Category Archives: On Writing

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.

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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.

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

by Gilian Baker

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

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

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

Enter a creative outlet!

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

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

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

A free writing circle!

Free Writing Circle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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An “Off” Week Treat: Some History with your Mystery

Our own K.B. Owen flew all the way to Australia to be interviewed.

Okay, just kidding about the flying part, but she was interviewed (via the handy-dandy Internet) by Australian historical mystery author, L.M. Merrington, this past week.

Hop on over and check out her site and Kathy’s interview!

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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A Peek Behind the Curtain: Kirsten Weiss, Our Most Prolific Author

by Kassandra Lamb

I’d planned to do a fun post on aging today, since it’s my birthday (yes, aging can be fun, if you look at it a certain way, usually while sticking your tongue out at the mirror).

But then Kirsten Weiss had a new release this past week (again!), and we decided it would be interesting to interview her for today.

(So stay tuned for my “fun” aging post next week.)

Here’s Kirsten’s official bio:

Kirsten Weiss headshot

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.

Yes, she really does have that many series going!

Kass:  Your newest book with misterio press, Witch, is book 4 in the Doyle Witch cozy mystery series. Is it ever challenging to keep a story fresh?

Kirsten:  Absolutely! But I write as much for myself as for my readers, and I’ve told myself I won’t write a story unless there’s an actual story to tell.

I found myself wondering what happened after book three, when so much changed in Doyle, then I knew it was time to write more about the Doyle Witches.

Kass:  What inspired you to write about witch triplets in the first place?

Bound cover

The 1st Doyle Witch cozy mystery.

Kirsten:  There’s something magical about the number three and especially about triplets. I had this idea for the three books being told from each sister’s point of view, so triplets made good witchy sense.

Of course, now I’ve moved on to book four, and book 5 is coming out in October, so I decided to focus on one sister, Jayce, for those two books.

Kass:  Why did you decide to focus on Jayce’s point of view for those books?

Kirsten:  Readers gave me feedback on the characters and seemed to enjoy reading about Jayce the most. She’s more of a free spirit than her other sisters, with a more distinctive way of talking. As much as I love witchy sisters Karin and Lenore, writing Jayce really is more fun.

Kass:  When you write, do you have a fairly well fleshed-out outline, or do you just let the story/characters take you where they will?

Kirsten:  I need an outline to make sure I get all my clues and “beats” in, but it’s not as fully fleshed-out as other writers I know. I usually have a short paragraph or even just a few lines written for every scene. This gives me the flexibility to add ideas as I go along. Sometimes these additions mean I have to go back and make changes, but that’s the beauty of writing on a computer.

Kass:  If you could dream cast Jayce and Brayden for a movie, who would you choose?

Mila Kunis

Mila_Kunis (at Comic-Con in San Diego; photo by Gage Skidmore, CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Kirsten:  I think Mila Kunis would make a terrific Jayce. She’s got the look and the sense of humor. As for Brayden – Hugh Jackman. Then I might have to write a musical for them…

Kass:  That I want to see!

You are such a prolific writer, with five series with misterio, plus a couple of other series with other publishers. Having read most of your recent work, I know your stories are as good, if not better, than your earlier work.

How do you do it? Give us a peek into the process that allows you to produce so many good stories each year.

Kirsten:  First, thanks for the compliment!

I’m writing full-time now, so that gives me both the opportunity and the incentive to be more productive. But also as I gain more experience, I tend to write better faster.

That said, one of the things that has helped me the most is my prior experience as a financial advisor. The firm I worked at emphasized working from a set schedule, and not letting phone calls or emails interrupt it. If you’re making calls from 9-10, that’s what you’re doing, period. I’ve applied that same scheduling philosophy to my writing. If someone calls me when I’m writing, I don’t take the call.

Kass:  Can you give us a hint about what you’re working on now?

Kirsten:  Why hint? I’ll just tell you. 🙂 I’m working on books 4 and 5 of my Pie Town cozy mysteries. I still don’t know the names (sometimes my publisher takes my suggestions, sometimes they don’t), but there will be lots of Val and her crusty piecrust maker, Charlene.

Kass:  And of course, Fey, Book 5 in the Doyle Witch series will be coming out soon! If you could go back and give yourself one piece of advice about writing cozy mysteries, what would it be?

Kirsten:  The mystery is important, but people go back to books because they love the characters and the character interaction. So that’s where my focus needs to be.

Kass:  Amen!  The “who” is as important as the “whodunnit.”

And there you have it, folks, a little insight into the mind and process of misterio’s most prolific author. Any questions? Toss them out there in the comments below.

And here’s the scoop on her new book:

Witch book cover

Witch, A Doyle Witch Cozy Mystery #4

The faerie curse that plagued the town of Doyle is over. Or is it?

Witch Jayce Bonheim has finally got her life back on track. Her coffee shop’s been rebuilt. She’s got the perfect boyfriend. And the murderous magic that imperiled Jayce and her witchy sisters has been defeated.

But when a customer dies in what looks like an animal attack, Jayce is pulled into an investigation that threatens the very sanity of her sister, Karin. Is the death something supernatural? Or is this a very human case of murder?

While she looks for answers, trouble is brewing even closer to home. And Jayce discovers her perfect relationship may not be so perfect after all…

Spells included at the back of the book!

Available at:    AMAZON   iBOOKS    KOBO   NOOK  

Connect with Kirsten at:
Email: kweiss2001@gmail.com
Twitter: @KirstenWeiss
Facebook: www.facebook.com/kirsten.weiss/
Instagram: @KirstenWeissAuthor
Bookbub: www.bookbub.com/authors/kirsten-weiss

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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Romantic Suspense: Sugar and Spice and Things Not So Nice

by Kassandra Lamb and Kirsten Weiss

Both of us have ventured a bit into the realm of romantic suspense lately. Since we already had romances as subplots in many of our mysteries, we thought it shouldn’t be that hard to make the romance a bit more central and call it romantic suspense.

It’s turned out to be a little more complicated than that. So we thought we’d explore for you, our readers, and also for ourselves, our motives and challenges as we’ve ventured into this cross-over genre.

spirit on fire book cover

The first of the Witches of Doyle In-Betweens, romantic suspense novellas “written” by Karin Bonheim, Kirsten’s fictional character.

So first up, Kirsten answering the question:

What motivated you to try your hand at romantic suspense?

Kirsten:  Crass commercialism! But seriously, I’m in the Romance Writers of America and have been slowly improving my romance writing chops. So I thought I’d try my hand at some novellas, ostensibly written by Karin Bonheim, a character in my Witches of Doyle cozy mysteries.

Then of course, I had to go and complicate everything by adding in a second story about Karin, woven between the chapters…

Kass: I also have to admit to a monetary motive. Mystery is the second largest genre, but romance is number one, with many avid readers who devour several books a week. What I didn’t realize is that the readership of romantic suspense is a somewhat different group.

Payback book cover

First story in Kass’s Unintended Consequences Romantic Suspense series.

But now I’m hooked, with multiple story ideas buzzing around in my head, so Jessica Dale (my romance-writing alter ego) will be continuing to produce romantic suspense stories for the foreseeable future.

What surprised you the most about this cross-over genre?

Kirsten: A lot of people sneer at romance, but writing good romance ain’t easy. I have huge respect for the romance writers I know. They tend to start their books from the perspective of emotion and character. As a mystery writer, who looks first at character and plot and then figures out the emotion later, this “emotion-based” approach has been a useful way of developing my plot outline.

Kass: I’ve never particularly cared for straight romance stories, because they all seem to follow the same formula. Girl meets boy, they are attracted to each other but there is tension between them—often due to some misunderstanding that seems a little artificial to me—the tension eventually reaches a climax (no pun intended), and boy and girl finally get together.

What I found pleasantly surprising when writing romantic suspense is that the conflict in the story doesn’t have to be BETWEEN the hero and heroine. The conflict can come from the mystery component. Something bad has happened and/or is going to happen, and the hero and heroine must work together to come through the other end intact.

Backlash cover

Book 2 in the Unintended Consequences series.

Certainly the early stages of the relationship won’t be all sweetness and light, but the tension doesn’t have to be sustained or exaggerated in an unnatural way. The mystery component of the story provides plenty of tension and obstacles for them to overcome, and also opportunities to cement their love.

What have you found most challenging writing romantic suspense?

Kirsten: There’s a lot more romance to deal with! In my mysteries, the romances tend to be a slow burn. Especially in novella format, you have to get to it much more quickly, and still make it seem realistic. I hope I succeeded.

Kass: Having read some of “Karin’s” stories, I’d say you have, Kirsten!

My biggest challenge is similar. Pacing is always tough for me, especially at the beginning of a story when I’m setting things up. But in mysteries with a romantic subplot, one just has to set up the mystery initially. You can bring in the attraction between the hero and heroine later.

But in romantic suspense, you’ve got to get the hero and heroine feeling things toward and about each other more quickly. The sparks have to fly pretty early on. And yet not slow down the story and kill the suspense about the mystery component.

How do you maintain the balance between the romance and the mysterious elements? Do your stories lean more toward one or the other?

shaman's bane cover

The 2nd Witches of Doyle In-Between

Kirsten: In the Witches of Doyle In-Betweens, the paranormal romances that “Karin” writes, romance and mystery are woven together, so I think those elements get fairly equal play. The hero and heroine generally start out with mutual suspicion battling mutual attraction, and then moving toward cooperation and mutual respect as they work together to stop the bad guy.

Because they’re working together to solve the crime, and when they’re apart, they’re thinking of each other (and the crime), there’s always some romantic tension on the page. Or at least, that’s what I try to create. But for me, mystery still comes first!

Kass: I’d say in terms of space on the page, the two components get equal time. The romance maybe a little more initially as the suspenseful events build up to a realization that something really bad is going on. Then as things start to break loose in the mystery component, it gets more page time, and the couple is mostly hanging on for dear life. But also the negative events are exposing flaws in each other and challenges between them.

The tricky part is trying to portray those quick flashes of insight and the fears that go along with them, without distracting from the build-up of the suspense toward the grand reveal.

Like Kirsten, I hope I’ve met that challenge well. And yes, if I have to choose, the mystery takes precedence.

How do you feel about romantic suspense? Who’s your favorite author in that genre?

And here’s Karin Bonheim’s *cough Kirsten’s * newest release:

lone wolf book cover

LONE WOLF, A Doyle Witch Supplement

A San Francisco homicide detective with a secret.

Christy Pavenic is a werewolf with the strength and speed to make it in her macho police precinct. But when her power takes a turn to the dark side, she fears she might be the killer responsible for a series of savage homicides she’s been called to investigate.

FBI agent Jason Shepherd is hard on the trail of a serial killer whose kills mimic animal attacks. A specialist in the paranormal, Jason hides a secret of his own—he can see the true nature of werewolves in their human form, and he’s certain one is at the bottom of the killings.

Battling both suspicion and attraction, the two must work together to solve the crime. Desire wars with distrust as they race to stop the killer before he strikes again.

A mystery within a mystery, Lone Wolf is novella three in the Doyle Witch supplements, and the sequel to Shaman’s Bane by fictional witch, Karin Bonheim.

And Karin has gone missing…

AMAZON    NOOK    iBOOKS    KOBO

Kirsten Weiss worked for fourteen years in the fringes of the former USSR and deep in the Afghan war zone. Her experiences abroad gave her glimpses into the darker side of human nature but also sparked an interest in the effects of mysticism and mythology, and how both are woven into our daily lives. She is the author of the Riga Hayworth Metaphysical Detective urban fantasy/mystery series, the Sensibility Grey steampunk mysteries, the Rocky Bridges mysteries and the Witches of Doyle cozy mystery series.

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 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.

Where our research takes us, and a new release!

by K.B. Owen

I hope everyone in the northern hemisphere is enjoying the summer season! For your leisure reading enjoyment–whether it’s the beach, pool, back porch, or a comfy chair in an air-conditioned room…the next Penelope Hamilton adventure is ready for you! Yes, our lady Pinkerton is at it again, facing her toughest assignment yet, in The Case of the Runaway Girl:

Lady detective Penelope Hamilton must navigate a labyrinth of 1880s politics, high society, and murder.

On a January night in 1887, trouble comes knocking at Pinkerton detective Penelope Hamilton’s door in the form of a sulky young runaway. The girl turns out to be the grandniece of an influential senator, who hires Pen to escort her and her friend from Chicago to his Washington, DC home.

What seems a simple assignment takes an alarming turn when a hired thug shadows them on the train, and Pen stays on the case in Washington for the girls’ safety. But in the days that follow, the senator’s home is broken into, his driver goes missing, and she is pursued along dark city streets and nearly captured. Obviously, Miss Hamilton is thwarting someone’s plans, and such an encumbrance must be removed.

In a search for answers to keep herself and her young charges safe, Pen must tread carefully within the confines of 1880s back-room politics and business tycoons with a lot to lose, while resisting the attentions of an attractive but not-quite-reformed jewel thief who knows far too much about her.

She’ll need more than her lockpicks and derringer this time, if she is to save them all. 

THE CASE OF THE RUNAWAY GIRL is the third adventure in the CHRONICLES OF A LADY DETECTIVE series featuring 1880s Pinkerton detective Penelope Hamilton.

Available now as a $2.99 ebook! KindleiTunesNook, and Kobo.

The Research

As with all of my books, the writing of this story required extensive research (but it’s fun!), specifically into 1880s Washington DC, the workings of the Senate, and the details surrounding the passage of a key piece of legislation at the time. I found all sorts of intriguing details….

Read the rest here, at K.B. Owen Mysteries.

Posted by Kathy Owen (aka K.B. Owen).

K.B. Owen signing books at Prospero’s Books (Manassas, VA)

K.B. Owen taught college English for nearly two decades at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC, and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature.

A mystery lover ever since she can remember, she drew upon her teaching experiences in creating her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells…and from that series came lady Pinkerton Penelope Hamilton.

There are now six books in the Concordia Wells mystery series thus far, and three novellas in the Penelope Hamilton series.

We blog here at misterio press twice a month (sometimes more often),  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. 🙂 )

Going Short

by Vinnie Hansen

Circa 1979? Golden Gate Park.

Way back, when I was in the graduate writing program at San Francisco State, I had short stories published in the campus literary magazines every semester. This instilled confidence in my writing, but also inflated my ego. I launched into the world thinking I might set the literary world on fire. Instead, after a few years, I realized I needed to eat and went back to school for a teaching credential.

While I still aspired to write books, short stories buoyed me during my teaching career. I could squeeze these manageable bits into my holidays and summers. The manuscripts found homes, won contests, and kept my writing dream alive.

short story nail polish

Short stories even have their own OPI nail polish. This color is called Short Story. 🙂

But I didn’t stop longing to write books and eventually hit on my Carol Sabala mystery series.

This year, after writing seven books in the series, as well as a stand-alone novel, I find myself back, full circle, concentrating on shorter works. I enjoy being able to envision the whole arc of the story from the get-go, certainly not something that happens for me with a 300-page manuscript. I like the time to fuss at the sentence level, weighing each word.

Last August, I added a novella prequel to my Carol Sabala series, which became one of the works in SLEUTHING WOMEN II: 10 MYSTERY NOVELLAS. It may have been at this point that I began seriously to contemplate the other advantages of going short.

While short fiction may mean fewer readers, it means more cohorts. In SLEUTHING WOMEN II, I rubbed shoulders with 10 other authors (one of the authors being a team)—meaning ten others to help market the product. We pooled our resources to buy advertising and took turns posting on blog tours. We amplified one another’s voices. Our e-anthology sells for only $.99, but I’ve been making money, and remember, that’s splitting the profit with 10 others.

Working collaboratively also creates connections and friendships. This year I headed off to Left Coast Crime in Reno armed with the cell number of the Guest of Honor, Naomi Hirahara. This only came about because we are both in Akashic Books’ SANTA CRUZ NOIR.

Clowning with Peggy Townsend and Naomi Hirahara. We all have stories in SANTA CRUZ NOIR.

Because Akashic Books’ Noir Series is world famous, encompassing over 80 titles from BALTIMORE NOIR to ZAGREB NOIR, their $200 payment for my story “Miscalculation,” qualified me to become an active member of Mystery Writers of America as did the earnings on the Sleuthing Women e-anthologies. This is not a benchmark I’d reached with my individual book-length works. To consider the financial reward of short fiction, for one flash-fiction piece (200 words), I garnered the Golden Donut Award, which came with free registration to the Writers’ Police Academy. The registration is currently a $425 value. That’s over $2.00 a word remuneration. Think about that in terms of a full-length book of 60,000 to 80,000 words!

As part of a well-established brand, SANTA CRUZ NOIR

received reviews in Publishers’ Weekly and Kirkus. In Kirkus Review, I received my own little paragraph: Though many of these stories are more interested in evoking a voice or mood than pursuing a plot to its conclusion, Vinnie Hansen’s “Miscalculation” provides a textbook example of how many twists can fit into the simple tale of a bank teller’s adventures with the Guitar Case Bandit.

Short stories also seem like the most probable way for me to be considered for an award. Edgars, for example, are awarded for short stories. Stories in collections like SANTA CRUZ NOIR, or the upcoming Sisters in Crime Guppies’ anthology, FISHY BUSINESS, (to which I’ve had my story “Room and Board” accepted), can be put before the Edgar Committee. Once an author wins an Edgar, he/she does not have to qualify that the award was for short story. One’s info can simply say, “Edgar Award winning author.”

Finally, short works are a way to keep my name in front of readers. I’m an incredibly slow writer. It takes me a couple of years to turn out a book-length manuscript. But between books I can announce other publications. My last book, my novel LOSTART STREET, was published in May, 2017, and I don’t see another book release until summer 2019. However, in the meantime, my novella SMOKED MEAT came out in August, 2017, my story in SANTA CRUZ NOIR released in June, 2018. Another story will come out in a local anthology titled SANTA CRUZ WEIRD in August, 2018. FISHY BUSINESS will reach the copy-editing stage about October, 2018, and I just learned that my story “Last Word” will be in FAULT LINES, the NorCal Sisters in Crime anthology. These stories fill the breech until my next book-length work.

Going short assists my going long.

How do you feel, as a reader and/or writer, about short stories and novellas?

Vinnie Hansen fled the howling winds of South Dakota and headed for the California coast the day after high school graduation. She’s now the author of numerous short stories, the Carol Sabala mystery series, and LOSTART STREET, a cross-genre novel of mystery, murder, and moonbeams. Still sane(ish) after 27 years of teaching high school English, Vinnie has retired. She plays keyboards with ukulele bands in Santa Cruz, California, where she lives with her husband and the requisite cat.

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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The Murky Middle

On our “off” week, something interesting for the writers among our followers…

But readers, you may be curious about this too. Do you ever feel like a book slooows down some in the middle and gets a bit draggy.

It’s not your imagination. The middle of a story is the hardest part to write. The writer has to give all the details that will allow the story to unfold and make sense as it moves toward the climax, but also keep the pace consistent with the rest of the book.

Not an easy task. Indeed, the murky middle is the bane of our existence. Here are some tips for writers from Joanne Guidoccio on ways to deal with it.

On Navigating the Murky Middle by Joanne Guidoccio

Joanne Guidoccio

(Note: when you click the link above, you have to scroll down some to see the post)

I love beginnings—in life and on the page. Anything and everything is possible whenever a blank slate appears before me. That momentum can last for days, weeks, months, and sometimes even longer.

At least, that’s what I like to think whenever I begin a new writing project.

A linear pantser, I write brief character sketches, plot the first three chapters and the last, and then let the words flow. At some point, usually around Page 80, I encounter the murky middle, that nebulous place where I find it difficult to continue or sustain the tension of the novel. In short, I’m lost with no clear trail or direction in sight.

In the early days of my writing career, I struggled to regain my motivation, wondering if I should abandon the novel. Thankfully, I have discovered three strategies that have lifted me out of the abyss.  READ MORE…

(Note: when you click the link above, you have to scroll down some to see the post)

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

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

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“Off” Week Treat: What’s Your Favorite 1st Line of a Novel?

by Kassandra Lamb

One of my favorite blogs for writers is Anne R. Allen’s Blog…with Ruth Harris. Their post (by Ruth) last Sunday was particularly fun. It talks about first sentences in novels, and gives a lot of awesome examples.

Some are quite simple, and yet they inspire curiosity and encourage the reader to read on.

Now, if you’re not a writer, you might want to skip on down to the examples in her post, after reading the opening, which is itself an excellent example of how to hook someone’s interest.

The post got me thinking about my own favorite first lines, and what your favorites might be. (It also has me rethinking the first line of the novel I’m currently writing.)

Here’s one of my faves below. Feel free to share yours in the comments. And hop on over to enjoy the post, whether you’re a writer or reader (or both).

audio book of classic Frency short stories

If you’re interested, here’s an audio book of short stories that includes The Guest, on amazon.com.

From Camus’s The Guest (actually L’Hote in French which can mean either guest or host):

The schoolmaster was watching the two men climb toward him.

One of those simple ones, but leaves you wondering about so much. Who are the men? Why are they coming toward him? Why is a schoolteacher so interested in these two men?

And here’s Ruth’s post:

How to Write a Great First Sentence—with 22 Inspiring Examples

by Ruth Harris

No matter what genre you write, your first sentence is a seduction. It can be in the form of an invitation. A declaration. A tease. A promise. A jolt. A shockREAD MORE

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. 🙂 )