Author Archives: Gilian Baker

6 Tips to Shine as an Introvert or Extrovert When Working from Home

When employees were sent home to work remotely at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, most assumed they’d be back in the office within a few weeks. As the predicament drags its heels, predictions are being made that for many employees, working from home will become the new normal. Companies, large and small, are taking a hard look at their bottom line, as well as their work culture, and may stick with a remote workforce.

working from home

Photo by Wonderlane on Unsplash

I must admit, my life hasn’t changed all that much during the quarantine. Since I’ve been working from home for 8 years, I’ve grown accustomed to not going out much. True, I now see a trip to the grocery store as an exciting outing where before I saw it as a chore, but that’s about it.

And I’m okay with that. As a dyed-in-the-wool introvert (94% introverted, 6% extroverted), I’d be perfectly happy to visit with family and friends via Zoom most of the time rather than meeting in person. The Voxer app has become my new favorite, as I chat with clients, colleagues, and friends on-demand for free.

But not all introverts are the same. Personality types aren’t cut and dried—they exist on a continuum. Some of my introverted friends are experiencing just as many unique challenges working from home as my extroverted friends.

Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, if you’ve been forced to work from home for the foreseeable future, you are likely struggling to get your bearings. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to stay that way for the duration.

Introverts and Extroverts Defined

At the beginning of the last century, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung coined the terms ‘introversion’ and ‘extroversion’ to talk about two distinct groups of people. Introverts tend to be quiet, thoughtful, and inwardly focused. They recharge by being alone with their thoughts and prefer a night in over a night on the town.

Introverts:

  • Enjoy solitude
  • Experience boredom rarely
  • Want outings to be meaningful
  • Appreciate deep conversations about topics of interest

The extrovert is quite the opposite. Their focus is outward, and they draw energy from being around people. Being in a busy, boisterous office is where they work best.

Extroverts:

  • Prefer to work with others
  • Experience boredom frequently
  • Think best out loud
  • Enjoy networking and small talk

Tips for Introverts

While the world tells us that we’re lucky, we might not be feeling it. Working from home can be stressful for the introvert. Back-to-back video conferencing can prove exhausting and having family members who aren’t in tune with the introvert’s parameters constantly around can feel invasive.

Get Some You Time

It’s too easy for an introvert to get so caught up in work they forget to stop at the end of the day. I learned early on that working from home could quickly turn into working all the time. Now I keep a standard 9-5ish schedule, using an egg timer to remind me to take breaks. Once I leave the office for the evening, I don’t check emails or respond to questions from my staff via our project management system. If this feels impossible, try deleting those pesky notification-type apps from your phone. Ignorance really is bliss sometimes.

Set Firm Boundaries

working from home

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Constant distractions from housemates, children, and spouses can make us crabby. Even though it’s challenging, setting firm boundaries for what you need to be productive is better than the alternative—losing your cool and regretting it later. Even if you don’t have an office door you can shut, put boundaries in place for when you can be interrupted, and when you can’t. Be loving yet firm when explaining why it’s mission critical.

Design a False Sense of Aloneness

Since introverts need quiet, uninterrupted time to work and think, it’s essential to carve out a dedicated workspace. If you don’t have a spare room, you can still create a make-shift space by putting a barrier between you and the rest of the household. In a pinch, you can use a walk-in closet or hang a blanket to give yourself some privacy.

If you need to drown out the sounds from others in the house, try listening to soothing music (without lyrics) using earbuds or headphones. It’s incredible how in the zone I get when I do this. I feel like I’m totally alone with my thoughts even though my home office is in the loft of our home.

Tips for Extroverts

Being forced into social distancing is difficult enough for the extrovert, but when they can’t even interact with coworkers, it can feel like a prison. While they look forward to Zoom calls, what they really need is a good old-fashioned team meeting full of brainstorming and lively energy.

Create a Work Schedule

Working alone and without their usual structure, extroverts can feel they’ve been cast adrift.

working from home

Photo by Jessica Lewis on Unsplash

You will need to create a schedule and structure and keep to it so that you stay productive. If your job allows, design an unconventional work schedule that fits your preferences and needs. Or replicate as closely as possible the structure of your day when you went to the office.

Keep Moving

Extroverts can become anxious if they have too much time to think and too little to do. One essential way to keep your mind engaged in your work is movement. Try using a standing desk so you can move about while you work. Bounce on a mini-trampoline or yoga ball during breaks. Take a walk around the block when you start feeling confined and unfocused.

One fantastic strategy for extroverts working solo is to pace while speaking their ideas into a recording app on their phone. True, no one is there to bounce ideas around, but talking your thoughts out loud will at least partially reconstruct the way you work best.

Manufacturer Work Sounds

Extroverts prefer to work in a hustle and bustle environment. They are the ones who work best in a busy coffee shop with movement and chatter all around them. You don’t have to work in a busy office to experience an energetic vibe—you can create your own. Try listening to background soundtracks like this one on Spotify.

Take Breaks with a Friend

If you feel isolated while working from home, set up virtual coffee and lunch breaks with friends and coworkers. Most likely, your friends are stuck in their make-shift home office as well, so it will be good for them too. Heck, you can do this every day of the week with different people if you want.

So Where Do You Go from Here?

No matter what you find yourself struggling with as a remote worker, this unpredicted situation is an opportunity to learn about yourself. Learning to accommodate other personality types we are stuck at home with also gives you a chance to learn how to live more harmoniously with those in your household.

Since you can’t change the situation, you’ll be happier if you decide to learn from the experience. In this way, you’ll open the door to new growth and opportunity, no matter what comes next. This holds true for introvert and extrovert alike.

What challenges have you experienced since being forced to work from home? Share in the comments.

 

Gilian BakerGilian Baker is a former English professor turned mystery author and writing coach. She uses personality theory and brain science to help intuitive writers embrace their unique writing process so they can overcome their creative blocks and write books readers crave. If you are an introverted writer who is struggling to get their book finished, go here to schedule a free Story Strategy SessionTogether, we’ll dig into how you can crush your creative blocks!

Grab her first book, Blogging is Murder, for free on her website.

 

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’ email addresses. 🙂 )

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Need a New Career or Side-Gig? Announcing the Freelance Writer Bootcamp!

Hi, all! Gilian Baker here.

When I asked myself how I could best serve the global community during this national emergency, teaching others a skill they could use to provide security for their families was at the top of the list. While talking with a friend and fellow entrepreneur, I came up with the idea to create a 30 Day Freelance Writer Bootcamp to help those who love to write and have lost jobs or need a side gig to help support their families.

Freelance Bootcamp

While other industries are slowing down or have stopped completely, there’s never been a bigger need for digital content! Companies, both large and small, are struggling to move their marketing budget from offline to online. This means a HUGE opportunity for those who have the skills they need to produce quality content.

As Part of the 30 Day Freelance Bootcamp, You Will:

Understand the freelance writing market  

Know where to find legit writing jobs     

Acquire a toolbox of free resources

Improve your writing skills

Build a portfolio to show potential clients

Gain experience as a freelance writer

Create at least one profile on a top freelance website

 *And have the chance to become part of my writing team!*

I have no doubt that those who take the chance to start a freelance writing business now will never again have to worry about earning a living! 

I’m honored to offer you this opportunity to transform your life during these unprecedented times!  Click the link to learn more and apply: https://mailchi.mp/6f0a91fd329c/30-day-freelance-writer-bootcamp

Gilian Baker is a former English professor turned mystery author, freelance writer, and writing coach. She’s the author of the Digital Detective Mystery Series. Grab her first book, Blogging is Murder, for free on her website.

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.

7 Tips for Handling Stress During Uncertain Times

by Gilian Baker

Our fast-paced modern life can keep our nervous system running on full-tilt. So, what happens when a global crisis like the Coronavirus comes at us from nowhere, changing our daily lives into something we can’t recognize?

Photo by Josh Riemer on Unsplash

Our nervous system ramps up even more, threatening to burn out or implode. Fear, uncertainty, and panic can leave us constantly living in a fight-or-flight state.

Not only is this dangerous for our overall health, but it interferes with our ability to think rationally and make powerful decisions that we won’t regret later. When we are in the fight-or-flight response, we can’t access our creativity, intuition, or clarity.

This happens when the endocrine system and limbic nervous system, beginning in the hypothalamus, is activated. You may have heard this called “the lizard brain response” in popular media. This part of the brain isn’t bad. It keeps us safe and is essential during an emergency. However, it was much more important when we were part of a tribe that was trying to survive saber-tooth tiger attacks.

In the modern world, it activates when we attempt to do things that are outside our comfort zone, for example. When we are stressed and rushing. When we feel overwhelmed by responsibilities. We can become so accustomed to living in fight-or-flight mode we get addicted to it.

During this time of widespread panic, our lizard brain response is having a heyday. We can easily get trapped in the psycho-cybernetic loop that it’s hard to think clearly.

There is good news, though! It’s called the relaxation response.

Each of us has the capability to stop this negative or worry loop going on in our heads. Yes, it may be more challenging during scary times like this, but it is doable. Better yet, we don’t have to do it without tools. Science has shown us that there are ways to tap into the relaxation response, even when we so easily default to “catastrophizing.”

To give you some help with this, here’s a list of tools I use with my coaching clients to move them back into “rest-and-digest” mode when everything in their life seems to be going haywire.

Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

Music

Listening to uplifting music, whatever that means to you, can help you move out of fear and into a hopeful place. There’s no wrong music to choose. The important thing is that it makes you feel good when you hear it. You might want to create a playlist on a free app like Spotify that you can listen to throughout the day. You don’t have to listen only when you are already feeling worried. Use it as a way to maintain a positive outlook! Here’s one of my favorite Spotify lists you can try.

Meditation

You don’t need to have your own personal yogi, sit cross-legged, or burn smelly incense to get the many benefits from meditation. One of the easiest meditations is the best. Simply get comfortable, either sitting or lying down (if you don’t think you’ll fall asleep), close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. Notice it going in and going out. Pay attention to that short gap in the middle when you are neither inhaling nor exhaling. When your mind starts thinking (it will, because that’s what brains do), gently bring your mind back to your breath without judgment.

You can also play relaxing music or use guided meditations too. These are especially helpful if your mind just won’t seem to settle. My favorite meditation app is Insight Timer. It offers thousands of free guided meditations and music tracks.

Breathe 

Some of the breathing techniques that are the most effective in stimulating the relaxation response are also very simple. Even when you find yourself in full panic mode, you can remember these simple instructions:

Technique #1

Inhale deeply in through the nose for four counts.

Hold the breath for eight counts.

Slowly exhale through pursed lips for eight counts.

Photo by Darius Bashar on Unsplash

It’s recommended you do a round of ten breaths and then gauge how you feel. If you are still upset, you can do another series of ten.

Technique #2

This technique comes from the Heart-Math Institute and is ideal for moving into a space of deep gratitude.

Sit or lay comfortably and close your eyes. Put your attention on your heart and imagine breathing in and out of that area. Let your breath come naturally—there’s no need to force it to slow down. After practicing this for a few minutes, you’ll notice a deep sense of calm and gratitude come over you. While continuing to breathe from your heart, allow the blessings in your life to come up in your mind. Take a few moments to appreciate all you have to be grateful for.

Movement

You don’t need to be a long-distance jogger to experience a “runner’s high.” You also don’t need a bunch of expensive equipment. Take a brisk walk in the park, bounce on a personal-sized trampoline or exercise ball, give yoga, or tai chi a go. If you’ve always wanted to try yoga, for example, there are tons of free YouTube videos you can use as your guide. My personal favorite is Yoga with Adriene. If you are so inclined, pick out an app and track your progress. That’s just one more way to focus on the positive right now instead of dwelling on “what if’s.”

Nutrition

It might be tempting to sit and eat chips while binge-watching Netflix right now, but it’s the worst time to be doing that. Besides lowering our immune system, a diet high in processed foods and sugar doesn’t give our brains the fuel it needs to function at its peak.

It’s vital right now that each citizen is thinking clearly for the long-term. We all need to be making wise decisions and to do that, we need to be able to calm our fight-or-flight responses so our frontal cortex can run the show. We need to take positive action, not just for ourselves, but for the global community. Only offering our brains toxin-filled fuel won’t get us there. Focus on stocking up on more fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and other tasty, highly nutritious foods and leave the Ding Dongs and Cheetos on the shelves. They have so many preservatives in them that they’ll be fine there for years.

This week’s veg from Imperfect Foods

We have our organic produce, and other items delivered to our door by Imperfect Foods. They are a company on a mission to stop food waste, which as a farmer’s daughter, I wholeheartedly applaud! It’s a fabulous feel-good way to get fresh, organic foods at a much better price while not having to put on real pants. 😊 You can get $10 off your first order by going here.

Nature
Now is the perfect time in many parts of the country to be outside. Get your garden ready for summer, mulch your flowerbeds, take a walk. Much of the last week has been gray and gloomy here in Ohio, but today, the sun is out. I enjoyed lunch on the porch while listening to the birds and enjoying the daffodils that are already in full bloom in my yard. I felt like a new woman when I came back inside. I personally believe we can absorb a great deal of life wisdom by looking at nature. The birds and squirrels don’t panic when a big storm is looming. Trees don’t worry that they will lose their leaves too soon in the fall. Animals live most of their lives in a state of rest and relaxation. They only take action when it’s absolutely necessary for survival. Oh, to be a robin!

Help Others

Right now, you may think there is little you can do to help others. But there are more opportunities than you might think. And helping someone who is in a worse situation than you is an excellent way to step out of thinking about your own ills and problems.

Some simple ideas include checking on your neighbors to make sure they are okay or picking up groceries for an elderly family member while you are out. Think about all the volunteers who are now stuck at home. Depending on where you live and your health, you may be able to help out places, like animal shelters, that rely on volunteers to meet the needs of your community. We recently heard that the National Guard might be activated in our area to fill boxes at local food banks. During a time of crisis, food banks will need all the help they can get. Think about ways you could help others to distract yourself while getting a hit of dopamine.

If you’d like to help but can’t think of a way, feel free to send me some of your hoarded toilet paper. 😊I still can’t find any anywhere!

What are some of the ways you keep worry and fear from overwhelming you?

Gilian Baker is a former English professor turned mystery author and writing coach. She uses personality theory and brain science to help writers overcome their creative blocks so they can write un-put-down-able books. If you are a writer who is struggling to get their book finished, go here to schedule a free Story Strategy Session.

Grab her first book, Blogging is Murder, for free on her website.

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.

An Introvert and an Extrovert Walk into a Bar…

by Gilian Baker

If an introvert and an extrovert walked into a bar, how could you tell them apart?

introvert or an extrovert

Easy! The introvert would quietly order a drink, wince at the noise level while she waited for the bartender, and then move to a remote table where she could watch the surrounding activity.

An extrovert would walk in and high-five the people she knew. She’d stop several times on her way to the bar to chat with acquaintances. Once she had her drink, she’d sit down in the middle of a table full of friendly faces and shoot the breeze.

But I’ll let you in on a secret…

Our introverted or extroverted personalities impact our lives in many aspects, not just how we socialize. For example, how we “do” creativity is an often-overlooked aspect of how our personalities affect us.

What does it mean to be an Introvert or an Extrovert?

It all started when Carl Jung, a Swiss psychiatrist in the 1920s, observed a variety of “functions” in the way people access their cognitive processes. These processes include how we gather information, make decisions, and relate to ourselves and others. He coined the words “introvert” and “extrovert” to explain how we focus our attention and energy and how we relate to the world around us.

Jung’s terms are often misunderstood. Many people believe introverts hate being around people, probably because they are shy. Not true! Likewise, some believe extroverts are loud attention seekers, the life of every party. Not always!

introvert and an extrovert

However, Jung identified that introverts and extroverts are indeed very different from one another.

Introverts:

  • Recharge their energy by being alone and turning inward. Being with others for too long is draining.
  • Do their best thinking alone in a distraction-free area where they can engage with their inner lives.
  • Tend to pause before they act or speak to think through how they want to respond.

Extroverts:

  • Recharge their energy by being with other people. Being alone too much is draining.
  • Do their best thinking when discussing their ideas with others.
  • Tend to jump into action without much planning.

If you aren’t sure which you are, I recommend this free personality test.

Regardless of our type, embracing it makes our lives more enjoyable and way easier. After all, why fight your natural tendencies when you could go with the flow?

The Introvert and Extrovert Brain

The emergence of neuroscience has validated Jung’s earlier findings. An introvert and an extrovert’s brain works differently!

Without getting too technical, the difference between the two is their preference for pleasure neurotransmitters.

Acetylcholine makes us feel good when we turn inward to reflect and ruminate for extended periods. When acetylcholine is released, it triggers the parasympathetic nervous system—the “rest and digest” system.

introvert and an extrovert

When dopamine floods the brain, we turn outwardly. We become more talkative and attentive to our environment. We feel confident in exploring unknown experiences and are more willing to take risks. Dopamine activates the sympathetic nervous system or the “flight or fight” response.

Introverts favor the calming pleasure neurotransmitter acetylcholine, while extroverts prefer a dopamine buzz.

Both introverts and extroverts have and use acetylcholine and dopamine, just as they use both components of their nervous system. They just each have a preference of which one they use, and they make use of it more often.

Personality and Writing

As a writer, I use my understanding of my introverted nature to my advantage. I guard my writing time, making sure it happens when I can shut the door of my office and not be disturbed. I also prefer to write in large chunks of time because I can deeply engage with my inner life as I dream up characters, plots, and worlds without stopping and starting.

There are other ways that being an introvert or an extrovert affects the writing process as well.

Introverts as Plotters:

introvert and an extrovert
Edgar Allan Poe, Introvert
  • Need to anticipate the direction of their writing before putting words on paper (Plotting)
  • Write all or parts of their work in their heads before they write it down.
  • Often pause while writing to clear their minds from distracting thoughts, rework what they’ve just written or anticipate where they are going next.
  • Reluctant to seek feedback, and when they get it, need time alone to mull it over before taking action on it.

Extroverts as Pantsers:

introvert and an extrovert
Mark Twain, Extrovert
  • Develop their best ideas while writing (“pantsing”).
  • Do their best thinking out loud or while discussing their work with others.
  • Invite others to “interrupt” them to improve their work in progress.
  • Gain enthusiasm and energy while writing the first draft in noisy, busy places.

What I’ve found as a writing coach is that writers who embrace their personality type write more effortlessly and with more joy than those who don’t. I use the personality type of each of my clients to teach them how to overcome their creative struggles.

An Introvert or an Extrovert Creativity Style

Obviously, writers aren’t the only creative people on earth. You’ll also notice that you tend to choose how you “do” creativity based on whether you are an introvert or an extrovert. Here are a few examples to consider:

Knitting and Other Needlecrafts

Introverts—enjoy this creative pursuit alone. They might take online courses or use YouTube videos to learn new skills.

Extroverts—join a Stitch and *itch group where they can learn from and talk to others while they work.

Painting

Introverts—work in their own studio or alone in nature where they can get caught up in their own world of creativity.

Extroverts—take a class and maybe join a group of people who are painting murals on the sides of buildings.

Playing Music

Introverts—learn new techniques by taking online courses or going to YouTube. They play for their own enjoyment or possibly for a small group of intimate friends.

Extroverts—take lessons, or, better yet, a class with other students to learn new skills. They might join a band and spend their evenings and weekends playing for any crowd who will listen.

As you can see, we can all enjoy the same activities—we just do them in different ways. It’s not important if you are a plotter or pantser. Or if you sit alone or with a group at your local bar. There isn’t a “best type.”

What matters is that you know which you are and then use that information to guide your decisions about how you use your creativity. Your brain has probably been trying to tell you for years to “give in” to your natural tendency. I’m giving you permission to listen!

Are you more an introvert or an extrovert? Which of the ways of expressing creativity above do you relate to most?

Gilian Baker is a former English professor turned mystery author and writing coach. She uses personality theory and brain science to help intuitive writers embrace their unique writing process so they can overcome their creative blocks and write books readers crave. If you are an introverted writer who is struggling to get their book finished, go here to schedule a free Story Strategy Session. Together, we’ll dig into how you can crush your creative blocks!

Grab her first book, Blogging is Murder, for free on her website.

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.  )

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An “Off” Week Freebie: Finally Start That Book!

by Gilian Baker

Free Writing CircleIn my humble opinion, creativity is the spice of life.

In 2014, I was a new online entrepreneur working 70 hour weeks trying to earn something close to a livable wage. On top of that, I was still teaching college literature and writing classes to pay the bills.

My life was full of projects but nothing was bringing me joy.

Enter a creative outlet!

My daughter talked me into participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with her. I tried all the usual excuses, including being too busy–which I truly was. But if you have a daughter, you know they can be relentless. I gave in and it changed my life!

As NaNo draws near again, I decided it was the perfect time to give something back to the community who has helped me turn my dream of becoming a writer into a reality.

A safe place to start their first draft with no pressure, just support.

A free writing circle!

Free Writing Circle

The NaNoWriMo Companion Writing Circle is totally free and meets online.

I want to break down some of the barriers I encountered to help you write your story.

I’ll be recording weekly Facebook Live videos and posting on topics such as:

  • What if you don’t know how to write?
  • How to decide what genre to write in.
  • How to come up with a viable story idea.
  • Practical ways to find time & confidence to write.
  • Are you a “pantser” or plotter?
  • Writing advice based on my own experience

I’ll also provide you with a list of resources I couldn’t write without and answer your questions.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by joining me! The NaNoWriMo Companion Writing Circle is free and only lasts through November.

Jade and I will both be writing a book this November right along with you and can’t wait to meet you!

To get more details and to register, just follow this link.

Gilian Baker is a former English professor who went on to forge a life outside of academia by adding blogger, ghostwriter and cozy mystery author to her C.V. She currently uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain murder mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder for her Jade Blackwell cozy mystery series, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, knitting in front of the fire, snuggling with her husband watching British TV or discussing literary theory with her daughter. She lives in Ohio with her family and their three pampered felines. In her next life, she fervently hopes to come back as a cat, though she understands that would be going down the karmic ladder. Learn more about Gilian and her books here.

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 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 Magic is in the Process

Magic writing processHey, all! Gilian here. We don’t always publish something here on our “off” weeks, but this week, you got lucky. 😉

The most common question I get as an author is “How in the world do you come up with the stories for your Jade Blackwell Mysteries series?”

I’m happy to answer the question, but I must admit that much of it is magical, and I don’t fully comprehend it myself. Cool, huh? And scary sometimes. And frustrating on occasion. And it’s always messy.

Who knew messy could be magical? Magical Writing Process

To learn about my writing process and the reason I call it magical, follow this link to my blog. You can read all about it here.

 

Stop back next week for a great post!

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 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. ? )

House Guests High Jinks

by Gilian Baker

Ever had a house guest you thought would never leave?  You may have just experienced this over the recent holiday season.

Even the most patient among us would agree that having house guests can be taxing.  According to Psychology Today, it’s normal to feel stressed when you put someone up. Even someone you love dearly!

This is due to the shift in control from us to our guests. They are essentially in charge, and we do anything and everything we can to please them.

This lack of control in a place that is usually our domain (home) can cause tension. And that doesn’t include the strain that naturally occurs when you throw another personality (or two or three) into the mix.

Then there are the changes to our routine. Even if you say you hate routine, there is a contentment found in having things the way they always are. When normal is out of whack for long enough, you guessed it–stress.

My protagonist, Jade Blackwell, experiences more than her fair share of house guest high jinks in her latest adventure, Murder Over Medium. Jade, who dearly loves her routine, is at her wit’s end within hours of her old friend and colleague, Gwendolyn Hexby arriving.

Gwendolyn hasn’t been straightforward about her visit. For example, Jade doesn’t know until Gwendolyn shows up that she’s no longer a religious studies prof…now she’s a psychic medium.

Tension? You bet!

And guess what?

The visit that is only supposed to last two days goes on and on…thanks to a murder in the village. A murder Gwendolyn prophecies during a seance held at Jade’s dining room table. By the time it’s all said and done, Jade is ready to kill someone herself.

If only Gwendolyn would have read these etiquette tips from Emily Post about being a good house guest before she came to visit!

  • Do clean up after yourself. Put your dishes in the dishwasher, make your bed and put dirty linen in the hamper.
  • Do help out with chores, especially in the kitchen, unless the host absolutely doesn’t want your help.
  • Do inform your host of any dietary restrictions and food allergies before arriving.
  • Do pitch in for groceries if you are staying more than a couple of nights.
  • Don’t bring your pet. In fact, don’t even ask to bring it along.
  • Don’t make plans with other people without checking in with your host first. They may have plans already.
  • Don’t use the host’s phone, computer, or other electronics without asking first.
  • Don’t eavesdrop or snoop while you’re there.

Murder Over MediumWant to find out how Jade deals with this intrusion while still managing to solve a murder? Grab your digital copy of Murder Over Medium today! 

Former English professor turned blogger, Jade Blackwell, is enjoying her predictable routine when trouble comes knocking in the form of an old friend and colleague. Unbeknownst to Jade, Gwendolyn Hexby is no longer the successful academic she once knew and trusted—she is now following a new calling as a psychic medium, a contentious career that flies in the face of the logic and deductive reasoning Jade values.

At first, Jade welcomes the visit, but things soon turn bizarre as Gwendolyn brings only disorder, danger and disruption. When a murder is prophesied, and a beloved pillar of the Aspen Falls’ community winds up dead, Gwendolyn becomes Sheriff Ross Lawson’s prime suspect.

To get Gwendolyn out of hot water, and more importantly, out of her house, Jade attempts to prove her friend’s innocence. Jade believes she’s finally discovered the truth, but is soon brought back to reality when she learns all is not as it seems in the realm of the metaphysical. Not even murder.

Return to the Jade Blackwell Cozy Mystery Series in Murder Over Medium, as Jade jumps into the fray of a territory not governed by logic or reason—in either this world or the next.

Posted by Gilian Baker. Gilian is a former writing and literature professor who now uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain cozy mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, snuggled up with her husband watching British mysteries or discussing literary theory with her daughter. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines. Gilian is the author of the Jade Blackwell cozy mysteries.

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 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. 🙂 )

Séances, Spirits and Murder, Oh My! (and a New Cozy Mystery for You)

by Gilian Baker

Murder Over Medium

Each society mourns and honors their dead differently, and yet one thing remains a constant—humans have been attempting to reconnect with their lost loved ones since the dawn of time.

Séances and mediums first became all the rage during the Victorian era. So it may make you scratch your head that, in our modern age, we’re witnessing a resurgence of interest in the occult.

But all you need do to observe this revival in action is look at the bookshelves in your local shop or channel surf. Witches, hauntings, and all things paranormal are back in fashion.

In the latest Jade Blackwell Mystery, this fascination is explored, tongue in cheek, when Jade welcomes an old colleague, Gwendolyn Hexby, into her home. Unbeknownst to her, her friend is no longer a professor of religious studies, but has found a “higher calling” as a medium. Jade spends the entire book trying to reconcile Gwendolyn’s new beliefs with the woman who demanded empirical evidence years before.

One of the first things Gwendolyn does once she’s darkened Jade’s door is hold a séance.

Séances aren’t only for preteen girls’ slumber parties. Many people visit mediums each year all around the globe, in hopes of reconnecting with a loved one who has left this world. Séances are typically held by a medium, a person who has developed a talent for communicating with those who have passed over. With their help, the dead are able to give messages to those they love who are still living.

Here are some fun facts you may not know about séances and Spiritualism:

  • Famous people who attended séances include Harry Houdini, poet W.B. Yeats andMurder Over Medium Sherlock Holmes’ creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
  • Nancy Reagan wasn’t the first First Lady to practice the occult in the White House by consulting astrologists. Both First Lady Jane Pierce, wife of Franklin Pierce, and Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln hired mediums to hold séance in the White House to contact their dead sons.
  • In 1840, the world’s first recorded séance was performed by the Fox sisters, Kate and Margaret. They had their séances recorded in text to prove they were the real deal. The two sisters had a huge influence in the world of spiritualism and became highly sought-after mediums. Many years later, they announced their performances had all been faked, though they later recanted that statement.
  • Both First Ladies hired the same famous mediums, the Fox sisters.
  • Harry Houdini was a great believer in Spiritualism and attended séances frequently, until he was unsuccessful at connecting with his departed mother. After that, he put a great deal of energy into proving séances were hoaxes.
  • So obsessed was Houdini with verifying séances were hoaxes, before he died in 1926, he told his wife he would come back to speak with her. They even came up with a code word so she would know it was him. For ten years after his death, she held a séance, but he never did show up. Magicians and fans of Houdini continue the tradition by holding séances each year on his birthday.
  • In 2003, two British mediums, Craig and Jane Hamilton-Parker, held a pay-per-view séance to contact Princess Diana. They claimed they connected with her—she told them she was having fun in the afterlife, hanging out with Mother Teresa.
  • The Victorians who brought us the Spiritualist movement are the ones we can thank for the popularity of tarot cards and the Ouija board.
  • Tarot cards had been around since the 1400s, but they started out as a card game to be Murder Over Mediumplayed alone. During the Victorian era, tarot cards became a very common way for mediums and spiritualists to receive messages from the dead.
  • The Ouija board was first manufactured during the Victoria era, in 1891, by a game company. It claimed the power to “provided a link between the living world and the one inhabited by the dead.”

You can enjoy more metaphysical mischief in Book 3 of the Jade Blackwell Mystery Series, Murder Over Medium, which is now available for pre-order here.

Murder over Medium book coverFormer English professor turned blogger, Jade Blackwell, is enjoying her predictable routine when trouble comes knocking in the form of an old friend and colleague. Unbeknownst to Jade, Gwendolyn Hexby is no longer the successful academic she once knew and trusted—she is now following a new calling as a psychic medium, a contentious career that flies in the face of the logic and deductive reasoning Jade values.

At first, Jade welcomes the visit, but things soon turn bizarre as Gwendolyn brings only disorder, danger and disruption. When a murder is prophesied, and a beloved pillar of the Aspen Falls’ community winds up dead, Gwendolyn becomes Sheriff Ross Lawson’s prime suspect.

To get Gwendolyn out of hot water, and more importantly, out of her house, Jade attempts to prove her friend’s innocence. Jade believes she’s finally discovered the truth, but is soon brought back to reality when she learns all is not as it seems in the realm of the metaphysical. Not even murder.

Return to the Jade Blackwell Cozy Mystery Series in Murder Over Medium, as Jade jumps into the fray of a territory not governed by logic or reason—in either this world or the next.

 

Posted by Gilian Baker. Gilian is a former writing and literature professor who now uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain cozy mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, snuggled up with her husband watching British mysteries or discussing literary theory with her daughter. She lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines. Gilian is the author of the Jade Blackwell cozy mysteries.

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 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. 🙂 )

Life Lessons from the Pottery Studio (Plus a New Release)

by Gilian Baker

Though I haven’t thrown pottery for many years, it was once my creative passion. And while it’s not the typical hobby you’re likely to find highlighted in a cozy mystery, it was ideal for my protagonist, Jade and mA Time to Kilne.

Why?

Well, because I’d planned the murder in my new book, A Time to Kiln, many moons ago when I spent all my free time in a dusty pottery studio.

Taking a pottery class seemed like a natural pursuit. I loved playing in the mud as a kid growing up on a farm and as an adult, I loved getting my hands dirty while growing organic vegetables. What started out as a chance to have some “me time,” away from the responsibilities of having a small child, soon grew into an obsession. For the next 7 years, I pored over pottery magazines and tested different types of glaze recipes.

I still use many of the items I created back then, as do my family and friends. Even though I’m now too busy writing cozy mysteries to throw pots, I still enjoy the ones I literally created with my bare hands years ago.

Although I had many successes in the studio, there were many failures too. I would study pictures in pottery magazines thinking, “Heck, I can make that.” This was around the time I learned that nothing ever turns out like the picture. The times when a friend or family member requested a certain item was when I experienced the biggest failures. I’d want it to be so perfect. The harder I tried, the worse it got.

I better understand that concept now—the more “work” you make of something, the harder it’s going to be. When I let myself enjoy the simple pleasure of creating, I ended up with sometA Time to Kilnhing lovely. When I didn’t, well, I didn’t. During my time as a potter, I learned the best way to do anything was to let go of how the final product turned out and just enjoy the process. Same goes for writing fiction.

Frustrations can easily overshadow the pleasure found in the pottery studio—there are many steps in the process to finish a single piece. The clay must be thrown, dried, trimmed, glazed and fired, and at any point in the process, it can be ruined. But oh, when you create something beautiful, you forget all about the frustrations and can’t wait to do it all over again. Throwing pottery is a great metaphor for life. If you are as malleable as the clay, you can learn patience and mindfulness. If you don’t…you probably won’t stick with it for long.

Sadly, Jade will not have the pleasure of drinking from a mug she threw on a pottery wheel herself, a fact that she bemoans. Before she can become proficient “behind the wheel,” her teacher is murdered.

A Time to KilnA Time to Kiln: A Jade Blackwell Cozy Mystery (Book 2)

Disenchanted with life after solving her first real case, Jade Blackwell, successful blogger and amateur sleuth, throws herself into a new hobby…until murder rears its ugly head.

But when Jade attempts to ferret out the killer of local pottery teacher, Paula Hexby, she comes up short and suspicion begins to descend on her daughter’s former boyfriend. Evidence and bodies are stacking up, as Jade finds herself caught between an untrustworthy client and her beloved community.

Now at a personal and professional crossroads, Jade must once again jump into the breech, along with partner Gabrielle Langdon, to uncover the truth behind this string of horrific murders. Is she really cut out for this life of sleuthing and danger? Has Jade been defending the real murderer all along? Or is there something much more sinister afoot?

Follow Jade in her next adventure in A Time to Kiln, now available on Amazon.

Gilian Baker is a former English professor who’s gone on to forge a life outside of academia by adding blogger, ghostwriter and cozy mystery author to her C.V. Gilian lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines. In her next life, she fervently hopes to come back as a cat, though she understands that would be going down the karmic ladder. She’s the author of Blogging is Murder and A Time to Kiln.

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