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Stay Calm and Wash Your Hands

by Kassandra Lamb

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

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

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

The Unhelpful Ones: Denial, Minimizing

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

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

The Potentially Helpful Defenses: Rationalization, Repression, Sublimation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then Push the Thoughts Aside

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

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

(Read more on defense mechanisms here.)

The Proven Benefits of Optimism

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

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

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

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

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

But Isn’t This Just Another Form of Denial?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Easier Said Than Done for Some

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laughter Is the Best Medicine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

by Kassandra Lamb

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

Here’s a teaser…

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

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

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

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

How Our Brains Connect Us to the Past

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

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

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

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

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

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

Implications for Writers—The Importance of Backstory

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

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

Read More…

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

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

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

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.

IRL Mysteries: The Mystery Behind That Annoying Tamper-Resistant Packaging

by Kassandra Lamb

You know what I’m talking about – those frustrating, multiple layers of plastic, foil, paper, and/or cotton that keep you from the pill that will wipe out your headache, calm your anxiety or dry up your allergy-produced drippy nose.

Pills weren’t always distributed that way. Here’s the in-real-life (IRL) mystery behind tamper-resistant packaging, which is still unsolved to this day.

In 1982, seven people died mysteriously. Three were in one family, but the rest were scattered around the Chicago metro area. Other than the family members, there was no connection between the victims.

The Investigation

The mystery behind tamper-resistant packaging
Photo by Amanda Jones on Unsplash

The police quickly discovered that they had all taken Tylenol® shortly before their deaths. The capsules were tested and were found to contain potassium cyanide, along with the actual medication.

Someone had tampered with the drug, with no particular victim in mind and for no apparent motive. The hardest type of crime to solve.

In the next few days, there were several copycat tamperings and more people died.

The drug’s manufacturer, Johnson and Johnson®, determined that the contamination was not happening at their plant, but nonetheless they immediately implemented a massive recall. Investigators soon decided that the tampering had happened in the stores.

The Response

So Johnson and Johnson came out with the first tamper-resistant packaging. Their quick response to the crisis saved their company, and also saved many, many lives since then, as such packaging soon became the norm.

Some of the copycat tamperers were caught, but the one who started the whole mess was never found.

The police thought they had their man when James W. Lewis sent a letter to Johnson and Johnson demanding a million dollars to stop the killing. He was convicted of extortion, but there was no evidence that he had actually done the tampering. He had just taken advantage of the situation.

Other leads were pursued but no culprit was ever definitively identified, and the Tylenol-tampering murders remain unsolved today.

So the next time you are cussing at that pill-bottle you can’t get open, remember this mystery behind that tamper-resistant packaging.

It’s there for a good reason.

To read more about this case and Johnson and Johnson’s response to it, see this article in The New York Times.

This is the first in a new series here on misterio press, regarding IRL mysteries that remain unsolved. In some ways, it’s a rather grim topic, but we are mystery writers after all, so we find such things interesting. We hope you do as well.

Are you old enough to remember the Tylenol-tampering in the 1980s? Do you know of any other in-real-life mysteries?

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.

An “Off” Week Goodie: Why Hugs Are Good For You

by Kassandra Lamb

I saw this article yesterday and wanted to share it.

Hugs are good for you
Photo by C.Valdez on Unsplash

I don’t know about the whole Chakra thing, but it is true about the cortisol levels going down and hugs encouraging the release of oxytocin.

The latter hormone makes us feel good, and also facilitates more social interaction.

In other words, the more we hug, the more we like being around people, and thus the more likely we are to get hugs.

I’m not sure about Virginia Satir’s numbers, though. I suspect a few hugs a day will suffice for well-being, and I’m pretty sure hugging cats and dogs and other cuddly pets counts (snakes and lizards, maybe not).

Also, a word of caution. Not everyone is comfortable with hugs, so never hug anyone unless you’re sure they’re okay with it (you can always ask, though).

Virtual hugs from us to you!! (Not as satisfying, but the best we can do. 🙂 )

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.

Why Is the Divorce Rate So Low? (encore)

by Kassandra Lamb

No, that is not a typo in the title—I am asking why the divorce rate is so low. As I contemplate the approach of the 44th Valentine’s Day I will spend with my husband, I thought this was a fitting time to again offer up this post I originally wrote in 2012.

I am absolutely amazed that anybody makes it for 44 years, or longer even, without divorcing. Or committing homicide.

The Divorce Rate is Lower Than You Think

Why is the divorce rate so low

My mother and I going into the church before my wedding. I had no idea what I was getting into.

The common myth is that the divorce rate is 50%. This is just plain not true, but like most myths, it gets repeated so often, with absolute certainty on the part of the person saying it, that we all believe it.

This frequently quoted statistic is based on comparing the number of marriage certificates issued in any given year with the number of divorces filed in that year. That number indeed hovers around 50%, because the number of people getting married has been going down at the same rate as the number of people getting divorced.

The Real Divorce Rate

Counting the number of people who are STILL married in any given year and comparing that to the number of divorces is a more complicated and costly process, so it isn’t done very often. (This data, by the way, is collected by the Center for Disease Control. So I want to know which is the disease, marriage or divorce? I’m assuming the latter. But I digress.)

Comparing those getting divorced to those still married paints a very different picture. The divorce rate in the U.S. actually peaked in 1979 at 23%  (yes, that is twenty-three percent; it has never been 50%). These days it hovers around 20%. Much better odds than 50-50!  (If you don’t want to take my word for it, here is a good article on the subject at PsychCentral.)

So why am I saying the divorce rate is surprisingly low, if it’s actually a lot lower than everybody thinks it is?  Because it just isn’t all that easy to stay married for decade after decade.

Stresses on Marriage

First we’ve got that whole men-and-women-don’t-really-understand-each-other thing going on. (See my gender differences posts for more on that topic.)

Then, throw the stress of parenthood into the marriage mix. Are we clueless about what we are getting into there, or what? But then again, if we weren’t clueless, the species would have died out by now. If we knew in advance how hard parenting is, nobody would do it!

Why is the divorce rate so low

Me giving my mother heart failure, before the age of seatbelts and air conditioning.

And we’ve got the whole aging process, and the fact that people change over time, as they experience new and different things. We don’t always change at the same rate or in the same direction as our partner does. So it takes a lot of work to stay on the same wavelength.

And we should keep in mind that marriage was invented back when the average lifespan was twenty-five years! As recently as the early 1900’s, one partner or the other was bound to die after a couple decades–from childbirth, disease or a cattle stampede.

And I can’t help but suspect that, before the days of modern forensics, a certain number of household accidents were early versions of a Reno quickie divorce.

So how have hubby and I made it this long?

Choosing Well

First, you’ve got the making-the-right-choice-to-begin-with factor. We lucked out there, or perhaps it was divine intervention, because I had definitely dated my share of losers before he came along.

The most important part of making that right choice is marrying someone who shares your values. You don’t have to have all the same interests or even come from the same background or ethnic group. But you do need to care about the same things in life. And fortunately we do.

The Most Important Factor in Surviving Marriage

Communication. You gotta talk to each other, every day, about the little stuff and the big stuff, and about how you feel about things. It’s real easy to get out of the habit of doing this, or to decide that a certain subject is just too painful, or will start a fight, so you don’t go there.

Study after study has found that the single most important factor in marital satisfaction is that both spouses consider their partner to be their best friend.

So Happy Valentine’s Day to my best friend! I hope we have many more, but I’m not taking anything for granted, because marriage is hard work.

Why is the divorce rate so low

When you stop laughing at hubby’s funny-looking tuxedo, please share your thoughts on the important factors in keeping a relationship strong.

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.

Where The Research Takes Us: Weird Stuff We’ve Researched Lately

By the whole gang! Researching our stories has taken us to some rather unusual places recently. Here’s some of the weird stuff we’ve researched lately.

First up…K.B. Owen

Part of the fun of being a mystery writer is the research tidbits you discover. I’ve learned a lot of esoteric stuff in the course of trouping through the Library of Congress, writing to museum curators, and ordering/reading books such as a 19th century pamphlet on bomb-making by anarchist Johann Joseph Most (much to the despair of my security-clearance husband, I might add).

But I’d never done a hands-on experiment before, which brings me to:  Lighting salt on fire

This was prompted by the writing of my latest Concordia Wells mystery, Unseemly Fate (published May 2019). There’s a Halloween party scene on campus, and Concordia is helping with one of the common 19th century traditions, the ghost-story telling activity.

You know how, on sleepovers as a kid, you’d turn out all the lights and tell ghost stories with only a flashlight under your chin to make it extra spooky? Well, the Victorian version of that was lighting salt on fire (not under one’s chin, of course). This newspaper article (The New York Tribune, October 7, 1900) describes what’s involved:

Pretty cool, right? But how long does it last? What color flame does it give off? In the interest of being able to convey a true account, I knew I’d have to try it at home. As you can see, I kind of went big on it, though – no “dessert spoonful” here:

It burned for 18 minutes, LOL. Adjusting down, a well-saturated spoonful would be about 5 minutes. Which means…keep those stories quick, ladies and gentlemen!

Vinnie Hansen

My research through the years has unearthed intriguing material such as the use of blue scorpion venom to treat cancer in Cuba. This strange fact became an important element in my book Black Beans & Venom.

weird stuff authors researcharched lately

The Grateful Dead exhibit

I’m currently working on a short story, “Reviving the Dead,” to submit to next year’s Bouchercon anthology.

My research took me to our local University of California, Santa Cruz, where the library houses a Grateful Dead collection, which seems strange just on the face of it.

But I learned a lot!

weird stuff authors researchFor example, did you know the chemist Owsley Stanley, famous for making LSD in The Sixties, was also the Grateful Dead’s sound engineer?

Gilian Baker

Picking a poison is easy, right? Not so!

There’s lots to consider before killing off a character with a deadly dose! When I began writing my latest cozy, Libel to Kill, I thought I had a brilliant way to poison the victim—put it into their Epipen and then expose them to something they were allergic to.

Alas, after hours of research, I realized it wasn’t feasible to add poison to an Epipen. Now, in real life, that’s a very good thing. In fiction, not so much.

Discouraged, I moved on to find other ways to dose the victim. For a while, I thought the killer would jab her prey with the filed-down tip on an umbrella, like the way the CIA used to kill spies. (Yes, really!) Then I considered a dart gun.

But in the end, none of those ideas worked with my plot. And even if I decided on a cool method of delivery, I still needed to decide on the actual poison. I didn’t like any of the ones I found. Either they took too long to act, they weren’t reliable, or they were too easy to find during an autopsy.

weird stuff we've researched lately

A stonefish, considered the most venomous fish in the world  (Photo by David Clode on Unsplash)

At one point, I seriously considered somehow using a blow fish or some other kind of poisonous sea life. There are quite a few toxic fish out there.

I didn’t go with that idea either, but it did eventually point me in the right direction. I won’t say more because the exact poison I used would give away the story.

Let just say that it comes from a rather cute creature that one definitely would not think of as toxic.

Kassandra Lamb

I’m not sure I’d call this research item weird, but I most certainly found it intriguing. As I was preparing for my current project, The Lord of the Fleas, the next installment in my series about a dog trainer who trains service dogs for military veterans, I was developing the character of the veteran around whom the mystery would revolve. The murder victim is his mentor and friend, and he is a prime suspect.

I needed him to have a physical disability that would make it difficult, but not impossible, for him to deliver a killing blow. I stumbled on a condition called Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury. Unlike the spine injuries we usually think of as causing paralysis—a severing of the spinal cord—in this case, the cord is partially crushed, affecting the functioning of the nerves below the injury, but not completely cutting off all signals to the muscles and sensory receptors.

In the process of researching this, I found a series of videos by a young man with this type of injury. I’ll let him explain it. He does it so well.

Shannon Esposito

As a murder mystery writer, I’m always looking for unique ways to kill someone. While researching bees as a murder weapon for book 6 of my Pet Psychic series, I became utterly fascinated with them.

Did you know they communicate through dance? There are two types of dances they do, the round dance and the waggle dance. The round dance is a simpler message, used to convey information about food sources which are 100 meters or less away from the hive.

For more distant food sources, scout bees use the waggle dance. That’s a figure-eight dance which—depending on how fast they waggle and in which direction they begin and which direction they circle—indicates the direction, distance and quality of the food source.

Yes, quality! Superb nectar will elicit vigorous dancing from the scout bees, whereas just so-so nectar dances will be shorter and less enthusiastic. Scientists call this using vector calculus to communicate.

 

Who knew bees were so smart!

We hope you’ve found this weird stuff we’ve researched lately as interesting as we did. What weird stuff have you ever had to look up, for school or for your work?

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 Questions to Ask to Avoid New Year’s Resolution Failure

by Kassandra Lamb

Avoid New Year resolution failure
(image by Nevit Dilmen CC-SA-BY 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

I sat down today to write a New Year’s post. I looked at past posts, seeking inspiration, and decided that I couldn’t improve on last year’s, so I’m re-running it. If you find your resolutions/goals are out the window by February, here are 6 questions to ask yourself to avoid New Year’s resolution failure.

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

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?

avoid New Year's resolution failure -- chunk it down!

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 to avoid New Year’s resolution failure, look at those resolutions and ask yourself if the end goals are 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 put it another way, are you judging success based on the right aspect of the goal?

avoid New Year's resolution failure -- use realistic criteria

One of the frustrations I encountered when working with clients on weight management 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 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. Now I have 20-some books out. (Multiple Motives is FREE on all ebook distributors.)

I started writing my first novel 15 years before it was finished and 17 years before it was published. For the first 5 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 6 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 ways to avoid New Year’s resolution failure?
Fireworks for avoid New Year's resolution failure
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.

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A Short But Loving Holiday Message from Misterio

Our blog is officially on hiatus until January 7, 2020, but we thought we’d share some fun music. This first one isn’t exactly a Christmas song per se, although it’s on Pentatonix’s Christmas album this year.

But it very much expresses how we at misterio press feel about you, our readers. You’re the best!!

And another fave Christmas song, also a cappella!

Hope Everyone has a Great Holiday!!! See you in 2020.

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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7 Do’s and Don’ts When Writing A Series: An “Off” Week Goodie for Writers

by Kassandra Lamb

I’m over at Jami Gold’s cyber-home today, shooting the breeze with her subscribers about the Do’s and Don’ts of writing a series, whether it be a mystery or romance series. Come on over and join the discussion.

do's and don'ts when writing a series

And this seems like a good time to tell you all that I have the first 5 Books in the Kate Huntington mystery series all bundled up in a sweet little package for you. Five books for just $9.99. Half what you would pay for them individually!

On AMAZON ~ NOOK ~ APPLE ~ KOBO ~ and it will be live on GOOGLE PLAY soon.

Now here’s a preview of my post on writing a series…

7 Do’s and Don’ts When Writing a Series

After ten years of writing, I’m beginning to get the hang of it. 😀 I’ve completed one 10-book mystery series and am writing Book 9 of another, plus two romantic suspense series (under the pen name of Jessica Dale).

When I started out, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew how to tell a story, but I was oblivious to the many pitfalls when writing a series.

I’ve learned a thing or two since then, by trial and error mostly—I’m hardheaded that way—and I’d like to share with you all what I’ve discovered. Here are some do’s and don’ts when writing a series.

#1 ~ Do make your main character flawed, interesting and likeable.

You’re going to be living with this protagonist for quite some time, so give him/her some careful thought. I did not do this starting out.

When I began my first series, I thought “flawed” meant things like she’s a lousy cook (go ahead and laugh; I do every time I think about it).

I made my protagonist, Kate Huntington, way too put together. Okay, she’s a psychotherapist so we’d kind of expect her to be better put together than most, but… I had no clue that “flawed” meant emotional wounds!

Fortunately, her vocation was intriguing and caught readers’ interest. And since these were murder mysteries, I could make bad things happen to give poor Kate some fresh wounds to deal with.

I did manage to make her likeable. Only a few readers have complained that they didn’t like her, usually because she was “too perfect.”

With my second series, I gave my main character a failed first marriage, commitment phobia, childhood taunting, and a bit of an impulsive streak. I couldn’t do really heavy wounds, since this is a cozy mystery series.

But now, as I’m planning my next series—a police procedural—I’m contemplating some darker emotional wounds for my MC. *rubbing hands together in glee*

#2 ~ DO have your main character grow and change over the course of the series.
do's and don'ts when writing a series
I have grown and changed as a writer also, over the process of writing this series.

This is one of the most common complaints I hear about some series (not mine, of course), that the MC never seems to learn or develop as a person. They keep doing the same things in their daily lives, and they keep going into the dark attics, ignoring law enforcement officers’ warnings, etc. Their personalities never seem to develop beyond where they started.

Also, make sure their important relationships grow and change, as in real life. One of my fave authors has an MC with a particularly passionate marriage, which makes for an interesting series subplot. But after so many books, that subplot stalled. Every story, it’s the same routine—she overworks herself on a new case; he makes her stop to sleep and eat; they make passionate love; she goes back to crime-fighting.

Rinse and repeat… Even the sex scenes got boring after a while.

#3 ~ In later books, DON’T give away the outcome of earlier stories, but DO drop hints.

Readers don’t always read a series in order. They may first discover your series when you’re releasing Book 4. Or they may accidentally skip a book, or get mixed up about the exact order.

If you give away the conclusion of earlier books, they have no motivation to go back and read them. But if you just hint at those earlier storylines, hopefully they will be intrigued and read the entire series.

These hints should occur when a character would naturally think about an earlier experience… This is not as hard as it sounds. READ MORE

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

Happy Hallovetsgiving and 8 Gifts for Book Lovers (Plus a New Release)

by Kirsten Weiss

flag in Gifts from Book lovers post
Image by Brandon Day on Unsplash

Ever notice how the holidays just keep coming faster and faster in the Fall. We haven’t even finished off the leftover Halloween candy and it’s Veterans’ Day… much gratitude from us at misterio for the men and women who have served and protected our country!!

Now Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and retailers are rushing us toward the next big holiday, with early Black Friday sales.

So for those of us who are already stressing out about our Christmas gift list, here are 8 ideas for gifts for book lovers on that list.

#1 — For the bookworm who eschews online lists, a book lover’s journal!

gifts for book lovers

Now you can not only record your reading experiences, but also keep track of who you’ve lent your books to (or borrowed them from). Several choices on Amazon, ranging from $5.99 to $13.25

#2Bookish socks. In case you haven’t noticed, quirky socks are a thing now. John’s Crazy Socks has a huge collection of socks themed for book lovers.

#3 — And if you want to move beyond socks to T-Shirts, check out the Book Riot Store, for classically-themed clothing.

gifts for book lovers

#4 — A set of literary shot glasses.

We can’t actually throw back drinks with Oscar Wilde, but these make it easier to raise a glass to him. Set of six. (Amazon – $16.95).

#5 — And for the Harry Potter lover, a Hogwarts-themed Kindle cover.

These come in a variety of colors ($24.95).

If you sniff around Amazon, you’ll find all sorts of non-Harry themed covers too. They really come in handy for protecting e-readers, making them great gifts for book lovers. 

gifts for book lovers

#6 — A great little mini booklight.

With this light, you can read ANYWHERE, and the best part is, it’s rechargeable. And with three levels of illumination, you’re bound to find the perfect lighting. (Amazon – $13.99).

#7Literary Teabags!

gifts for book lovers

With literary quotes on each tag. Perfect for the person on your list who loves to sip tea while reading! (Amazon – $13.50)

#8 — And of course, the best gifts for book lovers — BOOKS!!

Ahem, may I recommend a selection from our misterio press authors?

And here’s my latest release, which launches November 15th!

Fate, A Doyle Witch Cozy Mystery #6

Something wicked this way comes…

Fate book cover

Witch Jayce Bonheim has spent the last four months waiting for a horde of dark magicians to come to town.

Now, they’ve arrived, embedded in a traveling circus.

And they’re bigger and badder than this ex-party girl could have imagined, wreaking havoc wherever they go.

But when a murder rocks her small town, Jayce must stop the chaos. Walking a tightrope between dark spells and past regrets, can Jayce stop a murderer and stop these magicians from transforming the world forever?

If you’re a fan of Charlaine Harris, Heather Blake, or Amanda M. Lee, don’t miss Fate, book 6 in The Witches of Doyle cozy mystery novels.

This novel is a full-length, witch cozy mystery featuring true-to-life spells in the back of the book, a trio of witchy sisters, and a dash of romance. Though Fate can be read as a standalone, it’s best read in series order. It’s rated PG-13 due to mild language and some romance.

AMAZON ~ APPLE ~ NOOK ~ KOBO ~ GOOGLE PLAY

Posted by Kirsten Weiss. Kirsten’s 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. She writes genre-blending cozy mystery, supernatural and steampunk suspense, mixing her experiences and imagination to create vivid worlds of fun and enchantment.

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.