A New Christmas Story

by Kassandra Lamb

Marcia invited me to let you know that I have a new Christmas novella out, A Mayfair Christmas Carol. It’s part of my Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mystery series, and it’s getting good reviews as a fun read. Great for when you need to take a break from holiday preparations!

~ Just $0.99 ~

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A Mayfair Christmas Carol, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Cozy Mystery, #4

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?

AMAZON      APPLE      NOOK      KOBO

HAPPY HOLIDAYS, EVERYONE!!

Kassandra Lamb is a retired psychotherapist/college professor turned mystery writer. She spends most of her time with her characters in an alternate universe, the magic portal to which (i.e., her computer) is located in Florida, where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her.

She is the author of the Kate Huntington mystery series, The Kate on Vacation novellas, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, plus a guidebook for novice writers, Someday Is Here! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing and Publishing Your First Book.

From Pantser to Plotter, or Maybe Plantser? #FabulousFridayGuestBlogger

Marcia asked me to share this post with you all. It’s one I wrote recently for the Alliance of Independent Authors, on the need to occasionally revisit the pantser/plotter question as we progress through our writing careers.

From Pantser to Plotter, or Maybe Plantser?

by Kassandra Lamb

For eight years, I’ve been a die-hard pantser. No outline, no character sketches… just sit down and write.

But now I’m going over to the other side, or rather straddling the cusp.

I’ll always be grateful for my pantser roots. I didn’t successfully finish a manuscript until I realized I was a pantser. For years, I’d write the beginning of a story, outline the rest and then the whole thing would languish in my hard drive. I’d lost interest. The story had already been told.

In 2009, I sat down to once again tweak the opening of a novel I’d been playing with for fifteen years. (Yup, fifteen years!) But I couldn’t find the outline. Somehow I’d lost the file. So I started writing, and six weeks later the first draft was finished.

cover of Multiple Motives

My first finished novel, 15+ years in the making. Now it’s the permafree first book in a 9-book series.

Now it’s 2017. That book, Multiple Motives, is the first in a nine-book mystery series, and I’ve recently released Book 3 in a new series. But in recent years, it’s been like pulling teeth to get through a first draft.

While writing this last story (The Call of the Woof; Woof for short), I finally identified the problem. My motives for writing have changed.

Initially, the ideas arrived, the words flowed, and I wrote for the sheer pleasure of seeing what happened next.

Then the first-drafting process became more challenging. My editor said it was because I was a better writer. My stories were more complex, my characters had more depth, etc. She’s probably right, but something else was happening as well.

More and more, I was writing to a schedule, especially after I started the second series. If too much time passes without a new release, sales droop. The pressure is on to pump out more stories to keep readers interested.

Don’t get me wrong, this is good motivation. How can you not want to produce stories for your adoring fans?

But it wasn’t the same. I still loved the writing process—when the words were flowing. But all too often they weren’t. Before, the scenes would unfold in my mind as I went along. Now, I’d get to the end of a scene and think “What’s next?” And no answer would come. Often that would be the end of new words for that day.

With Woof, as I got closer to the end and had a clearer idea of what scenes still needed to happen, the writing pace picked up. Instead of forcing out a few hundred words a day, I was breezing through several thousand.

The story was flowing and I was having fun again!

Then I thought about the next project coming up, and felt nothing but dread as I faced the void between the opening and the climax. So I experimented with outlining. While Woof was “resting” before the editing process, I did a bare-bones outline for that next story.

And I’m excited about writing it! Indeed, I found myself stealing an hour here and there to pluck away at it, when I was supposed to be editing Woof (and I love editing).

With the plot points already thought out that will get me through the murky middle, all I have to do is enjoy the flow of the words.

I doubt I’ll ever be a full-blown plotter with character sketches and beat sheets (not even sure what those are) and such. But if I have a better idea of where I’m going, I think I will get there a lot easier and faster in the future.

And have more fun doing it!

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Kassandra Lamb is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer who spends most of her time in an alternate universe with her characters. The portal to this universe, aka her computer, is located in North Central Florida, where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her.

She is the author of the Kate Huntington psychological mysteries, set in her native Maryland, a new series, the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, set in Central Florida, and a guide for novice authors, Someday Is Here! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing and Publishing Your First Book.

cover of book

This easy-to-read, how-to guide is full of both practical advice and emotional support. Psychotherapist turned successful mystery writer, Kassandra Lamb takes novice writers by the hand and walks with them on their journey, pointing out pitfalls along the way, some of which she discovered through stumbled-head-first-into-them experience.

From the decisions to be made before setting pen to paper to whether to submit to agents or self-publish, from the basics of writing craft to the nuts and bolts of copyrighting and ISBNs, from promotion strategies to the perseverance needed to make your writing business a success, this overview of the writing and publishing process is a must-read for new authors who aren’t sure what they’re getting themselves into.

 

The Call of the Woof, A Marcia Banks and Buddy Cozy Mystery, #ExcerptWeek

by Kassandra Lamb

I’m playing catch-up this week after traveling last week, so I need to go back and read everyone else’s excerpts. The few I’ve read so far were really great.

Here’s mine from my newest release, Book 3 in the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, about a woman who trains service dogs (Buddy is her mentor dog) for combat veterans with PTSD and other “invisible injuries.” In this book, the veteran, Jake Black suffers from traumatic brain injury. He and his wife have been accused of robbery because the culprits were seen leaving the scene of the crime on motorcycles that look like the Blacks’ bikes.

First the synopsis and then an excerpt from Chapter Three, when the police come to search the house and garage.

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Synopsis:

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.

Chapter Three:

Jake had a hand on Felix’s head, listing subtly in the dog’s direction. Jake was a big guy, but Felix was a big dog. His face and body were all Bulldog but his legs were longer, probably from some distant Labrador, or maybe a Weimaraner, in his family tree. He came up to Jake’s knee and had been trained to brace himself to take some of his master’s weight.

Most likely only Janey and I knew that Jake was using the dog to maintain his balance, which would have been a lot easier if the dog were wearing his specialized service vest with its stabilizer bar for Jake to grab.

I considered going inside to find the vest, but Jake’s body language had me worried.

His broad face was as red as I’d ever seen it. I was afraid he was about to have one of the “meltdowns” he’d told me about but I’d never witnessed. Anger control problems are common for people with traumatic brain injury.

The worry in Janey’s pale blue eyes said she had the same concern. Shoving shoulder-length blonde hair, frizzy from the humidity, behind her ears, she placed a restraining hand on her husband’s arm.

Jake shrugged her off. Not a good sign.

He snarled in the face of a dark-haired detective in an ill-fitting business suit. “I don’t care how many pieces of paper you got from some judge. How dare you come in here like a bunch of storm troopers…” He spluttered to a stop as Janey once again tugged on the arm that wasn’t using Felix for support.

He whirled on her—an even worse sign—and teetered dangerously on one foot.

Felix quickly shifted position and braced himself by spreading his legs. Once Jake seemed more stable on his feet, Felix leaned gently against his leg.

The maneuver, a type of deep pressure therapy, was meant to reduce anxiety, but it did little for Jake’s anger.

The firm look in Janey’s eyes did have an effect though. Jake froze, then took a deep breath.
“Come on inside,” she said softly. “Let Detective Wright and his men do their jobs.”

He patted her hand, just as the detective gestured to two deputies that they should head for the garage.

Jake pulled loose from his wife and followed as fast as he could, Felix keeping pace beside him. Detective Wright took off after him.

I followed in their wake, trying to decide whether I should report on the broken window in front of the officers or wait.

At the double-wide garage door, the detective gestured toward the big padlock and hasp on one side. “Unlock it.”

Obviously reluctant, Jake produced a ring of keys and removed the padlock, then unlocked a lock in the middle of the roll-up door. The thunk of metal bars releasing inside.

One of the deputies grabbed the bottom of the door and shoved it up, exposing the Blacks’ three motorcycles and the spotlessly clean workshop area.

A deputy began snapping pictures. “Bring in the trailer,” Detective Wright said to another one.

Janey had caught up with us, huffing a little from the extra weight middle age had bestowed upon her. Her peaches-and-cream complexion paled to ghost white at the detective’s words.

“Wha’?” Jake said, a bit slower to catch on to what was about to happen.

“We’re impounding the bikes.” Detective Wright waved impatiently at one of the deputies in the driveway.

Jake’s fists clenched. I could hear his teeth grinding from three feet away.

Both Janey and I jumped forward and grabbed his arms. Slugging a cop would not improve the situation.

Meanwhile, the detective was walking away, acting as if he hadn’t been about to get flattened by a six-two, two-hundred-forty-pound combat vet. He crouched down beside one of the bikes, the black one. Then he gestured to the deputy with the camera and pointed to the side of the bike.

Jake moved forward, dragging us with him.

My eyes followed the detective’s pointing finger to the rounded side of the gas tank, and a ragged long scratch in the black paint.

Jake’s mouth fell open. “No!” he yelled.

I gestured toward the broken window. “Maybe whatever broke the window hit it.”

Everybody’s gaze turned to me, then to the window.

“When did that happen?” Janey said, a touch of wonder in her voice that some rock would dare to penetrate her husband’s sanctum.

“Just before you all got here,” I said. “I checked the outside of the garage earlier and that window was fine. Then Felix started barking and I came out and checked again and…”

The detective was glaring at me. “And you are?”

I gulped a little. “Marcia Banks, dog- and house-sitter.” I told him what little more I knew, including about the guy getting into a white pickup, who might or might not have been hanging around the garage when I arrived.

He was a stony-faced audience but he did let me finish. And he did check the scratches around the lock on the side door, even had the deputy take pictures of them.

All this gave Jake time to calm down. That is until they began to load two of the motorcycles into the large trailer they’d backed into the driveway.

Again Janey and I grabbed his arms. “Let them take them,” she hissed in his ear. “We’ve got no choice.”

He let us hold him back while they loaded Janey’s red three-wheeled bike—she said it was called a trike. I realized that indeed we were only holding him with his permission when he suddenly shook us loose like we were an old shirt he was shedding. “Wait!” He stepped forward.

Felix was beside him in a flash.

I indulged in a moment of maternal pride. That’s my boy, doin’ his job!

Jake was pointing to the black leather bag on the side of his black bike, which was halfway up the ramp. “That’s not my saddlebag.”

The detective held up a hand and the two deputies who’d been rolling the bike up the ramp between them stopped.

Jake walked around the ramp to the other side, Felix practically glued to his jeans leg. “This one too. They’re not my bags.”

The detective stepped forward and made a show of examining the bag on our side. Then he snapped on blue latex gloves, like those the deputies handling the bike were wearing. He leaned forward, tentatively touched the end of what looked like scrape marks in the leather.

He held his finger up close to his face, rubbed it and his thumb together. A few grains of sand caught the sunlight as they drifted to the pavement.

He gestured to a third deputy. “Put a bag around all that.” He pointed to the saddlebag. “We need to analyze the sand.”

Now that he mentioned it, I could see some tawny grains embedded in the leather.

“That’s not my bag,” Jake said emphatically. “Janey get the photo from the living room.”

I knew which one he meant. I’d noticed three photos earlier, front and center on the mantel. Their wedding picture had caught my eye first, with Janey standing tall and proud, forty pounds lighter and drop-dead gorgeous. On the right of it was their daughter, Andrea, smiling and holding a high-school diploma, and on the left, Jake, fifteen years younger and grinning like a kid on Christmas as he stood next to a shiny black bike.

This bike in front of us.

Janey took off at a trot for the house. She was well padded, but she could move pretty fast when motivated.

Buddy and I should have followed. This really wasn’t my business. But I didn’t move.

Curiosity killed the cat. My mother’s voice in my head.

She had a point. My curiosity…okay, my nosiness, had gotten me into trouble more than once. I figured that if I were that proverbial cat, I had about four of my nine lives left.

Janey returned with the photo.

Jake grabbed it and stuck it under the detective’s nose, then threatened to take out said nose by jabbing at the picture with a large index finger. “There! Those are my bags.”

I craned to see but couldn’t make out more than a blur of black and tan, and the younger Jake’s big grin. My throat closed. Life hadn’t treated him all that well since then.

The detective looked at the picture and then at Jake. “Side bags can be changed.”

Then he broke Jake’s heart and endangered his own life by confiscating the photo.

 

Kassandra Lamb head shot

Writing and psychology have always vied for first place on Kassandra Lamb’s Greatest Passions list. In her youth, she had to decide between writing and paying the bills. Partial to electricity and food, she studied psychology. Now retired from a career as a psychotherapist and college professor, she spends most of her time in an alternate universe with her characters. The magic portal to this universe (i.e., her computer) is located in Florida, where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her.

She is the author of the Kate Huntington mystery series, The Kate on Vacation novellas, and the Marcia Banks and Buddy cozy mysteries, about a service dog trainer and her mentor dog, plus a guidebook for novice writers, Someday Is Here! A Beginner’s Guide to Writing and Publishing Your First Book.

Kass’s e-mail is lambkassandra3@gmail.com and she loves hearing from readers! She’s also on Facebook and hangs out some on Twitter @KassandraLamb. She blogs about psychological topics and other random things at http://misteriopress.com.

12 Crime Lab Tidbits

Taking Marica at her word. Here’s this week’s post at misterio press, which you all might find interesting.

12 Crime Lab Tidbits

by Vinnie Hansen

In March, I visited the Santa Clara Crime Lab because hey, that’s the kind of thing crime writers do on a lovely spring day.

My husband, Danny, went along. He enjoys police info, too. I guess you better if you’re married to a mystery author.

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We were disappointed to learn that we would not be able to traipse about the lab. Even though the event was advertised as a “virtual” tour, when Danny and I visited the FBI Crime Lab in San Francisco, our guide led us right up to the line of weapons waiting for rifling tests.

Read More…

 

Hope you feel better soon, Marcia!!!

 

To Write or Not To Write Short #amwriting

by Kassandra Lamb

Hi all!  Marcia and I thought you might find my guest post interesting. I’m over at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University today, talking about the pros and cons of writing short stories and novellas versus full-length novels.

Please check it out (and share if you are so inclined).

To Write or Not To Write Short?

a SomedayIsHere FINAL

Short stories, novellas, novels—what’s the best route to go as a fiction writer? Are there advantages to writing short?

This is a more complicated question than it may seem to be on the surface. There are several factors to consider:

● The definition of a short story vs. a novella
● The appeal of writing short for the author
● How readers feel about short stories and novellas vs. full-length novels
● The benefits of shorts for authors
● The bottom line: how much can you make off of shorts?

In order to give you more than just my take on writing short, I surveyed several authors from various genres. I’ve included their experiences along with my own, and in some cases, quoted them when they said it better than I could.

Definitions:

First let’s define our terms. A novel is considered to be full-length if it is at least 40,000 words. A novella is usually defined as 17,500 to 40,000 words. Technically, a short story is under 7,500 words.

There is this thing called a novelette that is 7,500 to 17,500 words, but the reality is that readers have rarely heard of this term. The 12K novelette I published several years ago is almost always referred to as a short story in reviews, and even my 25K novellas are sometimes viewed as short stories by readers.

So perhaps we should be defining short versus long differently. A “short” story, regardless of its length, is one with a simpler story arc, few if any subplots and simpler character arcs for its main character(s).

The Appeal of Writing Short:

To put it bluntly, it’s quick and easy… READ MORE

8 Tips for Short and Sweet Descriptions in Fiction #FabulousFridayGuestBlogger

by Kassandra Lamb

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While editing the book I’m releasing tomorrow, and especially while trying to pare down the scenes that beta readers and my editor said were dragging, I truly came to appreciate the importance of a finely honed description.

Descriptions in fiction are needed to ground the reader in the setting and allow him/her to visualize characters. But they can also bog down the pace and bore the reader if they are too long, and they can be jarring if they’re in the wrong spot. Today I’d like to share some thoughts about how to make descriptions concise and effective.

1. Why descriptions are so important. People’s brains tend to show a preference for one sense over the others when processing information, and which sense is in the lead varies from person to person. Some people are primarily auditory (30% of U.S. population); they process words and sounds far easier than what they see or sense in other ways. Others are primarily kinesthetic, i.e., movement and touch-oriented (3%). A rare few are primarily smell and taste-oriented. Continue reading

Making the Case for Indie AND Traditional Publishing (For Writers and Readers)

(Part II… again sharing here with Marcia’s permission. Did I leave anything out?)

by Kassandra Lamb

I envy writers under thirty. Not for their youth, but because they have never known a publishing world where indie publishing wasn’t a viable alternative.

But I’ve heard even some younger writers make comments that indicate they think indie is what you do if you can’t get a traditional publishing contract. In other words, it’s a second choice.

Actually, for some of us, it was a first choice.

And sadly there are a few traditionally published authors who like to judge indies from the other side of the fence. (See Part I of this series: Creativity, Sensitivity, Laziness and Courage.)

For the newbie authors out there (or those considering jumping the fence), I will try to spell out the differences between the two paths. Also, I want to mention the pros of each for readers, the most important people in this whole arena!

I will try to be balanced, but I’ll warn you all up front, I am biased toward the indie path, since that’s the one I chose. To help counter that bias I’ll let trad publishing go first. And I’m trying to stay positive by focusing on the “pros” of each (the cons are mostly implied).

K.B. Owen, one of my sister authors over at misterio press, generously offered the graphic she developed for a presentation on publishing she gave recently. It gives us a great jumping off point.

chart of pros of each

(Chart created by K.B. Owen, (c) 2016)

TRADITIONAL PUBLISHING PROS

Validation: The author can feel confident that their story idea is worthy and that their writing is good. Trad publishing gives it the stamp of approval of the industry.

For the reader, this means the odds are good that you will enjoy reading this book, that it will abide by the expectations for its genre and will only have the good kind of twists and turns, not the kind that leave you thinking “Huh?” or have you dangling off the edge of an unexpected cliffhanger.

READ MORE

Creativity, Sensitivity, Laziness and Courage

(Reblogging here with Marcia’s permission)

In which I make the point that it is horribly hard to send our “babies” out to agents and publishers, something I think is overlooked in the ongoing debate re: indie vs. traditional publishing… Would love to hear you all’s thoughts on the topic.

by Kassandra Lamb

Please note that this is not a post about the pros and cons of indie vs. traditional publishing per se (I will cover those in a later post). Rather this post is about the “between a rock and a hard place” spot where new writers often find themselves as they explore how to get their words in front of readers’ eyes.

The indie vs. traditional publishing controversy was resurrected in December, 2016, by a Huffington Post article with the rather obnoxious title, Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word? by Laurie Gough.

Quite a few indie authors immediately responded with some eloquent replies. And then the Alliance of Independent Authors published their New Year’s post: Successful Indie Authors 2016: Part One.

These two posts, along with the responding comments, represent the two sides of this controversy, but I noted that one thing was missing from the discussion. Indeed, I have never heard this point made during debates about the issue.

Creatives are, by definition, sensitive souls.

Van Gogh

One of Van Gogh’s self portraits, this one with a bandage where his ear once was. Creatives’ sensitivity sometimes leads to madness. (public domain)

It’s a cliché really—the tortured artistic poet/painter/musician/actor/author who drinks too much, uses drugs, suffers for their art with an angst-filled life, etc.

But like all clichés, this one has a kernel of truth at its core.

So why would we require that these sensitive souls endure months or years of rejection before they are allowed to show their work to the world?

The author of the Huff Post article calls literary agents and traditional publishers the “gatekeepers” of the written word. Indeed, that term is bandied about a lot in the world of trad publishing. The implication is that they are saving the unwashed masses of readers from bad literature by carefully vetting new works of fiction.

In addition to the implied insult to readers, the reality is that all too often these days agents and publishers are not always as concerned about the quality of a story as they are about whether or not they think it will sell.

That’s not just my perspective; I’ve heard agents say this at conferences. With regret in their voices, because they know good stories are being rejected and good writers are being discouraged by those rejections.

No one deals well with rejection. And the more important an achievement or some aspect of ourselves is to us, the greater the blow to our spirits if it is rejected… READ MORE

An Interesting Concept for Releasing a Series/Trilogy

One of my sister authors at misterio press is doing an all-at-once release of a new trilogy. Thought you all might be interested in how she’s doing it.

Binge Reading – No, It’s Not What You Think

by Kirsten Weiss

Call it the age of Netflix.

It’s spoiled us for the wait – no longer do we have to hang on an aching seven days to find out what comes next on our favorite TV show. With shows produced by Netflix, we can now binge watch the entire season over a weekend. (And yes, I’m guilty of this – Longmire! Stranger Things!).

So when I heard about “binge reading,” I decided to take the plunge with my new Doyle Witch cozy mystery series. Fortunately, my patient editors at misterio press were willing to take this journey with me, because a lot ended up happening in a short span of time.

The concept is simple – launch all the books in the series at once… Read More

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When & How Should Series End? — Guest: Kassandra Lamb

Hi, All! I’m guest posting today over at Jami Gold’s cyber home. She has an awesome following of authors for her writing oriented blog. Thought you all might be interested in this topic…

When (And How) To End A Series?

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I’m currently writing Book 9—what I thought would be the last book—in my Kate Huntington Mystery series (Note to my readers: don’t panic; I think I’ve changed my mind—more on this in a bit).

When a writer sets out to write a series, often there’s no set number of books in mind. The vague thought is that we’ll keep writing as long as readers are reading and we’re still coming up with story ideas.

But everything has to come to an end some time.

When Should We End a Series?

When should a writer stop a series? Here are my thoughts on possible reasons to say “the end,” based on my own ruminations about winding down the Kate series. Read more…