those memories of July 4th remain unsullied. Thus the rising of that day in the ranks of my favorite holidays.

This year, we’ll be on our annual trek to Maryland/Pennsylvania to visit family and friends. Our home base is in Rock Hall, Maryland, which has the second best fireworks ever. The house we’re renting is just a few blocks from the harbor, and my brother is staying with us the first week of July.

So we’ll stroll down to the harbor early, with our picnic dinner and a bottle of wine, and nab a prime spot by the water. After a leisurely picnic, we’ll people-watch until time for the fireworks. And although we won’t be having Maryland crab soup for dinner, the evening will still be spiced with those memories from childhood of good times spent with family and friends celebrating the birth of our country.

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

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

How about you? What’s your favorite holiday? Does it have pleasant memories attached to it?

(Note: our blog will be on summer hiatus for the month of July. See you in August!)

Oh, and don’t forget to grab a copy of Vinnie Hansen’s updated edition of One Tough Cookie, the second in her Carol Sabala series and newly re-released under the misterio press imprint.

One Tough Cookie, A Carol Sabala Mystery

OneToughCookieCarol Sabala’s boss sends the baker and amateur sleuth on a mission: find out who tampered with a teacher’s cookie dough and sickened the faculty. While Carol hones her investigative skills by gathering clues on the campus, a student is found dead on the high school’s stage. Did she fall? Commit suicide? Or did a killer hurl her from the catwalk?

When Carol seeks answers, a ruthless stalker comes after her!

Now Available on AMAZON and SMASHWORDS

 

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. 🙂 )

Setting Dilemma (plus a New Release)

by Vinnie Hansen

Sue Grafton and Marcia Muller were my gateway drugs into mystery addiction. I had a slight preference for Grafton’s series except for one aspect. Sue Grafton set her stories in Santa Teresa, a thinly disguised Santa Barbara, while Marcia Muller, at least initially, set her tales of murder and mayhem in a real San Francisco.

When I started the two series, I lived in San Francisco, and Muller’s PI, Sharon McCone, resided on the street parallel to the house I rented with friends. I loved to imagine her backyard abutted mine. When I looked out my upstairs bedroom window, I viewed Bernal Heights and adored the idea that McCone worked in a law office right over there.

Bernal Heights (photo by Timothy Vollmer, CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Coomons)

Bernal Heights in San Francisco (photo by Timothy Vollmer, CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

I couldn’t understand why Grafton had relinquished this charm. Everyone figured out Santa Teresa was Santa Barbara anyway.

So when I began my own mystery series, I decided to place it in a real Santa Cruz, which had definite appeal to my local fans. People have purchased my books simply because particular haunts were mentioned.

However, I created a fictional restaurant for my protagonist Carol Sabala’s work place, and site of the first murder in the series. I also made Carol different from myself, taller, younger, half Mexican-American, and a California native with a small family. Carol was a baker with PI ambitions, while I was a teacher.

In One Tough Cookie, my second mystery, I didn’t want another person to die at the restaurant, so I transported Carol to Watsonville High School, my actual place of employment. Since this was a public institution rather than a private business, I decided not to give it a fictitious name. With twenty-twenty hindsight, I would never recommend this choice to anyone!

Vinnie posing on the Watsonville High School sign

A younger me at Watsonville High

Even though the characters were fictional, at minimum amalgams of many people, my colleagues identified them as this person or that. This tendency of theirs filled me with anxiety since many of the characters behaved badly.

Of course, local readers probably would have formed these opinions even if I’d given the high school a different name. Since I worked at Watsonville High, they would have ID’d any school as Watsonville High just as everyone knows Santa Teresa is Santa Barbara. And they would have speculated on which characters represented which colleagues, just as readers who know me imagine Carol Sabala as me, even with her long hair and questionable actions.

That’s why, with the rewrite and re-release of One Tough Cookie, I decided not to give Watsonville High School a fictitious name. Also, I’ve been retired for five years now, and a fresh team of educators occupies the school. I don’t think readers will make the same associations they did before. (At least I hope they don’t.)

And the real location may work some magic, the way Muller’s San Francisco captivated me.

Readers, do you enjoy stories set in real places you’re familiar with, in which you can recognize streets and favorite haunts? Writers, how do you feel about using real vs. fictitious settings in your stories?

Drum roll, please!! Here is the new release (under the misterio press imprint) of…

One Tough Cookie, A Carol Sabala Mystery

OneToughCookie
Carol Sabala’s boss sends the baker and amateur sleuth on a mission: find out who tampered with a teacher’s cookie dough and sickened the faculty. While Carol hones her investigative skills by gathering clues on the campus, a student is found dead on the high school’s stage. Did she fall? Commit suicide? Or did a killer hurl her from the catwalk?

When Carol seeks answers, a ruthless stalker comes after her!

Now Available on AMAZON and SMASHWORDS

 

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie fled the South Dakota prairie for the California coast the day after graduating high school. She is the author of the Carol Sabala mysteries and was a Claymore Award finalist for Black Beans & Venom, the seventh and latest installment in that series. She’s also written many published short stories. Retired after 27 years of teaching English at Watsonville High School, Vinnie lives in Santa Cruz with her husband, abstract artist Daniel S. Friedman.

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. 🙂 )

9 Common Errors Authors Make about Psychological Disorders

photo by cellar door films, from WANA Commons

photo by cellar door films, from WANA Commons

by Kassandra Lamb

Do you get as frustrated as I do when you read something in a novel or short story that you know is just plain wrong?

Today I’m over at Jami Gold’s cyber-home, talking about some common mistakes authors make about psychology. Come on over and check it out!

 

9 Common Errors Authors Make about Psychological Disorders

As a retired psychotherapist, I cringe sometimes when I read inaccurate references to psychological phenomena in fiction. But as an author, I know how hard it is to get every detail right. We can’t all be experts in every field, and I’ve certainly made some cringe-worthy errors in areas outside my own expertise.

Today, I want to correct several misconceptions about psychology and psychological disorders that I’ve seen misrepresented in fiction.

One: Schizophrenia and multiple personalities are NOT the same disorder.

This common mistake is understandable because this misconception is widespread in our society…READ MORE

 

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. 🙂 )

Columbo, a master of mystery

by K.B. Owen

We Misterio Press authors like to gather our inspiration from all sorts of places, one of them being the wonderful detective characters that have come before. Here’s one of my favorite:

Columbo

Publicity photo 1973, Margie Korshak Associates. Wikimedia Commons.

Publicity photo 1973, Margie Korshak Associates. Wikimedia Commons.

Continue reading

Are You a Compulsive Finisher or a Chronic NonFinisher?

by Kassandra Lamb

Are you an 80 percenter, otherwise known as a chronic nonfinisher? Do you have trouble finishing what you start? Do you get about 80% of the way to your goals and then stall out?

Or are you like me, someone who has a strong compulsion to finish things–to the point of being borderline neurotic? It drives me crazy to have something started but not finished (although I’m better than I used to be).

I’ve had this topic on my mind lately, ever since my brother and I finally finished the task of painting the outside of my house. He and I are both compulsive finishers, which was a very good thing in this case. The house painting project turned out to be way bigger than we thought it would be. It took several months of working on it two to three days a week until it was all done.

My brother in front of the house the day we finished!

My brother in front of the house the day we finished!

Most people would have compromised a little when they realized how big the task really was. Maybe they wouldn’t have painted all the trim, only that which was in the worst shape.

Not us! We’d paint something, decide the area next to it (that was deemed just fine a few minutes before) now looked funky next to the fresh paint, so we’d paint that too. (Did I mention that we tend to be a tad perfectionistic too?)

A nonfinisher would still have two unpainted walls a couple of years later. 🙂

So what makes people one or the other?

Bluma Zeigarnik (photo from http://www.feministvoices.com/bluma-zeigarnik/)

Dr. Bluma Zeigarnik (photo from http://www.feministvoices.com/bluma-zeigarnik/)

A Lithuanian cognitive psychologist, Bluma Zeigarnik, discovered that while a task remains incomplete, it stays on our minds, the memory of what is done and undone taking up a certain amount of space in our awareness. Once a task is complete, the details slip out of our memories, no longer cluttering our brains.

Later psychologists researched this Zeigarnik Effect and found it to be valid. One study discovered that it seems to be tied to our level of achievement motivation. How important is it to you to achieve things? How strong is your sense of accomplishment when you get a task done?

I get a pretty strong sense of accomplishment when I complete even the most mundane of tasks. Even cleaning the house (which I hate) gives me a warm glow when it’s done.

But which came first, the chicken or the egg? Do I have a strong achievement motivation, which drives me to complete things so I can feel that sense of accomplishment? Or do I have a compulsion to complete things, which drives my achievement motivation?

Hubs grilled steaks for us to celebrate finishing. Behind us is the last section we painted.

My bro and I enjoying the afterglow! Hubs grilled steaks for us to celebrate finishing. Behind us is the last section we painted.

I do know that I sometimes procrastinate about starting tasks, because I know I won’t be able to rest until they’re done. (Bookkeeping and filing paperwork come to mind. 😀 )

Do nonfinishers lack achievement motivation? That seems a little harsh. Or do they just get distracted easily and don’t have the compulsion to get it done?

Are nonfinishers more likely to be random thinkers? I know my brother and I are both hardcore sequential thinkers. Does this fuel our desire to get the next step done, and the next and the next? (See my post of a couple weeks ago for more on random vs. sequential thinking.)

But my husband is very random, and he’s not a a nonfinisher. He’s not compulsive about finishing things like I am, but he gets the job done.

One theory that has been proposed to explain chronic nonfinishers is that they are using this as a defense mechanism to avoid dealing with other aspects of their lives.

By keeping their minds cluttered with all those unfinished tasks, there’s no room to think about what they should be doing next (which requires making decisions–something some people dread). Or they might be distracting themselves from their fears that they won’t be able to fulfill their dreams or avoiding some other unpleasant reality in their current lives (like a bad marriage).

I’m not sure this theory explains all nonfinishers, but it does resonate in my mind to explain a couple of the nonfinishers whom I know personally. As uncomfortable as it is to have their minds constantly cluttered with so much unfinished stuff, they’d be even more anxious if they had to decide what to do next with their lives.

But these same nonfinishers I’m thinking of are not very happy people. Juggling all those tasks is stressful; it takes up a lot of emotional and mental energy. And it keeps them from moving forward toward their goals in life (which again may be the point; they’re afraid to tackle those goals head-on.)

I think for other nonfinishers, this is more a habit. It’s a variation of procrastination perhaps. But like procrastination, it increases the stress of getting things done.

Psychologist, Will Joel Friedman, Ph.D. offers this advice for nonfinishers:

 Notice what is incomplete, unfinished or unresolved in your life, and write it down to make it more concrete and real for you. You might even assign an emotional or energy weight to each item in terms of pounds. It is amazing how many hundreds of extra emotional pounds we are carrying around all the time! How wonderfully liberating it is to consciously choose to lose this excess baggage, and travel lighter.

I love this idea!!

On my extreme end of the continuum, I’ve worked on letting go a bit of the need to finish everything. This compulsion of mine was just as debilitating as nonfinishing in terms of enjoying life. I was always striving to get everything on my to-do list done, and then, I told myself, I would be able to relax and actually live my life.

Ha, that list never gets completely done!

So I’ve learned to do a mental to-do list for today only. These are the things I want to accomplish today. And when they are done, I’m done for the day! I’ve also gotten a lot better at giving myself permission to slide something from today’s list to tomorrow’s if it looks like I’m not going to finish.

How about you? Are you a compulsive finisher or a chronic nonfinisher, or somewhere in between?

And now I’m off to finish a couple of tasks I started yesterday and ran out of steam before they were done. 😀

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. 🙂 )