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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.

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 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.

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Stay safe this summer: know the REAL signs of drowning!

by K.B. Owen

image via clker.com

Happy mid- summer, everyone!

With everyone hitting the pool/beach, it seemed a good time to talk about the real signs of drowning (they may not be what you think). I was really impressed by the video below that shows what it looks like.  I know I learned a lot, and I hope it’s helpful to you, too.

We human beings have a number of hard-wired, uncontrollable, instinctive responses (we had even more of them as infants), designed by nature to protect us:  we blink when an object comes at us suddenly; we experience a fit of coughing when something gets lodged in our throat; we feel our heart racing when we’re afraid, as our bodies ready for a possible “fight or flight” action.

Turns out, there’s an instinctive response when one is drowning, too.  It’s a completely involuntary set of movements, and it looks nothing like the portrayals in film and t.v.  People have been known to drown – especially children – with others standing right next to them.  But no one recognized what they saw as drowning, because they didn’t know the real signs of drowning.

Differences between Aquatic Distress and Drowning:

Behaviors: “Aquatic Distress” (this can lead to drowning) Behaviors: Drowning (the person has 20-60 seconds before loss of consciousness)
   
Yelling for help Can’t speak; just trying to breathe (If you aren’t sure, try asking “Are you all right?” If they can’t answer, act quickly)
Waving arms/thrashing in the water.  Can respond to a rescuer and grab a rope or buoy. Arms out laterally, pressing down on the water’s surface (instinctive attempt to gain leverage).  Cannot control arm movements or reach for a flotation device.
The head is out of the water Mouth is moving just above and below the water surface, barely clearing the water to catch a breath.

Here’s a dramatic video of a drowning boy.  Don’t worry; he was rescued in time and is fine. 🙂  Note the people standing right near him, with no clue as to what was happening.  In their defense, you can also see how quiet and barely noticeable it is.  Thank goodness for trained lifeguards!  The video includes a terrific expert-narrated explanation of what is going on.

The instinctive drowning response.

What do you do to stay safe?  I’d love to hear from you.

Yep, these guys are mine, though they are much older now. 😉

Here’s to a safe rest of the summer for you and your family!

Until next time,

Kathy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tea and Tarot… and Murder

by Kirsten Weiss

The introduction of my new Tea and Tarot cozy mystery series led to the other authors at misterio press asking me about Tarot readings… how do they work, what do some of the cards mean?

Tarot cards, with their mysterious archetypal images, frequently turn up in books and movies. Let’s face it, with cards like Death and the Devil, throwing a Tarot card down on a table can be a great way to build suspense.

Tarot cards
Tarot cards with the Death card (image from Pixabay)

But those two cards in particular tend to freak people out. I’ve heard of some Tarot readers who actually remove them from the deck, which seems a bit like cheating to me.

Because here’s the good news – scary-looking Tarot cards usually don’t mean the obvious. Tarot, like a good mystery novel, is chock full of subtext.

The Death and Devil Cards

Sometimes, the Death card can mean a physical death. But 99.999% of the time, it refers to a symbolic death, an ending. Perhaps the end of a job or a relationship or of a way of behaving in the world.

Death is a natural cycle, and inevitable, just like many changes in our lives. And while change can be terrifying, the Death card tells us that it can be easier to go with the flow. Change is a’coming, whether you like it or not, so… may as well accept it.

As to the Devil, this card usually refers to an unwillingness to see the truth. Our own willful blindness – towards the results of our own actions, towards a situation we may be in – locks us in, chains us. We are our own devils, and most of us lie to ourselves… quite a bit. Sometimes the lies we tell ourselves are fairly innocent.

But the Devil card warns us that our self-deceptions are going to cause us trouble if we don’t wake up.

Tarot Readings

Tarot cards laid out for a reading
Image by soulful stock on Unsplash

A Tarot reading takes you out of your “normal” world, and because of this, it can enable us to see the patterns in our lives more easily. As my hero, Hyperion Night says, in the hands of a good, honest Tarot reader, the cards can be a powerful tool for self development.

Once, when I was feeling low, I walked into a tea and Tarot room (the inspiration for my new series). The reader told me that I was going on a trip in May, and I’d meet a man.

Maybe it was because I was looking for that trip, that relationship, but it happened. The power of positive expectations is real. Or maybe the reader was really that good. But it gave me the boost of optimism I needed to move forward and through a scary situation.

But not every person with a deck of cards is good or honest. A common scam is for Tarot readers to warn their victims that a curse has been placed on them, and the reader can remove it… for more money. Basically, any time a Tarot reader asks you for more money beyond what was initially agreed on for the session, alarm bells should go off.

For a fun introduction to Tarot, and a great mystery, check out Book 1 in my new series…

Steeped in Murder, A Tea and Tarot Cozy Mystery

BOOK COVER

Tea, tarot, and trouble.

Abigail Beanblossom’s dream of owning a tea room in her California beach town is about to come true. She’s got the lease, the start-up funds, and the recipes. But Abigail’s out of a tearoom and into hot water when her realtor turns out to be a conman… and then turns up dead.

However, not even death puts an end to the conman’s mischief. He rented the same space to a tarot reader, Hyperion Night. Convinced his tarot room is in the cards, Night’s not letting go of the building without a fight.

But the two must work together, steeping themselves in the murky waters of the sham realtor’s double dealings, in order to unearth the truth – before murder boils over again.

Steeped in Murder is the first book in the Tea and Tarot cozy mystery series. Buy the book to start this hilarious caper today.

Recipes in the back of the book!

Available on AMAZON ~ APPLE ~ BARNES & NOBLE ~ GOOGLE PLAY ~ KOBO

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. 🙂 )

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An “Off” Week Memorial Day Re-Run: A Pacifist’s Thank You to the Military

by Kassandra Lamb

1000px-United_States_flag_waving_icon pub domain.svg

This is an “off” week for our blog, but in honor of Memorial Day yesterday, I’m rerunning one of my favorite Memorial Day posts.

(Note: the following are the opinions of this author and do not necessarily reflect those of the other misterio press authors.)

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a pacifist by nature. I abhor violence. But unfortunately in the real world there are some evil people, and even more people who are willing to do evil things in order to achieve their goals. So violence is part of the human condition and probably will be for the foreseeable future.

One of the many things I learned from being a psychotherapist is that evil survives and thrives on fear and passivity. So I do believe that it has to be stopped. And the only force evil understands is just that, force.

So how am I any different from those I accuse of using evil to achieve their own goals? I guess I’m not completely different. My only defense is that I believe in the use of violence only in defense of self and others.

In the real world, this country needs a strong military. It does act as a deterrent against a good bit of that evil. And the rest of the time, unfortunately, those men and women in uniform have to fight back the evil.

I was a teen and college student during the Vietnam War–probably the least popular war ever fought by this country. I protested against that war. But I was appalled by the treatment of the returning GIs at the hands of some of my fellow pacifists. These men and women who had served out country at great sacrifice (many of them drafted), were not always welcomed home as the heroes they were. They were sometimes spat on and called baby killers.

Humans have short memories and we don’t always learn from the past. But I think our society learned that lesson. By all means, hate war! But honor the troops who have sacrificed so much to protect our peace.

female soldier saluting
(public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Any particular soldiers, sailors or Marines whom you’ve been remembering this week?

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.