Category Archives: Mental Health Musings

When Anxiety Is a Good Thing

by Kassandra Lamb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It wasn’t supposed to be a funny skit.

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

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

So here I was last week, facing this reading.

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

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

In other words, perform. Aaack!!

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

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

1. Acknowledge the anxiety.

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

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

2. Draw confidence from past successes.

To Kill A Labrador cover
The book I read from.

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

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

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

3. Practice but not over practice.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So the moment arrives…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

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Dreaming of Being a Mid-List Author

by Kassandra Lamb

A couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege of posting on the blog of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi). I posted on the topic of goals, and how it’s okay to not aim for the top of one’s chosen field or endeavor. Not everyone can be “the best.” There’s really only one spot there at the very top.

I liked the post so much I decided to share it with you all. It fits well with the theme of last month’s post about New Year’s resolutions and goals. So here it is:

Dreaming of Being a Mid-List Author

woman at laptop, not aiming for the top
This isn’t me but it could be, especially with the cup of tea. (photo by Dai Ke on Unsplash)

I’m working on my fourth career in my lifespan—that of a fiction author. I love being a writer, but I also loved many aspects of my other careers. I have few regrets, and none regarding what I consider to be my “main” career, that of psychotherapist.

I spent twenty years listening to a lot of people talk about how their middle-of-the-road dreams had gone awry, often due to circumstances that were not completely within their control. Their stories gave me a real appreciation for how it is okay to aspire for moderate success, for a goal that meets one’s needs, whatever they may be, without necessarily bringing one fame and fortune.

The United States is such a competitive society. We are taught that we should aspire to being the best we can be, to win prizes for being the best at what we do.

Why?

Defining Success

I consider my career as a therapist a huge success, even though the profession doesn’t pay all that well and I was never a “big” name in the field. But I helped most of the people who walked through my office door. In a fair number of cases, I helped turn their lives around. And in a few, I saved their lives. I tried to be the best therapist I could be, but I didn’t particularly feel the need to be the best among all therapists.

I’d always dreamed of writing fiction. I loved to write. As a college professor (my third career), I even enjoyed writing tests! I had plucked away at a novel—about a psychotherapist, of course—during most of those years while I was pursuing other careers.

And then I retired and finally had the time to pursue my writing in earnest. When I finished the novel that I’d been writing for years, I suffered from a common ailment of new writers—the write-it-and-they-will-buy-it syndrome.

I imagined that readers would scarf up my new gem by the droves. But I wasn’t dreaming of huge profits or the New York Times bestseller list.

I was imagining hundreds of people READING my book.

Perhaps my retired status gives me the luxury of not caring so much about how big my profits are. But I just can’t get all that excited about things like rankings or bestseller lists or writing awards.

I Can See Clearly Now

In retrospect, I can see my goals more clearly than I did at the time when I published that first book. Here they are, in order of importance:

  • I wanted to experience the joy of having people read my work and tell me they were moved by it.
  • I wanted my characters to come to life for readers who cared about them.
  • I wanted the recognition that I was a good writer (not necessarily great, but good enough to entertain people with my stories).
  • It would be nice to have some extra money from my writing.

Does this make me a hobbyist writer? No.

I take my writing business seriously. It is truly my fourth career. I work almost every day on business-related tasks and/or writing.

What I’m getting at here is that it is okay to have modest goals. We don’t all have to aim for the top of the heap. There isn’t room for all of us up there anyway!

Back when I was a psychotherapist wishing I had more time for writing, I never truly believed I would be where I am today—a successful mid-list author whose writing provides a satisfying supplement to my retirement income.

But here I am, fat and happy in the middle of the pile of fellow writers.

So what do you think? Do we all have to strive to be the best?

NOTE: If you’re an indie author, I can highly recommend the Alliance of Independent Authors; it’s an international professional organization with lots of benefits for joining.

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.

6 Reasons Why New Year’s Resolutions Fail

by Kassandra Lamb

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

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

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

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

1.  Is the goal/resolution too abstract?

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

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

2.  Is it too big?

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

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

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

3.  Is it something within your control?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4.  Are you “shoulding” on yourself?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My first novel, 17 years in the making.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

12 Ways to Get Cozy During the 12 Days of Christmas

by Kirsten Weiss and Kassandra Lamb

ideas to get cozy
photo by Alisa Anton, from Unsplash.com

At misterio press, we write a lot of cozy mysteries. And one of the most common questions we get is, Why are they called cozy?

The easy answer is because these mystery novels typically include a lot of coziness – including the joy of snuggling down with a good book.

Yes, a frequent cozy trope is… books! Cozy mysteries are often set in bookstores, in libraries, in book clubs, they may feature book lovers… You get the idea.

Maybe these common cozy mystery scenes and tropes will inspire you to get cozy as the temperature falls and Christmas approaches.

Twelve ways to get cozy…

1.  (Kirsten’s fave) Build a fire and enjoy it with friends — real people or the “friends” inside the pages of your favorite book.

 2.  (Kass’s fave) Eat chocolate and put as much time into savoring it as your favorite cozy mystery writer does describing the sensation of chocolate melting on the tongue. 

3.  Knit a scarf or mittens for someone for Christmas (knitting mysteries are big), maybe while sitting in front of that fire in #1.

4.  Snuggle with your pet – most cozy mysteries feature a dog or cat, and these animals usually have a heavy dose of character.

5.  Watch an old movie – preferably something romantic and/or mysterious!

6.  (Kass’s second fave) Drink wine and see above re: savoring (or hot chocolate, hot toddies, Irish coffee, whatever winter drink you like to snuggle up with.)

7.  Light fall-scented candles, dim the lights, and enjoy the mysterious dance of shadows on the walls.

8.  Bake cookies. Or scones. Or pie. And the scent of the baking as it fills the house… Num!  (Baked goods and other sweets are another favorite cozy mystery trope.)

9.  Take a long bath, and bring your paperback!

10.  Make a scrapbook (scrapbooking — another cozy trope) or photo album as a present for someone special. I (Kass) made one about his grandmother’s life for my grown son one year. I savored the process of making it as much as he enjoyed receiving it.

11.  Get super soft sheets and blankets for your bed. What a great place to snuggle up with a book! Or if you have a favorite chair or couch where you read, make sure it is equipped with a soft, warm throw.

12.  Bundle up and go for a walk in a small town. Most cozy mysteries are set in quaint towns and villages for a reason – they’re cozy!

How about you? What’s your favorite way to get cozy this time of year? (Keep it clean, folks, we are talking cozy mysteries here…LOL)

And Kirsten has another fun Christmas goodie for you!  She is celebrating the traditional 12 Days of Christmas with a new Doyle Witch cozy mystery on Instagram and Facebook! The episodes will start on Christmas Day and run through January 6th. And though a cozy witch mystery might seem odd for the holidays, it actually fits the 12 Days of Christmas theme.

According to folklore, the 12 Days of Christmas, the period between two major Christian celebrations (Christmas and Epiphany) and the switch between two calendar years, is thought to be a dangerous in-between time. Maybe this was part of the reason for the Victorian tradition of telling ghost stories on Christmas Eve.

So follow Kirsten on Instagram @KirstenWeissAuthor or on her Facebook page to read this episodic holiday mystery!

Gargoyle Chronicles cover

And don’t forget her new, quirky collection of short stories and a novella, The Gargoyle Chronicles, starring Brigitte, metaphysical detective Riga Hayworth’s gargoyle sidekick.

Kirsten Weiss has never met a dessert she didn’t like, and her guilty pleasures are watching Ghost Whisperer re-runs and drinking red wine. The latter gives her heartburn, but she drinks it anyway.

Now based in San Mateo, CA, she writes genre-blending cozy mystery, supernatural and steampunk suspense, mixing her experiences and imagination to create vivid worlds of fun and enchantment.

If you like funny cozy mysteries, check out her Pie Town, Paranormal Museum and Wits’ End books. If you’re looking for some magic with your mystery, give the Witches of Doyle, Riga Hayworth and Rocky Bridges books a try. And if you like steampunk, the Sensibility Grey series might be for you.

Kassandra Lamb 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.

8 Do’s and Don’ts When Portraying Psychopaths and Narcissists (Plus a New Release)

by Kassandra Lamb

This week, I’m hanging out again over at Jami Gold’s place with a follow-up to last week’s post—Psychopaths, Sociopaths and Other Bad Guys and Gals—in which I described psychopaths and narcissists.

Today’s post is aimed at writers, but I think readers will find it interesting as well. It will help you know, while reading a book, whether the author actually did their research, or are they just going along with the common myths and misconceptions about these disturbed individuals.

Plus we have a new release, a collection of short stories (with a  bonus novella) from Kirsten Weiss.

8 Do’s and Don’ts When Portraying Psychopaths and Narcissists

In last week’s post, I talked about various motivations that “normal” people might have for becoming villains, and also described psychopaths and narcissists—how they tend to act and what circumstances create them.

Today, I want to address some of the common mistakes I see some authors making when presenting their antagonists.

So here are some do’s and don’t’s (and a couple of can’s and should’s 🙂 ).

1. Whatever you do, don’t portray a psychopath, or even a narcissist, as having a “normal” childhood. Normal childhoods do not produce adults that are this messed up.

They might contend that their childhood was just fine, but this is either denial on their part, or a lack of understanding of what “normal” really is.

A psychopathic character may very likely have a psychopath for a parent, and that parent, or perhaps both parents, also would likely be abusive. Or one parent may be harsh and overbearing, while the other is weaker and more dependent. There are other possibilities for back stories as well, but keep in mind the two main factors: someone handed down the psychopathic genes (could be a grandparent; the genes can skip a generation) and some seriously bad stuff happened in childhood. (For more on the origins of this disorder, see The Making of a Psychopath.)

2. Don’t have a full-blown psychopath suddenly develop remorse and empathy because they fall in love. First of all, a full-blown psychopath is not capable of love as most people experience it. They may latch onto someone and believe that they love them, but it will be a self-centered, need-based attachment, with little or no concern for the partner’s feelings or needs…READ MORE

And to lighten the mood a bit, here’s Kirsten Weiss’s new release, starring her metaphysical detective’s sidekick, a sentient gargoyle with a French accent!

The Gargoyle Chronicles: A Riga Hayworth Mystery (Riga Hayworth Paranormal Mystery Book 8)

Gargoyle Chronicles book cover

Brigitte is Nevada’s bravest and most brilliant gargoyle – and there’s no better sidekick for metaphysical detective, Riga Hayworth, when it comes to solving supernatural crimes.

In this quirky collection of urban fantasy short stories, Kirsten Weiss takes Brigitte and Riga on a series of twisting adventures and brings readers behind the scenes of the Riga Hayworth paranormal mystery novels.

These thirteen stories include the new Riga Hayworth novella, The Chaotic Detective!

In “Brigitte and the Gambler,” Brigitte must protect the unluckiest man in Nevada. In “Riga and the Spirit of the Cemetery,” the pair stake out a cemetery to catch a serial killer. And in “A Tarot Tale,” we learn Brigitte’s secret history. Traveling through time and the world’s darkest corners, from the bottom of Lake Tahoe to a sinister Vegas theater, there’s no scene too strange for the indefatigable metaphysical detective and her familiar, Brigitte the Gargoyle.

If you like kick-butt heroines, you’ll love Brigitte and Riga!

AMAZON    APPLE    NOOK    KOBO

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kass is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and 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 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.

Psychopaths, Sociopaths and Other Bad Guys and Gals

by Kassandra Lamb

By far, the most popular posts on our site are those discussing psychopaths:  What Is a Psychopath?, Are Psychopaths Born or Made?, and Can Psychopaths Be Cured?

Why are we humans so fascinated by these people who are essentially evil incarnate? I don’t have a good answer for that, but I don’t think it means we like that evil. Perhaps we are so intrigued because it is hard to fathom how some people can end up that way.

Today, I’m hanging out over at Jami Gold’s cyber-home, talking about psychopaths, sociopaths, narcissists and other kinds of villains. What are the differences between these labels? How do the people who merit these labels behave? And what causes these pathological patterns of behavior?

Psychopaths, Sociopaths and Other Bad Guys and Gals

One of the toughest tasks we authors face is deciding how to portray our bad guys and gals. Will we make them out to be misguided and conflicted souls, or totally evil psychopaths, or somewhere in between? And exactly what is a psychopath anyway?

Legend of Sleepy Mayfair coverThis question came up for me recently as I finished up a Halloween story in my cozy mystery series. I was tempted to go the conflicted soul route and have my antagonist be at least partially redeemed at the end, but some of the things this antagonist was destined to do, it would take a full-blown psychopath to go there. So that’s the direction I had to take.

Sometimes, like in this case, the plot dictates how evil and lacking in remorse the antagonist must be, but other times, most times really, we may want to have at least some positive traits in our bad guys.

So how to do that and still be true to human nature? (As it really is, not how it is portrayed all too often in movies and TV shows.)

What Is a Psychopath Anyway?

First, let me clarify our terminology. Sociopath and psychopath are essentially the same thing. They are two different words, coined at different points in the history of the mental health field, but referring to the same people … and neither is still officially used in the field today.

The official terminology is now antisocial personality disorder (ASPD), and members of the mental health field will rarely use the terms sociopath or psychopath in any official capacity.

But saying “a person with antisocial personality disorder” is a bit cumbersome, so mental health professionals, especially in conversations with lay people, may unofficially use the word psychopath.

I will come back to the concept of sociopath in a bit.

So again, what is a psychopath exactly, i.e., someone with ASPD? They are noted for several personality traits, the most troublesome being a lack of remorse and inability to feel empathy for others. They engage in antisocial behaviors, such as aggression, stealing, lying, etc., with no concern for who they are harming. Indeed, they often get off on the sense of power that harming others gives them. They also tend to be thrill-seeking and impulsive.

What is a psychopath? A man who smiles for his mugshot.

This psychopath has just been arrested for multiple murders. He is smiling for the mugshot.

They have a very high threshold for stimulation, a fancy way of saying that it takes a lot to make them feel anything. So normal life, that would make most of us quite happy, feels incredibly boring to them. Thus the thrill-seeking. Also, their high threshold for stimulation keeps them from feeling fear in situations that most of us would find quite scary (like being arrested).

This means they will do some pretty outrageous things, either ignoring or rationalizing away the potential negative consequences for themselves. The really smart ones, however, may meticulously plan out their evil deeds, but this lack of fear can often be their downfall.

Antisocial Personality Disorder is caused by a combination of genetics and a harsh, abusive environment growing up. More on this in a moment.

Other Bad Guys and Gals

Sometimes we will want our antagonists to be basically good people who find themselves in bad situations. Maybe something pointed them down the wrong road—an event where they did something bad accidentally, or in self defense, and are now tortured by guilt about it. Maybe something extremely important to them is at risk and therefore they are willing to violate their moral code in order to protect it.

These bad guys and gals will feel guilt regarding their behavior, but they will push it aside as best they can and/or rationalize it, sometimes via displaced anger … READ MORE

And stay tuned. Next week, I will delve further into how authors develop the villains in their stories.

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kass is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and 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.

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6 Things My Still-Young Mind Can’t Fathom About My Aging Body (Plus New Releases!)

by Kassandra Lamb

I recently turned 66. My mind is amazed by that. It feels more like it’s 35.

But more and more my mind gets daily reminders from my aging body—it may THINK it’s still relatively young, but oh boy…

Years ago, a friend of mine, on the occasion of her 50th birthday, said, “How did my 25-year-old mind get stuck in this 50-year-old body?”  That totally captures how I’m feeling these days.

Here are six things that absolutely boggle that young-thinking mind of mine regarding my aging body:

sign of ducks

This sign has a whole different meaning for me and my aging body! (image from photo by Rob Farrow CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

1. I waddle for the first few steps when I stand up after sitting for a while.

It takes a moment or two for my hip joints to remember what they’re supposed to do.

I sometimes consciously try not to waddle. I can do that by walking very stiffly with my legs sort of pinched together. But as soon as I stop doing that, guess what… I waddle for a few steps.

2. I can’t say “Hold, please,” when I hear the call of nature.

Used to be if I was in the middle of something—writing a scene, feeding the dog, fixing my lunch—I could wait until I was done that task before heading for the bathroom.

Nope, not anymore. Old lady bladders do not wait!

3. I can’t eat rich food without paying the price.

a filet mignon, yet another food that my aging body can't quite handle

(photo by Robspinella CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wikimedia Commons)

And the definition of rich food is getting narrower. A few weeks ago, We went out to one of the nicer restaurants in town to celebrate our anniversary. I had Caesar salad, filet mignon (almost melted in my mouth!), and mashed potatoes, for Pete’s sake! And for dessert, cinnamon beignets with dark chocolate dip.

Even the beignets weren’t all that rich. They were these light little cinnamon pastries, mostly air really, and I dipped just a corner in the chocolate. Delish!

I left the restaurant feeling pleasantly full and pleased with myself that I’d resisted the much richer dishes on the menu.

Yeah, about that… To avoid going into TMI territory, let’s just say that my system was not happy and it let me know about it. (I decided the steak and dessert were still worth it.)

And speaking of the dessert…

4. I can’t do ANY caffeine after 5ish if I want to sleep that night.

Sleep becomes more fragile as we age, the multiple reasons for insomnia increasing geometrically with every half a decade over 45.

Used to be I couldn’t do coffee or strong hot tea (the only way I like it) after 5 p.m. Then I could only have them in the mornings. But I could drink iced tea or colas well into the evening.

Then it was one cup of hot tea in the a.m. and iced tea until 6ish, but I could still eat chocolate in the evenings.

Yeah, you guessed it. Even that little bit of dark chocolate in the dip was too much. I was up every hour or so all night. (Again, still worth it!)

5. When I look in the mirror, my mother is staring back at me.

My mom laughing; despite her aging body, she never lost her sense of humor

I love this pic of my mom laughing over a gag gift at my sister-in-law’s baby shower. She’s 63 here.

I’ve looked more like my father’s side of the family for most of my adulthood. That was a good thing. They’re slimmer with higher metabolic rates than my mother’s clan.

Also, I don’t really remember what my mother looked like when I was a kid. Your mom is just your mom. You don’t actually LOOK at her.

So most of my memories of my mother’s appearance are from my teen years and beyond, when she was middle-aged… and beyond.

And now I am “beyond” and I look a lot like she did at my age. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my mom. But I do not want to BE her.

6. I have no reserve tank, energy-wise. When I’m done, I’m done.

I used to be a very active person. I still am, I guess, “for my age.” I walk or do Zumba almost every day.

sideboard

My cute new sideboard that it took three days to put together. The mind was willing, but the aging body, not so much.

But I also have five chronic health issues that cause fatigue. (Yup, five!) I’ve learned to pace myself, and I’m pretty good at it, most of the time. But there are times when I start something I can’t finish.

I bought a new piece of furniture recently. It came in pieces. It wasn’t that hard to put together, but I had to do it over three days, a couple of hours a day.

Okay, other oldsters out there, what aspects of your aging body tend to startle your still-youngish mind?

AND we have a new release for you, from Kirsten Weiss.

This is a really fun read!! And Kirsten will be posting later in the month with more about UFO sightings and such.

Planet of the Grapes book cover

Planet of the Grapes, A Doyle Cozy Mystery (A Wits’ End Mystery #2)

Aliens, fairies and murder, oh, my!

In small-town Doyle, California, UFO abductions are a budding tourist attraction. So when Susan Witsend brings a UFO festival to town, she’s ready for some well-deserved time in the sun.

What she gets instead is the corpse of a UFO conspiracy theorist, brained with a bottle of local wine.

Susan may be the owner of a UFO-themed B&B, but she doesn’t wish on stars to get what she wants. She’s a woman with a planner. Plan A) Milk the UFO festival for all it’s worth. Plan B) Stop lusting after her best friend turned security consultant, Arsen Holiday.

But murder isn’t the only thing threatening Susan’s best-laid plans.  Beset by alien protestors, aging nudists, and hidden secrets at every turn, Susan’s nearing her wits’ end.  And now Plan C is to stay on the good side of a grumpy local sheriff.

Susan may not have a clue, but she knows she wants a certain security consultant at her side when the killer goes supernova.

Planet of the Grapes is book 2 in the Wits’ End series of cozy mystery novels. If you like laugh-out-loud cozy mysteries, you’ll like Planet of the Grapes. Buy the book to start this hilarious caper today! Breakfast recipes at the back of the book.

Available NOW on:  AMAZON    APPLE     KOBO     NOOK

And I have a Cover Reveal for you!! Tada!  (Releases next week.)

Legend of Sleepy Mayfair cover

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kass is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and 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 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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Review of a Love Story/Memoir for Our “Off” Week

by Kassandra Lamb

Since today is my anniversary (42 years), I thought a review of this memoir would be a cool thing to share with you all, for our off week’s “something cool and interesting.”

A friend of mine, Marcia Meara, has a “Share A Review Day” feature on her blog. Today’s offering is below. I haven’t read this particular book (although I intend to remedy that!) but I have read other things by D.G. Kaye.

Twenty Years After "I Do" book cover

REVIEW:
Colleen M. Chesebro
5.0 out of 5 stars ~ I loved how this couple overcame adversity with humor and a steadfast love for each other.

Canadian author, D. G. Kaye has written a heartwarming memoir in “Twenty Years After I Do,” detailing the ups and downs of marriage to an older man. I was eager to read this book because I am married to a man who is older than me by a decade. I wasn’t sure what I’d find, but having read other books by this author, I knew I was in for a treat.

Kaye shares how she met her husband, Gordon, chronicling how he swept her off her feet with his captivating personality, and how he made her laugh. With a sense of intimacy, the writing draws you in, as if you are listening to a good friend. Their connection, a true love story, (so rare these days) was a joy to experience through her words.

This book is a memoir in the real sense of the word … READ MORE

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. 🙂 )

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How Do You Feel About Controversy? (And a New Release)

by Kassandra Lamb

Nyalas literally locking hornsSome people don’t mind controversy; a few even thrive on it.

And with social media, these two groups seem to have found their voices more and more lately.

A friend of mine loves political debates online. She finds them stimulating.

But I’m in the group that pretty much hates controversy. I sit on my hands at least once a day, resisting the temptation to get into it with someone on Facebook or Twitter. It just isn’t worth the stress.

Zero Hero book coverIn my Kate Huntington mysteries, I have often touched on somewhat controversial social issues. I’ve been fortunate that they have been well received.

I really enjoyed writing those books, but more recently I’ve been having fun with a lighter cozy mystery series about a service dog trainer.

I thought I had left the somewhat darker topics behind. My muse, however, had a different idea. She spun out a story in my head that involves two less than likeable members of groups that normally inspire high levels of sympathy in people.

In my new release, launching today (Yay!!), I have a crabby paraplegic veteran, who has an unhealthy obsession with his sister’s love life, and a brash, hard-to-like sexual assault survivor.

My main character, Marcia Banks, doesn’t particularly care for either of these people when she first meets them. And she feels guilty about that. How can you dislike a veteran in a wheelchair? she asks herself.

But the reality is that people in most groups come in all sizes, shapes, and personality types. Some of them aren’t going to be likeable. And my early readers have told me that I have handled these delicate topics well. I appreciate that reassuring feedback.

Nonetheless, I’m feeling a bit of trepidation as this book releases. I know I will get blow-back from some folks. I hope it doesn’t get too nasty.

Because there’s a lot of good, fun stuff in this book as well, as Marcia gets herself in a few scrapes that have her detective boyfriend tearing his hair out. And there are, of course, cute dogs and some humor, and horses. And a couple of romances…

So I do hope you will check it out!

How do you feel about controversy? Do you hate it like me, or does it get your juices flowing like it does for my friend?

Patches in the Rye cover

Patches in the Rye, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, Book 5

Nothing about her new client is what service dog trainer Marcia Banks expected—from the posh house that says family money to his paranoid preoccupation with his sister’s love life—but when he dangles a thousand-dollar retainer under her nose, she can’t resist playing private detective.

In between training sessions, Marcia digs into the sister’s boyfriend’s sketchy past. But the deeper she digs, the more questions arise. How is a disastrous fraternity party five years ago linked to blackmail, prostitutes, and murder today? And who’s driving the black SUV that keeps trying to turn Marcia and her dog Buddy into roadkill?

She can’t let it go, not when there are innocents at risk who are depending on her to find the truth. But the deepest, darkest truth is the one she wishes she never uncovered.

Just $0.99 for a limited time on  AMAZON US   AMAZON UK   AMAZON CA   AMAZON AUS   NOOK   APPLE   KOBO

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kass is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and 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 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.

Laugh Lines Make the Best Wrinkles #BOAW2018

by Kassandra Lamb

BOAW VII logoThis would normally be an “off” week for our blog, but I’m participating in the Beauty of a Woman Blogfest VII this week, as I’ve done each year since its inception (or maybe I jumped in at year 2; I can’t remember for sure). This wonderful celebration of women is sponsored by the beautiful-inside-and-out August McLaughlin.

So here’s a short and hopefully amusing post in honor of humorous women. Please hop over to the BOAW site when you’re finished reading and check out the excellent posts listed there. (And maybe win a great prize or two!!) The blogfest is from today through March 9th.

Forever Irma book cover

Not Barb’s book; it is below.

The late comedienne extraordinaire Erma Bombeck had a birthday a few of weeks ago (she would have been 91). Meanwhile, a very much alive friend of mine, Barb Taub, released a new humor book last month.

These two events got me to thinking about humor, aging and beauty.

In my review of Barb’s book I called her today’s version of Erma Bombeck. I hope that compliment will keep her from killing me for what I am about to say. Erma was no physical beauty, and Barb can best be described as a middle-aged plump person who smiles a lot.

pic of Barb Taub

Barb Taub ~ for some of her great humor, check out her latest blog post, My House Makes Me Sick

But I believe they are two of the most gorgeous souls ever to walk the earth, because they find humor in EVERYTHING. Everyone around them is smiling or downright laughing out loud. Talk about spreading sunshine in the world!

Erma was particularly good at poking fun at false standards of beauty or perfection around less-than-important things like housework. But she rebelled so hilariously that she got away with it, even in the 1970s and 80s, when feminism was still somewhat of a dirty word.

Erma on dieting:

“Seize the moment. Remember all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

“It is my theory you can’t get rid of fat. All you can do is move it around, like furniture.”

“What we’re really talking about is a wonderful day set aside on the fourth Thursday of November when no one diets. I mean, why else would they call it Thanksgiving?”

Erma on the fashion industry:

“Sometimes I can’t figure designers out. It’s as if they flunked human anatomy.”

Erma on housework:

“My theory on housework is, if the item doesn’t multiply, smell, catch fire, or block the refrigerator door, let it be. No one else cares. Why should you?”

“Cleanliness is not next to godliness. It isn’t even in the same neighborhood. No one has ever gotten a religious experience out of removing burned-on cheese from the grill of the toaster oven.”

And finally, on laughter:

“When humor goes, there goes civilization.”

“Laughter rises out of tragedy when you need it the most, and rewards you for your courage.”

And yet another quote, this one from a reviewer of one of Erma’s books:

“Erma liberated women from guilt of imperfection”
(by domestic diva, the title of her review on August 30, 2015)

book cover

Barb’s new book. Available on AMAZON US and AMAZON UK.

My life certainly hasn’t been one big laugh, but humor has always been one of the tools—a prominent one on my tool belt—that I’ve used to keep going. And perhaps more importantly, it has made the “keeping going” worth doing.

I can’t begin to imagine life without laughter.

I’ve been blessed with oily skin (although in younger years I considered it a curse). Oily skin doesn’t wrinkle very readily, so even though I’m 65, I don’t have wrinkles.

Or at least I believed that, until I happened to smile while looking in the mirror the other day. That’s when I realized I’m starting to develop laugh lines around my eyes.

I’m so happy that they, in particular, are my first wrinkles.

And I’ll leave you with one last quote, most often attributed to Oscar Wilde:

“Life is too important to be taken seriously.”

How about you? Do you have laugh lines yet? How do you feel about them?

P.S. Don’t forget to check out the other BOAW blog posts (and maybe win a prize!)

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kass is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, and 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 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. 🙂 )