Author Archives: Kassandra Lamb

Crime Writers Interview: Nancy Nau Sullivan

Crime Writers Interview logo

We periodically introduce our readers to other mystery writers whom they might find interesting. Because as we all know, there is no such thing as too many books to read, especially in these strange times when distraction is a very good thing.

Today, please help us welcome Nancy Nau Sullivan. Nancy has led an interesting life and has many stories to tell…

Nancy Nau Sullivan began writing wavy lines at age six, thinking it was the beginning of her first novel.

It wasn’t. But she didn’t stop writing. After eight years of newspaper work in high school and college, she contributed to editorial posts at New York magazines and for newspapers throughout the Midwest.

Nancy grew up outside Chicago but often visited Anna Maria Island, Florida. She returned there with her family and wrote an award-winning memoir, The Last Cadillac-––a harrowing adventure of travel, health issues, and adolescent angst, with a hurricane thrown in for good measure.

She went back to the Florida setting for her first cozy mystery, Saving Tuna Street, creating the fictional Santa Maria Island. Nancy now lives, for the most part, in Northwest Indiana…or anywhere near water.

Kassandra Lamb (on behalf of the misterio gang): We like to start with an 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?

Nancy Nau Sullivan: I must have been born with a bitty little suitcase in my hand, because I can’t sit still—except to write. I was born in San Francisco, but grew up in Lansing, Illinois, in the steel belt outside Chicago. I moved 19 times with my ex-husband, a West Pointer. Over the years, I’ve lived in Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Germany, the South, and now I’m back home in Indiana near the kids.

This peripatetic life has influenced my writing. My new series has an international bent, starting in Santa Maria Island, Florida, a fictional adaptation of Anna Maria Island, my favorite place in the world.

Kass: What subgenre of mysteries do you write?

Nancy: The Blanche Murninghan mystery series is somewhere between traditional and cozy, mostly the latter. The first book, Saving Tuna Street (due out June 23, 2020), takes place on Santa Maria Island when the quiet little island comes under threat from land-grabbing goons. They want to  turn it into a mecca of McMansions. Blanche, who lives in a cabin on the beach, is having none of it—especially when her suspicions tell her the goons are also murderers, kidnappers, and a front for drug-runners.

I picked Santa Maria (fictional Anna Maria Island) because it’s the beloved setting for my memoir, The Last Cadillac. I’m inspired by setting. Blanche will go on to Mexico next, then Ireland, Spain, Argentina, and maybe Vietnam.

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

Crime Writers Interview: Nancy Nau Sullivan

Nancy: All-of-a-Kind Family by Sydney Taylor and Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I loved the Brooklyn “family” and their customs, and I can still see the maple syrup coming out of those trees in the “big woods.”

Later, I read all of Nancy Drew in her little motor car, finding lost jewels, with a doting father in the background.

Kass: I adored Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books as a kid. So, where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little about your stories.

Nancy: I worked at newspapers all through high school and college, and in New York City publishing following graduation, then went back to my first love, newspapers, for almost 20 years. Along the way, I was always diddling with stories. But it wasn’t until the 1990s, when my life exploded, that I wrote my first book, The Last Cadillac, a memoir of high family drama.

I joined the Peace Corp in 2013, and with no TV (the writer’s enemy), I started writing short stories  and sending them out for publication. I think that was a springboard to getting the memoir published in 2016. I went back to that setting to write Saving Tuna Street, my first mystery due out in June.

I’ve also written a novel about a woman who teaches in a boys’ prison and gets mixed up in their escape plan. The Boys of Alpha Block will be out next year. It’s based on my own teaching experience in a boys’ prison in Florida for five years. They did not escape, but they darn near did everything else in this novel.

Kass: What do you find to be the most fun and/or the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching? Why is that?

Crime Writers Interview: Nancy Nau Sullivan -- The Last Cadillac cover

Nancy: I dread the first draft, and I don’t know why. Once I sit down to write it, it usually flows. I figure if the writing gets boring, then the reader will be bored, so I stop. Take a walk or mop the kitchen floor (I have a very clean kitchen floor).

I am pretty much of a pantser, but I can see the rough arc of the story when I sit down to write. Once I’m in, I don’t want to get out until it’s done. And I love to edit and research.

I’m an old newspaper type with a master’s in journalism, so I guess it’s coded somewhere in my brain to edit and research, or the writing just won’t work.

Journalism requires tight writing and deadlines and checking the facts. The practice has helped because I can see where to cut and fill in later, how long it’s going to take (always longer), and where to pace.

Kass: What’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Nancy: How to make a mummy!

In the No. 2 mystery in the Blanche Murninghan series, Down Mexico Way, which should be out in the summer of 2021, Blanche discovers that a mummy in a museum exhibit is not “real,” but was more recently manufactured.

I had to research ancient methods, and it was fascinating. You should have seen what turned up on my news feed!

Kass: In Saving Tuna Street, your first mystery, what was your favorite (or hardest to write) scene?

Nancy: Those tense scenes involving the kidnapping were the most fun and the hardest. The sentences had to be short and snappy, and I had to put myself in the moment. Fortunately, I’ve never been kidnapped, but I do know fear, and so I channeled it. A friend who was once mugged also helped, and she picked apart that first draft.

At a conference I attended once, Lee Child said: The action scenes have to be longer, and the descriptive, backstory, more mundane scenes have to be on the shorter side (I paraphrase. Sorry, Lee.)

Kass: In Saving Tuna Street, what changed the most from the first draft to the last?

Crime Writers Interview:  Nancy Nau Sullivan -- path to the beach
Path to the beach on Anna Maria Island

Nancy: The main character. The first time I wrote her up, an editor told me she was “flat.” How dismaying.

So I let that puppy out of the cage. Pretty soon she was using her anger as a tool and throwing back shots of tequila with her friend (Blanche is a bit of a drinker). I also got a good look at her appearance—She lives on the beach, and her T-shirt is stiff with salt and the only footwear she has are sandals.

That is a drag when you get kidnapped and have to kick your way out of a van.

Kass: And last of all, what question do you wish interviewers would ask you that they usually don’t? What is your answer to that question?

Nancy: Are you in it for the money?

And the answer is HAHAHAHAHA. What money?

Kass: LOL…Thank you so much, Nancy, for joining us today.

Readers, please check out her debut novel, Saving Tuna Street, now available for preorder! (see below) It’s due to be released by Light Messages on June 23, 2020.

Nancy will hang out for a while to answer any questions you may have. And you can also connect with her on Twitter (@NauSullivan), Facebook, Instagram and via her website.

Saving Tuna Street (A Blanche Murninghan Mystery)

Crime Writers Interview: Nancy Nau Sullivan -- Saving Tuna Street cover

Blanche “Bang” Murninghan is a part-time journalist with writer’s block and a penchant for walking the beach on her beloved Santa Maria Island. When land-grabbing tycoons arrive from Chicago and threaten to buy up Tuna Street, including her beachfront cottage, her seemingly idyllic life begins to unravel. Blanche finds herself in a tailspin, flabbergasted that so many things can go so wrong, so fast.

When her dear friend is found murdered in the parking lot of the marina, Blanche begins digging into his death. With her friends Liza and Haasi by her side—the latter a mysterious, tiny Native American with glossy braids and dark eyes, who seems to appear just when she’s needed most—Blanche stumbles into a pit of greed, murder, drug running, and kidnapping. She has survived her fair share of storms on Santa Maria Island, but this one might just be her last.

Available for Preorder on:

AMAZON ~ APPLE ~ NOOK ~ KOBO

Also two of our books are available for Preorder:

Hostage to Fortune, A Tea and Tarot Mystery, by Kirsten Weiss ~ Releases May 21st!!!

Hostage to Fortune book cover

Tea and Tarot room owner Abigail Beanblossom is used to running interference for her socially-awkward former boss, tech billionaire Razzzor. So when he invites her on a stakeout to investigate the sale of counterfeit wine from his latest venture – an upscale winery – she barrels on in. But the two stumble across the corpse of a wine merchant, and new wine in old bottles is now the least of their problems.

Good thing amateur detectives Abigail and her partner, tarot reader Hyperion Night, have a nose for murder. Their investigation takes them from elegant wine cellars to chic tea parties on the California coast. But just as the investigation starts to get its legs, Abigail discovers there’s more than wine at the bottom of this crime…

Tearoom recipes in the back of the book.

Click HERE for Preorder links!

Lord of the Fleas, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, by Kassandra Lamb ~ Releases May 26th!!

Lord of the Fleas book cover

What could be more innocent than a country flea market?

When service dog trainer Marcia Banks takes up temporary residence with her best friend in Williston, Florida, her goals are simple: spoil her toddler godchildren and train her newest dog’s veteran owner, a vendor at a local flea market.

Ha, the universe has other plans. When the owner of the flea market is found dead and her client is a prime suspect, she discovers that nothing is as it seems—from the flea market owner himself, to the ornate dragonhead cane he gave to her client, to the beautiful but not very bright young woman whom her client has a crush on.

The only true innocent in the bunch seems to be her guileless client. But when he shares a confidence that puts her in a double bind with local law enforcement, she’s not sure she can even trust him.

Despite her promises to her new husband, the only way out of her no-win dilemma seems to be to find the real killer. The flea market, however, is hiding more secrets, and at least one of them could be deadly.

Click HERE for Preorder Links!

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. 

Live Where You Thrive (Lessons from a Pandemic)

by Kassandra Lamb

Live Where You Thrive ~ Happy Mother's Day!
We hope all mothers out there had a fabulous Mother’s Day! (photo by Karolina Bobek on Unsplash, so not my magnolias, but my magnolia tree is starting to bloom!)

A few weeks back, I wrote a post wondering how this pandemic, with all its short-term repercussions on families and finances, etc., might change our lives in more permanent ways.

And maybe, at least in certain areas, for the better.

I mentioned that one impact it had on me was to make me grateful for the things I had previously taken for granted (like toilet paper 😉 ).

Recently, I realized something else to be grateful for, that I can live where I thrive.

For the first five decades of my life, I lived in the state where I was born—a place that I kind of liked a good bit of the time, hated some of the time (winter) and never really loved any of the time. Then we moved to northern Florida, where I love it about half the time and definitely like it the rest of the time.

But we’ve been here almost sixteen years now, so I was beginning to take it for granted.

Live Where You Thrive ~ spring in Florida
The azaleas along one side of our fence. (photo copyright by my hubs)

And then we had a pandemic, and I’ve had to stay on my own property pretty much all day, every day for weeks on end. Fortunately, this was during my favorite time of the year down here—spring.

Yes, spring starts in March (sometimes late February), runs through April and usually at least a few weeks into May. It’s relatively dry and fabulously sunny that whole time, with temps most days in the 70s to low 80s, and mostly low humidity.

Spring in Florida has really made the pandemic lockdown tolerable for me. Indeed, it’s probably kept me from sinking into a depression (and also helped me to keep writing!!)

I realize that not everyone has been as lucky. Many have been cooped up in apartments—others in parts of the world where they were still experiencing winter or the chilly, damp beginnings of spring during March and April, or in the Southern Hemisphere, autumn. (And yes, I get it that some people like autumn or even winter; yay for you!)

The lesson learned is that it’s really important to live where you thrive.

Live Where You Thrive -- my editing chair
My editing chair. 🙂

I know that’s not always possible. We have to go where the work is sometimes, or where family is, or spend some time at school in a less than ideal climate for us.

But I think in making such decisions, all too often we Americans put climate and the local culture too low on our list of considerations. Yes, work and school and family are very important.

But being able to live where you can thrive should also be very important.

A couple of my friends and family members up north have asked me a few times if I would ever move back to Maryland. It’s my home state and I love it for that reason, but the answer is a resounding “No!”

Climate isn’t the only thing I’m talking about here.

The culture of a place is important too, and other things, like how densely populated it is.

Are you a country person, who loves a lot of space around you, or are you someone who thrives on the excitement of the city?

Or maybe somewhere in between?

I’ve always been a country girl. I loved the wide open spaces enough that I was happy to drive half an hour to get to anything, including a gas station or convenience store. My husband liked the fresh air and the fact that a nice piece of property, in Maryland, was much more affordable in the country than nearer to the city. But he didn’t particularly like the inconvenience of living in the boonies.

When we moved to Florida, he wanted to live in a more convenient location. I figured I owed him, since I’d had my way for decades. Well, we lucked out. We now live in a medium-small city, in an older neighborhood with decent sized lots and plenty of mature trees.

Live Where You Thrive ~ view from my back porch
The view from my editing chair on the back porch.

With a tall privacy fence in our backyard, I have my own little slice of country, while nothing in the entire city is farther away than a twenty-minute drive.

We have found a place to live where we both thrive!

How about you, do you live where you thrive? What about where you live now works well for you? Or is there something you would change if you could?

My sister misterio author, Kirsten Weiss, has also recently relocated to a place where she is thriving, Colorado. She misses the nice weather in California but loves the wide open spaces.

She and I have been thriving so well that we’ve both managed to get stories ready for publication during these stressful times. Here’s her next installment in her Tea and Tarot series, and mine in the Marcia Banks and Buddy mysteries.

Both are available for Preorder Now and will release on May 26th.

Hostage to Fortune, A Tea and Tarot Mystery #2

Hostage to Fortune book cover

Tea and Tarot room owner Abigail Beanblossom is used to running interference for her socially-awkward former boss, tech billionaire Razzzor. So when he invites her on a stakeout to investigate the sale of counterfeit wine from his latest venture – an upscale winery – she barrels on in. But the two stumble across the corpse of a wine merchant, and new wine in old bottles is now the least of their problems.

Good thing amateur detectives Abigail and her partner, tarot reader Hyperion Night, have a nose for murder. Their investigation takes them from elegant wine cellars to chic tea parties on the California coast. But just as the investigation starts to get its legs, Abigail discovers there’s more than wine at the bottom of this crime…

Tearoom recipes in the back of the book.

Click HERE for Preorder links!

Lord of the Fleas, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery #9

Lord of the Fleas book cover

What could be more innocent than a country flea market?

When service dog trainer Marcia Banks takes up temporary residence with her best friend in Williston, Florida, her goals are simple: spoil her toddler godchildren and train her newest dog’s veteran owner, a vendor at a local flea market.

Ha, the universe has other plans. When the owner of the flea market is found dead and her client is a prime suspect, she discovers that nothing is as it seems—from the flea market owner himself, to the ornate dragonhead cane he gave to her client, to the beautiful but not very bright young woman whom her client has a crush on.

The only true innocent in the bunch seems to be her guileless client. But when he shares a confidence that puts her in a double bind with local law enforcement, she’s not sure she can even trust him.

Despite her promises to her new husband, the only way out of her no-win dilemma seems to be to find the real killer. The flea market, however, is hiding more secrets, and at least one of them could be deadly.

Click HERE for Preorder 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. 

May Is National Pet Month: Do Your Pets Keep You Sane?

(Note: Our Bag of Books contest winners are listed below!)

We’ve been planning this group post for a while, to celebrate that May is National Pet Month. But with the pandemic and lockdown, the fun and companionship our pets bring us have taken on a new level of importance. They are helping to keep us sane.

Being a writer is a lonely occupation. We spend most days at our computers by ourselves (if you don’t count the people in our heads), so our pets are pretty crucial to our well-being. And they also sometimes make their way into our stories. Here’s how our pets, real and imaginary, affect us and our characters…

Gilian Baker:

May is National Pet Month: Gilian's Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre in the towel drawer.

Isn’t it remarkable how animals appear to know exactly what we need? During the current stay-at-home order, my grand-kitten, Jane Eyre, has been a God-send! Usually, she’s full of orneriness, but she seems to sense that we need more snuggles and fewer shenanigans than usual. There have been fewer episodes of showing off during Zoom meetings and laying on my keyboard, and more dragging of toys to us for playtime.

Never before a lap cat, Jane has now taken to jumping up on the bed at night and sharing my pillow. Gratitude is a powerful way to stay grounded during these uncertain times, and this little ball of fur is always at the top of my list.

Murder Over Medium cover

I’m also grateful for the character cats who have shown up in my imagination. Tommy and Tuppence are more than just the names of Agatha Christie’s dynamic duo. They also happen to be the names of my protagonist Jade Blackwell’s cats. Although they haven’t helped her solve a crime yet, they are splendid sounding-boards and cuddle-bugs when Jade needs them. They have a rough time when Jade’s former colleague, Gwendolyn Hexby, visits with her demonic Siamese in Murder Over Medium. Talk about fur flying—and that doesn’t even count the murder that ensues!

In Book 1 of my new upcoming series, Shadows of Doubt, the protagonist, Willow Hibbens, is adopted by a kitten who becomes her familiar and constant companion. The cats in my books are modeled after my own. Willow’s cat, Mystic, was inspired by Jane Eyre—both are Mackerel Tabbies, prone to extreme curiosity and kittenish ways even in adulthood.

May is National Pet Month: Gilian's Tabitha and Serenity
Tabatha and Serenity

Tommy and Tuppence were created in the image of Tabatha and Serenity as a way to pay homage to all the joy they brought me.

Cats have always been my preferred pet. I have a dog phobia, and I’ve never understood the appeal of having a pet bird (Jade agrees with me on this after having an obnoxious parrot dumped on her in Libel to Kill). But cats…they are the superior pet, just ask them.

Shannon Esposito

I’ve always loved dogs and can’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a dog. Wait, yes I can. There was the time when I was seven and I had an invisible dog that I walked and fed to show my parents how responsible I’d be.

Karma's a Bitch book cover

(After that we always had a dog, so I guess it worked!)

When I decided to try my hand at writing a cozy mystery, I knew it should be about dogs somehow. I’d always wanted a mastiff, so Karma the mastiff and the Pet Psychic Mysteries were born.

In real life, I now have two mastiffs. One is our old gal, Abbey, who’s ten and probably has some boxer or pittie in her. The other one is Enzo, our five-month-old, 90-pound ball of smooshie love.

Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without them during these strange shelter-at-home times.

May is National Pet Month: Shannon's Abbey and Enzo
Abbey and Enzo

I probably talk to them more than my busy family. They lay on my feet as I write, bring laughter in the house with their wrestling antics and force me to take walks even when I’m feeling down.

Nothing like dog kisses to keep you grounded and remind you what’s important in life.

Vinnie Hansen

May is National Pet Month: Vinnie's Lola

Meet Lola—the smartest, most expressive cat that ever lived—fished from a flea-market free box by my former husband.

Lola kept me company through two marriages, three houses, and nineteen years of my teaching career. She was a great mouser, a lover of chips and cantaloupe, and so smart she learned how to open the cupboard door where her food was stored. If she’d only been able to figure out how to pour it!

Murder, Honey book cover

She was my favorite pet of all time, and it broke my heart to put her down after her long struggle with kidney failure. She was blind and weighed six pounds by then, but still purred on my lap.

This wonderful, entertaining creature lives on in my Carol Sabala mystery series. Every thing in the series is invented, except Lola.

She’s the real deal.

Kirsten Weiss

Steeped in Murder book cover

Pets are an important element within the cozy mystery genre, though I confess I was surprised when my agent told me I had to give a cat in one of my books a character arc. Animals definitely have characters, but character arcs?

Anyway, I went all out in my Tea and Tarot mysteries, with a haughty cat AND a duck as pets. (After some initial suspicion, they get along famously.)

Lenore in my Witches of Doyle cozy mysteries has a ghost cat. Her sister Jayce’s real cat, Picatrix, is not happy about this.

May is National Pet Month: Planet of the Grapes book cover with Bailey

Their neighbor, Susan, from my Wits’ End cozy mysteries has a beagle.

Bailey occasionally gets involved in solving crimes, but mostly he just begs for breakfast food from his owner, a B&B proprietress.

Riga Hayworth, my metaphysical detective, thinks she’s too busy managing her gargoyle, Brigitte, for a pet. But dogs keep finding their way to her.

It was inevitable that she ended up adopting one…

K.B. Owen

May is National Pet Month: Kathy's Tora
A collage of Kathy’s Tora

Consider, if you will, the female mystery author at work, plotting murder and mayhem. Perhaps she’d be typing away in her home office (for me, the dining room), a cup of tea at her elbow, a sleeping cat (or cats) on a nearby window sill.

Here at Casa Owen, it’s not always quite so peaceful. My kitty muse, Tora, likes to get close as I write–lap, shoulder, tabletop, keyboard, doesn’t matter.

I find myself blowing fur off my laptop a couple of times a day. And that cup of tea?–well, she likes to stick her face in the mug.

Beloved and Unseemly book cover

I talk to her, bounce off ideas, muse aloud. She doesn’t give much feedback (unless it’s meal time). But she’s great company, especially in what can be a very solitary profession.

My protagonist, a late 19th century female college professor, is not allowed to have pets in her role as chaperone of a house full of unruly young lady students. She doesn’t acquire any animals until her marriage in Book 5 of the Concordia Wells series, when she inherits several (plus a corpse) along with the old farmhouse she and her new husband purchase.

Likewise, I didn’t start my author journey with a cat—we adopted Tora in late 2014—but I’m sure glad she’s sharing it with me now!

Kassandra Lamb

I’ve always been a dog person. Don’t get me wrong, I like cats well enough, but they aren’t essential to my life.

May is National Pet Month: Kass's Watson and Amelia

I have to have a dog! (My husband has tried to challenge this reality a few times. I advised him not to make me choose. 😉 )

My current tan and white pooch is Dr. Watson (to my Sherlock, get it?). He sits behind my desk chair most of the day, oh so helpfully positioning himself so that I can’t help but trip over him when I get up. He also makes me laugh at his antics on a regular basis.

Watson hasn’t made it into my stories yet, but a couple of my previous dogs have.

To Kill A Labrador cover

Buddy, the Black Labrador-Rotweiler mix who is the co-star of my Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy series, is modeled after our dog, Pepper, of the same genetic heritage. She was an incredibly smart dog. I trained her to follow voice commands so she could go trail-riding with me in the local park. (You can’t exactly use a leash from the back of a horse. That would get messy fast.)

Lacy in Book 2 of the series is modeled after our next dog, Amelia, the sweetest one I have ever owned. She was an Alaskan Husky-German Shepherd mix (with maybe a little Chow thrown in) and she was also gorgeous. She’s in the collage above.

Like I said, I can’t imagine not having a dog in my life, and Watson has definitely grounded me and helped keep me sane during these recent trying weeks.

How about you? What pets do you have and how do they improve your mental health?

Happy National Pet Month!!

And our contest winners are (We’ve been in touch with all of them re: how to claim their prizes):

Grand Prize: Betty R.

ebook winners: Stephanie, Jennifer R., Crystal S. and Vicki J.

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.

A Crime Writers Interview: Donnell Ann Bell

(Announcement to those who entered our Bag of Books Contest: Winners have been randomly selected and contacted; we will announce the winners on the blog as soon as we’ve heard back from them. — Check your spam folders, just in case.)

For authors who had book releases scheduled during this period of lockdowns and stay-at-home orders, it has been challenging, since their in-person book launch events and signings have all been cancelled. So we’ve reached out to a few of them to offer online interviews. For you all, our readers, we wanted to help you find some new authors…just in case your to-be-read list is getting low. 🙂

We are pleased to introduce you to Donnell Ann Bell.

Donnell has written several bestselling romantic suspense novels and is now introducing the first installment of her new police procedural series, Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense (Kass’s review below).

Here is Donnell’s bio:

Crime Writers Interview: Donnell Bell

Award-winning author Donnell Ann Bell knows statistically that crime and accidents happen within a two-mile radius of home. With that in mind, she leaves the international capers to others, and concentrates on stories that might happen in her neck of the woods.

Writing around the theme of “suspense too close to home,” Donnell’s single-title novels—The Past Came Hunting, Deadly Recall, Betrayed and Buried Agendas—have all been Amazon bestsellers. Before turning to fiction, she was an editor for the Colorado Springs Business Journal and Pikes Peak Parent Newsmagazine.

Black Pearl, A Cold Case Suspense, is a 2020 Colorado Book Award finalist for best Thriller. To learn more about Donnell, check out her website.

Kass Lamb (on behalf of the whole misterio gang): We always like to 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?

Donnell Ann Bell: I am literally and figuratively a small-town girl. What is interesting about putting myself in that mindset, is that I thought Farmington, New Mexico was huge while growing up there, and I still consider it home. My parents abandoned me (well, not really; I was in college) and moved to Denver. There, I got a glimpse of what “big” is. Still, it’s all relative, isn’t it? I’ve heard people in New York and Boston refer to Denver as a Cowtown. Funny, I’ve always thought that title went to Fort Worth.

Kass: Why crime fiction? What is the appeal of mysteries for you, rather than say romance or science fiction?

Donnell: What a great question, and one I ask myself regularly when I become embroiled in what-if scenarios and research. I love intricate puzzles. I love pitting a worthy antagonist up against a worthy protagonist, and I love writing about justice in a world that doesn’t always play fair.

My first four books are romantic suspense, and I love romantic suspense, but I’ve never been able to write a straight romance. In defense of romance, it’s a hard genre. Keeping a conflict going without making it seem cliché or a huge misunderstanding is a testament to the many bestselling authors who make up that genre.

Kass: I absolutely agree. I have written some romantic suspense as well and the romance part is much tougher for me to write than the mystery. What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write?

Donnell: I write a cross between romantic suspense, suspense, police procedural mystery and thriller. My readers have never quite put me in a box, thank goodness.

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

Donnell: Oooh, hard question. Three books come to mind. The Velveteen Rabbit, Charlotte’s Web,  Lord of the Flies, any Nancy Drew or Hardy book mystery. Okay, that’s more than three. 🙂 I loved emotional reads and books that made me look outward.

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

Donnell: I have numerous books in a “drawer.” But five published books and I’m working on number six. I’ve been writing for years, but in between writing, I’ve volunteered and coordinated contests, which was a win/win for me because I saw firsthand the amount of talent that never reaches the bookstore or the Internet.

I write around the theme Too Close to Home. Tying in with my small-town mentality, I guess, I like to write about places I’ve been to and leave the international exploits to people such as Daniel Silva, who is my favorite author.

Kass: What do you find to be the most fun and/or the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching?

Donnell: Thought-provoking questions. Research is the most challenging, I think. I can create a plot, and have an idea about the characters, but I have to know that the plot can work first. So, I spend weeks and months researching. I received a huge compliment from retired profiler and FBI agent Peter M. Klismet, who has read my books and said when it comes to research, I’m tenacious. He knows; I have him on speed dial. 😉

Kass: What’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Crime Writers Interview:  Donnell Bell
The road to Montrose, Colorado, where much of Black Pearl is set.

Donnell: Well, I’ve researched some fairly odd topics. I’ll tell you about one book that never quite made it out of my drawer. I was researching cyanide and arsenic and wanted to do something different when framing my protagonist. She had a peach orchard behind her property and was a woodworking expert. I decided to have cyanide found on her wood press.

I interviewed mining engineers in Cripple Creek, my longtime pharmacist, and finally went to the El Paso County (Colorado Springs) Sheriff’s office. I sat down with a lieutenant and sergeant who kind of gave me this squinty-eyed look. Finally, the lieutenant said, “Where does your story take place?”

“El Paso, Texas,” I replied.

At that he frowned and said, “Why don’t you just go across the border and get some?”  He pointed out that criminals are not very smart and are not very complicated.  

That lieutenant, by the way, became my impetus for another character for my debut novel, The Past Came Hunting, so I consider that one of the most fortuitous meetings of my career.

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

Donnell: The ending. As I said I wrote romantic suspense for my first four books. In romance, you always have a happily-ever-after ending. But now I’m writing a series. I did tie up all the loose threads and made my ending downright cheery, but I also needed something to encourage the reader to read Book 2.

Debra Dixon is my publisher and editor, and she had me read a novel that I considered Noir—every character was SO damaged, and I didn’t care for it very much (although the plot was spellbinding). But it was the best teaching moment ever, because I saw how the author set up her book for book two. You cannot go wrong with reading outside your comfort zone.

Kass: In your latest story, what changed the most from the first draft to the last?

Donnell: Again, the ending. Also, I layered a bit more. My story revolves around Tahitian pearls, and I added more depth to the story surrounding them.

Kass: And last of all, what question do you wish interviewers would ask you that they usually don’t? What is your answer to that question?

Donnell: What would you do if you had all the money in the world?

First, I’d make sure children never went to school hungry, and I’d give all the teachers, who make sure they don’t, unlimited access to funds and a huge pay raise besides for all their selflessness. I’d also give money to cancer research, Alzheimers, ALS and all the devastating diseases that take loved ones away from us before their time.

After that, I’d keep on writing.

Kass: Oh please, please do keep writing. I love your books. I’ve read The Past Came Hunting and Black Pearl, and am very much looking forward to Book 2 of your Cold Case series.

Crime Writers Interview: Donnell Bell -- Black Pearl book cover

A cold case heats up when a 9-1-1 call puts police at a Denver murder scene, pointing investigators to the abduction of a Colorado teenager fourteen years earlier. A calling card—a single black pearl—is found on the newest victim. Is the murder a copycat? Or has a twisted serial killer, thought dead or in prison, returned to strike again?

Soon, the hunt for a multi-state killer is on and brings together an unexpected team: a Denver Major Crimes police lieutenant; an FBI special agent who investigated the previous murders; a rookie FBI agent with a specialty in psychology; and the only living victim of the Black Pearl Killer, who is now a cop.

Go to https://donnellannbell.com/books for more info and buy links.

Here is Kass’s review:

In this well-paced police procedural, the author brings together a somewhat unlikely task force to look into the fourteen-year-old cold case of an abducted and murdered teenager.

A hardened Denver police detective investigates a fresh case that might be related, while the FBI agent who worked the original case goes to Montrose, Colorado, where the earlier abduction occurred. With him is the girl’s best friend who got away from the abductor, only now she is grown and a seasoned police officer.

Not only is the case fascinating, but the characters are three-dimensional and carefully crafted. I can’t wait to read their next adventure. I give Black Pearl five fingerprints!

You can reach Donnell at:

Website:  www.donnellannbell.com ~~ Facebook:  https://bit.ly/3552VOV ~~ Instagram:  www.instagram.com/donnellannbellauthor/ ~~ Twitter:  @donnellannbell

We hope you’ve enjoyed our Crime Writers Interview with Donnell Bell. Any questions for her? And how about you, readers … have you tried any new authors lately that you really liked?

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.

MacGyver® Recipes for a Pandemic

We usually post every other week, but during these challenging times, we’re trying to come up with something helpful, supportive or entertaining each week. This week, we thought we’d lighten things up with a few MacGyver® recipes for surviving a pandemic.

What are MacGyver® recipes, you ask. One of our authors coined the phrase for a recipe that you cobble together from whatever ingredients you happen to have lying around.

So here are three main dishes (or one could be a side dish) that allow lots of flexibility, depending on what you have on hand.

First up, Kathy Owen (the author who coined the phrase)…

Here’s my mother’s Tuna/Spaghetti Casserole, which I’ve renamed the “Meat/Pasta/Cream-of-Whatever” Casserole:

Kathy’s mother’s original handwritten recipe.

Serves 4+

Ingredients:
14 oz tuna (2 cans, or you can substitute canned/cooked chicken/turkey)
8 oz pasta (any kind), cooked and drained
1 can cream of mushroom CONDENSED soup (you can substitute cream of asparagus/ celery/chicken/what-have-you)
8 oz milk
Topping (optional): breadcrumbs and grated parmesan cheese

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350, grease casserole dish or spray with non-stick spray.

In a separate bowl, mix all of the above ingredients and transfer to baking dish, spreading evenly.

Sprinkle bread crumbs on top, if available and desired (I like to mix in some grated parmesan with the bread crumbs).

Bake uncovered for 25 minutes, or until edges are bubbly.

Enjoy!

Kirsten Weiss brings us a cheesy vegetarian dish that could be an entree or a side dish:
MacGyver recipes for a pandemic
photo by Andrea Davis on Unsplash.com — cropped

It’s super simple and you can sub other kinds of cheeses.

1 cup blue cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayo

Melt in pot on stovetop. Dump on any cooked pasta.

You can also add cooked vegetables.

And Gilian Baker has another, rather different tuna recipe for us:

Most of us are needing to get a little creative in the kitchen right now. But no matter. We can take on that challenge. If you are like my family, you always have these three things in your fridge and pantry.

Stir them together, bake for 10 minutes, and you have a delicious, nutritious snack or main dish! It’s as easy as 1-2-3.

1 can tuna (or as many as you have or want)
Ranch dressing
Shredded cheddar cheese

MacGyver Recipes for a pandemic
Not Gilian’s grand-kitty but this photo was too cute to resist. (photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash.com)

First, squeeze all the liquid from the tuna and feed the liquid to your cats. (Jane Eyre, my grand-kitten requested I include that important part.)

Mix the ingredients in a bowl, adding as much dressing and cheese as you want. Roll into small balls about the size of a nickel and place them on a lightly greased pan or on parchment paper (if you still have any left) and bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees or until the cheese is melty and helps hold the balls together.

If you don’t happen to have these three ingredients, you can experiment with other cheeses, flavorings or cooked meats.

If you want to take it further, you can dip the balls in egg and roll them in panko, crushed corn flakes, or bread crumbs. Enjoy!

And from Kass Lamb, here’s an easy to make-and-bake bread to go with any of the above:

My husband and I love bread. Keeping enough on hand, with the shortages in stores, has been a challenge. So I was delighted when I stumbled on a recipe for flatbread online. No extensive kneading involved, no waiting for it to rise. Just mix the ingredients and fry it up.

But being the creative sort that I am, I couldn’t leave the recipe alone. I had to play with it—try it with whole wheat (yummy), with Italian seasonings (even yummier), etc.

MacGyver recipes for a pandemic
I took a photo of mine, but it was a lot less round and a lot more scorched than this one, so using this photo (by Anshu A Kus on Unsplash.com)

Makes 6

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour (or whole wheat flour* or probably any other kind of flour would work)
3/4 cup of lukewarm water*
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons olive oil (or canola oil or vegetable oil, etc.)
Additional oil for frying

Directions:
Mix dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Slowly add about ½ cup of water, stirring to dampen the dry ingredients. Add 2 tsp. oil and mix that in, then add more water until all dry ingredients are mixed into a doughy ball.

Beware of using too much water which leaves the dough sticky. (*Whole wheat flour will require more water.)

Dump out on a floured surface and dip your clean hands into flour. Knead dough for few minutes, working a bit more flour into it until it is easy to pick up and handle. Place in greased bowl covered by a cloth or paper towel. Let rest for 30-60 minutes.

On a floured surface, divide into 6 pieces and flatten each out with fingers (or roll out with rolling pin to tortilla thickness).

Heat 1 to 2 tablespoons of oil in a skillet or griddle, stopping short of smoky hot.

Cook until golden brown spots appear on one side (this happens pretty fast so keep a close eye on it). While first side is cooking, dribble a small amount of oil on the top side. Optionally, you can sprinkle on seasoning (garlic powder, herbs, parmesan cheese, etc.) as well, before flipping it over to cook briefly on the other side.

These can be made ahead and kept under a flour sack towel or paper towel for a few hours. Can also be stored in the refrigerator in a zipper plastic bag (up to 2 days, although they never last more than a day around my house) or frozen for later use.

Makes a great breakfast, lunch or snack, warmed up with a slice of cheese gently melted on top.

How about you all? Have you had to MacGyver together some recipes during the last few weeks?

Five days left to enter our fight-the-boredom CONTEST. Grand Prize is a Bag of Free Paperback Books! Plus 4 other winners get free ebooks.

Click HERE to check it out. Winner will be announced next Tuesday.

MacGyver recipes and contest

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.

Random Moments That Change Our Lives (And a Contest!)

by Kassandra Lamb

Another author’s recent post, about how a random conversation changed her career dramatically, got me thinking of a few such random moments that have affected my life.

In a minute, I’ll tell you about my biggest random, life-changing moment, but first…

There is nothing more random than a pandemic.

What we are going through right now as a country and throughout the world is almost beyond comprehension. And it is likely to change our lives in certain ways, for better or worse, forever.

It would probably be worthwhile to give some thought to how each of us wants our lives to change, so that we can take control of that process as much as possible. More on this in a bit. Now back to my story.

The random moment that changed my life.

random moments that change our lives -- the glass ceilng
Even a lovely glass ceiling will still give you a headache 🙂

In my late twenties, I was trying to get ahead in the business world (we’re talking early 1980s) and banging my head rather regularly on the glass ceiling. I had a toddler, and I was very tired of working 40 hours a week, plus 10 hours of commute time, to make peanuts.

If I was going to be away from my son for that many hours, I wanted to be doing something more meaningful and more lucrative. But I had no idea what.

Around that time, my husband went to a hypnotherapist to quit smoking. He was worried about the secondhand smoke in the house. He was so successful that I went too. We both stopped smoking, which was the planned outcome.

But there was another unexpected outcome as well. I was fascinated by the hypnosis. I had a bachelors degree in psychology, and as I sat in the comfy chair in the hypnotherapist’s office and listened to his droning voice, a little part of my brain was thinking, “I could do this.”

So I enrolled in graduate school to get the required credentials, studied hypnosis on the side (there were no college classes on it; still aren’t at most schools), and investigated what I needed to do to set up a private practice as a hypnotherapist.

Two years later, I had a thriving practice. I wasn’t making great money but it was better than I had been making in the business world. And I had control over my schedule. I worked four 8 to 10-hour days, one of them Saturday, and was home two weekdays, which meant my son was only in daycare part-time.

And I was helping people. I’ve never looked back, other than to wonder occasionally how different things would be, if I hadn’t had that random experience that changed my life.

So back to current events…

random moments that change our lives -- learning not to take things for granted, like toilet paper

I haven’t totally sorted out what may change permanently in my life after this craziness is over. I’ve certainly come to appreciate certain things that I once took for granted…like my husband, and unlimited supplies of toilet paper.

(Not that those two are of equal importance. 😀 )

I’ve also been touched by the generosity of strangers to each other. And the bravery of those who are doing the “essential” tasks that keep our country running, from the medical personnel to the truck drivers to the guys who collect the garbage.

I think it behooves us to give some conscious thought to how we want to change ourselves and/or our lives in the future. What positive meaning can we find in this very negative event?

How do you hope this pandemic will change the country, the world and/or your life for the better? (Please, no politics!)

~~~

And we have a CONTEST going, to help with the boredom. Grand Prize is a Bag of Free Books! Click HERE to check it out.

~~~

 

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.

We’re Here For You (Plus a Contest for Free Books)

We at misterio press hope and pray that all of our readers and their loved ones come out of this crisis healthy and unscathed.

In the meantime, we are trying to offer as much support as we can. Please see this post and this post for tips to help you stay calm and de-stress during these difficult times. Plus, if you’re looking for a new way to make money while working at home, check out this offer to learn how to become a freelance writer.

And to help out with the boredom of staying at home, we have a CONTEST for Free Books!

Grand prize is a Bag of Free Books — this fun tote plus SEVEN first-in-series, signed paperbacks from 6 of our authors.

one of the books in contest for free books

Four more winners will receive a free ecopy of one of our books!! (Winner’s choice but exceptions may apply.)

Two ways to enter!

Go to the contest and click on the appropriate ways to enter. Then…

#1 — Comment on this blog post.

And tell us how you’re doing.

one of the books for this contest for free books

#2 — Get another entry (worth 5 points!) by signing up for our blog!

If you have trouble figuring out how to subscribe (“subscribe” area above on the right), you can….

one of the books for this contest for free books

Comment and include your email address and permission for us to subscribe you.

This contest for free books runs through April 25th.

one of the books for this contest for free books

Winners will be announced soon after that.

Best of luck!!

To enter the Contest to Win a Bag of Free Books please click 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 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.

What You’re Feeling May Very Well Be Grief

by Kassandra Lamb

A sign of the times — grocery store in 2020 (photo by Breawycker CC-BY-SA 4.0 International Wikimedia Commons)

My daughter-in-law posted the link to this article today. It really nails what a lot of us are feeling right now. We are grieving…for what has already changed, and for what may yet change in an uncertain future.

Please do read the whole article—it offers some helpful suggestions for coping—but I have to quote this part. It is so right on:

There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. So many have told me in the past week, “I’m telling my coworkers I’m having a hard time,” or “I cried last night.” When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through.

David Kessler , co-author of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief through the Five Stages of Loss.

That’s what I’ve been preaching for years. Emotions need to be acknowledged and expressed so they can move OUT of your system.

Check out the rest of the article HERE.

An “off week” post 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.

Stay Calm and Wash Your Hands

by Kassandra Lamb

We interrupt our regular blogging schedule… This is not what I had planned to write about this week, but it’s an important reminder to stay calm. Not only for our mental health, but for our physical health as well.

Why is it important to stay calm? Because stress reduces the effectiveness of our immune systems. So stressing about getting sick can increase the chances of getting sick.

We humans have a variety of mental defense mechanisms that our psyches employ to cope with stressful and scary stuff. Some of these defenses are helpful and some, not so much.

The Unhelpful Ones: Denial, Minimizing

Pretending the coronavirus is not a big deal, not in your area yet, etc. (it probably is; just no reported cases yet) is denial and minimizing. Buying into the idea that it’s no worse than seasonal flu is denial and minimizing. The facts say otherwise.

The World Health Organization has declared it a pandemic. The goal of that declaration was not to have everyone either panic or go into denial. It was to get us to take measures to stop the spread of the disease before it gets out of hand in this country and others.

The Potentially Helpful Defenses: Rationalization, Repression, Sublimation

First, do the things you’re hearing that you should do in order to prevent and/or prepare for the worst-case scenario. Wash your hands. Be aware of what you touch and try NOT to touch your face. Wash your hands.

Stay calm and wash your hands.
Meme created on imgflip.com

Stockpile, within reason, food and medicines, etc. in case you end up quarantined. (Just got home from the grocery store myself.) Then wash your hands.

Practice social distancing by leaving space around you and subbing a wave or a slight bow for a handshake or hug. Wash your hands. Avoid crowds or going out in public if you can. Wash your hands.

Then, once you have done all that, tell yourself that you and those in your household will most likely be okay. You’re doing everything you can do. It will be fine. (Rationalization.)

Is this lying to yourself? Maybe. Maybe not. You don’t know if the disease will hit close to home, but you might as well assume that it isn’t going to—AFTER you have taken the needed precautions to lower your risk.

There’s no psychological benefit to assuming that you or your loved ones will get sick. That’s pessimism and it’s also unhealthy. More on this in a minute.

Then Push the Thoughts Aside

Don’t let your mind dwell on the disease any more than is necessary to maintain the precautions you have taken. To stay calm, actively push those thoughts away when they come up (Repression) and distract yourself with other things. Read an engaging book, finally do some of those projects around the house that you’ve been putting off (look out bathroom, I’ve got my paintbrush and I’m coming in), do something creative, etc.

This latter idea is called Sublimation—actually channeling the emotional energy into something else. A whole lot of my author friends are currently writing stories about pandemics. Most of those stories will never get published, but the writing process keeps those authors sane (or as sane as authors ever are 😉 ).

(Read more on defense mechanisms here.)

The Proven Benefits of Optimism

Why should we bother to try to fool ourselves into believing all will be okay? First of all, for many of us, it will be okay. We’ll go through a scary time of worrying about our own health and that of our loved ones, but either no one in that group will get the disease or they will have a mild case of it.

And if and when the disease does strike a harder blow, well that’s soon enough to worry about it. As my grandmother used to say, “Don’t borrow trouble.”

Remaining optimistic has been proven again and again in scientific studies to have all kinds of health benefits. Optimism reduces stress, improves immune system functioning, makes people feel happier and helps them live longer. Being pessimistic, has the exact opposite effect. (For more on the benefits of optimism, here’s a good article.)

The first American study evaluated 839 people in the early 1960s, performing a psychological test for optimism–pessimism as well as a complete medical evaluation. When the people were rechecked 30 years later, optimism was linked to longevity; for every 10-point increase in pessimism on the optimism–pessimism test, the mortality rate rose 19%.

~ Harvard Health Publishing, Optimism and your Health, 2008.

But Isn’t This Just Another Form of Denial?

Yes, it is. I call it healthy denial. And all of us exercise this defense mechanism every day. Otherwise, we would never get out of bed, much less leave our houses.

Stay calm and run like hell! A tornado's coming.

Every day, we assume that we will not be mugged that day, we will not be run over by a truck, we will not be swept up by a tornado, etc. Even though those things will happen to some people somewhere.

Without healthy denial, we couldn’t function. We’d be paralyzed.

And that’s what I’m trying to fight here—the paralyzing effects of fear. Because we all need to do what we can, including remaining optimistic, in order to slow and eventually stop this pandemic.

And slowing it is extremely important. Because by slowing it, we keep it from overwhelming our healthcare system. This article has an excellent chart that shows this better than I could explain it (Note the dotted line that is labelled “healthcare system capacity.”)

Easier Said Than Done for Some

Some of us have been blessed with a naturally optimistic personality. Others have not. Those folks are going to have to work harder at this whole stay-calm thing.

Just as we try to become more aware of the surfaces we touch (or don’t touch, in the case of our faces), we need to become more aware of our thoughts. We need to catch ourselves if we are obsessing on the situation too much. We need to redirect our thoughts.

Stay calm and stop those negative thoughts,
Photo by Will Porada on Unsplash

One very simple but very helpful technique that therapists teach clients with OCD is called thought-stopping. When you notice your thoughts going down an obsessive track, you literally say, “Stop!” either out loud or inside your head.

A variation for visually oriented people is to imagine a big red stop sign in your mind’s eye.

Then you intentionally redirect your thoughts to something else that is engaging.

Laughter Is the Best Medicine

Keep your entertainment lighthearted during this crisis. Someone said to me just last night that they started to watch a show about the Nazis in Germany and had to turn it off. It was too much on top of worrying about the coronavirus. Good for her!

Even if you feel yourself drawn to heavier, more negative topics (understandable), don’t go there right now. Positive, uplifting, and even silly books and TV shows are preferable, to help maintain our optimism and healthy denial.

And keep those hysterical memes coming on social media. Promote laughter as much as you can.

Let’s all do our part not just to stop the spread of germs but to increase the spread of positive energy during this difficult time.

What helps you the most to stay calm at times like these?

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.

The Importance of Backstory (Or How the Brain Connects the Present to the Past)

by Kassandra Lamb

I’m over at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University today, talking about characters’ backstories, the human brain and implications for writers.

Here’s a teaser…

First, a brief excerpt from my own backstory—I recently let go of someone whom I have loved dearly my entire life. I did so because he was acting in a way that was far too reminiscent of my dysfunctional family.

I spent many hours and beaucoup dollars in my youth on therapy, and it was successful. For a very long time now, I’ve hardly given a thought to all that craziness I grew up with. So when this person, after experiencing a highly emotional event, suddenly began acting like his crazy father (the brother of my crazy father), I had to make a tough choice.

I contemplated letting it slide for the sake of family peace, but I repeatedly found my stomach, chest and throat tightening up in a very uncomfortable way. It took me awhile to sort out that this was the same uncomfortable feeling I’d had all too often as a child—a combination of confusion, fear and hurt.

Why am I telling you this sad story? Because it provides some excellent examples of the connections that I’m about to explain—between our minds, our bodies, and our emotions—and between the past and present.

How Our Brains Connect Us to the Past

Some people still scoff, to this day, at the idea that our past affects our present and future reactions. But there is actually a scientific explanation for how this works.

There is a part of the brain called the hippocampus. It is a component of the limbic system, located between the cerebral cortex (the thinking part of our brain) and the brain stem (the part that controls automatic functions, like breathing).

The Importance of Backstory: How the Brain Connects Past to Present

The limbic system, comprised of several structures and organs, is the emotional center of the human brain. One of the hippocampus’s most important functions, as part of this system, is processing memories.

And right next door is the amygdala, the part of the brain that feels anger and fear, and produces our instinctive knee-jerk reactions to those feelings.

The hippocampus not only processes memories—without it, we would have no long-term memory—but it also remembers the emotions (and the physical sensations associated with those emotions) of past events. Read More

Implications for Writers—The Importance of Backstory

First of all, we need to give our characters backstories that match their current neuroses. Any time a character overreacts (or under-reacts) to a situation in the present, there has to be something in their past that explains it.

Then, how do we show the reader that very important backstory…

Read More…

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.