Tag Archives: misterio press

Taking Risks and Reaching Out

by Kassandra Lamb

statue of children dancing

(photo by Andreas Praefcke, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia) Commons)

Shannon Esposito and I are doing our happy dance again, because we have a new member in our misterio press group.

But I must say that we approached the idea of inviting this new author with some trepidation. Not because we didn’t think she would be great (we did), but because it had been awhile since we’d brought in someone new.

Our little group had gotten quite cozy and comfy with each other. Did we really want to upset that?

We asked the other authors, and the general reaction was “Sure, invite her in!” So we did.

Please help us welcome Gilian Baker to our little band!

GILIAN

Gilian is a former writing and literature professor who finally threw in the towel and decided to just show ‘em how it’s done. She has gone on to forge a life outside of academia by adding blogger & ghostwriter to her CV. She currently uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain cozy mystery readers the world over.

When she’s not plotting murder, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, knitting in front of the fire, snuggled up with her husband watching British mysteries, or discussing literary theory with her daughter.

Our hesitation about issuing the invite to Gilian reminded me of past risks Shannon and I have taken. A few didn’t turn out quite like we’d hoped, but most of them have. And wouldn’t life be dull if we never took risks nor reached out to others?

I remember how hesitant I was about spending the money on a writers’ conference back in 2011. The conference was near enough to my home that I could drive, but still it was a lot of money when you figured in hotel room and meals on top of the registration fee. But if I was going to get my new career as a fiction writer off the ground, I needed to network.

So off I went.

During a break between sessions, a few attendees were standing outside getting some fresh air. None of us knew each other, so of course the conversation was a little inane. One woman and I somehow ended up comparing hairdressers (I think it started when I admired the lovely blonde streaks in her hair).

Later I ran into the same gal at the last event of the day, one on e-publishing, a new- fangled thing at the time. Then we collided again in the line to get our free glass of wine at the cocktail party that evening.

As we chatted about this brave new world of e-publishing, we became more and more excited about the possibilities. While others were schmoozing with the agents and publishers, she and I were huddled in a corner, plotting (and getting a little tipsy).

That woman was Shannon and the plot we hatched was to start misterio press. That evening I went out to dinner with her and her family (It was a “Hey hon, look who followed me home; can I keep her?” kind of scene 😉 ). By the end of the evening, a new friendship was budding as well as a new business venture.

Taking risks is hard, and letting a stranger into your territory is definitely taking a risk. We certainly don’t want to be naive and trust just anyone. We do want to evaluate a situation and weigh how much of a risk we are really taking. And perhaps we may want to look at contingency plans, should things go awry.

dead tree

photo by Walter Baster, CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

But sometimes our instincts tell us to give someone (or some idea) a chance. You all know I am big on trusting one’s instincts.

And what happens if we never take risks?

Stagnation happens. We stop growing and learning.

What happens to a tree when it stops growing—when it stops reaching for the sunshine? It starts dying. Its leaves shrivel and its branches dry up.

So even though it’s always a little scary to reach out to someone who’s essentially a stranger, it can have huge payoffs.

And here we are, Shannon and I—strangers at that conference five and a half years ago—but today, we have a successful indie press going, with six wonderful authors!

Champagne_flutes_glasses_bubbles by Jon Sulllivan pub domain wiki

Please grab a glass of virtual bubbly and toast our newest member with us.

Here’s to Gilian! And to taking the risk to reach out. Cheers!!

What risks have you taken in your life? When has reaching out to a stranger paid off for you?

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. 🙂 )

Inner Beauty vs. the Ugliest of Emotions

by Kassandra Lamb

The-Beauty-of-a-Woman-BlogFest-V1-2

This post is part of the 2017 Beauty of a Woman Blogfest, sponsored by the wonderful August McLaughlin. Please go to her site to see the other great posts in this wonderful event—some are funny, some are serious, all are entertaining and informative.

Physical beauty has little to do with attractiveness for me. I’m much more focused on inner beauty. And inner beauty is emotional (and is reflected in the person’s body language). Is the person warm and kind and seems comfortable in their own skin, or are they tense and frowning?

As a psychologist, I am intimately acquainted with emotions. And I know that almost all of them have some value.

Fear tells us when our safety or our ability to get our needs met is being threatened. Anger gives us the courage to stand and fight against such threats. Joy, love and excitement tell us that our needs are currently being met, encouraging us to seek similar situations to those currently happening.

Even guilt and shame serve a purpose by providing a moral compass for our behavior.

But jealousy? I’m sorry, it’s just ugly and has no socially redeeming value.

Recently I’ve had two friends complain about jealousy. One, a male, said, “Why are women so conniving and competitive and jealous?” The other, a girlfriend, simply said, “Why are men so jealous?”

Their comments inspired this post for BOAW. Because honestly, I haven’t personally found women all that jealous or competitive or conniving.

Perhaps that’s because I’m not particularly physically beautiful. Oh don’t get me wrong, I don’t break mirrors. I’m a reasonably attractive woman, but I’m no beauty.

I’ve also rarely encountered jealousy in men. As I think about the issue, I’m concluding that this is because I tend to hang out with fairly confident people.

Jealousy is not a gender-specific trait. It has absolutely nothing to do with being male or female. Rather it has a lot to do with being insecure!

One avenue that insecure people may take is to put down, compete with, and feel jealousy or envy (jealousy’s kissing cousin) toward those they perceive as better than themselves. (See my recent post on healthy vs. unhealthy competitiveness.)

This is incredibly self-defeating, a total waste of psychic (and sometimes physical) energy.

But wait, let me break down jealousy a bit more. It actually has two emotional components—fear and anger.

We feel jealous when we fear that someone is threatening our ability to get our needs met. We then experience anger regarding this threat.

If we want to be mentally sane individuals, our first task when we feel jealous is to assess if the threat is real. Is there a REAL risk that someone might steal away the affections of someone important to us?

Jealousy is only a “helpful” emotion if it is truly warning us of an actual threat. If it is mainly our own insecurity talking, we need to deal with that within ourselves. We need to work on improving our own self-esteem so that we do not feel so easily threatened.

two birds fighting

I saw you coming on to that canary! (photo by Jen Smith CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia-Commons)

Once we’ve determined that the threat seems to be real, we need to assess where we can legitimately aim our anger about that threat. Should we direct it at the person important to us? Is he or she ACTUALLY showing an interest in someone else? Or is that someone else ACTUALLY attempting to steal his/her affections?

Let me give you two examples from my own life. I don’t always get it right, but these two times, I did.

Example One:
In my early twenties, I dated a guy who had a nasty habit. He had to comment on the attractiveness of every female who crossed his path. This behavior didn’t surface until we were supposedly dating exclusively.

More and more frequently, he would make references to the attractiveness of women passing by on the street, in very personal terms. “Hmm, I wouldn’t mind coming home to her” was one of his milder comments.

Of course these comments hurt. They made me feel jealous, scared that he would someday find one of these women preferable to me.

It all came to a head one day when a woman passing by, who happened to be a bit on the plain side, prompted him to comment that he wouldn’t “f**k” her unless he could put a bag over her head. This brought home to me the absurdity of his behavior. This woman was oblivious to his presence, so it certainly wasn’t her fault that he was commenting on her attractiveness or lack thereof.

HE was the problem. HE deserved my wrath, not the women he ogled on a regular basis. So I dumped him.

Example Two:
My husband and I had been married just a few years when he told me about a woman at work who was going through a rough divorce. “Why do women confide in me about this stuff?” he asked.

“Because you’re a nice guy, and a good listener,” I replied.

A few weeks later, he came home from work more than a little agitated. He reported that this woman (we’ll call her Jezebel 😉 ) had asked him if he was, quote, “getting enough,” and did he want to go out for a “nooner.”

My sweet husband was concerned that Jezebel was fragile due to her recent divorce. He wanted my advice on how to gently let her know that while he was willing to listen to her woes, he wasn’t interested in having an affair with her.

Can you imagine the array of feelings I was experiencing? I quickly attempted to evaluate the situation. One, I figured if he was telling me about all this, then he wasn’t the least bit tempted by this woman.

So I had no reason to be afraid, and, two, no way did he deserve my anger.

This is the most common mistake people make with jealousy. They direct the anger over the threat toward their loved one, rather than toward the one who is actually presenting the threat. Which can all too often lead to the very thing they’re afraid of, a disruption in that important relationship.

Once I was clear that my anger should be directed at Jezebel, for daring to step into my territory and try to take my man, I had to decide what to do with that anger. First, I put my therapist hat on and responded to my husband’s desire to be a nice guy. I suggested several possible approaches he could use to back her off gently.

“And if none of those things work,” I then said, “you can tell her that if she doesn’t leave you alone, your wife will come down to the office and rip her eyes out!”

My husband gave me a very startled look. “The first few suggestions were the therapist talking,” I said. “Now your wife is talking. Tell her to find her own man. You’re taken!”

I felt much better after that. 🙂

Getting back to more recent events, my male friend’s relationship ended over his girlfriend’s jealousy. She freaked out because she saw another woman as her competition (even though he wasn’t interested in that woman) and she put him in a damned-if-he-did-damned-if-he-didn’t position. So he decided to opt out of the relationship, and I couldn’t blame him.

But I did try to set him straight about the gender thing.

What are your thoughts? Have you seen more jealousy in men or in women? How have you dealt with the fear and anger of jealousy?

To read some other wonderful posts about the Beauty of a Woman, click over to August’s site and see the list of funny, entertaining, interesting, serious posts.

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. 🙂 )

Where The Research Takes Us: How To Kill Your Characters

Kass here to tell you about today’s guest blogger, cozy mystery writer Gilian Baker, who is about to release her debut novel, Blogging Is Murder (which I review below).

She will entertain us with a fun little post on how to kill one’s characters (I swear, the FBI is going to come knocking any day now).

First, let’s get to know Gilian a bit…

Gilian BakerGilian Baker is a former writing and literature professor who finally threw in the towel and decided to just show ‘em how it’s done. She has gone on to forge a life outside of academia by adding blogger & ghostwriter to her CV. She currently uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain cozy mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, knitting in front of the fire, snuggled up with her husband watching British mysteries or discussing literary theory with her daughter.

In her next life, she fervently hopes to come back as a cat, though she understands that would be going down the karmic ladder. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines.

Disclaimer:  Do NOT try this at home, folks! This post is for entertainment purposes only.

Researching How To Kill Your Characters

by Gilian Baker

I love to plot murder! Yeah, that’s not a sentence you read every day, but it’s true. In my first cozy mystery, Blogging is Murder, the murder victim is poisoned with hemlock.

Why hemlock when there are so many new, man-made chemicals available?

I’ve just always wanted to kill someone off with an old-fashioned plant. And when I started researching the properties of hemlock, I knew I had the perfect murder weapon for my first mystery with my protagonist, Jade Blackwell, amateur sleuth.

Here are a few of the questions I had to research to determine if hemlock was a viable murder weapon for the story:

  •  Does it grow wild in Wyoming? (The setting of the series)
  •  Where is it found there?
  •  What parts of the plant are poisonous?
  •  Why would Jade’s friend, Liz write about hemlock on her blog, The Wise Housewife? Is it still used in herbal remedies? What ailments was it historically used for and what is it used for now?
  •  How does it kill? What are the symptoms of the poisoning?
  •  Is it still poisonous when dried?
  •  When does it grow?
  •  Is it frost hearty? Or is it killed off easily by a heavy frost?

I researched some of these questions before I wrote much of the story. But other questions didn’t occur to me until the plot developed, and I needed to know. For example, I was considering adding a freak snowstorm to add tension to the last third of the book. It’s not uncommon to get snow in Wyoming eight months out of the year, so that could work.

I’d written a couple of chapters that included light frosts overnight, which worried Jade since her spring bulbs had already come up in her garden. But wait! Would even a light frost, let alone a big snowstorm kill hemlock that was growing in the wild? If so, how would the murderer get fresh hemlock to kill their victim? Did I want to change the plot so the killer used dried hemlock?

You see how plot twists and new ideas for where to take the story impact the research that needs to be done. In this case, I had to go back and change the entire setting to a later time in spring to avoid overnight frosts. That meant rewriting those scenes where Jade worried about her spring bulbs.

detail from The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David

Detail from The Death of Socrates by Jacques-Louis David (public domain)

I bet you want to know the answers I found in my research, right? After all, who doesn’t want to know more about hemlock? Okay, to satisfy your curiosity, here are the answers.

  • Does it grow wild in Wyoming?
    Yes, in fact it grows wild in most states in the U.S. There are many types of hemlock and most regions have the right conditions for several types to grow.
  • Where is it found there?
    It’s found most anywhere, but it likes a damp climate. During a wet spring, ranchers have to keep an eye out for the plant in their pastures. It’s one of the most poisonous plants to humans, but also to cows, horses and other animals.
  • What parts of the plant are poisonous?
    All of it.
  • Why would Liz write about it on her blog, The Wise Housewife?
    It is still used in herbal remedies, but only in minute doses and only in the hands of a skilled alternative therapist or homeopath. It was historically used for a wide range of ailments, including bronchitis, mania, anxiety, epilepsy and asthma. The Greeks also used it to put criminals to death.
  • How does it kill? What are the symptoms of poisoning?
    Hemlock affects the central nervous system so that the brain continues to function, but the person can’t move. They are paralyzed, but aware of what’s happening to them. It eventually stops their heart.
  • Is it poisonous after it’s dried?
    Yes, for up to three years.
  • When does it grow?
    In the spring.
  • Is it frost hearty?
    No, it’s not. That’s why I had to change the setting of the book and forgo my inspired idea of a freak snowstorm.

But I’m sure I’ll be able to find another way to use that idea in later books. 🙂

If you want to find out who exactly gets knocked off with hemlock and whodunit, well I’m afraid you will have to read the story.

book coverBlogging Is Murder, A Jade Blackwell Mystery

Former English professor Jade Blackwell’s promising new career as a blogger falters when she learns of a hacker who is controlling her friend and fellow blogger Liz Collin’s business remotely. Then the hacker is found dead, and Liz is thrown in jail.

Determined to help her friend regain her life and livelihood, Jade teams up with Liz’s reluctant lawyer to get Liz off the hook and out of jail. What she learns will break the case wide open, while unraveling her faith in humanity and the safety she has felt living in the quaint Rocky Mountain hamlet of Aspen Falls.

Available on AMAZON

Posted by Gilian Baker. You can connect with Gilian on Goodreads, Facebook and Twitter or at her website. Blogging Is Murder is the first book in her Jade Blackwell series.

Kassandra Lamb’s review of Blogging is Murder:

This is a very good debut cozy mystery. The pace is lively and the characters likeable. (I particularly enjoyed the quirky elderly neighbor of the murder victim.) The twist at the end was unexpected but plausible.

I also enjoyed the glimpses into the life of a professional blogger. I had no idea how much work was involved in that business. I’m looking forward to reading more of Jade’s adventures and getting to know the residents of Aspen Falls, Wyoming. Four out of five fingerprints!

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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. 🙂 )

February, the Runt of Months

by Kassandra Lamb

Contemplating this month of February that we’ve just entered got me thinking about being the shortest or smallest in a group—a team, a classroom, a family, etc.

We humans are fairly obsessed with size, as if that’s some indicator of power and, in turn, worth. Small equals powerless equals unworthy.

football player receiving the ball

Photo by Torsten Bolten CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons

Big equals better. Bigger cars, bigger houses, bigger you-know-whats…

Look at football players. Definitely bigger is better, right? Hey, it’s Super Bowl time so we’ve gotta have some football references.

(But wait, who’s that wiry little guy ducking and dodging around the big bruisers? You know, that receiver who makes a bunch of touchdowns because he’s a bit smaller and leaner, and a lot faster, than the others.)

Being the shortest/smallest one can bring on teasing, and whether it’s good-natured or mean, that teasing can leave one feeling less than and can undermine self-esteem for years to come.

Poor February is the shortest month—the runt of the year. Do you ever wonder if February feels self-conscious about it’s lack of length—inferior even. Do the other months pick on February? Do they point and make fun?

Here’s some advice I found on the Internet* for short kids who are teased by their classmates. Just for fun, let’s see if we can apply these ideas to February.

1. Ignore those bigger ones who put you down for being smaller.

Ha, I turn my back on you, January. You are so yesterday!

2. Confront those who tease you.

Hey, March, cool it with the short jokes. You’re no better than me. I may be cold and snowy, but you’re rainy and dreary, and about that wind…

3. If it gets to be too much, tell an authority figure, someone with the power to stop the teasing.

Hey, April. You may be 30 days long and the true beginning of spring. But if you don’t stop picking on me, I’m gonna tell July and August. They’re each 31 days long and they will burn you!

4. Embrace your size. (It may be that you just haven’t had your growth spurt yet.)

There’s nothing wrong with being short. (Oh, and just you wait until the next leap year!)

hearts on a bare tree

photo by Johntex CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

5. Play to your strengths.

Yes, I’m short, but I’m sweet, and a lot of fun. I’ve got the Super Bowl, Presidents’ Day (Yay, long weekend!), Valentine’s Day, and Mardi Gras going for me.

6. Stand tall and be confident!

That’s it February, head high, back straight!

You may be short, but for those of us who hate winter, you sure seem like the longest month of the year.

(*Loosely paraphrased from WikiHow: How to Handle Being the Smallest Person in Class.)

What are your thoughts on being the shortest, or the youngest, or in some other way, the runt of the litter? Do you have other suggestions for overcoming the message that you are less than if you’re the “runt?”

And speaking of teasing, my protagonist’s daughter is now in middle school and coping with being the youngest kid in her class, among other things. Check out this subplot in my upcoming Kate Huntington Mystery (#9), ANXIETY ATTACK.

Cover reveal today. Ta-da!

book cover

ANXIETY ATTACK, A Kate Huntington Mystery, #9

When an operative working undercover for Kate Huntington’s husband is shot, the alleged shooter turns out to be one of Kate’s psychotherapy clients, a man suffering from severe social anxiety. P.I. Skip Canfield had doubts from the beginning about this case, a complicated one of top secret projects and industrial espionage. Now one of his best operatives, and a friend, is in the hospital fighting for his life.

Tensions build when Skip learns that Kate—who’s convinced her client is innocent and too emotionally fragile to survive in prison—has been checking out leads on her own. Then a suspicious suicide brings the case to a head. Is the shooter tying up loose ends? Almost too late, Skip realizes he may be one of those loose ends, and someone seems to have no qualms about destroying his agency or getting to him through his family.

Release Date:  2/18/17  ~  Will be available for Preorder on 2/14/17! 

Just $1.99 during preorder.

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. 🙂 )

Are You S.A.D. in the Winter? (encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

Since I’m up to my eyeballs in three different editing projects, I figured now would be a good time for an encore presentation of a previous post, and this topic is always worth mentioning this time of year.

I hate talking about depression because, well, it’s depressing. But if you’re one of those folks who gets S.A.D. in the winter, or you know someone who does, you may appreciate this post.

I’m talking about Seasonal Affective Disorder, i.e., folks who start getting more and more fatigued and listless for no apparent reason as the days get shorter and grayer.

If you’ve been told that you must have some deep-seated negative association with winter, forget that BS. Seasonal Affective Disorder is a biologically-based depression. It’s caused by a malfunction in a natural phenomenon that occurs in all of us. This natural phenomenon developed through evolution.

In cave-person times (tough to be politically correct when talking about that era), those folks whose metabolisms slowed down in the winter—so they burned fewer calories—were much more likely to survive until spring. They dragged their butts through the winters. But when spring came, they’d come bouncing out of their caves, full of renewed energy now that the sun was bright.

Much to the annoyance of their skeletal cave-mates who just barely made it through the first hunt.

Photo by Lynn Kelley Author, doing her spring happy dance (from WANA Commons, share-alike license).

I have a mild case of S.A.D. When I lived in Maryland, I would get increasingly grumpy in the fall. I often wouldn’t realize just how depressed I’d became during the winter months, until spring came along and I started feeling sooo much better.

It was kind of like a low-grade, chronic case of the flu—one where you don’t realize just how sick you’ve been until you start to get better.

In the winter time, all of us (thanks to that evolutionary tendency inherited from our more wintertime-lethargic, springtime-energetic cave ancestors) have an increase in the release of the hormone, melatonin, from the pineal gland. This hormone regulates our sleep cycles and promotes deep sleep. The increased melatonin release makes us all a little bit less energetic in the winter.

For those with S.A.D., the melatonin levels increase too much, causing more severe fatigue and lethargy. S.A.D. can range from mild cases, like mine, to people who become severely depressed in the winter.

What can you do about it:

1.  The first thing to do (and this may be enough if you have a mild case) is go outside as much as possible in the winter, especially on sunny days. Because it is not the cold that triggers S.A.D.; it’s the lack of daylight. In my thirties, I started horseback-riding regularly year-round. My S.A.D. got a lot better. It went from a moderate to a mild case.

2.  Light therapy. There are light boxes, and other devices, that simulate sunlight. These are specifically designed to treat S.A.D., although they serve other purposes as well. More on light therapy below.

3.  Move to a southern clime, (or at least winter there, if you’re retired or filthy rich). My S.A.D. is one of the reasons–a major one, in fact–for our move to Florida when my husband and I retired.

More about light therapy boxes:

If you think you have S.A.D. these are a worthwhile purchase. They can change your life. But do your research first to find the best device for your needs. Check out this article from the Mayo Clinic about how to choose a light box. They range from $100 to $400, and unfortunately many insurance policies will not pay for them. (But they will pay for antidepressants that cost that much or more per month or for hospitalization when you’re suicidal. Go figure!)

Light therapy lamp (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

A light therapy box.

Even if you have to pay out of pocket, it’s worth it to get your winters back! Someone asked me, shortly before our move south, why I was moving to Florida. I said, “Because I’m tired of wishing away almost half of my life.” I would start dreading winter by mid-October and wouldn’t really come out of it until some time in April. At that time, light boxes were much more expensive, but looking back, I should have bought one anyway.

Life is too short to spend anymore of it than necessary depressed!

Here are more tips on how to use light therapy effectively from PsychEducation.org.

Does this resonate with you? Do you think you, or someone you know, may have S.A.D.?

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. 🙂 )

Making the Case for Indie AND Traditional Publishing (For Writers and Readers)

by Kassandra Lamb

I envy writers under thirty. Not for their youth, but because they have never known a publishing world where indie publishing wasn’t a viable alternative.

But I’ve heard even some younger writers make comments that indicate they think indie is what you do if you can’t get a traditional publishing contract. In other words, it’s a second choice.

Actually, for some of us, it was a first choice.

And sadly there are a few traditionally published authors who like to judge indies from the other side of the fence. (See Part I of this series: Creativity, Sensitivity, Laziness and Courage.)

For the newbie authors out there (or those considering jumping the fence), I will try to spell out the differences between the two paths. Also, I want to mention the pros of each for readers, the most important people in this whole arena!

I will try to be balanced, but I’ll warn you all up front, I am biased toward the indie path, since that’s the one I chose. To help counter that bias I’ll let trad publishing go first. And I’m trying to stay positive by focusing on the “pros” of each (the cons are mostly implied).

K.B. Owen, one of my sister authors here at misterio press, generously offered the graphic she developed for a presentation on publishing she gave recently. It gives us a great jumping off point.

chart of pros of each

(Chart created by K.B. Owen (c) 2016)

TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING PROS

Validation:  The author can feel confident that their story idea is worthy and that their writing is good. Trad publishing gives it the stamp of approval of the industry.

For the reader, this means the odds are good that you will enjoy reading this book, that it will abide by the expectations for its genre and will only have the good kind of twists and turns, not the kind that leave you thinking “Huh?” or have you dangling off the edge of an unexpected cliffhanger.

Access to Experienced Professionals:  You don’t have to find your own cover artist, editor or proofreader. The publisher provides all that. They prep your book for publication while you are writing the next one.

For readers, this means you usually won’t find any major plot holes or other writing faux pas and the typos will be minimal. (I say “usually” because I’ve found more typos in recent years in all books, indie and trad-pubbed, but then maybe I’m more sensitive to them now that I’m writing and publishing fiction myself.)

Visibility/Publisher Promo:  Visibility is probably the traditional publishers’ greatest “pro.” They have the ins with the retailers, the distribution networks, etc. that make it easier for readers to find a new author. They especially have an advantage in the distribution arena, as indies have to struggle to get their books into physical bookstores. They fall a good bit short, however, in the promotions area (more on this in a minute).

bookshop interior

Photo by Bahrain International Airport (The Bookshop @BIA) CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Readers don’t have to go searching for new releases in bookstores or hope that their spam filters don’t keep them from seeing their favorite authors’ newsletters announcing said releases. Traditionally published new releases are more likely to be on the front displays in brick-and-mortar stores and front and center in the promos by online retailers.

No Upfront Costs/Author Advance:  The publisher shells out for cover art and editing. The author pays nothing, and may even get paid upfront via an advance (although these are not as sure a thing as they once were, and are usually small for new authors).

This means readers usually see well-designed covers and good editing.

INDIE PUBLISHING PROS

Creative Control/Flexibility:  This is one of the big advantages for indie publishing. You may have to find your own editors and pay them, but if you don’t like the changes they advise, you don’t have to accept them. Likewise, you find and pay your cover artist but don’t have to live with a cover you don’t like.

Related to this is flexibility. The writer doesn’t have to beg the publisher to correct typos that readers have pointed out. You can go in and upload a corrected text file yourself. (But you have to do this; not some worker at the publishing house.) You also control where the book is sold, how much it’s sold for, whether or not it is discounted, etc. And you can change things up to discover what works best for your books.

sculpture - "Modern Book Printing" on Berlin Walk of Ideas

“Modern Book Printing” sculpture on the Berlin “Walk of Ideas” (photo by Lienhard Schulz, permission by Scholz Friends Sensai, agency of Walk of Ideas, CC BY-SA-3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

For the reader, this means more innovation—new ideas, new writing styles, etc. Writers aren’t producing what their publishers and editors want; they’re producing what they think you the reader wants. And you let them know if they’re right via your reviews. But it can also mean crappy books with poor or no editing.

Books Get To Market Faster:  In traditional publishing there is up to a two-year lag from the day the contract is signed and the date of actual publication. That’s a long time to wait to see your baby in print and to see money coming in for your efforts. Most indie authors can write, polish and publish a good book in about six months. This means you have readers and royalties sooner instead of later, and many indies find that they can publish more books in a year this way. (I average 3 per year.)

More books means more visibility, more readers, more royalties.

For readers, you’re getting books based on this year’s trends, not those of two years ago. And your favorite indie authors are probably releasing new stories more often.

Paid Promptly/Better Royalties:  This is the other biggie for indie publishing. Traditional publishing royalties often lag behind by six months or more, and royalty reports may be sketchy or hard to decipher, so you’re never quite sure if you’re getting all that is due you. Indies get paid within a month or two, depending on the distributor, and they get to keep all of the royalties less what the distributors keep. This is between 35% and 70% depending on the distributor and the price point, versus 17-25% (more often 17 and one has to pay their agent out of that) for trad-published books.

Readers, indie-pubbed books are almost always cheaper. At 65-70% royalty from distributors for ebooks, these authors can make more money even at lower prices (and most of them would rather sell more books for less each).

Retain All Rights/Stays In Print:  Yes, trad publishers can provide greater visibility for the new author, but if that book doesn’t sell up to their expectations within six months, it’s almost always taken off the shelves. And then the author may have to fight to get the rights back to their own work. Indies have to work harder and often have to wait longer to get some traction, but their work is available forever, and they retain the rights.

For readers, this means that when you discover a new-to-you author, you can still get your hands on all their works, no matter how long ago they were published. (I recently discovered a great writer, only to find that all but one of her books were out of print, the one I’d just read.)

WHAT’S THE SAME FOR BOTH

Both indie and trad-published authors have to write great books in order to be successful. And they need to work with experienced professionals (cover designers, editors, etc.) to make sure their books are truly the best they can be.

AND they both have to do the bulk of their own promotions. Unless you are already a well-established, well-known entity, publishers will spend little to none of their marketing budgets on you and your book. You have to establish a “brand” and develop a social media presence, buy ads, etc.

Whatever path a writer chooses in order to get their books out there, judging or sniping at each other is uncalled for. We are not competitors. Books are not like toasters or refrigerators. Consumers don’t just buy one every few years.

Books are consumable items for readers. The main challenge is getting their attention in the crowded market today. Granted, that market has been made much more crowded because of indie publishing.

But putting down other authors doesn’t make your books rise to the top. Only great writing, hard work, and a good bit of luck will do that.

Dawn Whidden and Kass at Bell Christmas Festival

A selfie with an author I now call a friend, Dawn Kopman Whidden, at Bell, Florida’s Christmas Festival. Most folks who stopped at our table bought a book from each of us, because books are not toasters!

I much prefer the attitude I’ve encountered in most authors, a more comrade-in-arms approach. Because we’re all in this crazy business together!

Your thoughts on this, authors? Readers, do you care whether a book is traditionally or indie published?

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.)

Creativity, Sensitivity, Laziness and Courage

by Kassandra Lamb

Please note that this is not a post about the pros and cons of indie vs. traditional publishing per se (I will cover those in a later post). Rather this post is about the “between a rock and a hard place” spot where new writers often find themselves as they explore how to get their words in front of readers’ eyes.

The indie vs. traditional publishing controversy was resurrected in December, 2016, by a Huffington Post article with the rather obnoxious title, Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word? by Laurie Gough.

Quite a few indie authors immediately responded with some eloquent replies. And then the Alliance of Independent Authors published their New Year’s post: Successful Indie Authors 2016: Part One.

These two posts, along with the responding comments, represent the two sides of this controversy, but I noted that one thing was missing from the discussion. Indeed, I have never heard this point made during debates about the issue.

Creatives are, by definition, sensitive souls.

Van Gogh

One of Van Gogh’s self portraits, this one with a bandage where his ear once was. Creatives’ sensitivity sometimes leads to madness. (public domain)

It’s a cliché really—the tortured artistic poet/painter/musician/actor/author who drinks too much, uses drugs, suffers for their art with an angst-filled life, etc.

But like all clichés, this one has a kernel of truth at its core.

So why would we require that these sensitive souls endure months or years of rejection before they are allowed to show their work to the world?

The author of the Huff Post article calls literary agents and traditional publishers the “gatekeepers” of the written word. Indeed, that term is bandied about a lot in the world of trad publishing. The implication is that they are saving the unwashed masses of readers from bad literature by carefully vetting new works of fiction.

In addition to the implied insult to readers, the reality is that all too often these days agents and publishers are not always as concerned about the quality of a story as they are about whether or not they think it will sell.

That’s not just my perspective; I’ve heard agents say this at conferences. With regret in their voices, because they know good stories are being rejected and good writers are being discouraged by those rejections.

No one deals well with rejection. And the more important an achievement or some aspect of ourselves is to us, the greater the blow to our spirits if it is rejected.

During my twenty-year career as a psychotherapist, I wrote and published multiple professional articles. I had more than one editor tell me that my ability to string words together in a coherent and interesting way was well above average. (I mention this only to point out that I had good reason to believe I was a good writer.)

During that same time period, I wrote the beginnings of several novels, plus quite a few shorter stories, all of which ended up in a box labeled “fiction” when I retired and moved to Florida.

I’d considered trying to get my fiction work published many times during those twenty years. What stopped me was not doubt in my abilities as a writer. No, each time I was stopped by the reality of how much rejection I would have to endure before I managed to find a publisher.

statue of baby taking first steps

Karl Hulstrom’s statue, First Steps in Stockholm, Sweden (photo by Bengt Oberger CC-BY 3.0 unported, Wikimedia Commons)

For writers, our works are our children. We build them from scratch, their bones leaching sleep and sanity from us as surely as a growing babe in the womb leaches nutrients from his mother’s system. Then we spend weeks, sometimes months, putting flesh on those bones—editing and fine-tuning every scene, paragraph and sentence.

And then we are expected to send these innocent babes out to strangers, requesting that they please, please let our children live?

And when those children are beaten with a club and sent back to us, we are expected to dust them off and send them out again to even more strangers.

I’m sure this gauntlet of rejection has kept many a good writer besides myself from even trying to get their work published. Having our “children” abused and tossed out into the cold again and again is often more than we can even stand to think about.

I’m also sure that many agents and publishers are trying to be good gatekeepers, but when I think of the traditional publishing industry as a whole today, the image that comes to mind is not of someone standing beside a gate, checking the quality of the work produced by those who wish to pass through it.

Rather I see a dam, an artificial barrier stopping up the flow of creativity, allowing only a limited trickle of new authors’ works to pass through.

Yagisawa Dam (public domain)

Yagisawa Dam (public domain)

Five years into my retirement, I had finally finished one of my novels and polished it to the best of my ability (with the help of many beta readers and a professional editor).

I took a deep breath (several actually) and sent out my first batch of query emails. And then ran to the bathroom to throw up. The thought of the inevitable round of rejections literally made me sick.

This was the summer of 2011. After I had rinsed out my mouth and stumbled back to my computer, I asked myself why I was going through this. Life was too short, especially at my age, to intentionally torture my soul this way.

That summer, I started checking out this new trend of self-publishing ebooks that seemed to be getting a foothold in the publishing industry. That summer, I also met Shannon Esposito at a writers’ conference, and while other authors were schmoozing with the agents and editors at the obligatory after-conference cocktail party, she and I were huddled in a corner conspiring.

I’ve never looked back.

The end result of that conspiring was misterio press, an indie press that operates as an author cooperative. Today, my sister authors at misterio and I are each others’ gatekeepers. After each author’s work has gone through the beta readers, editing, etc. process, we read and critique each others’ stories to make sure we are producing the best quality mysteries we possibly can.

Misterio press is the best of both worlds for our authors, and we believe for our readers as well. They get top quality mysteries at indie prices.

Ironically, several of our authors have been approached by traditional publishers, and two of them are now “hybrid” authors. I haven’t been approached and I’m not sure what I would do if I were.

I suspect I would turn them down.

Those traditionally-published authors who look down their noses* at indies often imply (or outright say) that we are taking the lazy way out or that we lack the courage to submit our work to the “gatekeepers.”

Do not judge until you have walked a mile in our shoes. I have never worked harder in my life! And believe me, it takes a lot of courage to go it on one’s own. We sink or swim on the merits of our writing, and our final judges are the readers.

(*Note: This is not the majority of trad-pubbed authors. And if you are an author who has taken the traditional path, I’m rooting for your success! Each of us has to choose the way that works best for us.)

Book publishing today has essentially gone the same route as the music industry, toward empowering artists to reach out to their listeners/readers directly rather than having the control over their careers resting with big companies.

It’s a brave new world for authors and I am glad to be a part of it!

Your thoughts on the indie publishing revolution?

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. 🙂 )

Reassessing Where We’re Going: 4 Careers I Opted Not To Pursue and Why

by Kassandra Lamb

When the year is new, our minds may turn to evaluating our careers. And sometimes we decide we need a change. This can be a good thing, but only if we choose wisely.

I’ve had four careers in my lifetime—clerical worker in human resources (striving for but failing to break the glass ceiling), psychotherapist, college professor and fiction author.

Choosing a career is both complicated and life-changing, and yet I believe that we as a society give people far too little guidance in making this important decision.

When I taught psychology, I always included a unit on career choice. I emphasized that you really needed to walk not just a mile, but a whole year, in the moccasins of another. I suggested that students interview someone in the career they wished to pursue and ask them about a typical day, a typical week and a typical year in that field.

Here are 4 careers I opted not to pursue after checking them out.

Elementary School Teacher:

As a teen and young adult, I loved small children. I entered college with the intention of majoring in elementary education.

In my junior year, as I started taking more courses in my major, I realize that K–12 schoolteachers had very little autonomy. There are principals and vice principals and curriculum supervisors looking over your shoulder at every turn.

empty daycare center

This could have been my work setting (photo by bakztfuture CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Being a cussedly independent person, this did not sit well.

I dropped out of college and got a clerical job to support myself while I tried again to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I discovered that I actually liked the administrative tasks involved in running an office, but eventually I got frustrated by that whole glass ceiling thing (this was in the 1970s).

Daycare Center Owner:

Still enamored with small children, I took several night courses in child development while investigating what was involved in running a daycare center.

What I discovered was that the owners of such facilities were buried in paperwork and administrative duties and spent little time interacting with the children. And the teachers in such centers—while they did get to spend all day with the kids—tended to not make a living wage.

This was a no. I was already struggling on a secretary’s salary (this was before they were called administrative assistants).

Kass and son as toddler

Having my own little one cured me. (He turned 37 yesterday 🙂 )

Fortunately having a child of my own seemed to shift my desire to spend all day with other people’s toddlers.

My maternal instincts satisfied, I moved on.

Lawyer:

Several years into my career as a psychotherapist, I became fascinated by the legal field. I’d encountered a few cases where my clients were dealing with legal issues—divorces, lawsuits, etc.

The law appealed to my analytical brain. And I certainly had the people skills, grasp of language, and chutzpah to do trial work.

empty courtroom

Another potential work setting. (photo public domain Wikimedia Commons)

But I also had a couple of clients who were lawyers. Their descriptions of law school and the long, tedious hours they had spent in law libraries doing research as junior associates soon disabused me of any desire to change to a law career.

I do not deal well with tedium!

Antiques Dealer:

This one actually made it to the business-cards-are-printed level—“Antiques by Kassandra” they proclaimed—and my basement was piled high with old furniture and glassware.

Ironically, the law was a big part of what burned me out as a therapist. Over the course of three years, I had four clients who ended up in legal battles, each one nastier than the one before. I went to court with them and held their hands, and in two cases, ended up testifying. It was the final straw. I didn’t want to hear about nor watch people going through misery anymore.

I appreciated antiques, so I decided to become an antiques dealer. Fortunately, I tested the waters before closing my therapy practice.

I had no desire to open a shop, but I could buy and sell—I’d always loved flea markets and yard sales and such. I soon discovered that being the middleman in the antiques business was not a great role. The owners of retail shops wanted to tear down the quality of what I had to offer, in order to get it at a cheaper price and then resell it for more.

18th century chair

Do people think  no one ever sat in this chair? (Museum of Fine Arts, Toluca, Mexico, photo by Alejandro Linares Garcia CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

I loved old things. I did not want to hear, day in and day out, how these things were practically worthless because they had a scratch or a ding in them, especially since I knew the person denigrating my stock was only doing so to get a better deal. And to me, the scratches and dings enhanced their value!

Fortunately, around that time, I landed my first teaching gig at the college level. I soon discovered that I loved being a professor, and I was off and running in that new career.

And then of course, after retirement, I had the time and financial security to finally pursue my life-long dream of writing fiction.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every one of my careers, and I’m grateful that I managed not to go too far astray down these other paths.

What career changes have you considered? Did those pursuits turn out good or bad?

Also, today is the LAST DAY in our 7 Free Mysteries for 7 Days giveaway! Click HERE to grab your free books!

freebie banner

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. 🙂 )

What Christmas Means To Us

by Kassandra Lamb

On behalf of the whole gang, let me wish all of our subscribers, readers, fellow authors, and everybody else for that matter, an absolutely wonderful holiday season. Christmas means joy and peace and love, and we wish all of those things for you.

To our readers especially, a big holiday thank you! You keep us going. We create our characters but you breathe life into them every time you open one of our books and dive in.

Our blog is on hiatus for the holidays. We’ll be back on January 3rd with a huge 2017 surprise. (Hint: it’s an awesome giveaway. 🙂 )

In the meantime, here’s a couple of my favorite holiday songs by Pentatonix, to remind us of what the season is all about!

And with a bit more of a religious bent, one of the most beautiful songs ever, in my humble opinion.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

See you in the New Year!

5 Tips for Reducing Holiday Stress

by Kassandra Lamb

ornaments on a tree

photo by Kris de Curtis CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

This is a joyous time of year, but it is also the most stressful time of year for many of us. Especially for those who are trying to make Christmas happen for their families.

Here are a few helpful hints on how to keep the stress manageable and the joy optimal.

1.  Write It Down.

Santa isn’t the only one who should be making a list and checking twice.

This is actually 3 tips in one. First, making a list of everything that needs to be done will keep you from forgetting something that might then become a last-minute crisis/super stressor.

Second, you get the list out of your head and onto paper so you don’t have to stress yourself with trying to remember everything.

And third, it is very satisfying to physically scratch things off a list. Sometimes I put things on there that I’ve already done, so I can immediately scratch them off again. 😀

2. Keep It Simple.

Are there things you do for Christmas that nobody really cares about, maybe not even you?

A few years ago, during a stressful time for my family, we opted for a cold buffet instead of a big Christmas dinner. I was amazed at how little I missed the fancy meal (and all the prep, not at all).

We made the cold buffet a new tradition. We still have special things to eat (my DIL makes awesome cranberry chicken salad), but it can all be prepared a day or two in advance. Christmas Day, we open presents and enjoy each others’ company and spend very little time in the kitchen.

3. Pace Yourself.

This is a marathon, not a sprint. If you try to do too much in one day you will wear yourself out, and be tired and grouchy the next day.

If you want to be super-organized, you could mark the day you plan to do certain things on your list. Then on any given day, you are only stressing about that day’s chores.

hand and book

Take a break. Read a book! 🙂 (photo by David, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia)

Also this time of year, getting too fatigued can lead to illness, with all the nasty flu and cold viruses floating around.

Getting sick is definitely not going to help! Which brings us to…

4. Take Care of Yourself.

Schedule proper rest, eating and some exercise into your days.

My mother used to wear herself down to the nub by Christmas Eve. My brother and I would hide in our rooms as much as possible. She was so exhausted and cranky, if we landed on her radar, who knew what would happen?

By the next day, she was much better and we always had a great Christmas, but much of what she had done to prepare for it wasn’t really what made it special for us.

The specialness of Christmas came from having a whole day of relaxation and freedom to play and undivided attention from the adults in the family. Everybody was in a great mood and we had a blast.

child with toys

You can’t see my face but I’m grinning.

Oh, and there were new toys, of course.

5. There Is No Report Card!

Christmas should not be a contest or a performance for which we receive a grade. If you have someone in your life who tends to be that judgmental, you have my permission to uninvite them for Christmas.

If that’s not an option, then practice some lines you can fire back if they comment or even just glare at you judgmentally.

Something like “My house may not be perfect but my kids are happy.”

Or maybe “What would Jesus do?” to remind them that judging is definitely not in the spirit of the season.

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Our blog will be on hiatus until January 3rd, at which point we have a BIG surprise for you. Stay tuned for an awesome 2017 giveaway!!

Merry Christmas

image by Ac1983fan CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

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. 🙂 )