Author Archives: Kassandra Lamb

Not One But Two Contests!

Hi, Folks!

As we’ve mentioned before, we’re only doing true blog posts every couple of weeks now (so we can spend more time writing new books for your reading pleasure) but I promised to keep an eye out for fun and/or interesting stuff to share with you on the “off” weeks.

This week, our own K.B. Owen has TWO contests going, one for free audio books and one for ebooks, paperbacks and more! Click HERE to check them out, plus a fun post about researching the 19th century.

Cozy Winter Audiobooks Giveaway #1

January 16th-Feb 3rd

Nine (9) winners will receive all three (3) audiobooks from the Concordia Wells mystery series: Dangerous and Unseemly (book 1), Unseemly Pursuits (book 2), and Unseemly Ambition (book 3).

One (1) winner will receive all three (3) audiobooks, plus a set of wine charms, customized with the first three audiobook covers and the K.B. Owen Mysteries logo. Aren’t they cute?

Cozy Winter Book Giveaway #2

January 16th-Feb 3rd

Five (5) winners will receive their choice of any ebook from the Concordia Wells mystery series, out of the six books so far.

Five (5) winners will receive their choice of any paperback from the Concordia Wells mystery series. I’ll inscribe it to whomever you designate! I’ll throw in a lip balm, too, if you like. *wink*

**P.S. – I’m running separate contests because not everyone is set up to listen to audiobooks, so it seemed best to target that audience separately. But feel free to enter both! ~ KBO

Jump on over to K.B.’s blog to enter!

Bloodstains with Bronte cover

And next week, we have a special treat for you. Our first crime fiction writer interview so you can check out some new authors!

If you like the classics and also a good mystery, then you’ll love Katherine Bolger Hyde. She’s figured out how to combine the two!

See ya next week!

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, 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. 🙂 )

To Resolve, Or Not To Resolve

by Kassandra Lamb

image of fireworks and 2018

image by Pixabay, CC0 (public domain) Wikimedia Commons

The end of a year and the beginning of a new one is a natural time to review what has come before and look ahead to how one may want to do things differently in the future.

I took an informal survey of some of my friends and fellow authors to see how folks felt about New Year’s resolutions these days. A few still make resolutions, while most said they prefer the term “goals.”

But even here the approach varied, from meticulously planning out the year complete with deadlines for each goal to only making relatively short-term goals. Motivations for the latter approach ranged from wanting to remain flexible to feeling that loftier, long-term goals would be too intimidating.

One person said if the goals were too big and she wasn’t making sufficient progress toward achieving them, then she would be tempted to throw in the towel and not even try anymore. But if she keeps the goals smaller and more short-term, then she can feel a sense of achievement as each is accomplished, which then motivates her to keep pushing toward the next goal.

I totally get that approach and it will help preserve one’s mental health. That’s pretty much how I handle concrete goals like “I will finish this current story by the end of January.”

But I also tend to make more general resolutions that are about how I want my life to go in the next year.

The last couple of years, my resolutions have been about finding a better balance between my writing business and my life. The business had become all consuming for a little while there and I needed to do some serious stepping back.

This past year, the balance has been better, but when I wasn’t “working,” whether that was writing or doing other business tasks, I was rather bored, at loose ends about what to do with my down time. I got back into reading more again and watching some of my favorite TV shows (it’s fun to binge on your faves now with Netflix and such). But those were still solitary activities.

beginning a list of resolutions

So this year’s resolution is to have more fun, and to especially have more fun with other people. I’m going to check out some local classes and such.

I also asked folks if they got upset with themselves if they didn’t meet their goals/resolutions. Some did, but most said they just regroup and try again.

And one person very wisely pointed out that when she doesn’t meet a goal, she stops to ask herself if she really wants to meet it. Has it failed to happen because it isn’t truly what she desires or needs in her life right now?

Very good questions! All too often we stick with a goal, even when maybe it’s not right for us, because letting it go feels like quitting. But letting it go is sometimes exactly what we need to do.

My favorite response, however, to the question about getting upset with oneself was one woman’s comment:  “I’m too old to get worked up about that.” Amen, sister!

If age has taught me anything, it’s that life is too important to be taken seriously. And I’ve found that beating up on myself is one of the least productive things I can do.

I too tend to ask if the unachieved goal is truly relevant, and if I decide it is, then I adjust my approach and/or the time line. Sometimes the task was bigger than I thought it would be and is taking longer. Sometimes it needs to be broken down into more manageable sub-goals.

I think the best approach to resolutions was one person’s combination of resolutions and goals. She said she tries to have an overarching theme for the year, expressed in a few words, and then she makes short-term goals that are more concrete.

So my few words would be “Have more fun!” And the concrete goals to make that a reality will be to:

  • Streamline promotions and hire more of that work out to other people.
  • Spend more of my working time actually writing rather than doing other tasks.
  • Find some interesting/fun things to do that get me out of the house and allow me to interact more with people.

How about you? Do you make resolutions, set goals, or avoid both? Oh, and by the way. . .

world with Happy New Year

Image by Helgi Halldórsson from Reykjavík, Iceland CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

A Reminder: we are officially posting every other week in 2018, although we may share some other interesting tidbits in the off weeks. And next time, on January 30th, we will be starting a special series of interviews to introduce you all to other mystery writers. (Interviews will be posted about once every 4-6 weeks.)

So please stay tuned!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, 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. 🙂 )

Shannon’s Unrest Story and 2018 Changes on the Blog

Happy New Year, Everyone!

In order to spend more time writing great stories for you all, we’ve decided to cut back a bit on our blogging schedule in 2018. We will be posting every other week, unless something particularly interesting or cool comes up during the “off” weeks.

This week’s interesting thing is this post by misterio press co-founder Shannon Esposito on her own blog:

My Unrest Story

by Shannon Esposito

I just watched this documentary UNREST by Jennifer Brea, about her life after she was struck down with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. It’s a powerful film and I hope it succeeds in getting the medical community to take this illness, which affects millions of people, seriously.

I am one of the people affected, though I rarely talk about it. I don’t talk about it because I don’t want this illness to define my life. But that’s not the only reason. I don’t talk about it because a lot of people don’t believe it’s a real illness, even people in the medical community. Everyone gets tired, right? And I get it. Unless you are going through it or watching a loved one go through it, it’s hard to imagine the kind of debilitating fatigue where breathing is all you can do, for weeks, months or even years, depending on how severe your case is.

But what I’ve realized watching this movie is staying silent is the worst thing I can do. The push to get this illness taken seriously, and get the research funded to find a cure, needs every voice it can get. So, I am speaking up…READ MORE

 

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, 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. 🙂 )

Doggie Doings Over Christmas Break

by Kassandra Lamb

Our blog is officially on hiatus over the holidays, but I thought I’d divert you to a fun post on my site about a dog’s view of the world. Plus below are some YouTube renditions of some of my fave Christmas songs, to keep you humming your way through the holiday season!

A Dog’s Dictionary to Describe the World

I took my dog for a walk the other day. And as I was dragging him away from his fascination with a crumpled leaf in the road, I thought about how the world must seem to our dogs.

As we walked around the neighborhood, this “dictionary” of doggie views of the world came to me.

1.  Those brown, crunchie things all over the ground (dried leaves) – definition: something that might taste good.

2.  Those tall green thingies (bushes) – definition: my favorite place to pee.

3.  Those gray clumps of stringy thingies (Spanish moss that has fallen from trees) – definition: my second favorite place to pee.

4.  That delicious-smelling pile of gooey stuff that makes Mom yell “leave it!” (three-day-old roadkill) – definition: something that definitely will taste good… READ MORE

 

And those promised Christmas carols (some for fun, some more serious) …

 

Yes, I LOVE a cappella!

And my all-time favorite!

We are on hiatus until 1/2/2018!!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!!

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, 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 Tips for Surviving the Most Stressful Time of the Year (Plus New Releases!)

by Kassandra Lamb

I’m over at Barb Taub’s blog today giving some tips on surviving the holiday season…

Christmas: It’s the Most Stre-ess-ful Time of the Year!

I’ve got some new lyrics for this old classic!  See below and sing along.

It’s the most stre-ess-ful time of the year!
There’ll be much to and froing,
And tempers a blowing
When loved ones are near.
It’s the most stre-ess-ful time of the year.

It’s the crab-crabbiest season of all!
With the holiday shopping
and pushing and stomping
when crowds raid the stores.
It’s the crab-crabbiest season for sure.

There’ll be parties for hosting,
Uncle Joe’ll be boasting,
after he’s had enough beer.
There’ll be scary Aunt Glory
and Gramps telling stories
of how he shot the reindeer!

It’s the most stre-ess-ful time of the year!

Can you imagine Andy Williams singing that?!? 😀

Joking aside, this is indeed the most stressful time for anyone who celebrates Christmas. Some years I’m tempted to take up Buddhism.

I’ve learned the hard way, through the years, how to reduce the stress of the holiday season. Here are my top five tips!

1. Lists, Lists, Lists…

funny Santa meme

meme created on imgflip.com

Santa and his elves aren’t the only ones who should be making lists and checking them twice. There are three ways that lists can save your sanity.

First, ask your family members with whom you exchange gifts to make up a wish list. We’ve been doing this for years in our clan. It makes shopping so much easier. One is not bound by the list, but it’s there as guidance and a safety net, as needed and desired.

Second, make a list of the people you give gifts to and which gifts you plan to buy/have bought/have ordered, etc. for each person. No need to stress over whether or not … READ MORE

AND WE HAVE NEW BOOKS RELEASING THIS MONTH!!

My Christmas novella is now available for just $0.99

A Mayfair Christmas Carol book cover

A Mayfair Christmas Carol, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery Novella

A Christmas extravaganza in Mayfair, Florida, complete with an ice skating rink. What could go wrong?

When excavation for the skating rink uncovers a decades-old skeleton, its secrets threaten more than the town’s Christmas plans. Worried about her friends in her adopted town and feeling responsible since the let’s-attract-more-tourists idea was hers initially, dog trainer Marcia Banks is determined to help her police detective boyfriend solve the mystery—whether he wants her help or not. Perhaps she can wheedle more out of the townspeople than he can.

But will she and her Black Lab, Buddy, be able to keep the ghost of Christmas past from destroying what is left of Mayfair’s founding family, or will her meddling make matters worse?

AMAZON    NOOK    APPLE     KOBO

And K.B. Owen’s Concordia Wells Book #6, Unseemly Honeymoon, is coming out Dec 12th!!

Here’s the beautiful cover:

Kathy will be telling us more about it next week, so stay tuned!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist/college professor turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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. 🙂 )

An Attitude of Gratitude

by Kassandra Lamb

Thanksgiving is always a reminder that one should be grateful for one’s blessings.

paper turkey and gourds

I found this harder to do this year.

The last six months have been a rough time in my household. We seem to have been slammed with one stressor after another—some of them neutral, some of them bad, none of them all that good.

With all that has been going on, I’ve been way too near the edge of stress overload, and when I’m in that spot, I get depressed. Which doesn’t help one bit.

Well-meaning folks sometimes say, “Well, look at what others are dealing with? They have it much worse.” Sure one can usually find those whose life challenges are far worse than one’s own. But comparing one’s own pain to others is not mentally healthy, believe it or not.

For one thing, if you care about those people (such as the dear friend who was recently diagnosed with a terminal illness), that’s just more depressing stuff to think about.

Also, that makes you ashamed of feeling stressed and depressed. Then you try to bury those feelings. As I’ve mentioned before, buried feelings don’t go away. They just fester under the surface and can erupt somewhere else in a less than pleasant way.

Of course, applying strategies to lessen one’s stress in other areas is always a good idea. But in my case recently, even when the stress let up, I was still depressed.

I have two strategies that I find helpful when I get stuck in a negative mental state like this. One is to stop and count my blessings. Yes, this is a cliché, and it can also lead to shame and stifling the bad feelings if not done carefully.

When I do this, I don’t just focus on the blessings (which are all too easily taken for granted). I do a kind of counterbalance in my mind.

  • Yes, I have friends who are struggling with their health, and that brings home that I will be facing such major challenges in another decade or two. This means I should appreciate my own reasonably good health more and make sure I am living to the fullest during the remaining healthy years I have left.
  • Yes, money is tight right now due to unexpected expenses, but we have a good income and we’ll recover in a few months. I need to appreciate that good income more.
  • Yes, I lost my dog suddenly to cancer. But I now have a new four-legged buddy. He doesn’t replace the dog I lost in my heart, but he’s creating his own spot there. And again, I am grateful that I have the resources to give a shelter animal a new home.

You get the idea.

This process doesn’t eradicate the negative feelings, but it helps to put them in perspective. I don’t suddenly feel great because I have so many things to be thankful for, but I feel less depressed. And focusing on the resources I’ve been blessed with makes me more hopeful that this too shall pass. I will deal with the stressors and move on to better times.

Which brings me to my second strategy. When I am dealing with a major stressor, I ask myself at what point in the future will I have most likely already dealt with it and put it behind me. A month, six months, a year?

Then I keep telling myself this reminder: In a month (six months, a year), this will all just be a bad memory.

If need be, I remind myself of times in the past when I used this strategy, and indeed those stressors are now nothing but memories. If I can remember them at all.

When I first started teaching, I was a basketcase. I’d done public speaking before and wasn’t all that nervous, but facing students was a different matter. They don’t always give much away. They sit there and stare at you (if you’re lucky; sometimes they fall asleep). You don’t know if they are finding your words of wisdom fascinating or boring as all get out.

I gave myself two years that time. “In two years, I’ll be comfortable in front of the classroom and this will all be a bad memory.”

It didn’t take that long. By my third semester I was comfortable, and now years later, I can’t even really remember the anxiety I felt at the time. I just remember thinking, that first semester, that surely I would have an embarrassing accident in front of the classroom (involving bodily fluids) before the semester ended.

And having written this blog post, I now feel better. Not great, but better.

How about you? What strategies do you use to get unstuck from a negative mindset?

One thing I am definitely grateful for is the gift of my talent.

My Christmas novella is now available for preorder … Just $0.99

A Mayfair Christmas Carol book cover

A Mayfair Christmas Carol, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery Novella

A Christmas extravaganza in Mayfair, Florida, complete with an ice skating rink. What could go wrong?

When excavation for the skating rink uncovers a decades-old skeleton, its secrets threaten more than the town’s Christmas plans. Worried about her friends in her adopted town and feeling responsible since the let’s-attract-more-tourists idea was hers initially, dog trainer Marcia Banks is determined to help her police detective boyfriend solve the mystery—whether he wants her help or not. Perhaps href=”http://misteriopress.com/books/to-kill-a-labrador-a-marcia-banks-and-buddy-she can wheedle more out of the townspeople than he can.

But will she and her Black Lab, Buddy, be able to keep the ghost of Christmas past from destroying what is left of Mayfair’s founding family, or will her meddling make matters worse?

AMAZON    NOOK    APPLE    KOBO

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist/college professor turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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. 🙂 )

“Working Through” Instead of Pushing Past the Past

by Kassandra Lamb

row of flagsBelieve it or not, this is a Veterans’ Day post. I’ll get back to that.

As is the case with everything from clothing to baby names to the size of one’s car, mental health is affected by trends in our society. During most of my career as a psychotherapist, the trend was to explore one’s past for explanations of one’s neuroses, so that one could heal whatever trauma lurked back there and then move on. (Key words: Move On!)

This trend was fortunate for me, since I discovered that I had a real talent for trauma recovery. It became my specialty, and I walked the path with hundreds of people, over the twenty years of my career, who’d been abused in a variety of ways as kids. I was honored to be a part of helping them heal and blossom into the people they were meant to be. As hard as it was to face the past, it was what they needed to do in order to truly “work through” that past, rather than ignoring it and have it continue to affect their behavior, moods, parenting, relationships, etc. And most of them came out the other end of the process far, far healthier and happier than they had ever been in their lives.

In my parents’ day, the WW II era, the trend was to “buck up” and push past the past. Best I can tell, this had been the attitude, off and on, for generations, until the more recent trend to go through one’s “recovery process.” As a result of this buck-up attitude, the damage done by trauma in people’s pasts continued to not only affect them but their children.

PTSD existed during WW II—it has always existed—but back then it was called shell shock or battle fatigue, and soldiers who suffered from it were at best pitied and at worst scorned as cowards. It wasn’t until the Vietnam War era that the concept of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder developed and new and better treatments were discovered.

WW II era submarine

My husband’s uncle was a Navy seaman in WW II, on a submarine in the Pacific. For decades, the only impact from that experience he would admit to was ringing in his ears, a residual symptom from all the depth charges that went off in the water around his sub. It wasn’t until his sixties that he started talking about his experiences during the war. It became obvious to my husband and myself that he had suffered from PTSD his entire life. But he’d never dealt with it. He didn’t have permission to deal with it. Instead he drank too much and smoked too much (even after he had emphysema) and took his anger at the world out on his sons.

At the time that I was a practicing therapist, I didn’t realize that the shift away from that buck-up attitude was just a trend. I thought our society had actually turned the corner and was beginning to understand what was involved in obtaining and maintaining good mental health.

In the 1990s, sadly, the pendulum swung back toward the old-fashioned attitudes (not all the way back, but dangerously close for a while). Exploring and working through the harmful mistakes one’s parents may have made so that one could forgive those parents for being human—and then most likely have a better relationship with them thereafter—became “parent bashing” and “whining about the past.” Those going through their recovery process were sometimes viewed as “looking for excuses” for their own behavior and choices. (Nothing could be further from the truth; the process, when done right, is all about taking responsibility for oneself and one’s life.)

The pendulum has now swung more toward the middle ground, but I still see or hear statements on social media, pretty much on a weekly basis, along the lines of “stop whining about the past” or “you are not your past, move on” or “stop blaming your parents” (I repeat, recovery from the past is not and never was about parent-bashing).

inside of submarine

Inside of a submarine (photo by by Eteil CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wkimedia Commons)

Once Uncle Pete opened the door to the past, a lot came pouring out. Fifty years later, he was finally talking about how terrified that nineteen-year-old seaman and his buddies were, as those depth charges exploded in the water around their submarine, how they feared that sub would become their coffin and perhaps their bodies would never be recovered from the depths of the sea.

Show me a combat veteran and I’ll show you a man or woman who has at least some psychological scar tissue (whether they admit it or not) due to what they have experienced protecting us and our country. One of the best ways we can honor our veterans is to continue to acknowledge what they have gone through emotionally, continue to give them permission to seek help so they can heal those wounds, and to continue to fight for and support funding for mental health services for them.

service dog

(DoD photo by EJ Hersom, CC-BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons))

If you see a veteran sweating and shaking in public from an anxiety attack, know that they came by those anxieties while fighting for your freedoms. Having never been in such a veteran’s shoes, I can’t tell you what would be most helpful to them right then, but turning away and denying that their internal wounds are real is definitely not helpful.

And if you see a healthy-looking woman or a big strapping man with no obvious physical disability being accompanied by a service dog, don’t make assumptions. You have no idea what they are dealing with inside.

Speaking of service dogs (and to lighten the mood!), I have a new novella coming out in the Marcia Banks and Buddy series, a Christmas story.

Here’s the cover! Isn’t it awesome?

A Mayfair Christmas Carol book cover

A Mayfair Christmas Carol, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Christmas Novella

A Christmas extravaganza in Mayfair, Florida, complete with an ice skating rink. What could go wrong?

When excavation for the skating rink uncovers a decades-old skeleton, its secrets threaten more than the town’s Christmas plans. Worried about her friends in her adopted town and feeling responsible since the let’s-attract-more-tourists idea was hers initially, dog trainer Marcia Banks is determined to help her police detective boyfriend solve the mystery—whether he wants her help or not. Perhaps she can wheedle more out of the townspeople than he can.

But will she and her Black Lab, Buddy, be able to keep the ghost of Christmas past from destroying what is left of Mayfair’s founding family, or will her meddling make matters worse?

A Mayfair Christmas Carol will be available for preorder on November 27th (Cyber Monday) and will be released on December 2nd. So stay tuned!

Your thoughts on the trends in mental health? Have you or someone you love ever been on the receiving end of the “buck”up” attitude?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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. 🙂 )

“Impostor Syndrome” and What To Do About It

by Kassandra Lamb

Today I’m guest posting over on Jami Gold’s site on the subject of Impostor Syndrome in writers. But there are nuggets of truth in the post for everyone on the topic of believing in the quality of one’s work, filtering feedback, and letting the good stuff in to bolster our self-esteem.

Why Writers Feel Like Impostors Sometimes (and What to Do About It)

“Impostor Syndrome”—it’s the bane of a writer’s existence. Am I really a writer? Am I really any good at this writing thing?

Even after we’ve produced several books and they’re selling, we may still encounter those moments of fear—Am I a fraud? Have I just fooled everyone?

Why is writing (or any creative endeavor) so prone to impostor syndrome?

1.  “Good” is subjective. No matter how great our talent, some people will love our work, and some will hate it. (Just look at the bad reviews on many of the classics.)

2.  We are too close to our work to judge it accurately.

3.  We feel things more intensely than others might. That’s what fuels our creativity, and also our self-doubt.

4.  Our stories, poems, etc. are our children. Criticism of them is a knife in the heart.

5.  Any insecurities we have about our worth as a person will feed into insecurities about our work. Criticism will seem harsher than it was intended to be; praise will be seen as people just being kind.

created via imgflip.com

What to Do About It: 

First, are you a writer?

If you write, you are a writer! Claim that title. You have a right to it. (Or to sculptor, painter, or even teacher, architect…whatever the case may be.)

Whether or not you are a good writer is something else. Being good at something almost always involves three things: natural talent, training, and practice.

Talent is the subjective, innate component. (I’ll come back to that.) But the training and the practice you can make happen. Take craft classes. Find a good critique group, editor, beta readers, etc. who can help you hone your skills.

And then write. A lot.

How do you know if you’ve got the talent?

When you are first starting out, have lots of people read your writing and give you feedback.

Then pay close attention to that feedback. This does NOT mean that you BELIEVE all the feedback you get, but pay close attention to it.

First, who is giving it? Do they have their own agenda (such as making themselves seem important), or are they sincerely trying to help?

Do they know what they are talking about? Do they normally read your genre? Are they writers themselves or editors? (They don’t have to be, and just because they are doesn’t mean everything they say is correct.)

I intentionally have at least one beta reader who is not primarily a mystery reader (currently my daughter-in-law, romance writer G.G. Andrew). This gives me…READ MORE

Halloween Hauntings: True Ghost Stories

by Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the whole group)

For once, we’re not letting our imaginations write the stories. These are “true” ghost stories we have heard that have happened to real people whose judgement, for the most part, is usually sound.

I’ll let our newest author, Gilian Baker, go first, with a story from her daughter’s college…

UO dormitory buildings

The Ridges dormitories at Ohio University

When our daughter announced she wanted to go to Ohio University, we didn’t realize we were sending her off to one of the most haunted campuses in the world! OU is located in Athens, Ohio, and there are many stories of hauntings in the small college town. But the one I’m going to share occurred (or should I say occurs) right on campus—in one of the dorm buildings.

The story goes that, in the 1970s, a girl living in Wilson Hall, room 428, died violently after practicing various forms of the occult, including attempting to contact the dead. Those who knew her said she tapped into the energy of the room to practice astral projection and that she was enthralled by sorcery.

Wilson Hall Dormitory. Don’t let them assign your son or daughter to Room 428!

The college continued to assign students to room 428 in Wilson Hall after her death, but they were forced to declare it “uninhabitable” after a series of them complained of hearing strange noises and footsteps, not to mention seeing objects move by themselves and fly across the room to smash against the wall. To this day, the room is the only one on campus that is sealed off and goes unused, even for storage. Students and residents of the town continue to witness sightings of a girl standing at the window of room 428.

Asylum's admin building

The Asylum’s administration building, 1905

The building is located in an auspicious location. It’s in the dead center (pun intended) of a huge pentagram that is made up of five cemeteries situated throughout the town. You can see the pentagram for yourself on maps of the area. If that weren’t enough, it was built on top of an early cemetery of the Athens Lunatic Asylum, itself haunted.

“Let’s build a dorm on top of a cemetery,” they said. “It’ll be fun,” they said.

Next up is Kirsten Weiss, our resident expert on all things occult, with a story from her sister…

My sister Alice, who doesn’t believe in ghosts, seems to constantly attract them. One took a nap with her last August, and she lived in a college apartment which was stuffed with spooks.

Human-shaped shadows were often spotted climbing the stairs. And once, while she was alone in the apartment and about to take a shower, a white, child-sized hand holding a purple mirror reached under the bathroom door. She spent the next thirty minutes perched like a Notre Dame gargoyle atop the toilet seat, waiting for one of her roommate to return. No hand – child-sized or otherwise – could have fit between the door and the floor.

One Halloween, she and a friend sat around a table, a pumpkin centerpiece between them. A shadow flitted across the pumpkin, and the pumpkin rolled over.

“That didn’t just happen,” her non-believer friend said.

“But did you see—”

“It didn’t happen!”

3 or us in parking lot

Vinnie, Kass and Kirsten in the Moss Beach Distillery parking lot. It was a tad windy that day.

In 2015, I visited California and was able to meet up with Kirsten and Vinnie Hansen for lunch at the Moss Beach Distillery. Turns out they have a resident ghost. Sadly, we didn’t catch sight of her but here’s her story…

In the 1940’s, a young married woman fell in love with a handsome ladies’ man (some versions of the story say that he was a piano player in the bar). Always dressed in blue, she came to the restaurant many times to meet her lover. One day, while walking with her lover on the beach below, they were assaulted. He was injured but survived; she was killed.

Moss Beach Distillery

Moss Beach Distillery (photo by Lupislune CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons) Wikimedia Commons

She has haunted the restaurant ever since, looking for her lover. Although most actual sightings have been by children (their filters are so much less critical), she is mostly known for her pranks, such as levitating checkbooks off the table, locking empty rooms from the inside, and stealing one earring each from female patrons and then they all show up in one place a week or so later. (I did lose an earring that day, but I’m not sure it was at the restaurant.)

The Blue Lady has been featured on Unsolved Mysteries and Ghost Hunters.

Which brings us to our greatest ghost story enthusiast, Shannon Esposito, who loves shows like Ghost Hunters. Her story comes from her mother…

room of castle where ghost was spotted

Note the mirror on the wall

This photo was taken at the Nemacolin Castle in Brownsville, Pa. by my mom, Carol. They only let eight people go through the tour at one time, so there were only a few people in the room with her when she snapped this shot.

ghost image

Close up of ghost’s image

When Carol looked at her photos later and spotted the man in the mirror in this one, she didn’t believe what she was seeing. She called the castle and asked if they had a mannequin in a period costume in that room. They said they didn’t and asked her to bring her camera in to see the photo for themselves.

After viewing the photo, they did a recreation and had Carol stand in the spot she was when she took that particular shot. She was standing in the doorway of the room at that time. The weirdest part was the team tried to take photos from that spot and their batteries drained twice before they could get a photo.

Finally, they were able to take several photos with people of different heights to determine how tall he was. Their conclusion was, by the angle and reflection of the  man, he had to have been standing in the doorway next to Carol… and looking right at her.

And last but not least, I have a ghost story of my own.

My grandmother died when I was sixteen. She was very loving to both of us, but my older brother was her favorite. I knew this and was not particularly jealous since I adored him as well (still great friends today).

Shortly after she died, my brother and his first wife broke up. He moved into my grandmother’s house, which was sitting vacant. A year later, he let his girlfriend move into the house with him.

I was not that fond of Sally (not her real name) partly because she was a bit of a flake. But I believed this story when she told it because she herself didn’t even realize the significance of it at the time.

slippers

(photo by TH.Korr CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

A little background info:  My grandmother grew up in an era when women did not admit they were sexually attracted to any man, not even their husbands. But she had a huge crush on Clark Gable. Whenever she would see him in a movie, she would sigh and say, “That man can put his slippers under my bed any day of the week.” This was quite a risque statement for her.

So Sally moves into Grandma’s house, and a few weeks afterward she says to my brother, “Why do you keep moving my slippers across the room at night?”

“What do you mean?” he said. “I haven’t touched them.”

“You must have. I put my slippers under the edge of the bed every night, and every morning they are over by the door.”

There were a few other odd things reported while Sally lived there, and she said she actually saw my grandmother in the attic one day.

portrait of grandmother

My grandmother as a young woman.

We weren’t sure we believed that, but there was no denying that Grandma was showing her disapproval by moving Sally’s slippers.

Sally moved out, and a year after that, my brother married someone else. They lived in my grandmother’s house for a few years, but we never “heard” from Grandma again. We assumed she was pleased with her new granddaughter-in-law and was able to move on.

How about you? Do you know any “true” ghost stories? Please share!

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. 🙂 )

Grief and Acceptance, Denial and Desensitization #VegasStrong

by Kassandra Lamb

I’ve dealt with grief over big and small tragedies the last few weeks, and worries over near misses. First there was Hurricane Harvey hitting close to where my son now lives, then Hurricane Irma taking out large chunks of my own state of Florida. Then Maria laid waste to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

dog

My sweet Lady. She loved walks.

And right between Irma and Maria, my dog suddenly became ill and died in a matter of days. She wasn’t that old, only about 7 (we didn’t know her exact age as she was a rescue dog) and she’d always been healthy. So it was quite a shock.

I felt a wee bit guilty that I was mourning a dog when so many people were dealing with much greater losses than a middle-aged pet.

But she was a real sweetie and she kept me company all day as I sat at my computer writing stories.

Among the stages of grief are denial (sometimes taking the form of numbness), anger and depression/sadness. I’ve certainly felt some of all of those feelings lately, about the bigger tragedies of the storms and the smaller one in my own home. I’ve choked up as I’ve watched the news, the houses reduced to rubble, and when I’ve thought about my sweet girl so abruptly taken from me.

And then 58 people were killed by a madman in Las Vegas, and so many more were wounded.

And I felt almost nothing. My brain and heart shut down. I didn’t feel the horror of it or tear up during the news. I didn’t think about it off and on all day, for days afterward, as I did with Sandy Hook and the Boston Marathon bombing.

Indeed, I resisted writing this post and almost gave in to the temptation to let the lighthearted post we’d intended for this week to run as planned.

When we don’t have any more emotional energy left for shock, horror, grief, we go into a different kind of denial. It’s called desensitization.

The bad stuff has become normalized.

Study after study has found that this happens to children exposed to violent media, and especially to those allowed to play violent video games. They become more fearful, more convinced that something bad will happen to them, but at the same time, they become desensitized to violence.

It no longer horrifies them. And in the case of video games, violence become conditioned to trigger excitement and a sense of achievement. Kill off all the enemy and you are rewarded. You then advance to the next level, where the challenges are harder and the violence is often gorier.

I’m not going to get into the whole guns issue, although I am a proponent of “reasonable gun control,” as are the majority of Americans. And I certainly believe that mail-ordered kits for turning semi-automatic weapons into automatic ones need to be banned.

But the preserve-the-purity-of-the-second-amendment-at-all-cost advocates do have at least one good point. Guns don’t kill people.

Crazy people with guns kill people.

And the biggest problem is that it’s not always that easy to tell when someone is crazy enough to pick up a gun and go after strangers. The Vegas shooter showed few signs of this level of craziness. His friends and acquaintances say that he wasn’t spewing radical ideology or conspiracy theories. And his girlfriend claims she had no idea he was stockpiling highly lethal weapons.

But what is being hinted at now is that he was into video games.

As a psychologist, I believe that violent media and video games, in particular, are one of the reasons (not the only one, by any stretch) that we are seeing so much senseless violence in our society.

Now I know a bunch of people will immediately claim that they play video games and it hasn’t turned them into violent maniacs. My son, who is a priest by the way, is one of them.

He’ll tell you that having Batman destroy the Joker in his superhero video game is just his way of blowing off steam.

And for people with stable psyches, this is true. The games don’t do them any harm. But for people who aren’t so stable, these games desensitize them to violence and plant ideas in their heads about ways to get attention, to express their pain and anger at a world that they see as letting them down or doing them wrong.

For this reason, I think banning violent video games is as important if not more important than any attempt to control guns.

Is this inconveniencing those who enjoy these games and who are stable enough to not have ill effects mentally from them? Yes, it is. I’m sorry, but your entertainment is less important than our society’s safety.

Is this stepping on the first amendment rights of the companies that design and sell these games? Technically yes, but their complaints won’t really be about freedom of speech; they’re about profits. Are their profits more important than turning the tide away from senseless violence in our society?

We put restraints on porn, seeing it as having “no socially redeeming value.” We need similar restraints on violent media.

And let me paraphrase another argument that has been stated before. Just as our founding fathers lived in a world of one-shot muskets, they used riders racing through the night yelling, “The British are coming!” to communicate. They never anticipated automatic weapons that could mow down a crowd nor mass media capable of transmitting images and sounds instantly into everyone’s homes via the TV and Internet.

Yes we need to tread carefully as we do so, but I believe we do need to place some reasonable, sane limits on free speech (as we already have regarding porn, falsely yelling “Fire” in public buildings and making physical threats against the President of the United States—which is treason, by the way).

Before those few INsane people among us destroy our country while exercising their rights.

Oh, and in regard to the other word in the title, acceptance. It’s supposed to be the final stage of grief, the goal of the grieving  process. But I don’t think we want to reach that stage when it comes to mass murder. That’s not something we want to accept.

We need to stay angry and horrified until we find solutions!

But I am close to acceptance in my grieving for my dog, close enough to get a new one. And so as not to end on a total downer, here’s a pic of my new pup.

new pup

Our new doggy. He was named Benji by the people at the shelter but doesn’t answer to it yet. So we may change his name. Any suggestions?

Your thoughts on violent media and video games? (Note: Please keep it civil. And I know I touched on gun control but I don’t want to debate that. Everything that can be said on that subject has already been said, on both sides of the fence. And I’m still depressed enough that I just don’t have the energy to go there.)

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida.

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. 🙂 )