Killer Nashville

I’d been to two conferences this year and wasn’t about to attend another. Then this happened. Since I last attended, Killer Nashville has moved from Nashville proper to a hotel in an industrial park in nearby Franklin. No pedal pubs hooting by on the street! No sneaking out to hear music! I also found this new hotel/motel disconcerting with elevators where you’re on display like a bug. No fluffing your hair or wriggling in your dress to prepare for a grand entrance.

Don’t look down!

Even though the outside temperatures weren’t bad for the end of August, the conference rooms were cold enough to chill wine. Fortunately, when packing, I had heeded my friend Mary Feliz’s sage comment that there’s only one temperature at conferences. Hotel temperature. Still, I could have used warmer clothes!

Enough whining. I finally met face-to-face two authors I’ve worked with and known for years, Paula Benson and Maggie Toussaint. Because of them and the Sisters in Crime Guppies Chapter, I immediately found my tribe.

The Guppies table at Friday lunch. Out-going president Debra Goldstein was there, as well as three Silver Falchion winners: Maggie Toussaint (front left), who won in Sci-fi/Fantasy/Horror; Carmen Amato (out of frame), who won in Short Stories; and Bradley Harper, who won for Mystery. Of course, the table also included moi, a Claymore finalist, and the young woman in red who solved KN’s staged crime scene.

Bradley Harper, the gentleman at our table, not only won the Silver Falchion for best mystery, but also co-hosted my favorite panel, How Autopsies Really Work. The presentation was full of grist such as surgeons often sign bullets they remove (as part of the chain of custody). In Germany, Medical Examiners don’t use the Y incision but rather a straight line because there are no open casket funerals in Germany.  

A highlight at Killer Nashville is the staged crime scene. Attendees get to act as CSI and try to solve what happened. I didn’t win, but the killer was in my top two suspects. 🙂

The crime scene covered the entire hotel suite and was quite complex. To grasp the crime, one also had to listen to many taped interviews.

Because this was my second time as a Claymore finalist and my second time at the conference, Clay Stafford, the founder, assigned me plenty to do: three panels, many signing slots, and a position as presenter at the Awards Banquet. But the stars of Killer Nashville were, of course, Joyce Carol Oates, Alexandra Ivy, and David Morrell. If you’ve never seen Joyce Carol Oates, she’s a wren-like woman with a great deal of self-possession. Because I was the first presenter, I was able to sit in Clay Stafford’s banquet chair for a bit and rub shoulders with greatness, the three stars all lined up at my side. But my favorite star experience happened during one of my many forays outside to warm up and to breathe some real air. On the weekend, the industrial park was completely deserted. I was the single sole walking about. That is, until Joyce Carol Oates came walking toward me. I figured she was out there for some peace, so we passed wordlessly. It was enough to catch her fleeting aura.  

How about you? Have you ever had occasion to attend a conference? Which are your favorites and why? Any Joyce Carol Oates experiences?

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie fled the howling winds of South Dakota and headed for the California coast the day after high school graduation. Still sane(ish) after 27 years of teaching English, Vinnie is retired. In addition to writing, she plays keyboards with ukulele bands in Santa Cruz, California, where she lives with her husband and the requisite cat. She’s the author of the Carol Sabala Mystery series, and LOSTART STREET, a cross-genre novel of mystery, murder, and moonbeams. Her short fiction has appeared in a variety of publications and anthologies, with four publications this year. Her latest is a caper story in the Sisters in Crime Guppies’ anthology, Fishy Business. Who are the Guppies? We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun. Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to 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. 🙂 )

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6 Things I’ve Learned About Labor — An Encore

aerial of crowded beach on Labor Day
Traditionally, beaches are jammed full on the last big weekend of summer. (photo by John Murphy, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Another Labor Day has rolled around. For many of us this is just another three-day weekend, an excuse to have a cookout or make a trip to the department stores to grab some bargains.

Or we may look upon this holiday as the bittersweet end of summer.

But the day was originally set aside to honor people who worked for a living (which is almost all of us). Back when this holiday was a new thing, in the late 1800s, many more people did actual physical labor in their jobs than we see today.

Indeed, the word “labor” implies hard physical effort. We talk about a woman laboring to give birth.

But what about if our work is something we are passionate about. Then we may call it a “labor of love.”

Here are 6 things I’ve learned about labor during my lifetime:

1. Find work that you enjoy, and preferably work that you can feel passionate about.

There are lots of different vocations available today. Don’t settle for one that you can barely tolerate, if you can help it.

2. Accept the bad with the good.

Not all of the tasks involved in that work will be ones you like. I try to deal with the less pleasant tasks first thing, so I can enjoy the rest of my day without them hanging over my head.

3. Take time to experience a sense of accomplishment.

The next time you finish a task, stop and notice what that sense of accomplishment feels like for you.

For me, it’s a light feeling in my chest and I find myself smiling even if no one else is around. I experience this feeling, to varying degrees, every time I accomplish something, no matter how small. Even something mundane like changing the sheets on the bed comes with a small sense of satisfaction.

image of joy
(image by Camdiluv ♥ from Concepción, CHILE CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

When the accomplishment is a major one, there may be bubbles of joy in my chest and the urge to jump up and down. I get that more intense feeling when I finish a first draft, and when I hit Publish for a new release.

Once you’ve discovered what “accomplishment” feels like for you, stop to let yourself experience that feeling every time you finish a task. Take the time to savor it; it’s your reward!

4. Realize that passion can burn out eventually.

We have much more permission to change careers today than previous generations did. Don’t hesitate to at least explore other options when what was once pleasant is now burdensome. I’m now working on my 4th career.

5. Don’t make what has come before wrong because it is no longer right.

Things we once felt passionate about can become mundane. Tasks that we once tolerated can become excruciating. But that doesn’t mean that particular passion wasn’t right for us back in the day. Things change; cherish the memories and move on.

My first career was as an administrative assistant in Human Resources (we called it Personnel back then). The tasks I did in that job would bore me to tears today, but I was excited to be part of the business world and to use my interest in psychology to help my employer hire good people.

line drawing of Labor Day parade
The first Labor Day parade, in New York in 1882. (public domain)

When I hit the glass ceiling (which was a lot lower in those days), I went back to school and then became a therapist. I loved that work.

For two decades, I loved it, until I didn’t anymore. But that didn’t make what I had accomplished any less meaningful to me or my clients, nor did it change the fact that I had indeed loved that career for a very long time.

And then I loved to teach, until the other aspects of the job (like grading papers) got to be more trouble than it was worth. (I miss the students though.)

And now I’m writing fiction. I’m still passionate about it, but not as much so as I once was. It feels a bit more like “work” these days. Nonetheless, I suspect I’ll be at this until I’m old enough to finally be content with full retirement.

Each of my careers was fulfilling in its own season, and I cherish all the memories.

6. Balance work with play.

There is much truth in the old adage: All work and no play makes one a dull girl/boy. If work is nonstop—no matter how passionate we are about it—we can become dull shadows of our fully alive selves.

I learned this one the hard way. It’s easy for the business of writing, polishing, publishing and marketing books to become all consuming. I let this happen for several years until a vague sense of discontent had grown into a low-grade depression.

Now, twice a week, I make myself take time off from my business and writing tasks and go to the senior center to play cards or mah jongg. I call them my “old lady days” but really they are my mental health days.

Any thoughts about “labor” you all would like to add?

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

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

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An “Off” Week Goodie: How To Write Multiple POVs Right

(NOTE: Our blog will be on hiatus for August. Please check back on September 3rd!)

by Kassandra Lamb

A couple weeks ago, I was a guest on Jami Gold’s wonderful blog for writers. I talked about my experiences writing the Kate Huntington mysteries with multiple perspectives, and what I had learned about how to write multiple POVs correctly. For writers, or for readers who’d like a peek behind the scenes regarding how we writers do things, here’s that post.

How To Write Multiple POVs Right

Once upon a time, writing in more than one point of view was a no-no, unless you were writing romance, and then you were supposed to stick with just the hero’s and heroine’s POVs. But it’s becoming more common these days to see stories that include other perspectives, like the villain’s and/or secondary characters.

There are reasons for doing this, but it can get complicated. So it’s important to figure out how to write multiple POVs right.

Having just completed a ten-book multiple POV series, the subject is on my mind right now. I’ve been contemplating how I naively started with multiple POVs without much pre-thought and now I am deftly (or at least more deftly *grin*) using it for very specific purposes.

So here are some reasons for using multiple POVs and some Do’s and Don’ts for writing it right.

5 Good Reasons to Use Multiple POVs

#1: Character Importance

I had to re-write this story, after I learned how to write multiple POVs right.
I’ve learned a lot about how to write multiple POVs, since the first edition of this book.

If you have two characters who are close to equally important to the story, it’s appropriate to show both POVs. This was my reason for this approach in the first book of my series, Multiple Motives. That story is about two platonic friends, and someone seems to have a murderous grudge against both of them. I wanted to show how the adversities they were dealing with strengthened their friendship, so it seemed appropriate to show parts of the story from each perspective.

#2: Plot Logistics

More than one POV also allows you to show what is happening at times and places when the protagonist isn’t present. This was critical in Multiple Motives, because at a point in the story, the two friends are separated; one is in danger and the other is trying to find/rescue him.

The only other way to do that would have been to have one of the friends “tell” what happened on their side of things, once the rescue happened—not nearly as powerful as showing what each is going through in real time.

#3: Necessary Insights into Character Motivations

Multiple POVs also allow for showing the motivations of more than one character’s actions. I ran into this issue with one of my important secondary characters. Not being inside her head when she came to a particular decision would have made her actions seem totally out of character. Again, I could have had her explain her motivation to the others, but that would not have been nearly as powerful as having the reader witness her internal struggle.

#4: Contrasting Perspective

A character’s nature (especially their flaws) can be revealed through another character’s perceptions. Nothing illuminates a character better than the reader seeing them through another person’s eyes, especially when that is compared to what the character believes about themselves.

In my new release and the last book in the series, Kate is doing something she feels is necessary to protect others, but those close to her have a different opinion about the wisdom of her actions. Their concerns are summarized in a secondary character’s internal dialogue.

“And Kate’s going to meet this guy by herself?” Judith asked, fighting the urge to shake her head. Kate was a brilliant psychologist, but she sure could be stupid sometimes.

#5: Manage Reader Emotions

Multiple POVs can be used to modulate emotional intensity. Most of the time, we want readers to feel what the characters are feeling, and just as intensely. However, sometimes this is not desirable.

There are times when we want to back the reader away from the intense emotions.

  • One is when the emotions may be too overwhelming for our audience. I can show raw, dark emotions in my romantic suspense stories, for example, but not in my cozy mysteries (thus the different pen name). We don’t want our readers to stop reading because they can’t handle the emotional intensity.
  • Another time is when intense emotions would slow down the story’s pace too much.

In both cases, showing the character’s reactions through the eyes of another character can create just the right amount of distance.

In Multiple Motives, Kate’s first husband is the murder victim. I show some of her initial shock and grief through the eyes of her friends and family, both to keep the story from bogging down and to not overwhelm the reader.

While multiple POVs have these advantages, there are some pitfalls to avoid when using this approach.

For the 7 Do’s and Don’ts on how to write multiple POVs, READ MORE HERE

We will be on hiatus now for August. Have a wonderful rest of the summer, everyone, and we’ll see you in September!

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

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

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to 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. 🙂 )

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Do We Really Know the People We Know? (and a New Release)

by Kassandra Lamb

While writing my July 4th novella (which is releasing today, 19 days late, but, hey, it’s still July at least), I stumbled on an interesting and disturbing question. How well do we really know the people we know?

Unless we own a lie detector, how do we really know who we know?
Unless we own a lie detector (and our friends and acquaintances are willing to submit to it) how do we really know the people we know? (photo by Marcin Wichary from National Museum of Crime & Punishment, Washington, CC-BY-2.0, Wikimedia)

When we meet someone new—a new neighbor, co-worker, friend of a friend we meet at a party—we ask them about themselves. Where are they from, what do they do for a living, etc. And unless their eyeballs are bouncing around like jumping beans or they break out in a cold sweat, we take their answers on face value.

And after we’ve “known” them for a while, we assume we do truly know them, and all the things they’ve told us about themselves become solidified in our minds as fact.

But how do we really know the people we know are telling the truth?

A new employer or landlord will run a background check, or at least check one’s credit, but those we meet socially, we assume they are who and what they say they are.

In A Star-Spangled Mayfair, the mystery the protagonist Marcia (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha) is trying to sort out revolves around her friend, Jess, who runs the local diner. When Jess becomes the prime suspect in her fiancé’s murder, Marcia discovers that the fiancé is not who he said he was.

Then Will Haines, Marcia’s significant other—who also happens to be a police detective—raises the issue of whether they truly know Jess:

“Look,” Will said, “when you think about it, what do we really know about Jess? All we know of her background is what she’s told us, and that’s precious little. She could be a Black-Widow type, on the run from other jurisdictions after knocking off multiple husbands and fiancés.”

I pulled away from him a little. “Will, she’s terrified of fireworks. No way would she have gotten anywhere near where they were actually setting them off, much less pick up one, light it and point it at her fiancé. It’s just ludicrous.”

He shook his head. “And how do you know she’s phobic of fireworks?”

“She–” My body slumped. “She told me so.”

from A Star-Spangled Mayfair, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, #8

By the end of that scene, Marcia is even questioning if she truly “knows” Will. After all, she’s yet to meet his family.

I don’t have an answer to the question do we really know the people we know. I just found it rather amazing that I’d never really thought about it before. Oh, it’s often a premise in fiction—the character who isn’t what they seem—but in real life, most of us blithely go along assuming everything that everybody has told us about themselves is true.

Okay, now that I’ve gotten you, and myself, all paranoid about our friends and neighbors, here are the details about the book. It wasn’t intended to raise profound questions … mostly it’s just a fun read.

A Star-Spangled Mayfair, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, #8

A Star-Spangled Mayfair cover

A flamboyant fiancé, a “Mob Killer” Roman candle, a yappy rescue dog, and a bison bull named Tarzan.

A recipe for chaos and calamity for Marcia’s introverted friend, Jess Randall.

When not serving up her to-die-for eggs and biscuits at the Mayfair Diner, Jess just wants to live quietly on their farm. But her fiancé Dan has impulsively offered to host the Mayfair Independence Day Extravaganza.

The day of the big bash, Marcia and her dog Buddy witness a public fight between the couple, and just hours later, Dan is found with a Roman candle through his chest. Was it an accident, or was it murder? And is Jess a killer, as the sheriff’s department believes?

Between dog-training sessions, Marcia feels compelled to investigate, especially when there are signs that the real killer may not be finished… Could Jess be the next target?

Just $0.99 for a limited time! (Goes up to $2.99 later.)

Available on:

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

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

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

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

Do You Really Know What’s On Your Plate? (And a New Release)

by Shannon Esposito

The murder victim in my new release, Pushing Up Daises (A Pet Psychic Mystery No. 5) is an infamous food critic who exposes local restaurants’ false claims—and flat out lies–about what they’re serving their customers. Unfortunately, seafood fraud is a real problem.

Is this really what you ordered? Seafood fraud is a real thing.

I always thought one of the perks of living in Florida was getting to eat fresh seafood, until I started doing research for this book and found out ninety percent of the seafood consumed in the US is imported from countries with loose aquaculture laws.

Okay, so it’s not fresh caught off our coastal waters. Is that so bad? Well, yes, it is.

When fish is imported, it has little oversight.

According to a recent study by Oceana—a non-profit ocean conservation organization—one in five fish sold in the US are conveniently “mislabeled”. Cheaper fish are sold in place of more popular fish. These are fish that contain higher mercury levels and fish that are farmed, instead of wild caught, which means you are consuming antibiotics, pesticides, artificial coloring and other toxins.

Restaurants in Florida have been caught serving foreign crab meat touted as Atlantic blue crab, Asian catfish as Florida Grouper, foreign shrimp as domestic, and Escolar—a fish with gempylotixin which causes gastrointestinal distress—as white tuna. Ordering red snapper? Odds are high that’s not what you’re getting, since it’s mislabeled eighty-six percent of the time. But one of the most troubling deceptions discovered is King mackerel, a high methylmercury-content fish, being served as grouper. 

Can something be done about this deception?

The good news is it can be fixed. Europe had the same problem, but after voting for stricter labeling laws, and educating consumers about the issue, they managed to cut seafood fraud and mislabeling from thirty-three percent down to four percent.

What can you do? Learn what fish are in season in your area. Ask where the fish is sourced. You may not always get the truth, but if they know consumers are educating themselves about this issue, they may start thinking twice about their deceptive practices.

Does seafood fraud in the US shock you? Or were you aware of this problem?

Pushing Up Daisies (A Pet Psychic Mystery No. 5)

The dog days of summer are back, and Darwin Winters, pet psychic, is excited to attend the St. Pete Seafood Festival with her sister. Unfortunately, the festival gets shut down early when a despised, local food critic dies from ingesting pufferfish toxin while judging the Chef’s Golden Lobster Contest.

When Hana Ishida, the chef who served pufferfish to the victim, is taken in for questioning, Darwin agrees to dog-sit the woman’s dachshund, Daisy. Darwin receives a vision from Daisy showing Hana in a heated argument, but for Daisy’s sake, Darwin desperately wants to dig up the truth and help her boyfriend, Detective Will Blake, prove Hana’s innocence.

Though Will does have a few fishy restaurant owners on his suspect list, none of the clues are pointing to anyone but Hana. Can Darwin help him reel in the right suspect? Or will this killer be the one that got away?

Available on Amazon (free with Kindle Unlimited)

Posted by Shannon Esposito. Shannon lives in a magical gulf coast town with fluorescent sunsets, purple dragonflies and the occasional backyard alligator. Her mysteries transport readers to Florida without the hefty price of airfare. You can visit her at murderinparadise.com

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

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Stay safe this summer: know the REAL signs of drowning!

by K.B. Owen

image via clker.com

Happy mid- summer, everyone!

With everyone hitting the pool/beach, it seemed a good time to talk about the real signs of drowning (they may not be what you think). I was really impressed by the video below that shows what it looks like.  I know I learned a lot, and I hope it’s helpful to you, too.

We human beings have a number of hard-wired, uncontrollable, instinctive responses (we had even more of them as infants), designed by nature to protect us:  we blink when an object comes at us suddenly; we experience a fit of coughing when something gets lodged in our throat; we feel our heart racing when we’re afraid, as our bodies ready for a possible “fight or flight” action.

Turns out, there’s an instinctive response when one is drowning, too.  It’s a completely involuntary set of movements, and it looks nothing like the portrayals in film and t.v.  People have been known to drown – especially children – with others standing right next to them.  But no one recognized what they saw as drowning, because they didn’t know the real signs of drowning.

Differences between Aquatic Distress and Drowning:

Behaviors: “Aquatic Distress” (this can lead to drowning) Behaviors: Drowning (the person has 20-60 seconds before loss of consciousness)
   
Yelling for help Can’t speak; just trying to breathe (If you aren’t sure, try asking “Are you all right?” If they can’t answer, act quickly)
Waving arms/thrashing in the water.  Can respond to a rescuer and grab a rope or buoy. Arms out laterally, pressing down on the water’s surface (instinctive attempt to gain leverage).  Cannot control arm movements or reach for a flotation device.
The head is out of the water Mouth is moving just above and below the water surface, barely clearing the water to catch a breath.

Here’s a dramatic video of a drowning boy.  Don’t worry; he was rescued in time and is fine. 🙂  Note the people standing right near him, with no clue as to what was happening.  In their defense, you can also see how quiet and barely noticeable it is.  Thank goodness for trained lifeguards!  The video includes a terrific expert-narrated explanation of what is going on.

The instinctive drowning response.

What do you do to stay safe?  I’d love to hear from you.

Yep, these guys are mine, though they are much older now. 😉

Here’s to a safe rest of the summer for you and your family!

Until next time,

Kathy

K.B. Owen signing books at Prospero’s Books (Manassas, VA)

Posted by K.B. Owen. K.B. taught college English for nearly two decades at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC, and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature.

A mystery lover ever since she can remember, she drew upon her teaching experiences in creating her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells…and from that series came lady Pinkerton Penelope Hamilton.

There are now seven books in the Concordia Wells mystery series thus far, and three novellas in the Penelope Hamilton series.

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

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to 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. 🙂 )

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Overachiever Angst! (And a New Release)

by Kassandra Lamb

One of the joys of being an indie author is that you set your own deadlines; one of the pitfalls is that you set your own deadlines. Or at least, it’s a pitfall for recovering overachievers like myself, who are struggling to ward off “overachiever angst” and maintain some semblance of balance in our lives.

Meme created with imgflip.com

I fell into the pit this year. In early January, it seemed perfectly reasonable to me that I could finish the Kate Huntington novel I was drafting, write another service-dog novel and then a novella I had planned for that series, and get all of those stories edited and published in order for the novella to be released around July 4th, since that story involves Independence Day.

Just reading back over that sentence is exhausting, much less actually doing all that. But I was determined to try.

So the deadlines were set…

The Kate book would come out some time in May, The Sound and The Furry would be released in mid-June, and A Star-Spangled Mayfair would come out on or before July 4th.

I made the first deadline; Police Protection came out on May 24th. The other two deadlines…not so much.

Which brings me to the point of this post.

Overachievers have trouble adjusting goals. Even goals that are self-inflicted (yes, I have chosen that word intentionally).

It was a downright painful decision to slide those other two deadlines. But it finally dawned on me that once the Independence Day novella is out, people will be reading it at all different times of the year in the future. It is an integral part of the series and the character’s ongoing stories. So its relevance is not limited to the time period around July 4th.

And as long as it came out during the summer “beach-reading” season, even this year’s readers probably wouldn’t mind that they are reading about July 4th on, say, July 24th.

Why did I do that to myself?

Why did I set myself up for overachiever angst by taking on more than I could possibly get done?

meme created on imgflip.com

I used to do this kind of thing more often. I would almost always over-estimate how much work I could get done in a given amount of time and/or under-estimate how much work a project would require. I’ve gotten somewhat better and don’t make these miscalculations quite so often anymore, so I’m looking at this as a moderate setback in my recovery as an overachiever.

I think I also set these kinds of goals sometimes to create a challenge for myself. Let’s see if I can do this? That challenge can be stimulating, but it can also be a set-up for disappointment, when I can’t meet the nearly impossible goal.

I’ve gotten better at forgiving myself though, when I have to adjust a goal.

What Drives Us Overachievers?

meme created on imgflip.com

In my younger years, I was trying to prove something to myself and the world. I had to be the “best” at everything I did. I got past that when it dawned on me that it was okay to not be the best at things I didn’t care all that much about.

It’s okay for me to be a mediocre cook and a less than stellar housekeeper, for example, since those are not high priorities for me. But I still tend to put a fair amount of pressure on myself to be the best I can be when something is important to me.

And that’s what convinced me to slide my self-imposed deadlines. My writing is very important to me. I did NOT want to produce inferior stories, just to get them out by a certain date. So I decided to push through my overachiever angst and make some adjustments.

The Sound and The Furry is releasing today. Yay!! And A Star-Spangled Mayfair is tentatively scheduled to come out on July 23rd. I hope to have it available for preorder soon. (Covers and blurbs below.)

How about you? Do you tend to be an overachiever, an underachiever, or (the sanest position) somewhere in between? What do you think is driving those tendencies for you?

The Sound and The Furry, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, #7

The Sound and The Furry book cover

A tropical paradise turns deadly.

Service dog trainer Marcia Banks had thought it was the perfect arrangement—stay on her client’s private Gulf-coast island and get the human phase of the training done more quickly, while enjoying a much-needed break from the chaos of house renovations back home.

This certainly wasn’t the tranquil getaway she’d envisioned, however. Two resident ghosts, a sour-puss housekeeper and bearing witness to her client’s shaky marriage are bad enough. But within days, she’s discovered even deeper and darker layers of dysfunction.

Via emails and static-filled phone calls, fiancé Will Haines convinces her to get herself and her dog Buddy out of there, but before Marcia can accomplish this, a late-season hurricane abruptly changes course and strands them on the island… with a murderer.

AMAZON ~ APPLE ~ KOBO ~ NOOK ~ GOOGLE PLAY

And coming very soon… A Star-Spangled Mayfair, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Novella (#8)

Star-Sapngled Mayfair book cover

A flamboyant fiancé, a “Mob Killer” Roman candle, a yappy rescue dog, and a bison bull named Tarzan.

A recipe for chaos and calamity for Marcia’s introverted friend, Jess Randall.

When not serving up her to-die-for eggs and biscuits at the Mayfair Diner, Jess just wants to live quietly on their farm. But her fiancé Dan has impulsively offered to host the Mayfair Independence Day Extravaganza.

The day of the big bash, Marcia and her dog Buddy witness a public fight between the couple, and just hours later, Dan is found with a Roman candle through his chest.

Was it an accident, or was it murder? And is Jess a killer, as the sheriff’s department believes?

Between dog-training sessions, Marcia feels compelled to investigate, especially when there are signs that the real killer may not be finished… Could Jess be the next target?

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

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

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Who Are The Guppies? (plus New Releases)

by Vinnie Hansen

If you are a long-term reader of mysteries, you’ve probably heard of Sisters In Crime, but have you ever heard of a special chapter of SinC, called The Guppies?

So who are the Guppies? …Organizations for crime writers abound. Sisters in Crime (SinC) is one of the most well-known, with chapters across the United States. I belong to the Northern California Chapter. In spite of wide-spread chapters, writers can still face obstacles to active participation. Many chapters draw from a vast membership area. The Northern California chapter of SinC spans 150 miles north to south. I’m located near the southern tip of the area with a dangerous mountain road separating me from most of the monthly events.

Other areas of the country are too sparsely populated to support a chapter at all. And for some, even if a chapter is nearby, health issues prevent them from attending.

Because of such obstacles, the on-line Sisters in Crime Guppy chapter proves invaluable. Several unpublished members of SinC started The Guppies in 1995 as a place to support one another with advice and encouragement. The Great Unpublished (Guppies) became a nationally recognized chapter within a few years and quickly grew into SinC’s largest chapter.

Over the years, many Guppies have gone on to be published authors. Among our ranks we count five-time Agatha winner Hank Phillippi Ryan! The Guppy experience is so rewarding that members don’t leave just because they become published, or even famous.

So Who Are The Guppies Specifically and Why Become a Guppy?

The Guppies currently have over 750 paid members from across the country! I asked some of these members, “What is your favorite thing about the Guppies or being a Guppy?”

The Guppies’ table at CCWC.

The Guppies are “a supportive, welcoming group, regardless of a writer’s level of expertise and experience. … When I can get to a conference or writers’ gathering, I look for those little Guppy pins—I know I’ve found a friend,” said Kathleen Rockwood.

Indeed, I was just at the California Crime Writers Conference. At breakfast and lunch, I looked for the Guppies table where I knew I’d feel at home.

In addition to the warmth of the Guppy pond, Kathleen also pointed out that Guppies have the opportunity to submit short stories for the Fishy Anthologies. In conjunction with Wildside Press, the Guppies publish an anthology every other year.

Lida Bushloper and I at our CCWC signing table.

Many of the Guppies mentioned in this article have stories in the newly released FISHY BUSINESS. At CCWC, Lida Bushloper and I, both Guppies, were given a signing table.

Guppy Susan Bickford says, “I would never have been published without the Guppies. It’s hard to count the ways, let alone settle on just one: fabulous courses, including Necessary Parts; critique groups; lots of advice on a whole range of topics, including just good moral support.”

I was in the Guppy on-line critique group with Susan. She, Andrew MacRae, Connie Berry, and I all went on to have our critique-group novels published. It was a strong collection of writers and the best critique group experience I’ve ever had. I also second Susan’s recommendation of Ramona DeFelice Long’s class, Necessary Parts, which helps writers whip their synopses and query letters into shape.

In addition to classes and critique groups, our outgoing president, Debra H. Goldstein, benefited from the Agent Quest program and the Emerald Short Story subgroup.  These were “instrumental in me landing an agent, selling/publishing five books, and having forty short stories published—including ‘The Night They Burned Ms. Dixie’s Place,’ which not only was my first submission and acceptance by Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, but went on to be a 2018 Agatha and Anthony nominee.”

(Sound effects obtained from https://www.zapsplat.com)

Who are the Guppies? Lida Bushloper summed it all up, “I’m lucky to be a member.”

To become a Guppy, one has only to join the national Sisters in Crime. Then just sign up and pay your dues. I recommend the group to all writers of crime fiction.

And check out Fishy Business for an introduction to some great authors.

Plus, Kass Lamb has a new release coming up, now available for preorder!

The Sound and The Furry, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, #7

The Sound and The Furry book cover A tropical paradise turns deadly.

Service dog trainer Marcia Banks had thought it was the perfect arrangement—stay on her client’s private Gulf-coast island and get the human phase of the training done more quickly, while enjoying a much-needed break from the chaos of house renovations back home.

This certainly wasn’t the tranquil getaway she’d envisioned, however. Two resident ghosts, a sour-puss housekeeper and bearing witness to her client’s shaky marriage are bad enough. But within days, she’s discovered even deeper and darker layers of dysfunction.

Via emails and static-filled phone calls, fiancé Will Haines convinces her to get herself and her dog Buddy out of there, but before Marcia can accomplish this, a late-season hurricane abruptly changes course and strands them on the island… with a murderer.

AMAZON ~ APPLE ~ KOBO ~ NOOK

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie fled the howling winds of South Dakota and headed for the California coast the day after high school graduation. Still sane(ish) after 27 years of teaching English, Vinnie is retired. In addition to writing, she plays keyboards with ukulele bands in Santa Cruz, California, where she lives with her husband and the requisite cat.

She’s the author of the Carol Sabala Mystery series, and LOSTART STREET, a cross-genre novel of mystery, murder, and moonbeams, plus her short fiction has appeared in a variety of publications and anthologies.

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

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to 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. 🙂 )

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Tea and Tarot… and Murder

by Kirsten Weiss

The introduction of my new Tea and Tarot cozy mystery series led to the other authors at misterio press asking me about Tarot readings… how do they work, what do some of the cards mean?

Tarot cards, with their mysterious archetypal images, frequently turn up in books and movies. Let’s face it, with cards like Death and the Devil, throwing a Tarot card down on a table can be a great way to build suspense.

Tarot cards
Tarot cards with the Death card (image from Pixabay)

But those two cards in particular tend to freak people out. I’ve heard of some Tarot readers who actually remove them from the deck, which seems a bit like cheating to me.

Because here’s the good news – scary-looking Tarot cards usually don’t mean the obvious. Tarot, like a good mystery novel, is chock full of subtext.

The Death and Devil Cards

Sometimes, the Death card can mean a physical death. But 99.999% of the time, it refers to a symbolic death, an ending. Perhaps the end of a job or a relationship or of a way of behaving in the world.

Death is a natural cycle, and inevitable, just like many changes in our lives. And while change can be terrifying, the Death card tells us that it can be easier to go with the flow. Change is a’coming, whether you like it or not, so… may as well accept it.

As to the Devil, this card usually refers to an unwillingness to see the truth. Our own willful blindness – towards the results of our own actions, towards a situation we may be in – locks us in, chains us. We are our own devils, and most of us lie to ourselves… quite a bit. Sometimes the lies we tell ourselves are fairly innocent.

But the Devil card warns us that our self-deceptions are going to cause us trouble if we don’t wake up.

Tarot Readings

Tarot cards laid out for a reading
Image by soulful stock on Unsplash

A Tarot reading takes you out of your “normal” world, and because of this, it can enable us to see the patterns in our lives more easily. As my hero, Hyperion Night says, in the hands of a good, honest Tarot reader, the cards can be a powerful tool for self development.

Once, when I was feeling low, I walked into a tea and Tarot room (the inspiration for my new series). The reader told me that I was going on a trip in May, and I’d meet a man.

Maybe it was because I was looking for that trip, that relationship, but it happened. The power of positive expectations is real. Or maybe the reader was really that good. But it gave me the boost of optimism I needed to move forward and through a scary situation.

But not every person with a deck of cards is good or honest. A common scam is for Tarot readers to warn their victims that a curse has been placed on them, and the reader can remove it… for more money. Basically, any time a Tarot reader asks you for more money beyond what was initially agreed on for the session, alarm bells should go off.

For a fun introduction to Tarot, and a great mystery, check out Book 1 in my new series…

Steeped in Murder, A Tea and Tarot Cozy Mystery

BOOK COVER

Tea, tarot, and trouble.

Abigail Beanblossom’s dream of owning a tea room in her California beach town is about to come true. She’s got the lease, the start-up funds, and the recipes. But Abigail’s out of a tearoom and into hot water when her realtor turns out to be a conman… and then turns up dead.

However, not even death puts an end to the conman’s mischief. He rented the same space to a tarot reader, Hyperion Night. Convinced his tarot room is in the cards, Night’s not letting go of the building without a fight.

But the two must work together, steeping themselves in the murky waters of the sham realtor’s double dealings, in order to unearth the truth – before murder boils over again.

Steeped in Murder is the first book in the Tea and Tarot cozy mystery series. Buy the book to start this hilarious caper today.

Recipes in the back of the book!

Available on AMAZON ~ APPLE ~ BARNES & NOBLE ~ GOOGLE PLAY ~ KOBO

Posted by Kirsten Weiss. Kirsten’s never met a dessert she didn’t like, and her guilty pleasures are watching Ghost Whisperer re-runs and drinking red wine. The latter gives her heartburn, but she drinks it anyway. She writes genre-blending cozy mystery, supernatural and steampunk suspense, mixing her experiences and imagination to create vivid worlds of fun and enchantment.

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

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

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

The Great Oxford Comma Debacle of 2019 (PLUS a New Release!)

If you’ve written anything in the last 35 years, you may have gotten conflicting advice about the necessity of using certain commas. The Oxford comma has been the subject of great debate during this time (I kid you not!) with people standing firmly in one of two camps.

What The Heck is An Oxford Comma and Who Cares?

The Oxford comma, sometimes called the serial comma, is the punctuation that occurs just before a coordinating conjunction in a series of three or more items.

Huh?

For example, in the below sentence, the Oxford comma is placed before and:

Ross pulled himself heavily to his feet, picked up his glass, and drained the last bit of iced tea.

OH! Those commas!

You probably either always use them or never do. See, you might have your own opinion about the Oxford comma but didn’t know it! 🙂

So, why is this one little punctuation mark so hotly debated? Well, many would argue it’s more stylistic than necessaryin most cases. Every editor, teacher, and writer (published or not) have an opinion on this little devil of a punctuation mark.

There are two schools of thought on the Oxford comma (okay, three…):

  1. They should always be used to avoid any confusion for the reader.
  2. They are unnecessary in most cases, so don’t worry about using themunless the sentence could be totally misread without one.
  3. If you write properly, you don’t need them.

The reason for such differing opinions about this little comma is that humans use language. And, since humans are always changing (we hope evolving), so does our language. Grammar rules and stylistic no-no’s go in and out of favor. When I was in middle school, I was taught to always use the Oxford comma. By the time I got to my freshman year of college, they were considered outdated and usually unnecessary. Language and its governing rules are living things, always changing.

Are you asking yourself why I’m discussing the pros and cons of the Oxford comma?

Because, in the first scene of my new book in the Digital Detective Mystery series, Libel to Kill two wanna-be authors are duking it out over the Oxford comma.

See for yourself how the book opens:

Libel to Kill Oxford comma

“No, no, no,” Bernadette “Bernie” Comer said sharply. “I’ve told you, the Oxford comma is vital for clarity.

Phyllis Buckley straightened in her chair. “Well, I have a brand-spankin’ new grammar book that says it’s up to the writer’s whether to use ‘em.”

“I was taught in school to always use them, and I stick by that.” Bernie sternly nodded her head once as if determining the matter was settled.

The weekly meeting of the Writing Alliance Circle, or WAC, was in full swing, as was evident from the argument that periodically resurfaced. During each meeting, writers have the chance to get feedback on their work-in-progress. It was sheer bad luck Phyllis had landed with Bernie this week.

“You were in school back when Moses brought the stone tablets down from the mountain. I hardly think we can go off that antiquated advice,” Phyllis’ voice grew loud.

I knew where this was leading, and it was nowhere good. I looked at the ceiling, gathering my patience. I stood and headed over to them. I needed to intervene before they came to blows.

Bernie huffed and crossed her arms over her ample chest. “Phyllis Buckley, you are older than me. How dare you bring my age into this. I’ll have you know my cardiologist recently told me I’d live another twenty years, regardless of my—” Libel to Kill is now available! Amazon

Why Did I Start The First Scene This Way?

The theme for Libel to Kill is overcoming societal conventions that hold us back from being who we truly are. When I was plotting the book, the idea of the Oxford comma debate came to mind, and I snagged it. I’ve been in these debates, both in person and online. They can get heated (I’m not making that up!) It was the perfect way to open the bookwith a convention that has changed over the years. And one we are sometimes forced to use, (by teachers or editors) no matter our thoughts on the subject.

Below are just a few of the sentences using the Oxford comma from Libel to Kill:

  • This is what I’d hoped for when I’d started the group—an intimate band of wanna-be authors coming together to share our joys, frustrations, and feedback.
  • In the drainer beside the sink, Bernie had neatly stacked a couple of plates, a glass, silverware, and a teapot.
  • She [Ellie] slammed her fork down on the table, stood up, and dashed up the stairs.
  • Up close, I could see she [Marjory] had a rash on her neck, face, and hands.
  • Attempting to stay objective, I wrote the sins Bernie had assigned, along with any details about their motive, means, and opportunity, next to each name.
  • Bernie had an ample supply of toilet paper, hand towels, and wash clothes under the sink, along with her disposable hypodermic syringes.
  • Evan, Ned, and Reverend Holt could lose their businesses or vocation if their indiscretions came out.
  • She [Phyllis] perked up a little, dragging out lists of possible caterers, swatches for bridesmaid dresses, and a list of songs they’d like the band to play.
  • The first couple of pages listed chapters, the characters, and their indiscretions bulleted underneath.
  • Both [Bernie’s kids] had sandy-brown hair cut in easy-to-maintain styles, were tallish, and dressed in basic jeans and plain t-shirts.
  • Feeling dejected after my discussion with Bernie’s kids, I pushed aside my plate, put my elbow on the table, and anchored my chin on my fist.
Libel to Kill

Libel to Kill Synopsis

Jade Blackwell had no idea when she started the Writers Alliance Circle (affectionately known as WAC) it would lead to murder. Though everyone else in the village believes the old battleax, Bernie Comer, died of natural causes, Jade can’t help but see the inconsistencies. Isn’t is just possible someone killed Bernie to keep their secrets from being revealed in her libelous novel?

If that wasn’t enough, there’s also her disastrous attempts to write a mystery novel and her argumentative daughter home from college for the summer. False starts, misdirection, and a Bible-quoting parrot can’t hold Jade back for long, but would she have been better off letting sleeping dogs lie?

With her usual sidekicks too preoccupied with their own dramas, Jade is forced to seek justice on her own. Ignoring the snickers at her expense, Jade investigates Bernie’s death while trying to fly under the naysayers’ radars. 

Libel to Kill is now available! Amazon

Find out how Jade Blackwell got her sleuthing start...for free! Just tap HERE to get your immediate download of Blogging is Murder.

When you sign up, you’ll also automatically be registered to win one of four grand prizes! Read Jade’s first adventure for free HERE!

Posted by Gilian Baker. Gilian is a former English professor who has gone on to forge a life outside academia by adding cozy mystery author to her C.V. She’s the author of the Digital Detective Mystery Series.

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

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

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.