Tag Archives: misterio press

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. 🙂 )

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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.

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 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. 🙂 )

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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.

 

Random Holidays in October

by Kassandra Lamb

Did you know that there are over 130 random holidays in October?

When we think of this month, the first holiday that comes to mind is on its very last day, Halloween. But if you go to the website https://nationaltoday.com you’ll discover all kinds of interesting special days this month.

photo by element5-digital-unsplash

There are the more serious holidays and “awareness” days of course, such as Yom Kippur (Oct. 8th this year), World Mental Health Day (Oct. 10th), and World Teachers’ Day (Oct. 3).

But we also just missed No Bra Day (it’s actually serious, meant to raise breast cancer awareness) and National Transfer Money to Your Son Day (the check is in the mail, Jonathan).

Yesterday, Oct. 14th, was Columbus Day, but it was also National Dessert Day and National Kick Butt Day.

photo by curology-unsplash

And today, the 15th, is—among other days of acknowledgment—National I Love Lucy Day, National Cheese Curd Day, and Global Handwashing Day.

We may laugh at that last one, but did you know that as recently as the mid 1800s, even doctors did not routinely wash their hands.

In 1847, Dr. Ignatz Semmelweis, considered the Father of Hand Hygiene, demonstrated to his fellow doctors that “childbed fever” is contagious and could be reduced by doctors washing their hands. And plagues in ancient times could have been prevented if people had known to wash their hands more often.

Let’s see… coming up tomorrow, we have Global Cat Day and National Boss’s Day.

created on https://imgflip.com

And if your boss is your cat (as is the case for many of us writers), you can roll these celebrations in together.

Friday is National Chocolate Cupcake Day (Yum!) and Saturday, the 19th, is National New Friends Day.

Sunday is both International Sloth’s Day and National Day on Writing.

Hmm, I wonder if that’s a hint that I should stop procrastinating about starting my next book.

a Costa Rican sloth (photo by Javier Mazzeo–Unsplash)

Next week is going to be hard on our poor waistlines.

We have National Nut Day on Tuesday, the 22nd. The following day is National Boston Cream Pie Day. Then Thursday, the 24th, is National Bologna Day, followed immediately by National Breadstick Day, National Greasy Foods Day and World Pasta Day (all on Friday, the 25th).

And my all-time favorites of the month are National Grouch Day (started in honor of Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street) and Slap Your Annoying Coworker Day (Oct. 23rd).

Fortunately, I don’t have any coworkers at the moment, but I still think that is an absolutely awesome holiday!

How about you? What’s your favorite of the random holidays in October, besides Halloween?

alchemical detective book cover

And speaking of Halloween, in honor thereof, Kirsten Weiss has her book, Alchemical Detective, free all this month!

Plus, watch for our post on 10/29, when we’ll be bringing you some fun Halloween recipes and lots more bargains on our books!!

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.

When Your Garden Tries to Kill You

One of my houseplants, doing it’s darnedest to escape from my kitchen window sill.

by Kassandra Lamb

Gardening has never really been my thing. I don’t have a black thumb per se, more of a brown one. I unintentionally torture plants for a while, before they finally expire.

So I laughed out loud for several minutes when I read this delightful blog post by Barb Taub. I had to share it with you all.

My Garden Wants To Kill Me

by Barb Taub

I had a college roommate who talked to her plants. Her side of our dorm room was filled with overachieving explosions of green. My side had an ever-revolving range of plants in my two little pots, doomed visitors who would linger bravely for a week or two before wanly accepting their fate.

This wasn’t really a problem over the next four decades. With jobs, kids, and a husband who likes to mow large swaths of lawn, my black thumb couldn’t do too much damage. Then I blew it. I moved to the UK, where gardening is a sacred passion.*

(*I’m totally not imagining this. Recent UK census and surveys show that almost 60% of people spent time gardening within the previous month, but only 12% attended religious services.)

When we bought our house on a wee isle in Scotland, it came with an absolutely wonderful gardener who kept the jungle from closing in. Sadly, he told us he was retiring and the garden was all down to us now. This wouldn’t be a particular issue, except for our neighbors. Downhill below us is one of the most spectacular gardens I’ve ever seen, kept immaculately and with such a flair for color and casual design that you could charge admission. Uphill above us is a cottage with a hedge so flawlessly straight I’m completely convinced our neighbor Peter manicures it with a surgically-sharp but very tiny pair of scissors.

And between these two lovely gardens, there’s… us. After two years without anyone who knows what they’re doing, our garden would be an excellent understudy for the next Tarzan film. When guests go for a stroll, I feel the odd machete would not be amiss.

So the Hub bought me a scary pair of enormous loppers, and I told the dog I was going in. At first it was almost fun. Without a clue what I was doing, I started to hack a path from the greenhouse. Then somehow I was holding my jaw and listening to a peculiar whining noise. Oh, wait… it was me moaning, and my cupped hand was filling with blood from my nose and split lip. When things stopped spinning, I slowly pieced together that the branch I was lopping had released the other branch it had been holding back, sending it on a flying assault to my face.

(The real attempt on Barb’s life is yet to happen. Read about it HERE. I’ll give you a hint: below is the alleged murder weapon.)

(photo copyright by Barb Taub)

My garden’s attempt to do me in was perpetrated by a bag of mulch. More on that in a later blog post. But I do have to admit that something good came out of it.

While I was laid up recuperating from my garden’s assault, I finally finished the first draft of Multiple Motives, which would become my first published book!

How about you? Are you a green thumb, or a brown or black one? Has your garden ever tried to retaliate and kill you?

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.

7 Life Lessons From My Summer Vacation

by Kassandra Lamb

Remember those essays we had to write in school…What I Did on My Summer Vacation?

Well, I went to Europe on mine.

It’s a trip that hubs and I had begun to plan multiple times (starting in 2015), and something always happened to derail the plan. So this year, we were determined.

The trip was all about seeing some sights we’d been wanting to see for years—which we did—but I also picked up a few life lessons along the way.

Lesson #1 — People can be family even if they don’t speak the same language.
Our friend Nathalie, with the baguette for dinner, in the town nearest her home.

The first week of our trip was spent in Brittany, France, visiting a friend of twenty some years now. My husband, the linguist, speaks fluent French, but me, not so much. He sees this friend and her family every couple of years, when he’s overseas doing what linguists do (after 43 years of marriage, I’m still trying to figure out what that is). I’ve been over there four or five times now.

Dessert our second evening in France.

The French are fairly reserved with strangers, but once they get to know you—and if they decide they like you—then you’re family. We were welcomed with open arms, bised (kissed on the cheeks) by every man, woman and child in the extended family, and then fed until we almost exploded!

And every meal was accompanied by lively conversation (most of which washed right over my head) and lots of laughter.

It was a wonderful, joyful time and a great way to start our adventure!

Lesson #2 — Our lives today would be radically changed, if a few things had happened a bit differently in the past.

Our second stop was Brest, France, the city where our friend’s eldest daughter lives and works.

View of Brest from our Airbnb’s window.

Brest is a major French naval port. During a visit to the naval museum there, we discovered that the French Navy, and this port in particular, played a pivotal role in our War of Independence.

Four-hundred and fifty ships of the Royal Navy were dispatched from Brest to intercept and blockade the British Navy near Yorktown in 1781. They kept supplies and reinforcements from reaching land, a turning point in the war that eventually led to the signing of the peace treaty.

The tip of the iceberg. Underground are several stories of the German installation, now a museum.

On a more somber note, a visit to a World War II museum, in a former Nazi artillery bunker on the coastline near Brest, poignantly reminded us of how much France and Europe had suffered during that war.

The artifacts of the war included possessions, drawings and photos of specific, real people—military from both sides and French civilians—accompanied by audio recordings of actors playing those people and telling us about their experiences (based on diaries, journals and letters). The hair stood up on the back of my neck a few times.

A profound sight: the juxtaposition of these remnants of a devastating war against the tranquil countryside and the sea beyond.

Brest was a very strategic port for the Germans, and therefore it was bombed regularly by the Allied Forces. Most of the city was destroyed and had to be rebuilt.

It was quite an experience, looking out over the cityscape of modern buildings from our Airbnb’s window, and suddenly having one’s eye stopped by a surviving church spire, a castle tower or an ancient house—the only reminders left that this city was founded before the Middle Ages.

Can you spot the castle? (No, it’s not the tall tower slightly to the left; look a bit to the right instead.)
Lesson #3 — Online friends can be just as wonderful as IRL friends.

Next up was a visit with a friend in Glasgow, Scotland, and a trip to her “wee cottage” on the Isle of Arran.

The side wall of my friend’s “wee” cottage and the view from her front window.
I discovered when I got home that I hadn’t taken any pics of my friend. 🙁 But I did get this one of her wee dog, and my friend’s shoes.

This friend is someone I’ve “known” online for several years now, and I was so excited to finally meet her in person.

She showed us a delightful time!

And I am now proud to call her an in-real-life friend.

Lesson #4 — Some things resist being checked off the bucket list.
No, it’s not Hogwarts, it’s the University of Glasgow on a typical Scottish cloudy day.

We felt like we “did” Glasgow sufficiently (plus a day trip to Edinburgh).

But the Isle of Arran gave us a taste of the beauty of the highlands that left us wanting more. So we’re hoping we can spend some time again on the island, soaking up that beauty at a more leisurely pace.

Maybe we’ll rent one of the lovely holiday cottages that are so plentiful on the island.

Lesson #5 — Sacred spaces come in all shapes and sizes.

High on my bucket list was Stonehenge, and hubs and I are also cathedral junkies. So a trip to Salisbury was the centerpiece of our week in England. After a stop-over in Stratford-upon-Avon for a Shakespeare fix, our train chugged into Salisbury on one of the few sunny afternoons during this leg of the journey.

We dumped our bags in our room and walked the few blocks to get a look at the outside of the cathedral. And stood with our mouths hanging open for a while.

Salisbury Cathedral, built between 1220 and 1238, is one of the biggest and most magnificent cathedrals we’ve ever seen (and that’s saying something).

The next morning we attended the 10:30 mass before shifting into our tourist roles. It was a lovely service, especially in such an awe-inspiring space.

And we visited with the local parishioners for a while afterwards, during the “coffee hour” that is part of almost every Episcopalian/Anglican service in the world (I’m Episcopalian).

Then we wandered around the cathedral’s interior for quite some time (with more mouth-hanging-open moments), before having tea and scones for lunch in the refectory.

The next day, we went to Stonehenge, and we weren’t nearly so lucky with the weather there. It was rainy and dreary the whole time.

We kept asking ourselves why we were walking around in the rain just to look at a bunch of rocks. And yet, we kept walking, and staring.

And stopping to take “one last photo” of those stones that were obviously intentionally placed in that field, in some particular arrangement for some sacred reason, many centuries ago.

Indeed, some of the stones have a blue cast to them that identifies them as a type of rock NOT naturally found in that area. The constructors of Stonehenge had dragged those huge rocks on sledges across many miles to that spot.

Archeologists are still piecing together the whys and wherefores of the phenomenon that is Stonehenge.

Lesson #6 — The justice we take for granted in the West is not universal.

Salisbury Cathedral houses one of the few remaining original copies of the Magna Carta. I hadn’t given much thought to that part of the visit beforehand, assuming that this would just be another historical memento I would glance at and think, “That’s interesting.”

But the Cathedral folks have done a really good job of pointing out the significance of this document, signed begrudgingly by King John of England in 1215.

With various displays around the room, they remind visitors that rights we take for granted in “Western” countries—such as the right to not be arrested without due process and being considered innocent until proven guilty—all stemmed from this incident in British history.

And these concepts are not universal in other countries.

Lesson #7 — Nobody’s getting any younger, so go where you really want to go sooner instead of later.

We were really sorry we’d waited so long to make this trip, especially since we found the lugging of suitcases, the climbing of steps and the many miles of walking much more challenging then in the past.

So our next big adventure will be happening a lot sooner. Before our old bodies give out on us completely.

How about you? What did you do on your summer vacation? And what’s still on your bucket list?

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.

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6 Things I’ve Learned About Labor — An Encore

aerial of crowded beach on Labor Day
Traditionally, beaches are jammed full on the last big weekend of summer. (photo by John Murphy, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Another Labor Day has rolled around. For many of us this is just another three-day weekend, an excuse to have a cookout or make a trip to the department stores to grab some bargains.

Or we may look upon this holiday as the bittersweet end of summer.

But the day was originally set aside to honor people who worked for a living (which is almost all of us). Back when this holiday was a new thing, in the late 1800s, many more people did actual physical labor in their jobs than we see today.

Indeed, the word “labor” implies hard physical effort. We talk about a woman laboring to give birth.

But what about if our work is something we are passionate about. Then we may call it a “labor of love.”

Here are 6 things I’ve learned about labor during my lifetime:

1. Find work that you enjoy, and preferably work that you can feel passionate about.

There are lots of different vocations available today. Don’t settle for one that you can barely tolerate, if you can help it.

2. Accept the bad with the good.

Not all of the tasks involved in that work will be ones you like. I try to deal with the less pleasant tasks first thing, so I can enjoy the rest of my day without them hanging over my head.

3. Take time to experience a sense of accomplishment.

The next time you finish a task, stop and notice what that sense of accomplishment feels like for you.

For me, it’s a light feeling in my chest and I find myself smiling even if no one else is around. I experience this feeling, to varying degrees, every time I accomplish something, no matter how small. Even something mundane like changing the sheets on the bed comes with a small sense of satisfaction.

image of joy
(image by Camdiluv ♥ from Concepción, CHILE CC-BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons)

When the accomplishment is a major one, there may be bubbles of joy in my chest and the urge to jump up and down. I get that more intense feeling when I finish a first draft, and when I hit Publish for a new release.

Once you’ve discovered what “accomplishment” feels like for you, stop to let yourself experience that feeling every time you finish a task. Take the time to savor it; it’s your reward!

4. Realize that passion can burn out eventually.

We have much more permission to change careers today than previous generations did. Don’t hesitate to at least explore other options when what was once pleasant is now burdensome. I’m now working on my 4th career.

5. Don’t make what has come before wrong because it is no longer right.

Things we once felt passionate about can become mundane. Tasks that we once tolerated can become excruciating. But that doesn’t mean that particular passion wasn’t right for us back in the day. Things change; cherish the memories and move on.

My first career was as an administrative assistant in Human Resources (we called it Personnel back then). The tasks I did in that job would bore me to tears today, but I was excited to be part of the business world and to use my interest in psychology to help my employer hire good people.

line drawing of Labor Day parade
The first Labor Day parade, in New York in 1882. (public domain)

When I hit the glass ceiling (which was a lot lower in those days), I went back to school and then became a therapist. I loved that work.

For two decades, I loved it, until I didn’t anymore. But that didn’t make what I had accomplished any less meaningful to me or my clients, nor did it change the fact that I had indeed loved that career for a very long time.

And then I loved to teach, until the other aspects of the job (like grading papers) got to be more trouble than it was worth. (I miss the students though.)

And now I’m writing fiction. I’m still passionate about it, but not as much so as I once was. It feels a bit more like “work” these days. Nonetheless, I suspect I’ll be at this until I’m old enough to finally be content with full retirement.

Each of my careers was fulfilling in its own season, and I cherish all the memories.

6. Balance work with play.

There is much truth in the old adage: All work and no play makes one a dull girl/boy. If work is nonstop—no matter how passionate we are about it—we can become dull shadows of our fully alive selves.

I learned this one the hard way. It’s easy for the business of writing, polishing, publishing and marketing books to become all consuming. I let this happen for several years until a vague sense of discontent had grown into a low-grade depression.

Now, twice a week, I make myself take time off from my business and writing tasks and go to the senior center to play cards or mah jongg. I call them my “old lady days” but really they are my mental health days.

Any thoughts about “labor” you all would like to add?

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. 🙂 )

Do You Really Know What’s On Your Plate? (And a New Release)

by Shannon Esposito

The murder victim in my new release, Pushing Up Daises (A Pet Psychic Mystery No. 5) is an infamous food critic who exposes local restaurants’ false claims—and flat out lies–about what they’re serving their customers. Unfortunately, seafood fraud is a real problem.

Is this really what you ordered? Seafood fraud is a real thing.

I always thought one of the perks of living in Florida was getting to eat fresh seafood, until I started doing research for this book and found out ninety percent of the seafood consumed in the US is imported from countries with loose aquaculture laws.

Okay, so it’s not fresh caught off our coastal waters. Is that so bad? Well, yes, it is.

When fish is imported, it has little oversight.

According to a recent study by Oceana—a non-profit ocean conservation organization—one in five fish sold in the US are conveniently “mislabeled”. Cheaper fish are sold in place of more popular fish. These are fish that contain higher mercury levels and fish that are farmed, instead of wild caught, which means you are consuming antibiotics, pesticides, artificial coloring and other toxins.

Restaurants in Florida have been caught serving foreign crab meat touted as Atlantic blue crab, Asian catfish as Florida Grouper, foreign shrimp as domestic, and Escolar—a fish with gempylotixin which causes gastrointestinal distress—as white tuna. Ordering red snapper? Odds are high that’s not what you’re getting, since it’s mislabeled eighty-six percent of the time. But one of the most troubling deceptions discovered is King mackerel, a high methylmercury-content fish, being served as grouper. 

Can something be done about this deception?

The good news is it can be fixed. Europe had the same problem, but after voting for stricter labeling laws, and educating consumers about the issue, they managed to cut seafood fraud and mislabeling from thirty-three percent down to four percent.

What can you do? Learn what fish are in season in your area. Ask where the fish is sourced. You may not always get the truth, but if they know consumers are educating themselves about this issue, they may start thinking twice about their deceptive practices.

Does seafood fraud in the US shock you? Or were you aware of this problem?

Pushing Up Daisies (A Pet Psychic Mystery No. 5)

The dog days of summer are back, and Darwin Winters, pet psychic, is excited to attend the St. Pete Seafood Festival with her sister. Unfortunately, the festival gets shut down early when a despised, local food critic dies from ingesting pufferfish toxin while judging the Chef’s Golden Lobster Contest.

When Hana Ishida, the chef who served pufferfish to the victim, is taken in for questioning, Darwin agrees to dog-sit the woman’s dachshund, Daisy. Darwin receives a vision from Daisy showing Hana in a heated argument, but for Daisy’s sake, Darwin desperately wants to dig up the truth and help her boyfriend, Detective Will Blake, prove Hana’s innocence.

Though Will does have a few fishy restaurant owners on his suspect list, none of the clues are pointing to anyone but Hana. Can Darwin help him reel in the right suspect? Or will this killer be the one that got away?

Available on Amazon (free with Kindle Unlimited)

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. You can visit her at murderinparadise.com

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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