Monthly Archives: March 2019

A Crime Writers’ Interview: Nancy Wood

We love introducing you all to up-and-coming crime writers! So we are very happy to welcome Nancy Wood to our blog today.

First, I’ll let her tell you a little about herself.

I grew up in various locations on the east coast and now call central California home. I’m recently retired, having spent 35 years as a technical writer, translating engineer-speak into words and sentences. Kind of like translating ancient Greek, when you’re not too familiar with the Greek part!

Since retirement, my husband and I are wandering across the globe, visiting various places in Europe, but also countries like Sri Lanka and India. You can check out our travel  blog at hansandnancy.wordpress.com.

The first book in my Shelby McDougall trilogy, Due Date, was originally published in 2012. It just got a face-lift and was recently re-released by Paper Angel Press. The Stork, the second book in the series, will be re-released later this year. I’m working on the third and final story (with the working title of The Found Child).

Kass (on behalf of the misterio gang): Let’s start with a somewhat open-ended question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Nancy: I LOVE to read; I’ve been a reader since I was teeny-tiny. So, it just seemed a logical progression to try to write fiction. It didn’t have to be life-changing, literary, heavy, or important! I just wanted to craft a book that would engage someone and would hold up as that person read it. I took creative writing classes, wrote stories, and wrote two terrible novels that, thankfully, never saw the light of day.

In 2006, I went to a commercial publishing workshop and was encouraged to try to write a mystery. At that point in my life, mysteries weren’t even on my radar. I started reading them, exclusively, and thought, ‘hmm…, maybe I’ll be able to do this!’

I retired two years ago, and since then, my husband and I have been traveling. A lot. We’ve traveled around the west (Utah, Colorado, Nevada, and California), and have also been to Spain, Sri Lanka, New Zealand, Belgium, the Netherlands, and India. Wow, all amazing countries, and so different.

My other passion is photography; in fact, I seem to spend as much time with the camera as writing these days! Here’s one of my photos. If anyone’s interested, my photography website is nancywoodphotos.wordpress.com

(c) Nancy Wood

Kass: Wow, that’s gorgeous. So tell me, why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you?

Nancy: Before I decided to write a mystery, I had never read crime fiction. Now, it seems like crime fiction has expanded to include any subgenre of literature you can think of. Literary, social, cultural, historical, romantic, horror: it all can be incorporated in a mystery. There’s something very compelling about that. To be able to mold the genre to fit your story and your characters. I also love the idea of a series; getting to know a character over time and in multiple settings. 

Kass: What type of mysteries do you write? Why does that type of story appeal to you as a writer? Do you also prefer it as a reader?

Nancy: My books fall into the category of suspense, psychological thrillers. I initially thought I was writing a mystery, but, for the life of me, I couldn’t insert a dead body into the story! I love to read suspense. I love getting scared, but getting scared in a controlled fashion. Reading allows that delightful pleasure.

But sometimes, it’s too much, and I have to read the book in small bites, so as not to get too terrified and lose sleep! Some of my favorite authors in this subgenre are Tami Hoag, Patricia Cornwell, Megan Abbott, Gillian Flynn, Lisa Scottoline, Tana French, and Lisa Jackson.

Kass: You mentioned loving to read since you were “teeny-tiny.” What was your favorite book/author as a child?

Nancy: The Nancy Drew mysteries were at the top of my list. I loved them because I could usually figure out ‘who done it’. The stories were predictable, yet kept me engaged. But the best part was that Nancy was a girl.

Kass: Nancy Drew has certainly inspired a lot of girls through the years, myself included! So where are you in your writing career? Tell us more about your stories.

Nancy: My Shelby McDougall series was picked up this past year by Paper Angel Press. They just re-released Due Date, and The Stork will be out sometime later in the year. I hope that the third book will be released not too long after that.

Shelby, the protagonist, stumbles her way into detecting. In Due Date, she’s signed on as a surrogate mother, and when it’s almost too late, discovers that things are not what they seem. In The Stork, Shelby has switched career paths and is working on her PI license. But her life is turned upside-down with a late night phone call. In the last book in the trilogy, the one I’m currently working on, Shelby will be a licensed PI specializing in locating missing children. Her mom does a DNA swab with a genealogy website and turns up results Shelby would rather not know about.

Treasure Hunt cover

I also have a story out featuring Shelby, called ‘Treasure Hunt.’ It was originally published in the 2018 anthology, Santa Cruz Weird, and is now available as a free download from Paper Angel Press. It’s about a ten-year-old boy whose granny encourages him to sign up for a Saturday afternoon treasure hunt sponsored by the city’s parks department. He’s not very happy about being out in the woods, looking for treasure, with a group of kids he doesn’t know.  The only person he does recognize is a man he’d never wanted to see again.

Kass:  When I first read Due Date in 2012, I really enjoyed it for two reasons. First, I loved the writing. It’s one of the best debut novels I’ve ever read. But I was also intrigued by the topic. What made you decide to write about a surrogate mother?

Nancy: Thank you for your kind words; I am so excited to see Due Date get a second go-round with its wonderful new cover.

Originally, this story was women’s fiction, about the relationship between a birth mother and the adoptive parents. However, it was clunky and slow and needed a lot of work. Around the time I was trying to figure out what to do with this uninspiring manuscript, I was in a brainstorming session at a conference and someone suggested I turn it into a mystery. After a lively discussion in that small group, I realized that if the protagonist were a surrogate mother, I could explore some of the same themes I was interested in–mainly the relationship between the birth mom and the adoptive parents–but also introduce even more complexity to the dynamic.

At the time, I had a lot of friends who’d adopted children through both open and closed adoptions, but I had never known anyone who was involved in a surrogate relationship. I did a lot of reading on surrogacy and talked to a few surrogate moms. I read plenty of discussion boards, forums, and blogs as well. I also researched fertility clinics, trying to figure out how that end of the arrangement works. There are so many legal and financial considerations. I’m still interested in the topic and keep tuned for news stories, changes in the law, or blogs about surrogacy.

Kass: Well, all that research paid off. It’s a fascinating story. Thank you so much for joining us today, Nancy!

She’ll be sticking around for a bit, folks, to answer any questions you might want to pose in the comments.

Nancy: Thank you very much for hosting me! Misterio Press publishes high caliber books that are engaging, well-written, and really fun to read, so I am honored to be here.

Kass (blushing): Aww, thanks!! Check out Due Date below, folks. You will be glad you did! And I’m off to download Treasure Hunt.

And you can connect with Nancy Wood at her website or via email.

Due Date cover

DUE DATE, A Shelby McDougall Mystery

Surrogate mother Shelby McDougall just fell for the biggest con of all—a scam that risks her life and the lives of her unborn twins.

Twenty-three year-old Shelby McDougall is facing a mountain of student debt and a memory she’d just as soon forget. A Rolling Stone ad for a surrogate mother offers her a way to erase the loans and right her karmic place in the cosmos. Within a month, she’s signed a contract, relocated to Santa Cruz, California, and started fertility treatments.

But intended parents Jackson and Diane Entwistle have their own agenda—one that has nothing to do with diapers and lullabies. With her due date looming, and the clues piling up, Shelby must save herself and her twins. As she uses her wits to survive, Shelby learns the real meaning of the word “family.”

Available at all major online book retailers for $4.99. Click HERE for buy links or to download a sample.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb, on behalf of the entire misterio press group of writers. 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 cozy series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries, set in Florida where she now lives.

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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An “Off” Week Post: Honoring Military Working Dogs

by Kassandra Lamb

Boogy, a military working dog
Boogy, a MWD trained to detect IEDs.

This is an “off” week here on the misterio blog, but I found out that tomorrow is National K9 Veterans Day. That seemed like something you all might find interesting. This day is designated to honor Military Working Dogs (MWDs).

While my fictitious dog trainer trains service dogs for retired military, the veterans she works with might very well have fought alongside a K-9 unit at some point during their service. Therefore, she has a soft spot in her heart, as do I, for these military working dogs.

A military working dog and his handler during a training exercise.
A K-9 unit during an active shooter training exercise.

Here are some common myths about military working dogs.

Happy K-9 Veterans Day!!

And please check out my Marcia Banks and Buddy series about a service dog trainer and her mentor dog, Buddy.

New releases are due out in this series this spring and summer.

To Kill A Labrador cover

To Kill A Labrador, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Cozy Mystery, #1

Marcia (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha) likes to think of herself as a normal person, even though she has a rather abnormal vocation. She trains service dogs for combat veterans with PTSD. Then the former Marine owner of her first trainee is accused of murdering his wife, and Marcia gets sucked into an even more abnormal avocation–amateur sleuth.

Called in to dog-sit the Labrador service dog, Buddy, she’s outraged that his veteran owner is being presumed guilty until proven innocent. With Buddy’s help, she tries to uncover the real killer. Even after the hunky local sheriff politely tells her to butt out, Marcia keeps poking around. Until the killer finally pokes back.

Currently free on all major ebook retailers. Click HERE for buy links.

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.

When Anxiety Is a Good Thing

by Kassandra Lamb

Say what? Anxiety is a good thing?!? It can be, up to a point.

This past weekend, I did my first public reading from one of my books. (Yes, I’ve been at this writing/publishing gig for 7+ years, but until recently my marketing has mainly been online.)

In the days leading up to the reading, I was terrified.

I’ve done plenty of presenting in my time, at professional conferences when I was a psychotherapist and in front of a college classroom for 17 years. I enjoy presenting/teaching, and normally I’m only mildly to moderately anxious beforehand.

And that is when anxiety is a good thing. On a practical level, it motivates me to be well prepared, to put in the work to make sure I’m ready. Because I know from experience that confidence is key to keeping the anxiety under control.

And emotionally, at the time of the presentation mild to moderate anxiety makes my brain sharper, and it stimulates me, animates my personality. When that happens, I am an enthusiastic speaker and the audience responds well. I can even get up the nerve to try to be funny, and sometimes I’m actually successful. 😀

Quite a bit of research has been done on the “optimal level of arousal” that will enhance one’s ability to accomplish tasks. I have mastered that optimal level when it comes to presenting.

But somehow “performing” my own creative work… it falls into a different category.

Anxiety is defined as distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune; a state of apprehension and psychic tension. If that “apprehension” is too intense, it can keep us awake at night, make us stutter, blush, freeze up or otherwise embarrass ourselves in certain situations.

For me, “performing” is such a situation. And anticipating performing tends to move me from helpful arousal to unhelpful distress to disabling ruminating and worry pretty darn fast.

Worry is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do but never gets you anywhere.*

(*This quote has been attributed to Erma Bombeck and at least a dozen other people. But whoever said it first, they nailed it!)

The first time I “performed,” it was in a second-grade play. I was George Washington’s wife. I don’t remember much past walking through the classroom door in my Martha Washington costume. But I do remember laughter.

It wasn’t supposed to be a funny skit.

In high school, I tried out for several plays with the drama department. I never got a part. The stumbling and blushing might have had something to do with that.

Ever since, I’ve frozen up whenever I was required to “perform.” And yet I can “present.” The latter is more about sharing my expertise. I have much more confidence in that expertise than I do in my performing ability.

So here I was last week, facing this reading.

While I was being introduced… I only look mildly terrified!

I’ve been to some where the author just “read.” And that’s okay. I’d originally intended to do that. But as I went through my first practice round, my words sounded so flat. I decided I didn’t want to just read. I wanted to show emotions through inflection, produce the required deeper timbre for male voices, use accents when called for, etc.

In other words, perform. Aaack!!

The day before the reading, I was way past my optimal level of arousal. I needed to do a little emergency therapy on myself.

I asked myself what helped me control the anxiety when I was presenting, and realized there were four things I now automatically do before a presentation:

1. Acknowledge the anxiety.

I don’t try to stuff it down or ignore it. That doesn’t make it go away. If anything, it gives it more energy. For “presenting” nerves, a short pep talk is usually sufficient, along the lines of—Of course you’re nervous. That’s a good thing. It will keep you on your toes.

For “performing” nerves, I needed to go a little farther. I told a few people close to me how scared I was. It wasn’t to get their reassurance (although they were, of course, reassuring); it was to acknowledge the anxiety and bleed off some of its charge.

2. Draw confidence from past successes.

To Kill A Labrador cover
The book I read from.

I remind myself that I have done many presentations before, and I have always done a decent to downright great job.

Also, I remind myself that the anxiety always goes down once I get started. That’s a biggie!

This time, I had to add to this pep talk that presenting was not as different from performing as I have made it out to be. And the book I was reading from has lots of good reviews. The words were proven to be good, and my ability to “present” them has been proven to be good. So I would be fine. (In psychology lingo, that’s called a reframe. 🙂 )

3. Practice but not over practice.

I’ve learned that two to three complete run-throughs, out loud, is about right for a presentation. Enough practice to smooth out the rough spots and give me confidence. Not so much that the presentation becomes stale.

The second time through my reading practice, the inflections were mostly in the wrong places, my male voice sounded like I had a bad cold, and my Southern accent…well, let’s just say I don’t do accents well.

By the third time, I had the inflections in the right places, my male voice was pretty good, and my accents didn’t totally suck. I did one more run-through, for good measure, and felt a good bit more confident when all of the above still happened.

4. Remind myself that I do not have to be perfect.

And in this case, remind the audience as well. I added these words to my introductory remarks: Now before I start, I’d like to put this caveat out there—I don’t do accents well.

Ahhh, the pressure was off. Now if my accents were sucky, well, I’d said up front that I wasn’t perfect.

And the reality is that most people in an audience aren’t expecting perfection. Indeed, they may find it endearing when we make the occasional mistake. It’s makes us more human and relatable. In this case, my audience knew that I’m a writer, not an actor. They weren’t expecting perfection and I shouldn’t either.

So the moment arrives…

Definitely when anxiety is a good thing...when it lets up! Me, after the reading.
I look happy here because I’m almost to the end of the reading. Yay!

I’ve been introduced, and I give my little opening spiel (no problem, this is presenting after all). I’m borderline, maybe just past my optimal level of anxiety. Okay, definitely past optimal, but still manageable.

I start to read. And thank you Lord, my anxiety level goes down. (Did I mention praying? That always helps too.)

It was still higher than usual, but definitely quite manageable.

So I make it to the question-and-answer period and I’m downright exhilarated. It’s over! I can do Q&A standing on my head (which would make it more interesting, for sure).

And now that I have a successful reading under my belt, I can look back on that the next time and use it to bolster my confidence, to get my nervousness down to the level where anxiety is a good thing!

How about you? Have you discovered your “optimal level of arousal” for most things? What situations tend to push your anxiety over the top?

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.