Category Archives: Thrills & Chills

True crime and criminals

COPS AND WRITERS

by Kassandra Lamb

Two weeks ago, I attended the most amazing conference of my life, The Writer’s Police Academy. And that’s saying something since I’ve been to a lot of conferences through the years.

Mock "unknown assailant on campus" scenario

Mock “unknown assailant on campus” scenario

Real cops, firefighters, EMS personnel, lawyers and private investigators taught us how to Write it Right in our mysteries and thrillers. Sister mp author, Vinnie Hansen, also attended and she told us about her favorite takeaways last week.

Today, I’d like to share some of the many surprises I discovered during this eye-opening conference.

 

FIRE 101: Did you know that smoke burns? I didn’t.

It is full of particles of unburned fuel, which then will ignite when the fire gets hot enough. But even the vapors in it are solid fuel converted to gas, and they also burn. Burning smoke on the ceiling is called “rollover.”

building on fire

See the fire coming out of the TOP of the front window. That’s rollover from smoke burning near the ceiling. (Photo by Eric Hensley, CC-BY-SA 2.5, Wikimedia Commons)

Which burns faster, older buildings or newer, tighter buildings?

The answer is newer buildings. Older buildings (the instructor called them ”legacy” buildings), while draftier, were built of more solid materials. And older furniture was made of wood, cotton and wool.

Today, some construction materials and many components of furniture are plastic, i.e., petroleum products, i.e., OIL. They ignite sooner, burn faster and give off more toxic fumes.

A fire in a modern house will be “fully developed” in about 10 minutes. In a legacy house, it may take 20-25 minutes.

SHOOT, DON’T SHOOT: This involved video scenarios where participants (with fake guns) got to play cops (us) and bad guys (in the videos).

A police officer has to determine whether to use potential lethal force (they are shooting to “stop the threat,” not to kill, but their gun is a lethal weapon) based on 3 criteria:

● Does the suspect have a weapon?
● Do they have the means to deliver harm with that weapon?
● Do they intend to use that weapon?

The officer often has to make that assessment in less than a second.

Example 1: The person pulls a knife but they are fifty feet away. The officer has time to try to defuse the situation: “Police! Don’t move! Drop your weapon! Sir, put the knife down.”

But if the person is 20 feet away and running toward the officer (or someone else) with a knife in their hand, they are an immediate threat and the officer needs to shoot.

Example 2: The person has a gun, pointed down. “Police! Put your weapon on the ground!” But if they start to raise the gun, the officer doesn’t need to wait until it’s aimed at him/her. By then, it will be too late.

I came away from that workshop with a whole new respect for how stressful and dangerous police work is.

It is now lunch time of the first day and I already feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth!

After lunch, I started with retired police detective/now writer Robin Burcell’s workshop…

THE WAY WE WALK, THE WAY WE TALK:  “Perp” is East Coast; on the West Coast, they’re called “suspects.” And the FBI uses “subject,” or “unsub” if they don’t know the suspect’s identity.

Unlike on TV and in movies, female detectives do not wear skirts and high heels! (Except maybe in court.) And cops don’t point their guns toward the ceiling (not unless there’s a bad guy up there) nor do they rack a bullet into the chamber just before engaging.

They carry their guns “locked and loaded” (already racked and safety off) at all times, and when they pull them out, the finger is beside the trigger until time to fire. And they point them straight ahead, in the direction they will most likely need to shoot.

10 COMMON MISTAKES WRITERS MAKE ABOUT THE LAW:  Leslie Budewitz, lawyer and author, shared many interesting tidbits about how the law really works, including the difference between direct and circumstantial evidence, but my fave takeaway was that Miranda rights are not automatically read to someone when they are arrested.

Two things have to be in place for Miranda to be necessary — the person must be in custody AND interrogation must be happening. So if a “perp” (I’m East Coast 🙂 ) is arrested (in custody) and is on the way to the station, and s/he makes a spontaneous, incriminating statement (NOT during interrogation), it can be used even if no Miranda warning has been given yet. Likewise, if someone is questioned and they haven’t been arrested yet, no Miranda is needed to use whatever they say.

participants wearing service belts and weilding pistols

Pistol-packin’ Mamas ~ #2016WPA

End of Day 1, we thought…

We went back to the hotel, exhausted but happy, but that evening we were treated to more demos in the parking lot after dinner. And several volunteers got to wear real (and very heavy) police belts and learned how to wield a baton, and when to use it vs. your pistol.

Day 2…

PTSD: I almost didn’t go to this one because I am an expert myself on PTSD, but this workshop was about what it looks like in police officers.

It was awesome!! The presenter was a former police officer, who developed PTSD, and is now a therapist working with officers with this disorder.

And he has a service dog for his PTSD! (The man made the mistake of giving me his card; I am so going to pick his brain via email.)

I came away from that workshop with a great story idea for Book 10 in my Kate Huntington series!

FORCE ON FORCE ROOM CLEARING:

This one wasn’t quite what I thought it would be, but it was still quite awesome. It involved more scenarios, and we got to shoot guns loaded with tiny paint pellets. Again, a whole new respect for how hard it is to judge how much force to use and when to use it.

But the biggest takeaway from this workshop was the presenter Randy Clifton’s comments about the recent controversial police shootings. He said he didn’t blame the officers (unless there seemed to be blatant racism involved). He blames the departments for insufficient training with real-life scenarios that replicate the stress levels of on-the-street confrontations.

Police Trainer Randy Clifton and me.

Police Trainer Randy Clifton and me. #2016WPA

He made the excellent point that when the adrenaline is flowing, the rational brain shuts down, and one reverts to old learned patterns (this is psychologically sound). If those old learned patterns aren’t superceded by deeply ingrained new patterns during training, the officer is likely to make the wrong decision.

He demonstrated this via a scenario in which police have raided a house where a known felon is staying. The police have cleared the rest of the house, while yelling repeatedly that they are the police. The guy comes out of his bedroom with his hands in the air, but a gun in one hand. The young police recruit Randy used in this scenario yelled, “Sir, put the gun down. Sir, drop your weapon.”

Randy stopped the scenario and asked us how many of us would shoot. Only 2 out of 12 responded yes (I was a no). Then he demonstrated how quickly someone can lower a gun from that “hands up” position and shoot the officer, while said officer is so politely telling him to drop the gun.

His point: our old patterns tell us that hands up means the guy is surrendering, but why then does he have a gun in his hand? He knows the cops are all over his house. If he was truly surrendering, he would have left the gun in the bedroom.

After this little lecture, all 12 of us voted unanimously to shoot.

Two last takeaways from the last two workshops:
DEFENSE TACTICS: Did you know that if you splay your fingers out at the end of your arm, it is almost impossible for someone to force you to bend your arm? Try it!

PRIVATE INVESTIGATION: OR HOW TO BE A DICK FOR FUN AND PROFIT: Do you know who the most accurate TV/movie private investigator is? (I’ll answer below in the comments section after some of you have made your best guess.)

Now, you may be thinking that I’ve “gone over to the side of the cops” regarding unnecessary police shootings.

Some of our amazing faculty!

Some of our amazing and very generous faculty!

No way! First, I don’t think it’s them against us. Another takeaway from this conference was how generous many police officers are. Every presenter gave out his/her email address and encouraged us to inundate them with questions. I believe the vast majority of officers are truly trying to “protect and serve.”

But many of them need better training, and PTSD needs to be identified and treated much more quickly in officers, because this disorder undetected can lead to more confrontations with the public, and bad decision-making due to lack of sleep (because of nightmares) and higher stress levels.

I still am pursuing investigating and improving these things in my own community, but I am so glad I went to this conference before my scheduled meetings with my sheriff and police chief. I now have a much better understanding of what their departments are up against!

Also, if you are planning to do the same in your own community, I found out that the place to start is with your local police department’s Public Information Officer.

Back to WPA. I’ve decided I will have to go again next year, since I never got to the Ballistics or Blood Spatter classes. 😀

So who do you think is the most accurate TV/movie P.I.? Have you gone to any professional conferences that were as good as this one?

By the way, one of the stories I was able to make more accurate, thanks to this conference, is now available for preorder. (I’ll bet you can figure out what I used when you read the story.)

$1.99 thru its release date of 9/5/16

ARSENIC and YOUNG LACY, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, Book #2

book cover

Sweet, adorable Lacy has stolen Marcia Banks’ heart, but money is tight. Like it or not, the service dog trainer needs to complete the human phase of the training and deliver the dog to her new owner in order to get paid. But the ex-Army nurse client turns out to be a challenging trainee. On top of her existing neuroses–which go beyond the psychological damage from a sexual assault during her second tour in Afghanistan–the veteran is now being stalked.

When Marcia receives a bizarre warning to stay away from her client and Lacy is also caught in the stalker’s malicious orbit, Sheriff Will Haines steps in to investigate. Marcia finds this both endearing and annoying, especially when he expects her to stay on the sidelines. The training fee would make her solvent again, but how can she put her dogs at risk?

Maybe Marcia should be more worried about herself, since the stalker has decided to pay her off in a very different way.

Available on:   AMAZON US    AMAZON UK    AMAZON CA    AMAZON AUS

APPLE    KOBO    NOOK

And Book #1, TO KILL A LABRADOR, is ON SALE for just $0.99 thru 9/3/16!!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological suspense series, 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. 🙂 )

10 Nuggets from the Writers’ Police Academy

Vinnie Hansen and I attended a rather unusual conference last week. It’s called the Writers’ Police Academy. Law enforcement and EMS faculty (among others) taught us how to get it right when we have cops, courtrooms and/or blood in our novels.

Which happens a lot when one writes murder mysteries.

I’ll be sharing some of my best moments from the conference next week but today Vinnie’s here to tell us about her experience.

The Friday morning “announcement” at WPA was a staged car crash. They brought in a friggin’ helicopter!

The Friday morning “announcement” at WPA was a staged car crash. They brought in a friggin’ helicopter!

10 Nuggets from the Writers’ Police Academy

by Vinnie Hansen

Attending the Writers’ Police Academy gave me a wealth of cop and EMS info. I offer these 10 nuggets:

  • A person will bleed out in three to five minutes.
  • If you’re bleeding out, I can improvise a tourniquet with a two-inch wide band of material and something to twist it up good.
  • In hand-to-hand combat, the rule is flesh to bone and bone to flesh

Read more…

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Her cozy noir mystery series, the Carol Sabala mysteries, is set in Santa Cruz, California.

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. 🙂 )

Things that Go Bump in the Night in The Carolina Hills

by Kassandra Lamb

Marcia Meara headshot

I am delighted today to introduce you all to a guest blogger, a writer of mysteries and romantic suspense whom I recently stumbled upon.

Please welcome the delightful Marcia Meara…

Appalachian Legends and Myths

Right up front, let me say that I am absolutely besotted with the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. The Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Smokies, in particular. Part of the Appalachian chain—the oldest mountains on the planet—they are stunning in their ancient, mystical beauty.

mountains

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

And vast. It’s rather amazing how many, many miles of wilderness they encompass, along with the mountain towns and villages like Asheville, Lake Lure, and Bat Cave.

Highway sign for Bat Cave, NC

(photo by Stratosphere, CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons)

(Yes, there is actually a small town named Bat Cave. You can’t make stuff like that up.)

I also love the legends, folk lore, and outright myths that have sprung up over time throughout these hills.

Some tales arrived in the area via settlers from England, Ireland, and Scotland, and have a solid basis in Celtic mythology. Others apparently have been made up out of whole cloth—unless, of course, they aren’t legends at all, but strange truths that our modern minds refuse to accept. (Is that the theme from The Twilight Zone I hear playing in the background?)

Here are some examples of stories passed around in “them thar hills.” Some might make you grin, others might give you a shiver, but all are part of the overall body of strange tales you run across in these mountains.

The Moon-Eyed People
A race of small, bearded men, with pure white skin, who were called moon-eyed because they were unable to see in daylight, the moon-eyed people eventually became totally nocturnal. So the story says.

historical plaque re: moon-eyed people

(photo by TranceMist, CC-BY Generic, Wikimedia Commons)

The Cherokee believed them to be responsible for ancient stone structures that line many mountain ridges from North Carolina down through Georgia and Alabama. The most famous is Fort Mountain in Georgia, which gets its name from an 850 foot long stone wall that varies in height from two to six feet and stretches along the top of the ridge. This wall is thought to have been constructed around 400-500 C.E.

Were the moon-eyed people early European explorers? Legends refer to them as a race of small, pale people, rather than mystical beings unrelated to humans, but so far, no one has come up with any information on who they might have been, or if they were real at all.

Boojum and Annie
The Boojum is reported to have been an 8’ tall creature, not quite a man, and not quite an animal, covered in shaggy fur. (Does the name “Bigfoot” ring a bell?) He is said to have had two very human habits, though. He liked to collect gems, and hoarded them in discarded liquor jugs, which he buried in secret caves. (I do have to wonder how they know this, if the caves are so secret.)

He also was a bit of a Peeping Boojum, as he apparently liked to watch women, particularly when they were bathing in mountain streams. Bad, bad Boojum! But when a young woman named Annie spotted the hairy creature watching her, instead of screaming in fright, she fell in love with his sad eyes, and—wait for it—ran away with her hirsute admirer, presumably to settle down in a cozy little cave somewhere, and raise a whole passel of little Boojums.

There’s more to the tale, but this is a G-rated blog.

The Brown Mountain Lights
The Brown Mountains are home to a genuine and puzzling phenomenon. In the autumn, on crisp and cool nights, ghostly blue orbs are seen floating a few feet above the ground. They have been documented repeatedly by a large number of reputable witnesses. So far, there is no scientific proof as to what the lights are. Swamp gas and other known possibilities have all been ruled out. So when the nights get cool, people (presumably people with too much time on their hands) head to the Brown Mountains to observe and wonder for themselves.

The Phantom Hiker of Grandfather Mountain and the Chimney Rock Apparitions
Both of these are full on ghost stories, one a little shivery, and one just downright bizarre.

Sunrise in the autumn over Grandfather Mountain (photo by http://kenthomas.us public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Sunrise in the autumn over Grandfather Mountain (photo by http://kenthomas.us public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

According to the first, there is an old man who has been hiking the trails on Grandfather Mountain for generations, passing by groups of modern day hikers without a word, and disappearing into the distance, never looking back. He’s dressed in clothing not appropriate to today, and appears and disappears before anyone knows he’s coming.

And he never answers when spoken to. Indeed, he never even seems to see other hikers.

Chimney Rock

Chimney Rock State Park, overlooking Lake Lure (public domain)

Now, the apparitions at Chimney Rock occurred long ago, though it’s said that many people witnessed them for several days, and they were widely publicized in the newspapers of the day. In the first tale, ghostly white figures gathered in the air over the chimney formation itself, circling it for some time, before several larger figures rose above the rest and guided them all straight into the heavens above. A sort of airborne revival meeting, without the sermon in the tent.

And as if that wasn’t enough excitement for one of my favorite places to visit, there are still more tales about military men on horseback, who fought an epic battle in the skies over the chimney for several days, before just up and disappearing. This, also, was witnessed by many people over a period of time, and reported on in all the best papers.

old photo of still

Official inspects moonshine (tough job, hunh?)

 

Moonshine — more than just an afternoon refresher.

(Okay, I’m being a bit skeptical here, but can you blame me? Pity there were no cell phones on hand at the time. The cavalry would never get away with a stunt like that today!)

 

Ol’ Shuck
Tall tales for every taste abound in the Appalachians, but of all of them, my personal favorite is the legend of the Black Dog, or Ol’ Shuck, as they call him. This one is based on truly ancient Celtic legends of a huge, hellhound of a dog who is thought to be a harbinger of death, and many variations appear throughout literature. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle loosely based his famous book, Hound of the Baskervilles, on one version.

But beware! When you see Ol’ Shuck, someone you know (maybe you!) is going to die. Obviously, you don’t want to wake up one day, and find him sitting on your doorstep. And you’ll know it’s him if you do. We aren’t talking your everyday black Labrador retriever, here. Oh, no. An impossibly large dog with gleaming red eyes, sent straight from the devil himself to escort you to . . . wherever you’re going next. Be afraid. Be very afraid!

As the theme for my latest book makes clear: You can run, but you can’t hide.

Harbinger book cover

HARBINGER: Wake-Robin Ridge Book 3

“. . . he felt the wet slide of the dog’s burning hot tongue on his face, and the scrape of its razor sharp teeth against the top of his head. A white-hot agony of crushing pain followed, as the jaws began to close.”

The wine-red trillium that carpets the forests of the North Carolina Mountains is considered a welcome harbinger of spring—but not all such omens are happy ones. An Appalachian legend claims the Black Dog, or Ol’ Shuck, as he’s often called, is a harbinger of death. If you see him, you or someone you know is going to die.

But what happens when Ol’ Shuck starts coming for you in your dreams? Nightmares of epic proportions haunt the deacon of the Light of Grace Baptist Church, and bring terror into the lives of everyone around him. Even MacKenzie Cole and his adopted son, Rabbit, find themselves pulled into danger.

When Sheriff Raleigh Wardell asks Mac and Rabbit to help him solve a twenty-year-old cold case, Rabbit’s visions of a little girl lost set them on a path that soon collides with that of a desperate man being slowly driven mad by guilt.

As Rabbit’s gift of the Sight grows ever more powerful, his commitment to those who seek justice grows as well, even when their pleas come from beyond the grave.

Marcia Meara lives in central Florida, just north of Orlando, with her husband of over thirty years, four big cats, and two small dachshunds. When not writing or blogging, she spends her time gardening, and enjoying the surprising amount of wildlife that manages to make a home in her suburban yard. At the age of five, Marcia declared she wanted to be an author, and is ecstatic that at age 69, she finally began pursuing that dream. Three years later, she’s still going strong, and plans to keep on writing until she falls face down on the keyboard, which she figures would be a pretty good way to go!

Marcia has written six books so far: the Riverbend series, the Wake-Robin Ridge series, and a book of poetry. She’s a very social being. You can find her hanging out on Twitter (@marciameara),  FacebookPinterest and at her two blogs, The Write Stuff and Bookin’ It (for book reviews). You can sign up for her newsletter to get news and giveaways at either site, or just give her a shout via email at mmeara@cfl.rr.com.

BLACK-BEANS-&-VENOM w BRAG medallion

NOTE: Vinnie Hansen is participating in Smashwords’ Summer/Winter Sale. Her awesome novel, Black Beans and Venom is 75% off for the entire month of July!!

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 Global Security Consultant Biz (and a New Release)

by Kirsten Weiss

When I worked in Eastern Europe and Afghanistan, I got to know many security consultants. And there were a lot of… characters.

But the consultant who stood out the most in my mind was a woman. British, with freckles and curly hair, she looked more barmaid than badass, though she’d worked in personal protection (that’s what they call “bodyguarding” in the biz) and helped companies develop security strategies.

She gave us an unforgettable training on security in warzones. I learned just how much damage an automatic weapon can do and to look people in the eye when in a hostile crowd.

And FYI, landmines only explode when you step off them when they’re made in Hollywood. In real life (well sort of real life), this is what happens:

I got a lot of great and sometimes unbelievable stories from the security consultants I met while overseas. (Sorry I can’t share them with you now; I’m going to use them in future novels. 🙂 )

Note: Do not believe anyone who tells you they’re the hostage negotiator the film Proof of Life was based on.  I’ve heard that from at least five guys. In the global security consultant biz, it’s a thing.

Bottom line? It’s a crazy business. People go into it from all sorts of backgrounds and for all sorts of reasons. And they get thrown into hostile situations on a regular basis.

The idea of a female global security consultant as a fictional heroine stuck with me. It took me a while to develop it, but eventually, Rocky (short for Raquelle) Bridges was born.

When we meet Rocky, in The Mannequin Offensive, she is seriously considering getting out of the biz after losing a client in a hotel bombing overseas… but life is what happens while we’re making other plans.

The ebook version of The Mannequin Offensive is going to be on sale for 99 cents for one day only – launch day, July 1st. You can pre-order it now at the discounted rate, or buy it July 1st. So give Rocky a chance!

Here’s a bit about the book:

book coverAfter an overseas assignment goes bad, all Rocky Bridges wants is out of the global security business. No more personal protection gigs. No more jaunts to third world countries. No more managing wayward contractors. But when her business partner is killed, Rocky must investigate her own company and clients.

Rocky’s no PI, but she’s always trusted her instincts. Knife-wielding mobsters, sexy insurance investigators, and a Russian-model turned business partner are all in a day’s work. But her inner voice has developed a mind of its own, and she finds herself questioning her sanity as well as reality as she knows it. Rocky can’t trust those around her. Can she trust herself?

The Mannequin Offensive is a fast-paced novel of mystery and suspense with a hint of magic.

Pre-order it here, only 99 cents until July 1st:    AMAZON     KOBO

S&J cover

 

(Also Vinnie Hansen has a giveaway going over at Goodreads. Three copies of her new release, Squeezed and Juiced. Check it out!)

 

Kirsten Weiss worked overseas for nearly twenty years in the fringes of the former USSR, Africa, and South-east Asia.  Her experiences abroad sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives.

Now based in San Mateo, CA, she writes genre-blending steampunk suspense, urban fantasy, and mystery, mixing her experiences and imagination to create a vivid world of magic and mayhem.

Kirsten has never met a dessert she didn’t like, and her guilty pleasures are watching Ghost Whisperer re-runs and drinking red wine. Sign up for her newsletter to get free updates on her latest work at: http://kirstenweiss.com

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. 🙂 )

It’s in the Aether

by Kirsten Weiss

In the wacky world of Victorian science fiction, aka steampunk, machines are typically powered by steam. But the fictional Victorians discovered an alternate power source: aether.

Because seriously, powering a ray gun with steam is just ridiculous. 😀

But what exactly is aether? It depends on who you ask.

~ Ask an ancient philosopher, and he’ll tell you the matter of the universe is divided into four elements (much like this post): earth, wind, air and fire. Everything in creation was composed of different combinations of these elements.

Plato (public domain)

Plato, from The School of Athens fresco by Raphael, in the Vatican (public domain)

The concept of the elements as building blocks for matter really got going in the 3rd century, when Plato proposed a fifth element: aether. He considered it the material filling the region of the further reaches of the cosmos.

Aether as an “in between” element was used to explain several natural phenomena, such as gravity and the movement of light.

~ Ask an alchemist, and they’ll tell you that aether is the substance which pervades all matter – sort of an animating spirit, the anima mundi. This fifth element is an incorruptible substance that activates the other four.

For example, the Philosopher’s stone, of Harry Potter fame, is a magical substance which can transform lead into gold and is composed of aether.

Mice and Mechanicals Square~ Ask a Victorian-era scientist, and he’ll theorize that aether is a hidden, dark energy in space. So empty space isn’t actually empty – there’s an energy within it that, according to the Victorians, can’t be detect yet.

~ Ask a modern physicist, and she’ll tell you that in the 20th century, scientists discovered the universe was expanding. This expansion must be driven by some sort of energy.

Could it be… aether?

We also know that atoms aren’t “solid” per se – there is space in between them. Is it aether?

Which of these theories about aether makes the most sense to you?

Aether plays a major role in my new pre-Steampunk novel of suspense, OF MICE AND MECHANICALS, now available for pre-order on Amazon and Kobo.

book cover Mechanicals, Mayhem, and Murder.

All Sensibility Grey wants is to tinker in her new laboratory in boomtown San Francisco. A stranger in a strange land, she is finally making a life for herself as a purveyor of mechanicals to eager miners. But a pair of government agents have other things in mind.

Loves and loyalties fracture, and mysterious forces threaten to destroy Sensibility and her clockwork secrets. Tangling with occultists, aether gone wrong, and a local vigilante group, Sensibility must decide where her allegiances lie, and whom she can trust.

OF MICE AND MECHANICALS is book two in the Sensibility Grey series of pre-steampunk, paranormal suspense set in the wild west of the California gold rush.

Posted by Kirsten Weiss. Kirsten has worked overseas, on the fringes of the former USSR and deep in the Afghan war zone. These experiences gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature and sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives. Now based in San Mateo, CA, she writes paranormal mysteries, blending her experiences and imagination to create a vivid world of magic and mayhem. Kirsten is the author of the pre-Steampunk novels, Steam and Sensibility and Of Mice and Mechanicals, and the Riga Hayworth series of paranormal mysteries/urban fantasy.

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. 🙂 )

Are Psychopaths Born or Made?

by Kassandra Lamb

We’re getting 2015 off to a great start with a joyful post on… psychopaths! Hey, we’re mystery writers; what can we say?

This is the final installment in a three-part series on Psychopaths and Serial Killers that I began back in November. We’ve got psychopaths on the brain right now because I recently released a thriller with a serial killer antagonist. And another of our authors, Vinnie Hansen, also has a psychopath in her new release, Black Beans and Venom (see her book below).

Psychopaths are totally self-centered, thrill seekers who lack empathy, remorse and rarely feel fear. They are heavily represented amongst criminals (although not all criminals are psychopaths) and con artists, but also amongst politicians and business tycoons.

mugshot of Ponzi

A color-enhanced image of the mugshot of con artist Charles Ponzi–after whom Ponzi schemes were named.

For more about their nature see the first post, What Is A Psychopath?

They make up roughly 3% of the U.S. male population and 1% of the females. A much smaller (thank God!) subgroup of psychopaths are serial killers. To read more about what makes them tick, go to my guest post on the subject HERE.

The question I’m most frequently asked regarding psychopaths is whether they are born or made. The answer is “Yes.” They are both born and made.

Lots of research tells us there’s a genetic predisposition to antisocial behavior, i.e., behavior that goes against society, that defies the rules, breaks the law. This predisposition doesn’t usually come to fruition, however, unless the person grows up in a very unhealthy environment. Full-blown psychopaths almost always come from abusive backgrounds, with harsh and often inconsistent parenting.

But before I get into the details of how this works, let me point out that these are explanations for why certain children develop into psychopaths. They are not excuses for their psychopathic behavior once they are adults!

Here are the major characteristics of psychopaths, and what we know so far (or strongly suspect) about how genetics and environment interact in these areas:

1.   Lack of remorse: There seems to be something inherently wrong with the wiring of psychopaths’ brains with regard to the development of a conscience. Most children, by age five, are starting to feel guilty when they break the rules they’ve internalized from their environment. But not budding psychopaths. They don’t feel remorse or guilt as readily as most children do.

Combine this faulty wiring with inconsistent, too harsh or even downright abusive parenting that confuses the child as to what the rules are and why one should obey them, and you quickly have an out-of-control child.

2.   Lack of empathy: Another area where the wiring may be lacking to begin with is empathy, our natural ability to feel what others are feeling. On the mild to moderate end of the genetic predisposition continuum, the child is capable of feeling some empathy.

child covering eyes

photo by appropos CC 2.0 Flickr nonderivative

With the guidance of a patient, loving parent, this empathy can be nurtured. I’ve seen a couple real-life examples of this! But in a highly dysfunctional abusive environment, that glimmer of empathy gets snuffed out early on.

3.   Learning deficits: The vast majority of people with antisocial personality disorder (the official diagnosis for psychopaths) have learning disabilities, especially attention deficit problems. Seventy-five percent have full-blown ADHD (which is genetically transmitted). The ADHD child does not make the connection between behavior and consequences nearly as readily as children normally do (Please take my word for this so I can spare you the long, boring brain-malfunction explanation).

Children with ADHD often don’t get it that what they just did is the cause of the punishment the parent or teacher is inflicting on them. From their perspective, the adult is just being mean, for some inexplicable reason. Put a child with these learning deficits in an environment where discipline is very inconsistent and often way too harsh, and you end up with a very confused and pissed-off kid.

4.   Hard to arouse nervous system: Another genetic piece, and this is the biggie for those of us who write and read mysteries and thrillers, is that people with antisocial personality disorder (i.e., psychopaths) inherit a nervous system that is not easily stimulated. It takes a huge amount of stimulation for them to feel excitement, or much feeling at all for that matter.

a bungee jumper

Bungee jumper–not that I’m saying all bungee jumpers are psychopaths (photo by Ellywa from nl CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia)

So psychopaths are constantly looking for a thrill that will make them feel something. They may find it in a variety of activities–dangerous sports, reckless driving, drinking and drugging, gaining power over others in their family or in the workplace, stealing, pulling off a con or getting away with other criminal behavior, physical violence, sexual aggression… You get the picture.

5.  Impulsivity: Another factor that is strongly influenced by genetics is a high tendency to be impulsive. This personality trait is roughly 60% inherited and 40% influenced by environment. A child who inherits a high tendency for impulsivity is going to be a challenge for the best of parents. If that child grows up in a very dysfunctional, abusive environment where little effort is made to teach self-control, he or she is going to be extremely impulsive.

Impulsive reactions is a definite characteristic of the psychopathic antagonist in Vinnie’s new release, Black Beans and Venom. I have read this story and it is a real page-turner. The book came out in ebook just before Christmas, and is now available in paperback as well.

Please check it out below, and then talk to me in the comments. Does this make sense to you how nature and nurture (or the lack thereof in this case) come together to create these monsters? Have you known any people who qualified as psychopaths? Did they have this kind of history?

book cover Black Beans and Venom, A Carol Sabala Mystery

No one wants P.I. Carol Sabala to take the case. Her boss is apprehensive about an illegal investigation in Cuba. Carol’s boyfriend worries about her physical safety. But the client is rolling in dough, the office has unpaid bills, and Carol chafes under the mundane tasks assigned to her.

In Old Havana, Carol sets off to track down Megan, the client’s missing daughter, who is battling metastasizing cancer and running from a sociopathic boyfriend. Struggling in the exotic world of the island, Carol races to find Megan, before the disease or her ex-boyfriend kills her.

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.

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Sometimes Truth is Stranger than Fantasy

by Kassandra Lamb

Today, I’m over at Marcy Kennedy’s cyber-home, talking about how Truth is sometimes stranger than any fantasy an author can make up. Check it out!

Picture of serial killer, Yed Bundy

Serial killer, Ted Bundy, SMILING as he leaves the Leon County, Fla. Courthouse where he was just convicted of  murder, 1979 (from The Florida Memory Project–CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

When Marcy graciously invited me to guest post on her blog (thanks so much, Marcy!), I wondered what the heck I would write about since I write traditional mysteries and thrillers, not fantasy or sci-fi like she does.

Then I asked myself, why is it that I don’t write fantasy? (BTW, I talk to myself a lot.) The answer came back that it’s because I’ve seen so much weird, surreal stuff on this planet during my years as a psychotherapist. In my newly released thriller, I explore one of the most surreal phenomena on the Earth plane–the serial killer.

A few weeks ago I posted about psychopaths. They are totally self-centered thrill seekers who feel little or no empathy, remorse or fear. Pretty scary folks!

Unfortunately, psychopaths (i.e. those who have antisocial personality disorder–the official diagnosis) make up 3% of males and 1% of females in the U.S. and at least 1.7% of the Canadian population. Fortunately, only a very small percentage of psychopaths become serial killers.

An FBI Symposium in 2008 attempted to come up with a simple definition of serial murder…  READ MORE

This Thursday, 12/4, I’m over at Jen Jensen’s place, talking about The Story Behind the Story

Next Tuesday, 12/9, I wind up my blog tour back here at home with Are Psychopaths Born or Made?

Don’t forget to enter my CONTEST to celebrate the release of my new book, Fatal Forty-Eight:

silver charmYou can enter multiple times.

Win a $20 Amazon gift card, a silver charm or key chain (winner’s choice) and a signed paperback copy of any of the Kate Huntington full-length novels (again, winner’s choice).

key chainThe contest runs through December 5th! The winner will be announced the following week. (If the winner is outside the U.S./Canada, a gift card of comparable value may be substituted.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

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. 🙂 )

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

by Kirsten Weiss

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

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

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

Photo Credit: country_boy_shane via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: country_boy_shane via Compfight cc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Damn Yankee Gone South (and a new release)

I’m really looking forward to reading Stacy Green’s new installment in her Delta Crossroads mysteries, Skeleton’s Key. Not only is Stacy a great author who can write a thrilling mystery, but this book has another, more personal appeal for me.

You see I’m a Northerner who’s moved to the South, and I discovered when I did so that I needed to let go of quite a few stereotypes of Southerners. And I’m sure my exuberant personality and grinning face challenged some of their ‘cold, unfriendly Northerners’ stereotypes as well.

The two main characters in Skeleton’s Key, one a Southerner and one a Yankee, are apparently also challenged by said stereotypes as they butt heads on a regular basis. This theme in the story, along with Stacy’s brilliant ability to keep one on the edge of one’s seat, should make for a great read.

And this has got me thinking that I should do some research and write a more extensive blog post about today’s Northerners and Southerners, how they’re different and how they’re the same. Hmm. *scratches chin* …stay tuned for that, folks!

In the meantime, here’s Stacy to tell you a bit more about this book and share a snippet of a very exciting scene!

photo of Stacy Green, auithor

Welcome to the release of SKELETON’S KEY, the second book in the Delta Crossroads Series. Set in fictional Roselea, Mississippi, the book follows Cage Foster, a popular character from TIN GOD (Delta Crossroads #1) and Yankee newcomer Dani Evans as they investigate a grisly double homicide.

But this isn’t your standard double murder. Cage is the caretaker of Ironwood Plantation, a historic antebellum in desperate need of tender love and care. Dani is the restoration expert from Indiana who purchased the house and plans to restore it along with her own life. Cage and Dani are the north and south, immediately at odds and yet intensely drawn to one another, and their relationship is the backbone of the book.

Back to the murder. See, the bodies are found buried in Ironwood’s cellar. The crime scene is somewhere inside the house–you’ll have to read to find out the location–and Cage is the prime suspect.

One of my favorite scenes in the book is Dani’s first night, when she discovers the bodies. I love writing suspense, because it’s so challenging. I want the reader to be on the edge of their seat, hooked into the story so that even though they may be afraid to find out what’s on the next page, they are compelled to read on.

I’m excited to share that scene with you today. SKELETON’S KEY is available in print and all digital formats.

Somewhere on the edge of deep sleep, a spatter of noise pulled Dani back to consciousness. She groaned and closed her eyes again. Likely the house settling.

She rolled over and started to drift off again when the noise came again, louder. She sat up and looked around, listening.

The house is locked. You have lights on.

You’re a woman staying alone in a house with no landline. Someone could be creeping.

You have your cell phone. Cage is two hundred feet away.

A hollow thumping drifted from somewhere near the kitchen. Gooseflesh erupted over Dani’s arms, and then she laughed. She’d encountered her fair share of squatting animals in her career, including a particularly vicious raccoon that had left her with a scar and a rabies scare.

“Critters hanging out in the basement of an old house,” she spoke into the quiet. “Biggest cause of haunted houses.”

As if in answer, a low grumbling filled her ears. Then, a sharp hiss and what sounded like an angry growl.

Damn. Whatever was living in the basement made a lot of noise when it scavenged for food.

“The bones.” Her bare feet smacked the wood floor as she jumped up. She slipped into her sandals and then rummaged through the black bag containing her work essentials. Naturally, her big flashlight was on the bottom.

The light cast a bright glow through the parlor just as another angry yowl came from the basement. Fear nipped at Dani. What would she have to fight off down there?

She glanced out the window, half-hoping to see the lights in the carriage house still on, but it was dark. She hated to wake Cage. And she didn’t want him thinking she was just another spoiled city woman who couldn’t handle a simple animal issue.

That settled it.

She padded into the kitchen, flicking on lights as she went. Cage kept cleaning supplies in the bare nook where a table should be, and Dani grabbed the dusty broom. A little heavy and harder to manage with the light, but she’d figure it out.

She tucked the flashlight under her left arm and then reached for the door, the shop broom gripped tightly in her right hand. Sweat beaded across her scalp making it itch. Another menacing growl from the basement, long and drawn out as though the animal knew she was ready to attack. Ignoring the urge to drop everything and run for Cage, she listened hard.

It sounded like the creature was probably along the side of the basement, deeper below the house, and not on the steps waiting to ambush.

Good.

Deep breath, broom ready, bladder weak, she yanked open the door.

Skeleton's Key cover

Kass here again: Isn’t that a great scene?

Skeleton’s Key is now available on AMAZONNOOK,  and in paperback.

About the author
Born in Indiana and raised in Iowa, Stacy Green earned degrees in journalism and sociology from Drake University. After a successful advertising career, Stacy became a proud stay-at-home mom to her miracle child. Now a full-time author, Stacy juggles her time between her demanding characters and supportive family. She loves reading, cooking, and the occasional gardening excursion. Stacy lives in Marion, Iowa with her husband Rob, their daughter Grace, and the family’s three obnoxious but lovable canine children.

To check out more about Stacy and her books, visit her at her website, on her
Amazon Author Page, on Facebook or on Twitter @StacyGreen26.

Go check out the book, then come back and share your thoughts on the North and South and stereotypes. I love hearing from you!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. 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 harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)

Belle Grove Lives Again…Sort Of

a portion of Bell Gorve plantation house

Belle Grove Plantation (circa 1936; public domain)

There’s Something About Old Houses

I live in a newly developed area. The subdivisions are filled with thousands of homes based on maybe five exterior styles and maybe ten floor plans.  When I first moved down here, I drove up to the wrong house fairly regularly. They all looked exactly the same (and still do).

I’ve always loved old houses, but living here has given me a new appreciation for them. Old houses have character and presence newer homes just don’t have. One old house might have original stained glass windows. The next might have hand carved molding or unique tile work in the kitchen or bathroom.

Yes, the newer homes are more energy efficient and have fewer (expensive) age-related issues. But I still like old homes better. The uniqueness and the attention to detail simply can’t be matched. This might sound weird, but I sometimes think I can feel the history of a place speaking to me.

My Fascination with Belle Grove

The grandest of old homes are, of course, the plantation homes sprinkled throughout the South. I’ve toured quite a few in Louisiana. The juxtaposition of the plantation homes’ beauty and the horror of their role in history is both fascinating and repellant.

(Those who know me know I have a lurid interest in repellant things.)

One of the grandest plantation homes ever to exist was Belle Grove. Built in Iberville Parish, Louisiana between 1852-1857 for the cost of $80,000, it is said to be the largest mansion ever built in the South. Its seventy-five rooms were spread out over four floors.

front of Belle Grove

Even neglected and falling down, she’s impressive!

Belle Grove was abandoned in 1925 and burned in a mysterious fire in 1952. In its place now sits a neighborhood of modest homes, much like the one I currently live in (and sometimes mistake for other houses on other streets).

Belle Grove

( all pictures circa 1936, public domain)

Belle_Grove_Plantation_06 pub domain

 To learn more about the Belle Grove, check out its website or Facebook page. Click here to watch a really neat You Tube video featuring pictures of Belle Grove Plantation set to music.

The Connection to Black Opal

I first encountered Belle Grove in a book called Ghosts Along The MississippiLooking at the pictures awakened my imagination. That this beautiful place no longer existed made me sort of sad.

So, when I hired Kimberlee Ketterman Edgar to paint the cover of Black Opal, I asked her to include a plantation house based on Belle Grove. Here’s the cover art Kimberlee created:

 

BlackOpal_Ebook for BN
My series heroine, Peri Jean Mace, ends up stuck at the huge house on the cover after charging off to confront her boyfriend because she thinks he’s cheating on her. She ends up getting into more trouble than she ever imagined possible and discovering secrets she never wanted to know. But that’s the norm for Peri Jean.

Download it today at:

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Smashwords

Kobo

Interested in trying out my Peri Jean Mace stories but aren’t quite ready to purchase anything? Well, today is your lucky day.

Subscribers to my newsletter can read a brand new, exclusive 14-page Peri Jean Mace short story titled “Peckerwood Bocephus.” This story takes place twelve years before the events in Forever Road and is the story of how Peri Jean got the tattoo on her arm.

Click here to sign up.

After you sign up, look for instructions on downloading “Peckerwood Bocephus” in the Final Welcome Email.

That’s all I’ve got for today. Are there any fellow admirers of old houses out there? Which ones have you visited and which one was your favorite?

Posted by Catie Rhodes. Catie is the gal your mama warned you about, the one who cusses a lot and never washes her hands after petting the dog. She’s the author of Forever Road and Black Opal, of the Peri Jean Mace paranormal mystery series. Peri Jean sees ghosts, a talent she often wishes she did NOT possess.

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 harvest, lend, sell or otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses.)