Tag Archives: Vinnie Hansen

Where the Research Takes Me–the Desert and a Mexican Jail!

by Vinnie Hansen

Whether I consult my reference book Deadly Doses or tour San Quentin, all of my mysteries involve research. Death with Dessert, the newly re-released fifth book in the Carol Sabala series, required the most difficult research of the seven books.

Death with Dessert contains an immigration sub-theme. Illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States is a complex topic. In my long career as a teacher I worked with immigrant families and heard many of their stories. But I still spent many hours reading about the Operation Wetback program of the 1950s, watching documentaries, and talking to workers from Humane Borders and the Mexican Consulate in Tuscon.

3 Points restaurant

3 Points restaurant

However, there’s no substitute for personal experience. I needed to see my immigrants’ path in a more earthy way.

So I flew to Tuscon, rented a car, and drove Highway 286 from Three Points down to the tiny border town of Sasabe. I stopped along the way to smell the desert, to note the plants and landscape, and to listen to the sounds (mostly border patrol vehicles driving up and down this corridor, ATVs jouncing in the backs of their trucks).

I noted the arroyos under clumps of mesquite, great for hiding from aerial surveillance, but deadly in a flash flood. I imagined walking this beautiful, desolate countryside, the scorpions and rattlesnakes and lack of water.

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Downtown Sasabe, just over the border.

I returned from my trip more confident that I could create the illegal immigrants’ experience in a convincing way. As the adage says, “Write what you know, or know what you write.”

At the start of Death with Dessert, my private investigator Carol Sabala launches on a mission to track down her missing father in Mexico. I set Carol’s destination as Zihuatenejo, because my husband and I had spent many winter vacations there. But once I decided the town would be featured in my book, instead of photographing the sunsets, I turned my camera toward policemen and street scenes.

20060104_0087My side trips in Zihuatenejo also took a turn. Because Carol Sabala spends time in a Mexican jail, I had to visit one. My husband, ever the game one, accompanied me to the El Centro de Readaptación Social.

20060105_0107The barren lot outside the facility teemed with police officers, many armed with sub machine guns.

I’d heard about the police in the state of Guerrero—that they worked 24-hour shifts and were paid horribly, that they were corrupt and hated, that they had disappeared people during the Guerra Sucia, the Dirty War.

Nonetheless, I approached the “office,” a cubicle open to the air in the stucco building. It contained a battered desk, a manual typewriter, and not much else. In my limited Spanish, I explained to the officer that I was a mystery writer and asked if I could tour the jail. I have done several jail tours in the United States, so this did not seem like an outrageous request to me.

The officers thought differently and regarded me with immediate suspicion, asking if I was a Human Rights Watch activist, and wanting to see my passport.

Fortunately I had left my passport in our hotel, otherwise they might have confiscated it. As it was, officers frog-marched us to the curb where a taxi mysteriously appeared to transport us back to where we belonged.

I didn’t get inside the jail. If I had, my view probably would have been from behind bars! The police department’s worry about Human Rights Watch hinted at the conditions inside. My imagination rounded out the picture.

Please check out Death with Dessert, and I have a giveaway going on over at Goodreads. Today’s the last day so hop on over there and sign up. Hope you win a copy!

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Death with Dessert, A Carol Sabala Mystery (#5)

A dead mother. A missing father. A mysterious man.

They all spell trouble for private investigator Carol Sabala. When Carol’s mother dies unexpectedly, Carol is left with no family—only money, grief, and an envelope. Her mother has charged her with a mission: deliver the envelope to her long-lost father.

Enroute to Zihuatanejo, Mexico, to track down her father, Carol encounters the alluring Mark Escalante, who snares her in a deadly pursuit of his own.

AVAILABLE NOW on AMAZON and through SMASHWORDS

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. 🙂 )

The Golden Donut Award

by Vinnie Hansen

In August I received the “coveted” Golden Donut.

Vinnie golden donut award DSCN0524Sounds like something invented by a cop, right? It is. The Writers’ Police Academy (WPA) awards the Golden Donut.

I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews of the WPA, held this year in Appleton, Wisconsin at the new Fox Valley Technical College Public Safety Training Center.

The WPA is a small conference (300 attendees this year) at which law enforcement officers, firefighters, and EMTs work hands on with writers who are eager to get their facts straight. Writers learn to handcuff, lift prints, and shoot. They examine blood splatter, practice takedowns, and visit a jail and a morgue. All kinds of fun stuff.

Although attending WPA ranks high on my bucket list, this year I was not able to attend.

However, I did enter the WPA’s writing contest, which is open to non-attendees. The contest starts with a photo prompt. Here is this year’s image:

Vinnie story prompt2012-06-09_14-02-08_578The scene in the image must play a vital part in the storyline. Stories must also be exactly 200 words—not 199 or 201. If a submission doesn’t follow the rules, well . . . this is a contest run by law enforcement!

However, the final judge this year was Sara Gruen *swoon*. I’m doubly honored that she is the one who chose my story “Bad Connection” as the winner of the coveted Golden Donut. For those who don’t know, Sara Gruen is the author of Water for Elephants.

So, without further ado, here is my 200-word story inspired by the two gravestones in the photo.

Bad Connection

Adam and Bette talked via identical tin cans. The connective wire snaked out Adam’s bedroom, across the bare side yards, and in through Bette’s window. In the cookie-cutter houses, their bedrooms matched like shoes.

When they were seven, Adam announced: “We’re going to get married.”

The words vibrated over to Bette’s heart.

“And be together forever!”

Their childhood conversations grew into teenaged angst on house phones, and years into their marriage, continued on mobile phones. Then their voices became texts:

On way home Bette thumbed.
R U txtng & drvng?
Tht’s life.
Me 2 Adam wrote.
Txtng & drvng?
Idiot. 🙂 On way home.
Turnng off Rdrx. She wrote.
Ha! Turnng Frtge Rd
Race? Bette stomped the pedal, knowing Adam’s response as though linked still by a tremolo of wire.

Rotten egg? He barreled down the street.
U R on.

Adam and Bette startled at the other’s mass of metal rocketing toward them, as though God had yanked the string on a pair of nunchuks. They collided head-on, the cars smashed like recycled soup cans.

Now they lie side by side in matched containers, calling to each other across a narrow passage of dirt.

You can check out some of the runner-up stories over at the WPA site.

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. 🙂 )

“Survivor”–Sisters in Crime version

Vinnie Hansen is starting off our August blog schedule with a bang today, with her own version of a reality show. And she’s got some really BIG news to share!

Shh, not until the end of the post though. But it’s definitely something she can BRAG about.

“Survivor”

by Vinnie Hansen DSCN0415What would happen if a villain dropped one of our protagonists into the wilderness? How would our heroine survive?

That question and a love for camaraderie propelled 13 brave members of my Sisters in Crime chapter to attend a Wilderness Survival Camp.

Dan, our fearless leader

Dan, our fearless leader

We met our fearless leader Dan, a consultant to various reality television shows, in the redwood forest of a private vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

The first rule for survival is: Don’t Panic.

Air is our most essential element. We can live for only a few minutes without it. Adrenaline sucks up oxygen.

Lack of oxygen can make our limbs go numb and our brain lose perspective. Perfectly outfitted hikers have been found dead in the wilderness because they became disoriented, forgetting where they set their pack or the direction back to their shelter.

After some deep breathing, the sacred order for survival is:

1. shelter
2. water
3. fire
4. food

Before our training, I thought water was the most important concern, but a person can go for days without water. Exposure, not dehydration, is the leading cause of death in the wilderness. Shelter allows one to thermo regulate, which conserves water, and protects against heat or cold.

Dan divided us into three teams, and after a brief lesson set us off to build shelters given the materials at hand. Some simple rules: create plenty of insulation under and around the body, and create a small area of dead air space for one’s body heat to warm. In other words, the shelter should be a snug fit.

DSCN0420 shelterHere’s what my team built. Dan tested the shelter by standing on top of it. All three teams built “tents” that withstood his test

Next we tackled finding water, easy in our spot with a river flowing below us. But even in the desert water exists. Look for the lowest point, signs of vegetation, and animal tracks. Animals have to drink! Even butterflies and bees need water. You can collect water by running your shirt through dew points.

If you have a choice, choose running water over still water, and water that supports algae and tadpoles over water that appears devoid of life.

Boil if possible. We learned how to rock boil water even without a pot.

That brings us to fire.

Dan showing our Sister in Crime Jenny Carless how to make a friction fire.

Dan showing our Sister in Crime Jenny Carless how to make a friction fire.

Making friction fire is an arduous task, involving many steps. Nonetheless, a couple of my sisters did create fire before our camp ended, lifting them to goddess status.

Most of us left vowing to carry matches–everywhere.

Jenny, aka the SiN Fire Goddess

Jenny, aka the SinC Fire Goddess

 

 

 

One participant already reported back that the TSA allows one book of matches.

This was a rewarding experience even if not a single detail finds its way into one of my mysteries. I came home exhausted, but in the way one does after a day outdoors in the sun with a lot of good friends.

Have you ever taken any survival training? How well do you think you’d do out in the wilderness on your own?

BLACK-BEANS-&-VENOM w BRAG medallion

And now the news… Drumroll please. Black Beans and Venom, the most recent book in my Carol Sabala mystery series has won a B.R.A.G. medallion.

This honor is bestowed on top quality indie books by the Book Readers Appreciation Group, and I’m thrilled to have received it. Check out the gold medallion that now adorns the book cover. 😀

 

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. 🙂 )

Setting Dilemma (plus a New Release)

by Vinnie Hansen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vinnie posing on the Watsonville High School sign

A younger me at Watsonville High

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

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

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

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

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

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

One Tough Cookie, A Carol Sabala Mystery

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

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

Now Available on AMAZON and SMASHWORDS

 

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

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

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

There Is a Season For All Things

With spring finally here, after a particularly brutal winter in a good part of the United States, we decided to reflect a bit about the seasons. So we asked our authors this question:

What is your favorite season and why?

Several of them waxed quite poetic with their answers.

shannonportraitShannon:

The seasons pull my soul along as surely as the moon affects the tides. Right now we’re heading into spring. Spring births restlessness. The kind that makes me want to plant herbs and fairy gardens, clear out clutter and polish everything in my life until it shines like the moon.

We’re just leaving winter behind and I say good riddance. Winter buries me in darkness. Just like a tulip bulb waiting in the suffocating, cold earth, I wait in stillness for the season to leave. My soul mutters, “This too shall pass” as the days grow darker and colder.

Before that came fall. Fall also brings restlessness for me, but a different kind. Fall brings a deep ache for bare Gypsy feet, a need to be blown into unknown places like the brittle leaves when the high winds howl. Fall brings longing for travel, exploration, to be anywhere but where I am.

Shannon and her boys, on the beach at sunset

Several years ago — introducing my sons to sunset on the beach

And then there is summer. My love. The season where I finally feel like myself.

Summer blows my heart wide open with bone- warming sunshine and precious ocean time. I am no longer restless or curled inward. I am alive. I feel my heart beating, overflowing with gratitude.

shuffing feet in sand

Summer brings salty hair and lips; sweet, lazy laughter-filled days with the kids. It brings peace on healing rays of sun. In the summer, I feel connected to Mother Earth and grounded in the moment as I dig my toes into warm sand. Summer is my long, contented sigh and when it comes, I am finally home.

K.B. Owen
Kathy

There is something about autumn that has always appealed to me: the fresh, crisp air after the humidity of summer; the blaze of golds, reds, and burnt oranges that sweeps across the landscape; kids starting the new school year (most of them ready to go back – the parents sure are); roadside stands and farmer’s markets spilling over with harvest bounty.

It’s a time when I feel more energetic and want to do more things, whether it’s visiting a pumpkin patch, going leaf-peeping, making a hearty stew, or cleaning up the yard. I find myself exploring new recipes to use up the surplus in my garden, or learning ways to preserve some of it for winter.

photo of pumpkinsIt’s a time to pull out the fall decorations, to spruce things up with pumpkins, gourds, and tea lights, and to pull out the backyard fire bowl and sit around it, swapping tales of our day while sipping cocktails.

Our family looks forward to the fall holidays of Halloween and Thanksgiving, too. My kids have been able to enjoy Halloween in a way that I never could in my childhood, because my allergy-induced asthma often put me in the hospital in late October, especially during my trick-or-treat years. I carved my first pumpkin at 22. But I think I’ve now carved enough pumpkins to have made up for lost time! I consider myself very blessed to enjoy many Halloweens with my own children, and every year it feels like I’m just as much of a kid about it as they are. I don’t think I’ll ever “quite” grow up in that regard.

me with normal-sized headKass

The seasons really affect my mood. They always have. When we lived in Maryland, my favorite season was summer, hands down.

I hated winter with its short, gray days and icy roads. I would start to come to life in the spring, but that is Maryland’s rainy season. So while the temperatures were warmer and the threat of ice and snow faded away, it was still gray and damp all too many days.

Summer was what I lived for. Yes, it was hot, but the long, long days of sunshine were worth a little sweat. I love being outdoors and I love projects, and there was always something to be done on our little horse farm–a fence needing mending, an outbuilding to be painted. I was in my glory!

azaleas blooming in the woodsNow I live in northern Florida, and while I still like summer a lot, spring has become my favorite season. Unlike in Maryland, spring tends to be fairly dry down here. For days on end, the sun shines, the temperatures hover in the high 70’s to low 80’s and the humidity is relatively low. The mild but rainy winters produce lush greenery and gorgeous spring flowers.

Winter still depresses me a little, but I know it will be short-lived and I will come to life again in March, when our long, glorious spring begins.

1512492_1496572107233708_1637885544_nVinnie

I wonder if our favorite season might correspond to the arc of our lives. When I was growing up in South Dakota, I loved springtime, especially May, that sliver between freezing cold and hellish hot. As a young adult, I became a beach bunny in California and loved summertime beach volleyball. The long stretch of day meant more playing time.

Vinnie and her husband hiking in fall

Vinnie and her husband hiking in the fall.

Now, in the autumn of my years, my favorite season is fall.

When Emily Dickinson wrote, “There’s a certain slant of light,” I feel she must have meant the angled light of autumn. Here in Santa Cruz, that soft light ushers in our loveliest weather.

With the shortening days, self-reflection takes hold in me, a quiet repose that suits my current stage.

How about you? What is your favorite season, and why?

 

Posted by Kassandra Lamb on behalf of the whole gang. 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. 🙂 )

8 Ways For an Introvert to Enjoy a Convention

by Vinnie Hansen

As authors, we often attend conventions. Probably you have done so as well in the course of your career.

After several Left Coast Crime Conventions and one Killer Nashville Convention, as a painful introvert, I finally have the hang of how to enjoy these events. This is the wisdom I’ve gleaned:

The Willamette River in Portland

The Willamette River in Portland, Oregon

1.  See the venue. On my trip to Nashville, exhausted as I was, I caught a hotel shuttle to the downtown strip at night and walked place to place until I heard music that appealed to me—The Don Kelley band at Robert’s.

At the recent Left Coast Crime, the sun was shining when I arrived in Portland. Knowing the weather wouldn’t hold, I seized the moment and walked to Powell’s Books. These were unforgettable experiences. In both cases I went with another person I didn’t know well. I feel bonded to them through the shared activity, which brings me to tip #2.

My new friend, Cindy Brown, author of MacDeath

My new friend, Cindy Brown, author of MacDeath

2.  Attend the convention alone. If you go with a good friend or spouse, you’ll spend too much time together. It’s natural, especially for a shy person like me. A huge benefit of a conference is meeting other writers and making new friends. Which brings me to tip #3.

3.  Park the idea that the conference is mainly about selling books. All writers want book sales, but that’s my point. Attendees can develop marketing fatigue. They tire of people thrusting books in their faces. Calm down. Let people get to know you. Share yourself. Then maybe they’ll buy your book. But . . .

Vinnie's bookmark
4.  Be prepared. Take bookmarks and/or cards and have them handy. Tuck some in the conference lanyard pocket. I kick myself for every time I had interest in my book and was not able to hand the person my info.

5.  Promote others. If you like someone else’s book, give it a plug. It builds friendships and good karma.

6.  Get involved. I’ve asked for and been lucky to receive panel assignments at all the conventions I’ve attended. I’ve made lasting connections with my panel mates. But volunteering is another way to form bonds. I don’t regret a minute of the hour I spent “manning” the Sisters in Crime table in Portland, or the time I spent helping Robin Burcell heft around boxes of books in Monterey.

Lovely, Dark & Deep: What Makes a Literary Mystery panel with authors John Addiego, Jennifer Bosworth, Deborah Reed, Susanna Calkins and Vinnie Hansen

Lovely, Dark & Deep: What Makes a Literary Mystery panel with authors John Addiego, Jennifer Bosworth, Deborah Reed, Susanna Calkins and me (far right)

7.  Observe your surroundings. As writers, isn’t that imperative? I met people who holed up in their rooms to make their word counts and I admire their discipline. But what do we write about if we don’t observe what’s around us?

judge with a fluffy white catThe Portland DoubleTree had a Cat Fanciers Show right next door. For the nominal fee of four dollars, I discovered a fascinating foreign world and gained a wealth of information.

8.  Take photos. They are so important for follow-up Facebook posts or blogs like this one. And, at my age, they really help me to remember all those people I met!

These simple practices have transformed my convention experience from intimidating to stimulating.

Have you had to attend conventions for your job? How do you feel about them?

OneToughCookieComing soon! The re-release of One Tough Cookie, A Carol Sabala Mystery, under the misterio press imprint. So stay tuned.

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. 🙂 )

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.

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. 🙂 )

Word!!

by Kassandra Lamb on behalf of the whole gang!

Happy New Year sign

(image by Nevit Dilmen, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

When my son was in his early teens (circa 1993), he and his friends would greet each other with this 4-letter utterance: “Word!” It stood for “What’s the word?” or What’s happening?”

There seems to be a growing trend this year to substitute a single word for New Year’s resolutions. This struck our fancy here at misterio press. So here are our Words (sometimes we’ve cheated a tiny bit with two words) for 2015!

K.B. OwenFirst up, K.B. Owen:

My word for 2015: EMBRACE.

EMBRACE the satisfaction of the little accomplishments, such as resolving that plot twist that’s been plaguing my story.
EMBRACE hard work, because that either serves others or gets me to my own goals.
EMBRACE experimentation and risk, for that is how I grow.
EMBRACE setbacks and failures, so that I can learn from them.
EMBRACE quietness, always a challenge for me and my busy mind.
EMBRACE joy, for there are problems enough in this troubled world.
EMBRACE gratitude, for I am very blessed, even when I’m not mindful of it.
EMBRACE friendship, for we are all in this crazy life together!

Following up on the Embrace theme is Vinnie Hansen:

Vinnie HansenFor my word, I’m going with “Ridiculous” or “Embrace ridiculousness.”

The thought that I will appear ridiculous impedes my risk taking. I should ask, “So what?”

Most people delight in the ridiculous, especially if the person being ridiculous embraces it unabashedly.

 

On first blush, Shannon Esposito’s word(s) may seem the exact opposite of Embrace, but not really:

shannonportraitMy phrase is LET GO… of goals and plans, and instead enjoy every day as it unfolds.

This may seem counterproductive but I’ve spent my whole life believing I’ll be happy as soon as I reach (insert any personal or professional goal). But I move on to the next goal, without stopping to appreciate where I am or the journey it took to get there.

LET GO of wishing things were different and just deal with things as they are.
LET GO of physical things and unclutter my life.
LET GO of being a perfectionist and allow myself to be messy, wrong and a risk-taker.
And finally LET GO of worry. It has not served me and is getting a 2015 eviction notice!

And now my word: CHOICE.

Before I retired and got into this writing stuff, I was really good at asking myself what I WANTED to do on my days off. I savored the ability to choose amongst the many tasks/activities I could be doing. “What do I want to do now?” was something I asked myself off and on throughout my non-working days.

When I first retired, I reveled in the ability to make those choices every day. But once I got serious about my writing somehow I lost that habit of stopping to choose what I want to do next. And along with that lost habit, I have lost some of my joy in living. So I’m going to focus in 2015 on remembering to make choices again.

Each day I will ask myself “What do I want to do today?” I’m pretty sure most days the answer will be “Write!” But I’m going to get back in the habit of making the Choice.

Kirsten Weiss

 

And now on behalf of our 5th author, Kirsten Weiss, who is traveling in developing nations at the moment, doing her “day job” (with sketchy internet service), we will pick a temporary word: SAFE.

Safe travels, Kirsten! We miss you!

How about you? What’s your Word(s) for 2015?

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. 🙂 )

Contemplating Christmas and Cuba

by Vinnie Hansen

With the release of Black Beans & Venom, my seventh Carol Sabala mystery, my mind turns to Cuba, the book’s setting.

My husband and I ventured there during December, 2010, partly to attend the International Jazz Festival. But one doesn’t have to attend an event to hear the Latin beats there. Full bands perform on the sidewalk. Guitar and woodblock duets float from a park, and trombone players practice on the seawall.

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I did not miss the canned muzak that assaults us during the holiday season in the United States. In this communist country we saw few signs of Christmas—and heard fewer.

Which is not to say I dislike Christmas music. Last year the ukulele group for which I play keyboards, the All in Good Time Orchestra (AIGT), performed Oh Holy Night at two holiday events.

When that music swelled and our vocals rose in “Fall on your knees/Oh hear the angel voices,” the vibration filled me with ecstasy.

Vinnie playing her keyboard with ukulele band.

Vinnie rockin’ it with her ukulele posse, the All in Good Time Orchestra

Since other groups also performed Oh Holy Night, this year our director suggested we do a piece that no one else would do—a Paul McCartney song. I expected a familiar tune. Instead I was introduced to a short melancholy piece that is now stuck in my head like an earworm.

Junk is not a Christmas song. But after once again watching people on Black Friday punch each other in order to score a television set, the lyrics speak to me. To paraphrase: Buy, buy the ads cry, but why, why the discarded junk asks.

Which brings me back to Cuba, a place singularly lacking in true junk. We all picture the old American cars there, but those aren’t the only things kept alive on the Caribbean island. Between the U.S. embargo and the collapse of the Soviet Union, the people lack supplies.

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So a wooden seat is crafted for an old bike. A worn tennis ball becomes a kid’s baseball. Old headlights are brightened with silver paint.

 

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Kids play with slingshots fashioned from branches and elastic. A cart with no wheels squeaks by on rusty rims.

So many of the details of Cuba wormed their way into my heart and into Black Beans & Venom.  While primarily a story of suspense, the book is also a tribute to the resourcefulness of the Cuban people.

As the holiday season commences and AIGT rehearses Junk, I think of this island country pressed into recycling, reusing, and repurposing. Is there a way to catch that spirit of resourcefulness, I wonder, without being forced into it?

Are there countries or regions you’ve visited where you were particularly impressed by the locals? What’s your favorite Christmas music?

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.

Now available on AMAZON and SMASHWORDS

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. 🙂 )

The Things We Take For Granted…

by Kassandra Lamb, on behalf of the whole misterio press gang

All of us here at misterio have lived a few decades (we’re not sayin’ how many) and we’ve had our share of trials and tribulations, some of which have found their way into our stories.

But today we wanted to focus on the good stuff in life. And when we stopped to think about what we were most grateful for, we discovered that it was all too easy to take those things for granted.

So starting off on that theme is Kirsten Weiss.

getting a glass of water at the sink

(Photo by CSIRO, CC-BY 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

I’m grateful for my family and friends, of course. But everyone says that, so I’ll go deeper.

For my “day job” I travel to developing countries. Every time I do, I’m struck by two things. First, how easy and bountiful my life is – electricity, clean water (and good pressure), food, a nice home, phones that work, a health care system that keeps my family well…

Next, I’m struck by how quickly I forget how fortunate I am once I return home. This western luxury seems so normal, but for most of the world’s population, it’s remarkable.

And from Vinnie Hansen (also very much the world traveler):

Every night, before bed, my husband and I each say three things from the day for which we are thankful.  The difficult part of this blog was to limit my blessings to three:

1. My husband – Because Prague is more fun with a partner . . .

IMG_2736as is Caracas, Quito, Jacó, Barcelona, Havana, Vancouver, Paris, Zihuatanejo. . . .

2.  Good health – In The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald creates a theme of the divide between rich and poor, and even the old rich vs. the nouveau riche. But his narrator Nick has the profound realization, “. . . there was no difference between men, in intelligence or race, so profound as the difference between the sick and the well.” I don’t take this blessing for granted. I walk every day, bike, and practice yoga–all exercises that travel well. This pic is from Sayulita, Mexico with the yoga palapa overlooking the Pacific. 🙂

3. Creative pursuits – These feed my soul. In addition to writing, I enjoy playing keyboard with two ukulele groups.

And on the subject of health, from Shannon Esposito:

1.  Being alive. I don’t say this flippantly, as I’ve had a scary year health-wise.

2.  The internet, because it’s allowed me to find my writing tribe.
CDC_pomegranate pub domain
3.  Pomegranates

(I have no idea how that one made it onto her top three list; you’ll have to ask her about that in the comments)

And mine:

1.  I’ll start with health as well. I’ve had a healthy year, but not all my friends have. Shannon’s health scare, along with watching an older friend’s struggle with Parkinson’s disease, have reminded me just how precious and fragile one’s health is.

hand of a statue holding a pen

Hand holding pen on the statue of Isaiah at Piazza Spagna, Rome (by gnuckx, CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia)

2.  The gift of my talents, both in writing and psychology. We tend to take that which comes easily to us for granted, forgetting that not everyone shares those particular skills.

3.  All the wonderful people in my life. We hear about and read about the bad guys so much, both in real life and in fiction. But most of the world is populated by good folks–honest and caring. I’m blessed to know quite a few of them, including the ladies here at misterio press.

And finally our resident historian, Kathy Owen, couldn’t help herself. She just had to tell us about the origins of Thanksgiving Day as an official national holiday:

engraving of McKinleyPresident McKinley signed into law the national holiday of Thanksgiving in 1897. For me, this part of his accompanying speech aptly expresses the spirit of the holiday:

“On this day of rejoicing and domestic reunion, let our prayers ascend to the Giver of every good and perfect gift for the continuance of his love and favor to us, that our hearts may be filled with charity and goodwill, and that we may be ever worthy of his beneficent concern.”

The three specific things for which I am grateful this Thanksgiving aren’t particularly unusual. I’m sure we all value them: health, family, and humor.

For me, humor is especially important. Whenever the first two have their less-than-ideal times, it’s indispensable!

How about you? What do you tend to take for granted? What are you most grateful for this Thanksgiving?

cute Thanksgiving postcard, circa 1913

postcard circa 1913 (from painting by Frances Brundage, now in public domain)

Best wishes to everyone for a happy Thanksgiving!

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. 🙂 )