Monthly Archives: September 2019

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.

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. 🙂 )