Monthly Archives: January 2019

Those Annoying Apostrophes!

For our “off” week, I thought I’d share this post I saw on apostrophes. They are probably the most frequently misused form of punctuation among English speakers. My students, when I taught college, were always sprinkling them about indiscriminately.

This article is aimed at writers, but we all write during the course of the day—emails if nothing else, right? And nothing will make your grammar-nerd boss wince faster than a misplaced apostrophe! So check these three rules out … 3 Apostrophe Rules You Need!

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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A Crime Writers’ Interview: Jo Macgregor

Crime Writers logo

It’s been awhile since we’ve done a Crime Writers’ Interview. 🙂 Today, we’re delighted to introduce you to a great suspense author, Jo Macgregor.

When not writing, Jo Macgregor is a counseling psychologist in private practice in South Africa. She works mainly with victims of crime and trauma, and brings her twenty years of experience as a therapist to her writing, creating deeper characters and realistic psychological scenarios. She started her professional life as a high school English teacher and writes young adult fiction under the name Joanne Macgregor. Her psychological non-fiction (self help) is published under the name J. Macgregor. She writes intelligent novels with all the feels and a twist of humor – fiction that targets your head, heart and funny bone!

Although she lives in the frenetic adrenaline-rush of the big city, Jo has always been in love with nature, and escapes into the wilds whenever possible. She loves reading, is addicted to chilies and bulletproof coffee, and her Hogwarts House is either HuffleClaw or RavenPuff!

Kass Lamb (on behalf of misterio): Let’s start with a somewhat open-ended, “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Jo: One, in my day job, I’m a psychologist in private practice. While I keep my therapy work and my writing very separate (I even do it on different days and in different places) and would never “mine” my clients’ experiences for story ideas, I believe my knowledge of psychology — people, personality and pathology — really does inform my writing. I like to think my characterizations are deeper and more real, and certainly my portrayal of psychological problems and how psychologists work in practice are more accurate than I see in lots of fiction.

Two, I think life is more comedy than tragedy, so there is humor in all my books. I can’t read humorless, bleak stories and I certainly won’t write them!

I had to ask my daughter for a third one! According to her, a cornerstone of my character is that I believe it matters how we treat people and that the actions of ordinary people count, and shouldn’t be disregarded or underestimated. She says that informs all my writing. So now you know 😊

Kass: Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you?

Jo: I write romance and dystopian novels, too, but when it comes to reading, crime is hands-down my favorite genre. I think crime stories offer entertaining ways to wrestle with bigger issues facing individuals, cultures and countries. I think we can even grapple with existential issues in crime stories.

In my most recent novel, The First Time I Died, I look at some big questions (Is there an afterlife? What is real? Can romantic love last forever? Should you trust outer “reality” or subjective inner experience more?). But because it’s all wrapped up in a gripping whodunnit, it doesn’t feel like a philosophical lecture.

I also like that crime stories usually end with some kind of resolution — the killer is caught and punished, justice prevails, moral order is restored — and that scratches a deep itch. In real life, this sort of resolution is rare and usually imperfect, so reading crime fiction is a type of satisfying compensatory fantasy. Also, it’s just exciting — it pulls me into a story like no other genre can!

Kass: What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write? Why does that subgenre appeal to you?

Jo: I can’t write only one type of story — maybe because I’m a Gemini or maybe because I get bored easily. So, I’ve written a psychological thriller (Dark Whispers) and a mystery with a paranormal twist (The First Time I Died).

Even my Young Adult novels (contemporary romances and dystopians) tend to have a grand mystery or crime at the center of them. In practice, I don’t choose the genre first. What happens is that the idea for a book comes to me, and only then do I pick the genre that would be the best vehicle to explore that idea and the themes that go with it.

Kass: What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?

Jo: The first books I remember reading — and they remained my favorites for years — were the Famous Five and Secret Seven mysteries by English writer Enid Blyton. Perhaps this is where my love for crime and mystery novels first started! I was fascinated by the mental puzzle of the mysteries and tried to work them out before the child sleuths could, and loved imagining myself solving some grand mysteries!

Kass: Where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little about your stories.

Jo: I have fifteen published books under my belt. Under my full name, Joanne Macgregor, I started with a series for younger YA readers – Turtle Walk, Rock Steady and Faultlines – which have an ecological theme and are set in South Africa.

I have two other books out for younger readers (Jemima Jones and the Great Bear Adventure, Jemima Jones and the Revolving Door of Doom), and half-a-dozen other YA books – three YA contemporary romances (Scarred, Hushed and The Law of Tall Girls) and a YA dystopian trilogy (Recoil, Refuse, Rebel).

And under my pen name for adults, Jo Macgregor, I have two books out – Dark Whispers and my most recent novel, The First Time I Died. I’ve also compiled the therapeutic stories and metaphors I use in my clinical practice into a self- help book called Self Help Stories, which is published under J. Macgregor.

Kass: I do hope there’s a sequel to The First Time I Died. I loved that book! Tell us — what’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Jo: In my dystopian YA series, The Recoil Trilogy, my protagonist is a (reluctant) sniper. I don’t like guns; I see too many victims and relatives of victims of gun violence in my therapy practice. So, I didn’t know much about them.

I had to read a lot, watch a bunch of YouTube videos and watch documentaries on snipers. (One of those documentaries had sparked the original idea for the books!) But I felt that I needed to do more hands-on research — literally.

I found an amazing weapons expert, ran scenes by him to check accuracy, and then went out on the shooting range to shot revolvers, pistols, bolt-action and automatic rifles, and even a monster gun called the elephant rifle, which nearly took my shoulder off with its powerful recoil action.

The shooting was enormous fun and it turned out I was pretty good at it. Although I still don’t like guns and don’t own any, I think getting out and actually doing the shooting was excellent for injecting some real and gritty details into the shooting scenes in the novels.

Kass: In your latest story, what was your favorite (or hardest to write) scene?

Jo: My favorites were the kisses (I love writing kissy scenes, lol) and writing the scenes where the protagonist experiences either flashbacks, hallucinations or psychic visions (it’s up to the reader to decide what they believe!)

The hardest to write was a sex scene which one of my beta readers felt was needed. Although I’ve written smoochy and schmexy scenes before, they usually either stop short of the full Monty or fade to black, so this was the first full sex scene I’d ever written. It made me hysterical with nerves, and I was sweating by the time I finished it. And after all that, I wound up not including it. Other beta-readers and my trusted editor said it wasn’t necessary and felt shoe-horned in, which was how I felt too, so I cut that sucker out!

Kass: Ah, now I want to read that scene!

But seriously, having read The First Time I Died, I can see how a sex scene would have felt forced. It is an excellent book, one of my all-time favorites. Thanks for joining us today, Jo Macgregor, for a great Crime Writers’ Interview!

Jo: Thank you for having me!

Kass: Folks, if you have comments or questions, please jump in below. But keep in mind that Jo is in a very different time zone from the North American continent, so there may be a bit of a delay before she responds.

The First Time I Died
When Garnet McGee returns to her small Vermont hometown for the holidays, she vows to solve the mystery of the murder which shattered her life ten years ago. But after dying in an accident and being brought back to life, she starts hearing voices, seeing visions and experiencing strange sensations. Are these merely symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and an over-active imagination, or is she getting messages from a paranormal presence?

Garnet has always prided herself on being logical and rational, but trying to catch a killer without embracing her shadow self is getting increasingly difficult. And dangerous, because in a town full of secrets, it seems like everybody has a motive for murder.
Fast-paced and riveting,

The First Time I Died is a suspenseful and haunting crime story with a supernatural twist.


Readers can connect with Jo Macgregor on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, PINTEREST, AND INSTAGRAM.

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 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

by Kassandra Lamb

Happy New Year image
(image by Nevit Dilmen CC-SA-BY 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? (Or perhaps you call them goals.) Do you find they have flown out the window by the end of February, and then you feel like a failure?

The problem may be with how you are wording the resolutions/goals. Or perhaps they aren’t quite the right ones for you.

Here are some questions to ask yourself that get at the most common reasons why New Year’s resolutions fail.

1.  Is the goal/resolution too abstract?

I will be the best person possible sounds good, but it is doomed for failure as soon as you make your first mistake of the new year. Instead, ask yourself what traits or behaviors you would like to improve and make the goal more concrete and specific.

I will strive not to interrupt people during conversations is much more doable.

2.  Is it too big?

Chunk it down into more manageable sub-goals. These can be celebrated as they are achieved, versus only looking at the big goal that feels so far away and difficult.

I will write and publish my first novel this year feels overwhelmingly hard. But if you chunk it down into:

  • I will finish the first draft by June.
  • I will strive to do two self-edits by September.
  • I will send it to a professional editor by October 1st.
  • I will investigate what is involved in getting my book published.
  •  I will set the publication process in motion by the end of the year.

3.  Is it something within your control?

When I was a novice psychotherapist, I foolishly thought that I could readily help people lose weight. I had studied hypnosis and figured it would be a great tool to get people to eat less and exercise more.

And the hypnotic suggestions usually did work, but I soon discovered that weight management was much more complicated than that. Even when people did everything they should do, they didn’t always lose weight. Sometimes there were physical issues—slow metabolism, medications, genetics, etc.—and sometimes there were psychological barriers. And sometimes it was a plain old mystery why the pounds weren’t coming off.

Note that I’m calling it “weight management,” not “weight control” as it is more often labeled. The reality is that we cannot directly control certain things, and our weight is one of them.

Freedom is the only worthy goal in life. It is won by disregarding things that lie beyond our control.

― Epictetus (Greek Stoic philosopher, circa 55-135 AD)

So look at your resolutions and ask yourself if the end goal is totally within your control.

I will research and establish healthier eating patterns and increase my activity level is more realistic than I will lose thirty pounds.

4.  Are you “shoulding” on yourself?

Is this a goal you really want or are you setting it because you believe it is something you should be doing?

Does I will find a better-paying job get shifted from one year’s resolution list to the next? Maybe you really like your job, but it just doesn’t pay enough to make ends meet. Are there other alternatives, such as asking for a raise or looking for a second-income source?

Maybe, after asking these questions, you realize you really should pursue the goal, even though you don’t particularly want to, but being clearer about why you are doing it may help you get there.

So the resolution may become I will look hard at my finances and try to find a way to ease them, which may require changing jobs.

5.  Is your measurement criteria accurate? Or to putting it another way, are you judging success based on the right aspect of the goal?

I won’t get angry at my kids may not be all that realistic, since everyone gets angry and kids can be irritating at times. Maybe I will control my temper better and not yell at my kids when I’m angry is more doable.

One of the frustrations I encountered when working with clients on weight management issues was their obsession with the scale. The reality is that the number of pounds we weigh is not always the best measure of our health or even our appearance.

After a while, I started asking clients to put their scales up in their attics and use a measuring tape instead to keep track of how many inches they were losing as they lost fat and toned muscles (which get denser and heavier when they are toned). Going down three clothing sizes was a better indicator of success than how many pounds they had lost!

6.  Is your resolution related to a goal or dream that you have lost interest in or one that you don’t care enough about to put in the effort required?

This can be a very subtle reason why New Year’s resolutions fail. Sometimes things we used to be gung-ho about aren’t so important anymore, and sometimes a goal turns out to be too damn difficult to be worth the bother.

It’s also sometimes hard to admit this to ourselves.

So ask this question, when you find yourself feeling lackluster about a resolution/goal: Are you giving up due to lack of confidence but you really do want it? (In which case, figure out what you need to improve your skills and confidence and push yourself to get there.)

OR are you not willing to make it happen because it’s just not important enough anymore?

There’s no shame in this. And it doesn’t mean the goal was stupid to begin with—things change over time, including our enthusiasm and willingness to commit resources to something. And it may be a goal that becomes important again down the road, when the resources are more readily available. 

My first novel, 17 years in the making.

I started writing my first novel fifteen years before it was finished and seventeen years before it was published. For the first five of those years, I will finish my novel was on my New Year’s resolution list.

And every year, I would fool around with it some—change the opening, add a scene or two—but then I would get discouraged and put it away again.

I finally admitted to myself that I wasn’t willing to put in the effort to get it published once it was written. This was back in the days when traditional publishing was the only viable alternative.

I knew getting a publisher would be difficult, involving many factors I couldn’t control, and I HATE not being in control of my own destiny.

At that point, I stopped putting it on my resolutions list and told myself I would pursue my writing dream once I was retired and had more time and energy. The story languished in my hard drive, all but forgotten, for years.

But after I retired, I decided to finish writing it, even if it never got published. In retirement, I could justify “wasting time” on something that might never pay off. I sat down and finished the first draft in six weeks. 🙂

Hopefully these tips will help you modify your resolutions/goals this year, so that they are less likely to end up on the trash heap. Can you think of other reasons why New Year’s resolutions fail?

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! (Photo by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo CC-BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

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

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

Please 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.