Tag Archives: dogs

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

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

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

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

Gilian Baker:

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

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

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

Murder Over Medium cover

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

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

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

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

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

Shannon Esposito

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

Karma's a Bitch book cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vinnie Hansen

May is National Pet Month: Vinnie's Lola

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

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

Murder, Honey book cover

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

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

She’s the real deal.

Kirsten Weiss

Steeped in Murder book cover

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was inevitable that she ended up adopting one…

K.B. Owen

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

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

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

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

Beloved and Unseemly book cover

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

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

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

Kassandra Lamb

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

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

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

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

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

To Kill A Labrador cover

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

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

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

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

Happy National Pet Month!!

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

Grand Prize: Betty R.

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

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

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

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6 Reasons Why Audio Books Rock

why audio books rock

by Kassandra Lamb and K.B. Owen

I recently released my first audio book. And I’m wishing I’d done this a lot sooner.

There are so many cool things about audio books, for readers and authors.

So K.B. Owen and I put our heads together and came up with 6 reasons why audio books rock!

1 – Boredom-buster!

K.B. here — There are so many boring things we do every day that can now be much less so. In one survey, 73% of those who listen to audio books do so while commuting, 33% while doing housework, and 25% while exercising. That treadmill is boring no longer!

2 – Road trip stimulant

Kass again — I take a lot of road trips, and normally I love to drive. But on a long trip, it can get boring, and even dangerous if that boredom starts to lull me to sleep. A stimulating audio book keeps me awake and makes the time really fly by. (Just keep your eye on the gas gauge; I almost ran out of gas one time when I was engrossed in an audio book.)

3 – Convenience

K.B. again — I love the convenience of audio books. They are easy to load and listen to on your tablet or smartphone. According to the Wall Street Journal, audio books are now a $1.2 billion industry, which means more of our fave books are being made into audio than ever before. Audio book companies are even developing original stories, that have never been in print or digital form before.

4 – No reading involved

Santa Cruz Noir--why audio books rock

Our author, Vinnie Hansen, has a story in this anthology. Check out it out HERE

Kass — Audio books can open up the world of the written word to people who have difficulty reading. This may be because of vision problems, dyslexia, or other issues that have impaired the person’s ability to become comfortable with reading (or to continue reading in old age).

But now, that doesn’t mean such folks can’t enjoy fiction stories and learn cool stuff from non-fiction books.

Now they can listen instead!

5 – Versatile

K.B. — With Amazon’s WhisperSync technology (and hopefully other vendors will be developing something similar soon), it’s easy to switch between reading an ebook on your Kindle, tablet or phone, then continuing to listen to the story on audio as you jump in the car to run errands or have to wash the dishes.

6 – Stories come to life

Both of us — Great voice talent brings a book to life in a way that you may not have imagined. For us, just the experience of reviewing the audio chapters of our own books gave us a fun new perspective on our characters!

It’s hard to describe how much difference it makes hearing a story versus reading it. It’s so much easier to become immersed in the story, for one thing, and you feel like you have actually met the characters.

For example, here’s a sample of my new audio book. My narrator, Amy Deuchler, did such a great job. She really nailed the character of my protagonist, Marcia Banks.

 

Here are the links for To Kill A Labrador audio book!

AUDIBLE(AMAZON) ~ iTUNES(APPLE) ~ GOOGLE PLAY ~ KOBO ~ AUDIOBOOKS.COM 

And here’s K.B.’s latest audio book, Beloved and Unseemly, A Concordia Wells Mystery #6:
Beloved and Unseemly--why audio books rock

A stolen blueprint, a dead body, and wedding bells….

Change is in the air at Hartford Women’s College in the fall of 1898. Renowned inventor Peter Sanbourne—working on Project Blue Arrow for the Navy—heads the school’s new engineering program, and literature professor Concordia Wells prepares to leave to marry David Bradley.

The new routine soon goes awry when a bludgeoned body—clutching a torn scrap of the only blueprint for Blue Arrow—is discovered on the property Concordia and David were planning to call home.

To unravel the mystery that stands between them and their new life together, Concordia must navigate deadly pranks, dark secrets, and long-simmering grudges that threaten to tear apart her beloved school and leave behind an unseemly trail of bodies.

AVAILABLE ON AMAZON

We’re assuming if you’ve read this far that you probably enjoy audio books. Anything you would add to this list of why audio books rock?

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

K.B. Owen has 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 seven books in the Concordia Wells mystery series thus far, and three novellas in the Penelope Hamilton series.

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

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

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An “Off” Week Post: Honoring Military Working Dogs

by Kassandra Lamb

Boogy, a military working dog
Boogy, a MWD trained to detect IEDs.

This is an “off” week here on the misterio blog, but I found out that tomorrow is National K9 Veterans Day. That seemed like something you all might find interesting. This day is designated to honor Military Working Dogs (MWDs).

While my fictitious dog trainer trains service dogs for retired military, the veterans she works with might very well have fought alongside a K-9 unit at some point during their service. Therefore, she has a soft spot in her heart, as do I, for these military working dogs.

A military working dog and his handler during a training exercise.
A K-9 unit during an active shooter training exercise.

Here are some common myths about military working dogs.

Happy K-9 Veterans Day!!

And please check out my Marcia Banks and Buddy series about a service dog trainer and her mentor dog, Buddy.

New releases are due out in this series this spring and summer.

To Kill A Labrador cover

To Kill A Labrador, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Cozy Mystery, #1

Marcia (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha) likes to think of herself as a normal person, even though she has a rather abnormal vocation. She trains service dogs for combat veterans with PTSD. Then the former Marine owner of her first trainee is accused of murdering his wife, and Marcia gets sucked into an even more abnormal avocation–amateur sleuth.

Called in to dog-sit the Labrador service dog, Buddy, she’s outraged that his veteran owner is being presumed guilty until proven innocent. With Buddy’s help, she tries to uncover the real killer. Even after the hunky local sheriff politely tells her to butt out, Marcia keeps poking around. Until the killer finally pokes back.

Currently free on all major ebook retailers. Click HERE for buy links.

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

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

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

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A Fun Doggie Poem for Our “Off” Week (and A New Doggie Christmas Release!)

I saw this adorable poem the other day, and had to share it with you all. And we have a fun doggie new release, with a Christmas theme, from Shannon Esposito!

From the small dog…

by Sue Vincent

(Sue Vincent’s small dog)

“The time has come,” the doglet said,
“to talk of many things;
Of tennis balls and squeaky ducks,
and sneaky bees with stings;
of why the sparrows fly so fast
and if that cat has wings.”
“Just wait a bit,” the writer said,
“I’m busy with these things.”

“But writer,“ said the small dog then,
“The sun will shortly set,
the pheasants will be playing out,
and rabbits too, I bet.
I really should be practising,
I haven’t caught one yet.”
“Hmm. Never mind, it’s raining
and you don’t like getting wet.”

“Ok then,” sighed the little dog,
“We could consider, please,
the therapeutic benefits
of sharing Cheddar cheese.
Or why that spider’s sitting there,
Or why do you have knees…”
READ MORE

And Shannon’s New Release: DOG GONE, A Paws and Pose Mystery #3

fun doggie release cover

It’s Christmastime on the exclusive island of Moon Key and Elle Pressley, doga instructor, is excited about her new client—movie star, Talia Hill. But that excitement quickly turns to shock when Ms. Hill’s dog nanny is found dead and her beloved terrier, Ginger, goes missing. With the help of her P.I. boyfriend, Elle leads the search for Ginger.

As suspects pile up, a ransom note arrives demanding a million dollars for the safe return of Ginger. When the ransom drop-off goes horribly wrong, Talia Hill falls into deep despair. Elle is determined to get Ginger back for her but the clock is ticking and an elusive killer holds their fate in his hands. Can Elle pull off a Christmas miracle?

Available on    AMAZON    KOBO    NOOK

Shannon Esposito lives in a magical gulf coast town with fluorescent sunsets, purple dragonflies and the occasional backyard alligator. Her mysteries transport readers to Florida without the hefty price of airfare. She is the author of the Pet Psychic Mystery series set in St. Petersburg, Florida and the Paws & Pose Mysteries set on the ritzy, fictional island of Moon Key and featuring doga instructor Elle Pressley and her canine sidekick, Buddha.

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.

“Off” Week New Release: A Halloween Romp!

by Kassandra Lamb

This is an “off” week here at misterio, but I wanted to let you know that The Legend of Sleepy Mayfair, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, is now available. Early readers say it’s a fun read, a real Halloween romp!

Just 99¢ for a limited time.

The Legend of Sleepy Mayfair--a Halloween romp!

A Halloween romp that turns seriously scary!

Her adopted town is once again driving service dog trainer Marcia Banks a little nuts! No sooner has she moved her horse into the new Mayfair Riding Stable than its octogenarian, muumuu-wearing owner decides to turn the barn into a haunted house for Halloween. Meanwhile, an anonymous prankster is haunting Mayfair, disrupting its small-town tranquility, and the local postmistress has a strange request for Marcia. All this, along with her new role of godmother to adorable twins, is a bit overwhelming.

But it’s nothing compared to what’s coming. As Halloween approaches, the evil lurking in the shadows will threaten what is most precious to Marcia and her beloved town.

AVAILABLE NOW AT:

AMAZON     NOOK     APPLE     KOBO      GOOGLE PLAY

~~~~

And I also have a SALE going on, for ARSENIC AND YOUNG LACY, Book #2 in that series, through this week, for just 99¢.

Arsenic and Young Lacy book cover

Her savings dwindling, service dog trainer Marcia Banks is anxious to deliver young Lacy to her new veteran owner and get paid. But on top of the former Army nurse’s existing neuroses, partially caused by a sexual assault by a male soldier, she is now being stalked.

Soon both Lacy and Marcia are caught in the stalker’s malicious orbit. Sheriff Will Haines steps in to investigate, which Marcia finds both endearing and annoying.

The training fee would make her solvent again, but will the stalker decide to pay Marcia off in a very different way?

AMAZON    NOOK    APPLE    KOBO    GOOGLE PLAY

If you haven’t read this one yet, grab a copy quick!

Book 1, To Kill A Labrador is always 99¢.

We’ll be back next week, waxing nostalgic over some DIY Halloween costumes from the past!

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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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. 🙂 )

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5 (+ 2 Bonus) Tips for a Fun and Fit Dog Walk

by Kassandra Lamb

For our “off” week this week, I thought I’d share a post I put up on my own blog…

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, as I’ve observed that my style of dog-walking is a bit different from most people’s. Too often the dog walks I see are really dog “strolls” with frequent dog “stops.”

I spend a lot of time sitting at my computer developing what we authors not so lovingly call “writer’s butt.” So I’m always looking for fun ways to get more exercise.

dog sniffing grass

Watson NOT going in a straight line!

One of my favorites is taking my dog Watson for long walks—partly because he loves it, and it gets me outside in the fresh air.

The main goal, however, is to get some aerobic exercise for both of us. Therefore, I need to keep moving at a steady pace, and I need to keep my dog moving too (although he may not always do so in a straight line).

So here are my tips for getting the most out of your dog walks… READ MORE

Stop back next week for a great post from Shannon Esposito!

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. 🙂 )

Grief and Acceptance, Denial and Desensitization #VegasStrong

by Kassandra Lamb

I’ve dealt with grief over big and small tragedies the last few weeks, and worries over near misses. First there was Hurricane Harvey hitting close to where my son now lives, then Hurricane Irma taking out large chunks of my own state of Florida. Then Maria laid waste to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

dog

My sweet Lady. She loved walks.

And right between Irma and Maria, my dog suddenly became ill and died in a matter of days. She wasn’t that old, only about 7 (we didn’t know her exact age as she was a rescue dog) and she’d always been healthy. So it was quite a shock.

I felt a wee bit guilty that I was mourning a dog when so many people were dealing with much greater losses than a middle-aged pet.

But she was a real sweetie and she kept me company all day as I sat at my computer writing stories.

Among the stages of grief are denial (sometimes taking the form of numbness), anger and depression/sadness. I’ve certainly felt some of all of those feelings lately, about the bigger tragedies of the storms and the smaller one in my own home. I’ve choked up as I’ve watched the news, the houses reduced to rubble, and when I’ve thought about my sweet girl so abruptly taken from me.

And then 58 people were killed by a madman in Las Vegas, and so many more were wounded.

And I felt almost nothing. My brain and heart shut down. I didn’t feel the horror of it or tear up during the news. I didn’t think about it off and on all day, for days afterward, as I did with Sandy Hook and the Boston Marathon bombing.

Indeed, I resisted writing this post and almost gave in to the temptation to let the lighthearted post we’d intended for this week to run as planned.

When we don’t have any more emotional energy left for shock, horror, grief, we go into a different kind of denial. It’s called desensitization.

The bad stuff has become normalized.

Study after study has found that this happens to children exposed to violent media, and especially to those allowed to play violent video games. They become more fearful, more convinced that something bad will happen to them, but at the same time, they become desensitized to violence.

It no longer horrifies them. And in the case of video games, violence become conditioned to trigger excitement and a sense of achievement. Kill off all the enemy and you are rewarded. You then advance to the next level, where the challenges are harder and the violence is often gorier.

I’m not going to get into the whole guns issue, although I am a proponent of “reasonable gun control,” as are the majority of Americans. And I certainly believe that mail-ordered kits for turning semi-automatic weapons into automatic ones need to be banned.

But the preserve-the-purity-of-the-second-amendment-at-all-cost advocates do have at least one good point. Guns don’t kill people.

Crazy people with guns kill people.

And the biggest problem is that it’s not always that easy to tell when someone is crazy enough to pick up a gun and go after strangers. The Vegas shooter showed few signs of this level of craziness. His friends and acquaintances say that he wasn’t spewing radical ideology or conspiracy theories. And his girlfriend claims she had no idea he was stockpiling highly lethal weapons.

But what is being hinted at now is that he was into video games.

As a psychologist, I believe that violent media and video games, in particular, are one of the reasons (not the only one, by any stretch) that we are seeing so much senseless violence in our society.

Now I know a bunch of people will immediately claim that they play video games and it hasn’t turned them into violent maniacs. My son, who is a priest by the way, is one of them.

He’ll tell you that having Batman destroy the Joker in his superhero video game is just his way of blowing off steam.

And for people with stable psyches, this is true. The games don’t do them any harm. But for people who aren’t so stable, these games desensitize them to violence and plant ideas in their heads about ways to get attention, to express their pain and anger at a world that they see as letting them down or doing them wrong.

For this reason, I think banning violent video games is as important if not more important than any attempt to control guns.

Is this inconveniencing those who enjoy these games and who are stable enough to not have ill effects mentally from them? Yes, it is. I’m sorry, but your entertainment is less important than our society’s safety.

Is this stepping on the first amendment rights of the companies that design and sell these games? Technically yes, but their complaints won’t really be about freedom of speech; they’re about profits. Are their profits more important than turning the tide away from senseless violence in our society?

We put restraints on porn, seeing it as having “no socially redeeming value.” We need similar restraints on violent media.

And let me paraphrase another argument that has been stated before. Just as our founding fathers lived in a world of one-shot muskets, they used riders racing through the night yelling, “The British are coming!” to communicate. They never anticipated automatic weapons that could mow down a crowd nor mass media capable of transmitting images and sounds instantly into everyone’s homes via the TV and Internet.

Yes we need to tread carefully as we do so, but I believe we do need to place some reasonable, sane limits on free speech (as we already have regarding porn, falsely yelling “Fire” in public buildings and making physical threats against the President of the United States—which is treason, by the way).

Before those few INsane people among us destroy our country while exercising their rights.

Oh, and in regard to the other word in the title, acceptance. It’s supposed to be the final stage of grief, the goal of the grieving  process. But I don’t think we want to reach that stage when it comes to mass murder. That’s not something we want to accept.

We need to stay angry and horrified until we find solutions!

But I am close to acceptance in my grieving for my dog, close enough to get a new one. And so as not to end on a total downer, here’s a pic of my new pup.

new pup

Our new doggy. He was named Benji by the people at the shelter but doesn’t answer to it yet. So we may change his name. Any suggestions?

Your thoughts on violent media and video games? (Note: Please keep it civil. And I know I touched on gun control but I don’t want to debate that. Everything that can be said on that subject has already been said, on both sides of the fence. And I’m still depressed enough that I just don’t have the energy to go there.)

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

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

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

Tips for Photographing Your Pets

by Shannon Esposito

Today is the official release day of FOR PETE’S SAKE (A Pet Psychic Mystery no. 4)!

Because the victim in this mystery is a wedding photographer–who also takes photos of shelter animals to help them get adopted–I thought I’d celebrate the book’s release by sharing some basic tips on how to get great shots of your own pets.  

1)      Background: Be aware of your background. Is there something behind your pet that’s distracting? If you want your pet to be the sole focus, you can use a neutral background like a plain wall, grass or window. 

Tip: Use a wide aperture to create a shallow depth of field (like the example above). To do this, set your camera on “aperture priority” and set the aperture to the lowest f-stop number (ex: 1.4 or 2.8) This will blur the stuff in the background, so your pet will still be the focus of the shot with minimal noise. Just make sure your camera is focused on your pet’s eyes.

2)    Perspective: Get down on your pet’s level. Shooting from a standing position aiming down doesn’t make as nice a photo as shooting them at eye level. Don’t be afraid to lay on the floor with them, get in their world and get a more intimate shot.

3)   Lighting: This one is more complicated. The easiest way to have great lighting is to utilize natural light. Shoot outdoors in either early morning or late evening sun. (Midday sunlight is too harsh.) If you’re shooting indoors, use the natural light coming through a window and have your back to the window.

 If you must use a flash, never use the on-camera flash pointed directly at your pet, as it will cause ugly shadows and harsh lighting. Fill-flash is fine. It’s just a little burst of flash that will fill in the shadows and give your pet’s a little “catch light” gleam in their eye. (Example above)

4)      Shutter speed: Pets can be hard to photograph if they’re active. The best way to combat this is with a fast shutter speed. You can set your camera to “shutter priority” mode. Keep in mind that the faster the shutter speed, the more light you will need. Or if your camera has a “sports mode” this will also automatically set a high shutter speed for you. I also recommend shooting in continuous focus mode instead of single shot.

That’s the basics. Have any other tips or tricks to share?

FOR PETE’S SAKE (A Pet Psychic Mystery No. 4):

A picture perfect wedding in paradise…what could possibly go wrong?

Pet boutique owner and reluctant pet psychic, Darwin Winters, is looking forward to watching her best friend and business partner, Sylvia, say “I do” to the man of her dreams. But when their wedding photographer turns up dead on the big day—and Sylvia’s superstitious mother believes his heart attack is a sign their marriage will be cursed—Sylvia’s dream wedding quickly becomes a nightmare.

Darwin only has a week to help her detective boyfriend prove the photographer’s death was not from natural causes before Sylvia’s family jets back home to Portugal, and the wedding is off for good.

As more than a few suspects come into focus—including Peter’s model clients, a rival photographer and the director of an animal shelter being investigated for fraud—time is running out. With just one clue from the photographer’s orphaned Yorkie pup to go on, can Darwin help save Sylvia’s wedding and capture a killer? Or will both justice and Sylvia’s wedding cake go unserved?

Get your copy here!     AMAZON      BARNES & NOBLE      iBOOKS

Posted by Shannon Esposito. Shannon lives in a magical gulf coast town with fluorescent sunsets, purple dragonflies and the occasional backyard alligator. Her mysteries transport readers to Florida without the hefty price of airfare. She is the author of the Pet Psychic Mystery series set in St. Petersburg, Florida and the Paws & Pose Mysteries set on the ritzy, fictional island of Moon Key and featuring doga instructor Elle Pressley and her canine sidekick, Buddha.

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

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

Service Dogs for PTSD (And a New Release)

by Kassandra Lamb

PTSD was my specialty when I was a practicing therapist, and yet I realized recently that I’ve never blogged about it to any great extent. Well, now I have a really good reason for doing so.

Lately I’ve become fascinated by the use of service dogs to help people suffering from this disorder. So much so that I’ve started a new mystery series about a woman who trains these service dogs for combat veterans, and her experiences with a variety of clients. (More on the first release in this series in a bit.)

service dog with his veteran handler

A service dog with his veteran handler (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is the diagnosis given when a person suffers symptoms as a result of exposure to a severe trauma. In the general population, the life-time prevalence rate is 8%, which is pretty high. Only phobias, depression and drug abuse are more common.

The list of symptoms is extensive, so I’m just going to hit on the most common ones, and how service dogs can help manage them.

But first let’s define trauma. This is a word that tends to be overused in our society for anything that makes us feel bad. The best definition I’ve ever heard for trauma comes from Lenore Terr, MD in her book, Unchained Memories (I’m paraphrasing her a little here):

A traumatic event is so emotionally overwhelming that the person experiencing it cannot process it cognitively nor emotionally at the time that it happens.

Such events are often sudden and unexpected. They might be a bad car accident, a natural disaster, a criminal assault, being in combat, etc.

PTSD was first identified in combat veterans. It was once called shell shock or battle fatigue. And this group still has one of the highest rates of PTSD, ranging from 12% (Gulf War vets) to 30% (Vietnam-era vets). The rate of PTSD currently in veterans of the Iraqi and Afghanistan conflicts is 13.8%.

The most common and debilitating of the symptoms are anxiety attacks (triggered by reminders of the trauma), nightmares and flashbacks. Service dogs are trained to pick up on the early stages of these symptoms and interrupt them.

If you have a dog, you know how sensitive they can be to their owner’s moods. When you’re depressed or anxious, they tend to sense it and often try to offer comfort. In service dogs, this natural tendency is enhanced through training and then the dog is taught to do something about it.

I’m still learning about all this myself for my new mystery series, but I know that for nightmares, this may mean waking their handlers by barking or nudging him/her with their noses. The service dogs also provide grounding and a calming effect. Again, if you have a dog (or a cat), you know how soothing it can be to stroke their coat and their silky ears.

hand petting dog

Both human and dog benefit from pets and ear scratches. 🙂 (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

(Research has been done on this aspect of therapy/service dogs in general. Petting and interacting with them lowers heart rate and blood pressure and improves mood.)

With anxiety attacks, the dog often can alert their human that the attack is starting before the person has become consciously aware of the building anxiety. Then s/he can implement strategies (taught by his/her counselor) to nip the attack in the bud.

Service dogs also make it easier for veterans suffering from PTSD to go out in public. Two other PTSD symptoms are hypervigilance and an exaggerated startle response. Scary things have taken this person by surprise before, so now their nervous system is constantly on the alert, which is not good for their mental nor physical health.

There are two things the service dogs are trained to do to help with this hypervigilance. One is called the cover command. Whenever their human stops moving, the dog turns around and faces the way they came. The dog literally has the person’s back. S/he signals the handler if someone is approaching from behind, usually with a perking of their ears or a tail wag.

The dogs are also trained to step between their handler and anyone approaching them. These may sound like small things to most of us, but for those who suffer from PTSD, they can allow the person to relax a good bit more when out and about in the world.

service dog with his handler

public domain, Wikimedia Commons

This and also the strong sense of connection with the dog are particularly helpful for overcoming one of the most subtle and potentially destructive of the symptoms, a sense of isolation from others. People who have experienced extreme events sometimes are left feeling like they are different from others in some irrevocable way; they may even feel like they are “damaged goods.”

Being more comfortable in public and experiencing the unconditional love of a canine companion can go a long way toward overcoming this feeling of otherness, and help the veteran become more integrated into his/her community.

Combat veterans should only feel set apart in a proud way, that they have served their country well and are respected for their sacrifices. Service dogs can help them hold their heads high and get on with their lives.

(Stay tuned for more about this wonderful boon for veterans as I learn more myself.)

And today is the cover reveal for my new series. Another masterpiece by Melinda VanLone. Ta-da!! (Psst! The book is available for pre-order for just $1.99; it goes up after the release.)

ToKillALabrador FINALTo Kill A Labrador, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery

Marcia (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha) likes to think of herself as a normal person, even though she has a rather abnormal vocation. She trains service dogs for combat veterans with PTSD. Then the ex-Marine owner of her first trainee is accused of murdering his wife, and Marcia gets sucked into an even more abnormal avocation–amateur sleuth.

Called in to dog-sit the Labrador service dog, Buddy, she’s outraged that his veteran owner is being presumed guilty until proven innocent. With Buddy’s help, she tries to uncover the real killer.

Even after the hunky local sheriff politely tells her to butt out, Marcia keeps poking around. Until the killer finally pokes back.

AMAZON US  AMAZON UK   AMAZON CA   AMAZON AUS   APPLE   KOBO

AND, I’m having a Facebook party next week to celebrate the new series. Click here to check it out and sign up. There’ll be lots of prizes and fun!!

FB party banner

Are you a combat veteran or do you know one personally? What obstacles have you/they encountered in the reentry-into-civilian-life process?

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

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

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