Tag Archives: relationships

Review of a Love Story/Memoir for Our “Off” Week

by Kassandra Lamb

Since today is my anniversary (42 years), I thought a review of this memoir would be a cool thing to share with you all, for our off week’s “something cool and interesting.”

A friend of mine, Marcia Meara, has a “Share A Review Day” feature on her blog. Today’s offering is below. I haven’t read this particular book (although I intend to remedy that!) but I have read other things by D.G. Kaye.

Twenty Years After "I Do" book cover

REVIEW:
Colleen M. Chesebro
5.0 out of 5 stars ~ I loved how this couple overcame adversity with humor and a steadfast love for each other.

Canadian author, D. G. Kaye has written a heartwarming memoir in “Twenty Years After I Do,” detailing the ups and downs of marriage to an older man. I was eager to read this book because I am married to a man who is older than me by a decade. I wasn’t sure what I’d find, but having read other books by this author, I knew I was in for a treat.

Kaye shares how she met her husband, Gordon, chronicling how he swept her off her feet with his captivating personality, and how he made her laugh. With a sense of intimacy, the writing draws you in, as if you are listening to a good friend. Their connection, a true love story, (so rare these days) was a joy to experience through her words.

This book is a memoir in the real sense of the word … READ MORE

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Have You Ever Been Haunted by a Goddess?

by S.O. Esposito

Have you ever been haunted by a goddess?

Over the past few years, a character named Alice has haunted me. She made her debut in a piece of flash fiction I wrote in 2011 called Mario’s Goddess. She now officially has her very own full-length story in my new psychological suspense, THE BURNING.

The Valkries' Vigil

This book came to me differently than my cozy mysteries, and it’s a much darker tale. In the flash fiction story, Alice is the goddess of war and is locked up in a mental institution. Over the past couple years, her character wouldn’t leave me alone, but I didn’t know what she wanted. What were the opposing forces in her life? What was her story?

Some of her life came to me in pieces, scenes actually, that I dutifully wrote down over the years. She was a mother with two small children. She was orphaned at birth, spent her life in and out of a children’s home. She couldn’t remember anything before her thirteenth birthday.

I have to say, she confused me. Was she a goddess of war? Was she a human mother? Was this a fantasy story? Magical realism? Paranormal? And then it hit me. She was both a human mother and the goddess of war, and this was a psychological suspense.

They don’t call it multiple personalities anymore, now it’s called dissociative identity disorder, and this is what Alice has. Or does she? (I’ll let the reader decide.) One of her personalities is Kali, the goddess of war, and she insists she’s a goddess having a human experience. She’s also the one who gets Alice into serious trouble. Arrested for arson and murder, in fact.

As more of the scenes came to me, I knew Alice/Kali needed an antagonist, but what kind?…READ MORE

I just finished the most compelling book I’ve ever read! The Burning is so amazing, riveting, spellbinding engrossing novel that every woman should read & take to heart!! -Bonnie O. (Reviewer)

The Burning book coverTHE BURNING, by S.O. Esposito

Now Available on AMAZONNOOKiBOOKS and KOBO

Alice Leininger seems to have the perfect life. She’s happily married, has two beautiful children, a close-knit group of friends, and a cause she cares deeply about. But beneath the surface, her world of safety and comfort is unraveling.

The periods of lost time she’s kept secret—even from her husband—are happening more frequently. She certainly doesn’t remember leaving her Sarasota home at three-thirty in the morning to burn someone alive. Now she sits in a Florida state mental institution, awaiting judgment on whether she’s fit to stand trial on charges of murder and arson.

While a psychologist works to help Alice face her past, her future depends on the answer to one question: How far did she go for justice?

*This book is recommended for mature audiences. While there are no explicit scenes of graphic violence, it does touch on mature themes.

How about you? Have you ever felt like you were haunted by a god or goddess? Do you believe in the Goddess of War?

S.O. Esposito began her writing career as a cozy mystery author under her full name, Shannon Esposito. She has four books in the PET PSYCHIC SERIES (misterio press) & two books in the PAWS & POSE SERIES (Severn House). But to keep her muse happy, she’s ventured into darker territory with her suspense debut THE BURNING. She lives in the sunny state of Florida with her husband, twin boys and two mastiffs, where she is an avid reader, beach-goer and lizard wrangler.

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

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A Crime Writers Interview: Jenna Harte

Crime Writers Intro image

Welcome to another Crime Writers Interview!

We try to draw out what is unique and special about each author we interview. There are some real gems tucked away in this chat I had with Jenna Harte, especially at the end when I asked what question she wished interviewers would ask her. I just loved her answer!

headshot of Jenna Harte

Please give a warm welcome to Jenna Harte!

Jenna is a total romantic who also loves a good mystery. The first of her Valentine Mysteries, Deadly Valentine, reached the quarter-finals in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award in 2013. She’s also the author of the Southern Heat contemporary romance series, and is working on a new cozy mystery series involving coupons, fairy tales and airplane repos.

She’s a member of the Virginia Writers Club and Sisters In Crime and works by day as a freelance writer and online entrepreneur. An empty-nester, she lives in central Virginia with her husband and a fat cat.

Kass Lamb (on behalf of misterio press): Let’s start with a “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Jenna Harte:  I’m a die-hard romantic who especially enjoys mysteries involving committed couples, such as Nick and Nora Charles, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford, etc. I also enjoy a good passionate romance, but it’s difficult to find a mystery series that has the romantic bits, and romantic mysteries rarely involve a series. That’s why I write the Valentine Mysteries and the Delecoeur novellas.

the delecoeur covers

Another tidbit is that I never set out to be a writer, and in fact, if someone told me in high school I’d be a writer, I’d have cried. I fell into writing non-fiction by accident. I became interested in fiction when I discovered fan fiction, and found all these stories around TV/movie couples I enjoyed. I started writing them too, and after one of my stories was stolen—twice—I wondered if maybe I had something. Of course, I had a lot to learn, but an online mystery writing course instructor told me I “had the goods” so I kept at it.

Now I can’t imagine not writing because I have characters prattling on in my brain all the time.

Kass:  What type, i.e. subgenre, of crime fiction do you write? Why does that subgenre appeal to you as a writer and do you also prefer it as a reader?

Jenna:  I write a romantic mystery series that is similar to cozy, except I break the rule about no intimate bits. I also have a three-book contemporary romance series (one of which includes suspense). My most recent work is a traditional cozy mystery series that is currently in the editing process with my publisher.

I tend to write what I’d like to read. I’ve read every JD Robb book (passionate couple solving a crime), and I also enjoy the Stephanie Plum and the O’Hare and Fox books by Janet Evanovich (O’Hare and Fox are co-written with Lee Goldberg). I read romantic suspense as well, such as Nora Roberts and Sandra Brown.

Kass:  JD Robb and Janet Evanovich are at the top of my list too. But tell me, why do you write crime fiction? What is the appeal?

Jenna:  I enjoy other genres such as romance and some science fiction, but the ones I enjoy the most have a mystery involved. It might not always be a crime, but there is a mystery about something. I’ve never thought much about why I like mysteries in books, except that they give a story structure and a satisfying resolution. There is a purpose or a quest that keeps the story moving. The puzzle is fun too.

Kass:  Yes, I agree! So where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little more about your stories.

book covers from Valentines series

The Valentine Mysteries are a series of sexy cozies that blend the love and passion romance readers enjoy with a small town mystery cozy readers like.

Jenna:  I have eight novels and three novellas published. I’m currently revising book six of the Valentine mysteries, and in edits for the first book, Death of a Debtor, in my cozy mystery series. The Valentine novels and Delecoeur novellas are all mysteries solved by a passionate couple.

The closest couple to compare to would be the Harts from the Hart to Hart TV show (1979-1984). They are light mysteries that don’t have graphic violence or bad language, but they do have intimate scenes similar to those found in contemporary romance.

Death of a Debtor is a cozy mystery that involves a smart but unworldly young woman, who loves folklore and fairy tales, and who is forced to return to her rural, mountain Virginia hometown after her father and brother are put in jail for running a Ponzi scheme. Once living in luxury, she is now caring for a cantankerous great-aunt, and learning how to coupon to make ends meet. Things go from bad to worse when she’s accused of being involved in the murder of the man who turned her father into the F.B.I.

Once I finish the sixth Valentine book, I plan to write a novella about them that takes place on the train during their return trip from San Francisco to Virginia (the male lead is afraid to fly). I’m also in the middle of writing the second book of the coupon cozy mystery, Death of a Coupon Queen.

My brain seems to always have stories rattling around. I’m currently plotting a new cozy that will take place in the Outer Banks and involve pirates. I also have a paranormal story that I’ve begun taking notes on.

Kass:  I love the premise of Death of a Debtor. Can’t wait to read it. Tell us what was your favorite book/author as a child?

Jenna:  To be honest, I wasn’t much of a reader as a child. As a teen, I read a lot of Stephen King, although I wouldn’t say I’m a horror fan. In fact, my favorite story of his is an obscure one most people have never heard of called Eyes of the Dragon, which is a dark fantasy. I also liked To Kill a Mockingbird, which was the only book I was forced to read in school that I actually enjoyed.

Kass:  What do you find to be the most difficult part of the writing process—first draft, editing, researching?

Jenna:  I’m mostly a pantser, so for me, the most challenging part of the writing process is when I get stuck. In the past, I’d start writing as soon as I had an idea, which means I’ve started mysteries without knowing why or how the victim was killed. More recently, I’ve tried to let stories percolate, taking notes on the ideas that come, and then writing, but I still usually get stuck at some point.

Since I’ll write whatever scenes I happened to have, I usually write out of order. I have many manuscripts with the first three, and the last chapters written.  As difficult as writing is when I’m not sure what I’m doing, I have a goal to write 1000 words every morning, and somehow, I’m usually able to achieve that.

Kass:  What’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Jenna:  The most recent thing I’ve researched is I asked my uncle, who is a doctor, how many Lorazepam mixed in a scotch and water would it take to make someone loopy without killing him (the answer was “about 50,” which is more than I have in the story).

I’ve also researched if it was possible to poison someone with mistletoe for a Christmas story, and how to stab someone in the back and have it be serious but not fatal.

For With This Ring, I Thee Kill (Valentine #3), I researched the French Blue Diamond, which had recently been linked to the Hope Diamond. That history was fascinating.

Kass:  What question do you wish interviewers would ask you that they usually don’t?

Jenna:  Is it hard to keep the romance alive in an ongoing romantic mystery series?

Kass:  What a great question. So what is your answer?

Jenna:  So often, TV shows and books titillate readers with “will they, won’t they” chemistry, but put off having the couple make a commitment because they fear the chemistry will disappear. This is a real concern, as we’ve all seen shows or read books where this happens. However, I don’t find it hard to keep the love alive in the Valentine and Delecoeur stories.

There’s an idea that because stories need conflict, that the couple needs to experience trouble in the relationship. And of course, the higher the stakes (the relationship can end), the better. But the conflict doesn’t have to be between the couple in a mystery series. Instead, the couple can be in conflict with someone or something else.

DVD cover ofr Hart to Hart complete series

If you’re a Hart to Hart fan like Jenna (and Kass), you can get the complete series on DVD from Amazon. Dig the 1970’s big hair!!

Take Hart to Hart, a TV show about a happily married couple who solve crimes. What made that show work was that the couple wasn’t just committed, but also, they were passionate towards each other.

Second, in a series, the characters and their relationship need to grow, and often this comes from conflict. That doesn’t mean it has to be the type that can end a relationship though. I view it as growing pains. In the Valentine series, the couple has some bumps (including a break up) early on, but they learn about themselves and each other through these struggles, and because they’re committed to each other, they’re resolved to fix things between them.

I think the question is really about the chemistry…can a love story continue to be sexy and titillating in a series? To that I say, yes. While I do have intimate bits between the Valentines and Delecoeurs, that’s not really what highlights their magic. Instead, it’s how they talk and interact with, and think about each other. Instead of letting them settle into ho-hum domestic life, I continue to show their love, affection, and desire for each other.

Kass:  Wow, I love what you’re saying. I feel the same way about the romantic suspense stories I write. There is some conflict between the couple, because that’s realistic, especially in the early stages of a relationship. But the main story conflict comes from the mystery part.

Thank you so much for joining us today, Jenna. I really enjoyed chatting with you.

And folks, Jenna now has the first three books in the Valentine series out in a boxed set for just $5.99. That’s half the regular price for these books. Check it out!

If you have any questions for Jenna, feel free to ask them in the comments section below.

Valentine boxed set coverPassion, Murder, Chocolate and Couture Lingerie

Tess Madison walked away from her two-timing fiancé, a multi-million dollar trust fund and a cushy corporate law job to pursue the single life indulging in chocolate and fancy French underwear. But her newly reordered life comes unraveled when she reluctantly accepts an invitation to a dinner party and stumbles upon the host’s dead body and into the arms of the sexy, blue-green eyed Jack Valentine. As romance grows, so too does Tess and Jack’s propensity to get into trouble.

If you like romance mixed with your mystery, the Valentine Mysteries are for you. In this collection, you’ll get books 1 through 3.

 Deadly Valentine
“Written with precision and care, this intriguing romance/murder mystery is a fun read that will keep readers guessing until the very end.” – Publisher’s Weekly 
Old Flames Never Die
Can a new love survive the lure of an old flame and murder?
With This Ring, I Thee Kill
Planning a wedding can be murder.
 ~~~

Boxed Set available on AMAZON now!

(These books are individually available on Nook, Kobo and iBooks, as well as Amazon.)

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

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

Beta Men Make the Best Husbands

by Kassandra Lamb

Hubs and I will be celebrating our 42nd Valentine’s Day this week. I’m not sure he’s even aware of this but Valentine’s Day is a particularly special day for our relationship. You see, I decided I could marry this man on the first Valentine’s Day we celebrated together. (It took him another 2 ½ weeks to catch on and actually propose.)

I’ve been writing some romantic suspense stories lately, and I recently took a little informal survey of my romantic suspense readers. One of the questions I asked was how important was it to them that the hero be an alpha male, and also I asked for their definition of an alpha male.

The split was about 65% yes, it had to be an alpha, and 35% said they didn’t care or preferred a beta male.

Most defined an alpha as strong, confident, and protective, but they didn’t like it if he was too controlling, cocky or arrogant. My favorite comment was this one:

“The hero doesn’t have to be an alpha necessarily, but when his woman is in danger, he needs to step up and do what needs to be done.”

Now, back to my husband and Valentine’s Day. I suspect my husband would be the first to admit that he is not an alpha male. He’s a fairly quiet, go-with-the-flow kind of guy, an excellent complement to my rather intense personality. Indeed, he is probably the only kind of man I could still be married to after 41 years!

I normally have no trouble standing up for myself. But the few times in my life when I couldn’t do that, for one reason or another, he was there. He stepped up. The first time was on that first Valentine’s Day. We’d been dating four months.

He’d made an 8:30 reservation at a relatively swanky restaurant in downtown Baltimore. We arrived on time and were seated in a little waiting area with quite a few other couples. Someone came by periodically and assured us that it would just be another few minutes.

By 10 o’clock we still hadn’t been seated. I was literally weak with hunger. It was a revolving restaurant on the top of a high-rise hotel. By this point, I was feeling quite queasy as the city slowly spun below us.

My then boyfriend went to the maitre d’ and complained for the second or third time. Ten minutes later we were led to our table and he said to the waiter, “Bring us house salads right away.” The waiter dropped a salad in front of me just a few minutes later.

wedge of lettuce

Gee, doesn’t that look yummy! 😛

It was a quarter wedge of iceberg lettuce with some dressing drizzled over it. I looked at it and said, “I don’t think I have the energy to cut that up.”

Hubs aka then-boyfriend exploded. He called over the maitre d’. “You kept us waiting one and half hours after our reservation time, and now this…” He pointed to the green wedge on my plate. “What kind of salad is that?”

In a huffy voice, the man said, “That is the way salad is served in finer restaurants.”

Hubs aka then-boyfriend straightened to his full six-foot, 26-year-old lanky height and said, “Sir, I’ve been in finer restaurants before, and I’ve never seen a salad like that. Bring my girlfriend a real salad NOW!”

That was the I-could-marry-this-man moment. (Note: I’ve since seen that kind of salad a couple of times in other restaurants, but only a couple of times.)

About 30 seconds later, a waiter brought a tossed salad, with bite-sized pieces of lettuce, cherry tomatoes and slivers of carrots. I devoured it in another 30 seconds and felt much better.

Fast forward three and a half years and I have been in labor for 23 hours. Seventeen of them mild labor and six hard labor (by my definition, as in very painful). And something had changed. It was no longer muscle contraction pain. It was a sledge hammer pounding on your foot kind of pain. My gut, at least partly educated by Lamaze classes, said this was not normal.

But the resident doctors kept insisting I was “still in the early stages” and it wasn’t time yet to call my private obstetrician into the hospital. I won’t go into all the gory details of my interchanges with them, but when one of them told me, “Childbirth is supposed to be painful. Lie down, shut up and relax,” I’d had enough. (Yup, that’s what she said and yup, it was a woman—obviously one who had not yet given birth.)

Immediately after the next contraction, I said to my husband, through gritted teeth, “Get our %&*%^$ doctor here! And get back here before the next contraction!” He’d been rubbing my back during them, the only thing that made them bearable.

He raced out of the labor room, tossed his paper gown (he told me this part later) at the woman at the nurses’ station when she yelled, “You can’t go out there; you’re sterile,” and ran to the waiting room where my mother was. He quickly filled her in, asked her to call our doctor, raced back into the maternity ward, donned a fresh gown and was back by my side just as the next contraction started.

Our doctor arrived about fifteen minutes (and way too many excruciating contractions) later. He started bawling out my husband for “letting your mother-in-law sit out there and worry unnecessarily.” But we quickly filled him in on what the residents had not been reporting to him.

(Note: try not to give birth in a teaching hospital. I’m sure some resident doctors are lovely people, but others think they know more than they do!)

baby and grandmother

My mother and her new grandson

To make a long story short, our son was born at 3:46 a.m., about four hours after my husband’s heroic dash through the maternity ward.

(The next day, my doctor explained that I’d had a “stiff cervix” that wasn’t dilating… not a big deal, it happens sometimes with first births, blah, blah. Yeah, easy for you to say, Doc!)

My husband has performed his own brand of protective intervention on a few other occasions as well, but those are the two that stand out most in my memory.

So I’m sorry, romance readers, but my heroes are the beta males who know how to step up when needed. And in the real world, they make much better Happily-Ever-After husbands than those dark, troubled alpha types.

Happy Valentine's Day

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

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

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

A Fun Book For You: Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home (And The Dog Dies)

by Kassandra Lamb

Here’s your fun and/or interesting thing for our “off” week here at the misterio press blog. One of my fave people and one of the funniest women alive, IMHO, has written a humor book:  Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies.

Being a dog lover (and I knew she’s one too) I wasn’t too sure about the last part of the title, but she reassured me that it is from an old joke:

A priest, a minister and a rabbi were talking about when life begins. The priest said: “Life begins at conception.” The minister said: “Life begins when the fetus is viable.” The rabbi said: “Life begins when the kids leave home and the dog dies.”

Here is my review of her book, and below is an excerpt:

book coverFive stars!

This book needs to come with a humor warning! “Caution: Do Not Eat Or Drink While Reading This Book! You will spew food or liquid everywhere when you laugh out loud.”

Barb Taub is the new Erma Bombeck in my opinion. I’ve followed her blog for a long time and she never ceases to make me smile. This book is a collection of her columns for publications and blog posts from over the years. Every chapter will have you laughing at Barb’s unique take on life.

 

Excerpt from Chapter 13: How To Embarrass Your Child

I went to a socially-impaired university. It was a time of revolution and experimentation with sex, drugs, music among kids: in other words, it was just like today. But the University of Chicago’s claim to “The Life of the Mind” reassured parents. Fathers of teenage daughters thought the mind was a lot safer place to live than where they remembered spending their college years, “The Life of the Party”.

We had friends from other colleges who had social lives and arrest records, so we knew what we were missing. And it wasn’t as though we didn’t try. We’d stay up all night or even close out the college’s only bar, Jimmy’s, discussing the eternal questions:

  • Is there a God?
  • How do you get rid of roaches?
  • Who’s got the $10 for the muggers on the way home?
  • How can I make the world more fair?
  • Why am I here?

I was lucky. I didn’t get mugged (that often); the stitches didn’t scar (much); I did graduate (eventually). And, after all these years, I’ve answered all the questions:

  • There is a God and She has a sense of humor. It’s the only possible explanation for Chicago politics and for two-year-olds.
  • The only way to get rid of roaches is to move out. Or get a divorce.
  • You still need $10 for the trip home because the child who has refused to eat for the whole trip will announce that she is going to die from hunger if you don’t stop at Chez Mac’s.
  • I don’t care if it’s not fair: I’m the mother and I say so.
  • I am here to embarrass and torture my children.

Amateur parents may be concerned about this last requirement. How could you ever embarrass your children? Don’t worry. Not only will you discover just how much fun it is to mess with their little heads, but you won’t have to actually do a thing to achieve it. As soon as your child turns ten, there will be a few things about you which they will find embarrassing, such as your car, your appearance, your clothes, your habit of speaking to them in public, your very existence…

AVAILABLE at:   AMAZON US     AMAZON UK

pic of Barb Taub

And here’s Barb’s bio:

In halcyon days BC (before children), Barb Taub wrote a humor column for several Midwest newspapers. With the arrival of Child #4, she veered toward the dark side (an HR career). Following a daring daytime escape to England, she’s lived in a medieval castle, a hobbit house, and on a Scottish isle with her prince-of-a-guy and the World’s Most Spoiled Aussie Dog. Considering all her days are now Saturdays, Barb is amazed that this is her sixth book.

You can find out more about Barb and her Null City series (which I love) at her website, on Facebook or Goodreads or tweet at her @BarbTaub.

Tune in next week for my thoughts on Valentine’s Day!

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

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

“Working Through” Instead of Pushing Past the Past

by Kassandra Lamb

row of flagsBelieve it or not, this is a Veterans’ Day post. I’ll get back to that.

As is the case with everything from clothing to baby names to the size of one’s car, mental health is affected by trends in our society. During most of my career as a psychotherapist, the trend was to explore one’s past for explanations of one’s neuroses, so that one could heal whatever trauma lurked back there and then move on. (Key words: Move On!)

This trend was fortunate for me, since I discovered that I had a real talent for trauma recovery. It became my specialty, and I walked the path with hundreds of people, over the twenty years of my career, who’d been abused in a variety of ways as kids. I was honored to be a part of helping them heal and blossom into the people they were meant to be. As hard as it was to face the past, it was what they needed to do in order to truly “work through” that past, rather than ignoring it and have it continue to affect their behavior, moods, parenting, relationships, etc. And most of them came out the other end of the process far, far healthier and happier than they had ever been in their lives.

In my parents’ day, the WW II era, the trend was to “buck up” and push past the past. Best I can tell, this had been the attitude, off and on, for generations, until the more recent trend to go through one’s “recovery process.” As a result of this buck-up attitude, the damage done by trauma in people’s pasts continued to not only affect them but their children.

PTSD existed during WW II—it has always existed—but back then it was called shell shock or battle fatigue, and soldiers who suffered from it were at best pitied and at worst scorned as cowards. It wasn’t until the Vietnam War era that the concept of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder developed and new and better treatments were discovered.

WW II era submarine

My husband’s uncle was a Navy seaman in WW II, on a submarine in the Pacific. For decades, the only impact from that experience he would admit to was ringing in his ears, a residual symptom from all the depth charges that went off in the water around his sub. It wasn’t until his sixties that he started talking about his experiences during the war. It became obvious to my husband and myself that he had suffered from PTSD his entire life. But he’d never dealt with it. He didn’t have permission to deal with it. Instead he drank too much and smoked too much (even after he had emphysema) and took his anger at the world out on his sons.

At the time that I was a practicing therapist, I didn’t realize that the shift away from that buck-up attitude was just a trend. I thought our society had actually turned the corner and was beginning to understand what was involved in obtaining and maintaining good mental health.

In the 1990s, sadly, the pendulum swung back toward the old-fashioned attitudes (not all the way back, but dangerously close for a while). Exploring and working through the harmful mistakes one’s parents may have made so that one could forgive those parents for being human—and then most likely have a better relationship with them thereafter—became “parent bashing” and “whining about the past.” Those going through their recovery process were sometimes viewed as “looking for excuses” for their own behavior and choices. (Nothing could be further from the truth; the process, when done right, is all about taking responsibility for oneself and one’s life.)

The pendulum has now swung more toward the middle ground, but I still see or hear statements on social media, pretty much on a weekly basis, along the lines of “stop whining about the past” or “you are not your past, move on” or “stop blaming your parents” (I repeat, recovery from the past is not and never was about parent-bashing).

inside of submarine

Inside of a submarine (photo by by Eteil CC-BY-SA 4.0 International, Wkimedia Commons)

Once Uncle Pete opened the door to the past, a lot came pouring out. Fifty years later, he was finally talking about how terrified that nineteen-year-old seaman and his buddies were, as those depth charges exploded in the water around their submarine, how they feared that sub would become their coffin and perhaps their bodies would never be recovered from the depths of the sea.

Show me a combat veteran and I’ll show you a man or woman who has at least some psychological scar tissue (whether they admit it or not) due to what they have experienced protecting us and our country. One of the best ways we can honor our veterans is to continue to acknowledge what they have gone through emotionally, continue to give them permission to seek help so they can heal those wounds, and to continue to fight for and support funding for mental health services for them.

service dog

(DoD photo by EJ Hersom, CC-BY 2.0 Wikimedia Commons))

If you see a veteran sweating and shaking in public from an anxiety attack, know that they came by those anxieties while fighting for your freedoms. Having never been in such a veteran’s shoes, I can’t tell you what would be most helpful to them right then, but turning away and denying that their internal wounds are real is definitely not helpful.

And if you see a healthy-looking woman or a big strapping man with no obvious physical disability being accompanied by a service dog, don’t make assumptions. You have no idea what they are dealing with inside.

Speaking of service dogs (and to lighten the mood!), I have a new novella coming out in the Marcia Banks and Buddy series, a Christmas story.

Here’s the cover! Isn’t it awesome?

A Mayfair Christmas Carol book cover

A Mayfair Christmas Carol, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Christmas Novella

A Christmas extravaganza in Mayfair, Florida, complete with an ice skating rink. What could go wrong?

When excavation for the skating rink uncovers a decades-old skeleton, its secrets threaten more than the town’s Christmas plans. Worried about her friends in her adopted town and feeling responsible since the let’s-attract-more-tourists idea was hers initially, dog trainer Marcia Banks is determined to help her police detective boyfriend solve the mystery—whether he wants her help or not. Perhaps she can wheedle more out of the townspeople than he can.

But will she and her Black Lab, Buddy, be able to keep the ghost of Christmas past from destroying what is left of Mayfair’s founding family, or will her meddling make matters worse?

A Mayfair Christmas Carol will be available for preorder on November 27th (Cyber Monday) and will be released on December 2nd. So stay tuned!

Your thoughts on the trends in mental health? Have you or someone you love ever been on the receiving end of the “buck”up” attitude?

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 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. 🙂 )

Six-Degrees to Success

by Vinnie Hansen

Misterio Press authors Kassandra Lamb and Shannon Esposito both live in Florida and are dealing with Hurricane Irma. Our thoughts and prayers are with them.

Since I’m safely located in California, I’m filling in today for Kassandra with an updated repost. 

Authors, even well known ones, can find themselves at events where few people attend. I once did a book talk and signing with the famous Laurie R. King at a local bookstore. The audience was fewer than a dozen people.

Laurie King and Vinnie

Laurie R. King and me

It’s comforting at such moments to remember the six-degrees-of-separation theory–that everyone is connected, by six or fewer steps, with everyone else. A friend of a friend of a friend knows your friend… At some events, we might not sell a single book, but who knows where the connections might lead.

Last year, I was invited to join in Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries, a boxed set of 10 full-length books featuring murder and assorted mayhem by 10 authors. The collection offers 3,000 pages of reading pleasure for lovers of amateur sleuths, capers, and cozy mysteries, with a combined total of over 1700 reviews on Amazon, averaging 4 stars!

I am not nearly as well known as the other authors in this collection. I can only speculate how my name was thrown into the hat for this great, good fortune.

I could have been chosen for my scintillating personality. However, I suspect the invitation arose from my participation in some past event.

Sleuthing Women boxed set cover

There’s my Murder, Honey, all the way to the right

The initial contact about the boxed set came from Camille Minichino, a fellow member of the Northern California Chapter of Sisters in Crime. We first did an event together back in 2005, a book-signing fundraiser for a high school library! So maybe this current opportunity was set in motion on that long ago, and long April afternoon.

While Camille informed me of the project, if I were to lay a bet on how I came to be accepted in Sleuthing Women, it would be that I guest-blogged—twice—on Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers, the site of Lois Winston, organizer of the boxed set. I wrote decent pieces, met my deadlines, and persuaded others to visit the posts.

Guest blogging can seem like a dead-end with no obvious sales bump. On the other hand, in this case my participation may have pushed the first domino that led to my inclusion in Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries.

To go back to that sparsely attended high-school fundraiser, I shared a table that afternoon with Cara Black. Cara later became a very well known mystery writer, who supplied me with a blurb that I use on everything.

I could list for pages, the lackluster events that manifested valuable friendships and worthwhile connections. So even on those rainy evening book talks with five people in the audience, I give my all. You just never know which of those people might know someone who knows someone….

And now my participation in Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries has led to Sleuthing Women II: 10 Mystery Novellas. One thing leads to another.

What about you–have you ever had some seemingly mundane connection lead to something bigger? Do you believe in the six-degrees-of-separation theory?

Available now for just $.99 on  AMAZON    APPLE    KOBO    BARNES & NOBLE

Sleuthing Women II: 10 Mystery Novellas is a collection of ten mysteries featuring murder and assorted mayhem by ten critically acclaimed, award-winning, and bestselling authors. Each novella is a tie-in to an established multi-book series—a total of over 800 pages of reading pleasure for lovers of amateur sleuth, caper, cozy, and female P.I. mysteries.

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Her cozy noir mystery series, the Carol Sabala mysteries, is set in Santa Cruz, California.

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. 🙂 )

What Happened First (New Prequel Releases)

by Kassandra Lamb

Prequels to series or trilogies are becoming increasingly popular. As a reader, I usually enjoy them. It’s fun to read more about the characters’ back stories, to see them meeting each other for the first time, etc.

Not long ago, I decided to tackle writing a prequel. Vinnie Hansen has also recently written one for her series, and we’ve both encountered the same three questions from folks about the experience.

So we thought we’d answer them in a blog post.

1. What did you find the most challenging and the most fun about writing a prequel?

Kass Lamb:
Two things were both challenging and fun. One was imagining my characters as younger, more naive people. Normally as authors, we see our characters grow and mature. But in this case I had to go backward and imagine my protagonist as the young woman who would have grown into the Kate Huntington of the series (who is 38 when the series starts and almost 50 by Book 9).

Sweet Sanctuary book cover

At the moment, Sweet Sanctuary is only available to newsletter subscribers. You can sign up at my website.

This younger Kate is fresh out of graduate school, just getting her feet wet as a psychotherapist, and she is discovering that the young man she found boring in college maybe isn’t so dull after all.

The second thing that was both challenging and fun was keeping the technology stuff straight. The prequel is set in 1993. The Internet was in its infancy, personal computers were still a novelty (people actually had to look things up in phone books) and cell phones were big, bulky and expensive.

Vinnie Hansen:
I didn’t start Smoked Meat from scratch. I worked from a short story I’d written awhile ago. However, in the course of doing this, I realized I couldn’t just inflate what I had. It would burst!

Short as my novella is (10,000 words), it’s still three times the length of a typical short story.

My novella would need new stuff—a subplot, a twist. This challenge also provided the fun. I liked delving into the plot and thinking, “Oh, but this could happen . . ..”

2. Why/how did you decide to write a prequel?

Vinnie:
Last year, I was invited to include Murder, Honey, Book 1 in my Carol Sabala series, in the e-collection Sleuthing Women: 10 First-in-Series Mysteries. The anthology was a huge success. The editor decided to put out a follow-up collection, Sleuthing Women II: 10 Mystery Novellas, due out this fall. Each author was to contribute a novella related to her series in the first anthology.

I didn’t have a novella written, and I considered the series complete. My seven books create a satisfying character arc for Carol. A prequel seemed like the only logical choice for the new work.

Smoked Meat book cover

Smoked Meat is now available for preorder (can be read as a stand-alone)

That’s how I came to write Smoked Meat, which is available now for pre-order as a misterio press e-book. Please remember this is a novella, and a short one at that, so expect a mystery that seems like a very long short story.

Kass:
I wanted something fresh to use as a reward for folks who subscribed to my newsletter. I had been giving away the first of my Kate on Vacation novellas, shorter, lighter reads that have the same characters as the main series. But I wrote that novella, An Unsaintly Season in St. Augustine, between Books 4 and 5 of the main series.

In Book 1 of the series, Multiple Motives, (spoiler alert) Kate’s first husband, Eddie Huntington is the murder victim. By Book 4, Kate has remarried and has two kids. I felt it was a bit strange for readers who read and liked Book 1, signed up for the newsletter, and then found themselves reading this story set much later with some very different character dynamics.

Multiple Motives book cover

Multiple Motives is permafree on all ebook retailers.

It made more sense to give them a prequel that showed Kate and Eddie falling in love. But of course, I had to give them a mystery to solve as well. Thus the idea for Sweet Sanctuary was conceived, in which Eddie is the prime suspect when his date for the evening is found murdered.

3. Since these prequels were written last, not first, after all or most of the series were completed, at what point should a person read them?

Kass:
I think it would be ideal to read Sweet Sanctuary after having read Book 1, Multiple Motives, but before reading the rest of the series. But it would be fine to read it later, after having read more or all of the other books.

I definitely would discourage reading it first. Some of the references and characters will make more sense after one has read Book 1. For example, Kate’s best friend in Multiple Motives is lawyer Rob Franklin and their friendship, which grew out of a work relationship, is central to that story. In Sweet Sanctuary, Kate meets Rob for the first time when she is trying to find a lawyer to help her friend Ed Huntington. That scene has some humor in it that will be a lot funnier for folks who have already read Multiple Motives.

Vinnie:
Smoked Meat can stand on its own and be read at any point. Many readers will encounter my works through the two Sleuthing Women releases and will read Smoked Meat second. That’s fine, but not ideal.

I’d recommend that a person read the prequel either first or last, with a bias for last, the order in which they were written. Both Smoked Meat and the first book in the series take place at Christmas, although Murder, Honey is set in a later year. I’d like my readers to have some distance between one Christmas setting and the next.

Do you have other questions about writing prequels? As a reader, do you find them fun or annoying?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb and Vinnie Hansen.

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.

Vinnie is a retired English teacher and award-winning author. Her Carol Sabala mystery series is set in Santa Cruz, California.

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. 🙂 )

A Mystery Writer in Romance Land

by Kassandra Lamb

I went to the Romance Writers of America conference last week. Yes, I know I’m a mystery writer, but I went anyway, for four reasons.

Dolphin Disney Resort Hotel

RWA was at the Dolphin Disney Resort Hotel

One, I’d heard it was a great conference, regardless of your genre. Two, I have started adding more romance to my mysteries (some are true romantic suspense).

Three, it was in Orlando, just 2½ hours from my home so minimal travel expenses. And four, my delightful daughter-in-law, romance writer G.G. Andrew, was going.

I can’t say that I was a complete stranger in a strange land, but I did feel a tiny bit like the dolphins in the pic above, a fish out of water. No fault of RWA or the romance authors I interacted with. They were all great! Very friendly and upbeat.

Which brings me to the subtle differences between mystery and romance writers:

1.  Romance writers may be “bigger than life.”

There were lots of rather wild-looking and/or fun outfits, and more skirts and dresses than I’ve seen since I left corporate America about three careers ago.

Kass Lamb with DIL, romance writer G.G. Andrew

Me with my delightful daughter-in-law. Her dress is made to look like a watermelon wedge!

Not that most of said skirts/dresses would have been considered appropriate office wear. I saw unicorns and rainbows and you-name-it on many of them. My DIL wore a bright red, metallic-shiny skirt one day, quite short (trust me, not her normal attire) which she’d bought online from a Wonder Woman site. (Yay, Wonder Woman!)

Don’t get me wrong, there are just as many introverted romance writers as there are in the general writer population (i.e. far more than 50%), but many of them seem to be able to overcome that with a semi-flamboyant alter ego.

2.  Romance writers totally get that their stories are “fantasy” and their characters are “bigger than life.”

While we mystery writers are trying to come up with plausible explanations for why our main characters trip over a corpse every few months, romance writers have no problem with repeatedly creating alpha males with six-pack abs and a carefully hidden soft, emotional underbelly. They get it that their readers want to escape into a book and they aren’t afraid to admit it.

I found this refreshing, since a big part of the appeal of mysteries for me, during the years that I was a psychotherapist, was that they were as far away from my real life of listening to people’s heartache (all too often related to failed romances) as I could get.

3.  Romance writers embrace their tropes.

We mystery writers admit that there are certain “reader expectations” inherent in mysteries (e.g., the protagonist will be in heart-pounding danger at some point) but we tend to equate tropes with clichés.

Romance writers get it that their readers know all the tropes and expect them to be the basis of the stories they read. There was one workshop (one of the best, in my opinion) that was called “Twisting Tropes to Create High-Concept Stories.”

4.  Romance Writers of America embraces self-publishing.

There were several nominees for awards who were self-published, and some of them won the award.

No one batted an eye when a writer identified themselves as an indie author (as I did). This made me sad in a way, since Mystery Writers of America will not even let self-published authors join their organization. (Get with the times, MWA!)

5.  Romance writers respect all variations of their genre.

There didn’t seem to be any subgenres that were considered second-class citizens. Erotica was respected right along with Christian sweet romance, and everything in between. And they had awards for pretty much every one of those subgenres.

Not that mystery writers are snobs about subgenres, most of the time. But there is a little bit of looking down the nose sometimes at cozy writers. And thrillers seem to get a disproportionate share of the limelight, perhaps because they make better movies than a traditional whodunnit.

another cute dress

Another cute dress! (and her bright orange first-timer ribbon)

I found the romance writers to be very inclusive. No one reacted the least bit negatively when I identified myself as a mystery author who sometimes wrote romantic suspense.

I’m not sure which is the chicken and which is the egg but this attitude seems to be prevalent throughout RWA. The climate of the organization is inclusive and celebratory. Every writer is phenomenal and everyone is welcome at an RWA conference!

They even put a “first timer” ribbon on your badge so that people will be extra nice and helpful to you! The reputation for being a great conference for any writer, despite the genre, is well deserved.

I think this has been said before but I will reiterate:

Every great romance involves some suspense and every great mystery involves some romance.

The bottom line is that romance and suspense are at the heart of the human condition. We fall in love, despite our best intentions sometimes, and why we do that, or any of the other things we do, is often the greatest mystery of all!

Do you all like some romance with your mystery? What’s your favorite romance (or mystery) trope?

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. 🙂 )

Resistance to Commitment (Plus a New Release)

by Kassandra Lamb

As I said in my earlier post about fear of intimacy, we humans naturally crave connection to others. It’s in our DNA, because, as a species, we won’t survive without pooling our efforts.

Fear of intimacy’s kissing cousin is commitment phobia. And this is the obstacle that my protagonist in the Marcia Banks and Buddy series is struggling to overcome in Book #3, The Call of the Woof.

Like many folks with this phobia, she has a bad relationship in her history. Her first marriage was short-lived, never particularly happy, and ended with her ex-husband’s infidelity.

Another cause of commitment resistance can be having witnessed a bad marriage growing up. When all we’ve seen is two people making each other miserable, it’s hard to get behind the concept of a long-term relationship.

Some folks suffer from both of these extreme fears—being close to someone makes them very nervous and the thought of committing sends them into full-blown panic.

painting of jilted bride

Section of Eduard Swoboda’s The Jilted Bride, circa 1902, public domain

But others can do intimacy, just not commitment.

I had a boyfriend when I was twenty who suffered from a severe case of commitment phobia. He did intimacy quite well, but the thought of “being in a relationship” made him antsy. (His parents had a horrible, downright abusive relationship.)

He met me at a party and he pursued me, but the first thing he said once he was sure of my interest was, “Don’t get too attached to me. I’m planning to move to Colorado when my lease is up next year.”

I was in a place in my own life where an intimate but time-limited from the start relationship sounded okay.

But even that wasn’t enough to keep his demons at bay. After about six months, he broke up with me out of the blue, after telling me that he really cared about me but “this just isn’t working.” No other reason given.

After wracking my brain for days trying to figure out what went wrong, I called him. He was willing to get together and talk, and the short hiatus seemed to have calmed him. He readily, even eagerly, agreed to renew our relationship, but again reiterating that he would be gone in a few months.

And he was. When his lease was up, he packed his stuff in his car, kissed me goodbye and went off to Colorado to “find himself.”

I’m kind of proud of the fact that I let him go without a struggle. On some level, I knew that the only reason he could be close to me for that year was because there was no commitment. I got it that trying to build a life with him would have quickly backfired. (I wasn’t always that astute in my youth.)

About a decade later, I ran into his mother. She told me he’d been married just long enough to have a couple of kids and was now divorced. The marriage surprised me a little, the divorce not at all.

I still feel sad every time I think of this man, whom I suspect spent his life seeking intimacy and then rejecting it when it became coupled with commitment.

In Marcia Banks’s case, she is also okay in the intimacy area. It isn’t that hard for her to let Will Haines in initially (it isn’t easy, but she can do it). But from there on, she stumbles over every little step, even finding it difficult to say the L word for many months.

Commitment phobia usually results in one of two types of behavior:

1.  Sabotaging the relationship. As with intimacy fears, this is a common reaction, and it often operates on an unconscious level. This may come out as picking fights or ceasing to be reliable, i.e. not calling or showing up where one is supposed to be.

The best approach to this is gentle confrontation and trying to get one’s partner to talk it out.

But a word about psychological “blind spots”—issues an individual just isn’t yet willing to face consciously. It’s sad, but sometimes these blind spots have tremendous control over the person’s psyche and even love can’t budge them (as in my boyfriend’s case).

2.  Backpedaling, or dragging one’s feet. This is what Marcia does, and poor Will handles it well. He gives her time and figures out ways to take baby steps.

But he presses her some too, because he feels like they’re running out of time—he wants children, which is very much at the root of Marcia’s resistance. (You’ll have to read the story to find out about the creative way he nudges her forward.)

This can often be the best approach, a combination of patience with an occasional reminder that you would like the relationship to move forward.

Fortunately, my fictional character is trying to work on her commitment issues (more or less 😉 ). Check out her story below.

What commitment-phobia behaviors have you witnessed (or exhibited)? Have you ever known anyone like my ex-boyfriend who ONLY had commitment phobia but could do intimacy?

And here is the new book… Available for PREORDER Now! Releases 7/20/17!

Just 99¢ through 7/21/17

book cover

The Call Of The Woof, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Mystery, #3

Army veteran Jake Black has a new lease on life, thanks to service dog Felix and his trainer, Marcia Banks. Despite a traumatic brain injury, Jake’s able to ride his beloved motorcycle again, with Felix in the sidecar. But his freedom to hit the open road is threatened once more when he and his wife are accused of robbery.

Called in to dog-sit, Marcia can’t sit idly by. She and her mentor dog, Buddy, set out to clear the Blacks’ name, fighting misconceptions about bikers and the nature of TBI along the way. When murder is added to the mix, Marcia redoubles her efforts, despite anonymous threats and her sheriff boyfriend’s strenuous objections, both to her putting herself at risk… and to dragging him along on her wild ride.

AMAZON     APPLE     KOBO     NOOK

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. 🙂 )