KASSANDRA LAMB – To Bark or Not To Bark – K9s for Veterans

In her youth, Kassandra Lamb had two great passions—psychology and writing. Advised that writers need day jobs and being partial to eating, she studied psychology. Now retired from a career as a psychotherapist and college professor, she spends most of her time in an alternate universe populated by her fictional characters. The portal to this universe (aka her computer) is located in Florida, where her husband and dog catch occasional glimpses of her.

Service dog trainer Marcia Banks tackles a locked room mystery in a haunted house. She has trained a dog to clear rooms for an agoraphobic Marine who was ambushed during combat. But the phantom attackers in his mind become the least of his troubles when Marcia finds his ex-wife’s corpse in his bedroom, with the door bolted from the inside.

All my books are mysteries, but I like variety, so I tend to explore different subgenres. I have one completed series of traditional mysteries, one series of cozy mysteries that is winding down, and I have started a new series of police procedurals. I’ve also written some romantic suspense stories under the pen name of Jessica Dale.

We hear of strong-willed characters. Do yours behave, or do they run the show? Some behave, but many do not. My main characters tend to behave most of the time. An exception was the main character of my cozies, Marcia Banks (pronounced Mar-see-a, not Marsha). I originally gave her a few neuroses, so she’d have some things to overcome during the course of the series. The main one was a longing to “be normal,” as she had been teased as a kid over her name and because she was a pastor’s kid. Plus, she’s licking her wounds after a short but disastrous marriage. But then she decided to throw a strong resistance to commitment into the mix, which drove her love interest a bit crazy for a very long time.

Minor characters often assert themselves and insist on bigger parts in the stories. I had two minor characters do this in my Kate Huntington series. One, Skip Canfield, wooed his way both into Kate’s heart and into a main character role.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? I use some of both. If I’m only going to have good things happen in a location, I’ll probably use a real place. The last two of my series are set in Florida, where I live now. Locals get a kick out of seeing a location name and being able to say, “I know where that is,” or “I’ve been there.”

But if I’m going to have negative things happen, such as corrupt cops, I make up a location. I’ve added three fictitious counties and a fictional city to the Florida map, so far.

What is the best book you ever read? Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine, by Bebe Moore Campbell. It is set in the 1960s and 70s when I was a teen and young adult, and it addresses race relations in a very human way.

Ms. Campbell captured the thoughts, feelings, and internal conflicts of all of her characters, including the extremely bigoted white males! She handled the multiple points of view so well that I was inspired to try that approach in my Kate Huntington series. (I’ve since switched to one point of view, usually first person, in most of my stories.)

What are you working on now? I’ve started a series of police procedurals, and I’m really enjoying that new challenge. The protagonist was a secondary character in my Kate Huntington series, a homicide lieutenant who becomes increasingly frustrated with big-city politics (the Kate series is set in the Baltimore area) and with riding a desk instead of being out on the street. Judith Anderson takes a job as Chief of Police of a small city in Florida, figuring if she’s in charge, she can be more hands-on. In Book 1, Lethal Assumptions, she’s only eight days on the job when she finds herself chasing a serial killer.

I’m currently writing the first draft of Book 2, Fatal Escape, which deals with human trafficking and domestic abuse. But since I’m used to writing cozies (which are supposed to be “clean”), I’m trying to keep the gore and swearing to a minimum. I don’t want to offend my loyal readers.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I usually do, especially in a full-length novel. Often the subplot is about the main character’s love life. My favorite kind of subplot, though, is one that ends up tying into the main plot at the end of the story.

In Fatal Escape, Judith’s love interest is the sheriff of the next county over. She calls him Sheriff Sam inside her head. She already has a drowning case on her plate—that could be a suicide or murder—when she gets a call from Sam to come to a murder scene on the boundary line between their two jurisdictions. They have a funny little back-and-forth in which each is trying to give the case to the other one.

Sam finally takes the case since Judith’s already got her hands full. But later, it turns out that the two cases are linked. I won’t say more for fear of spoilers, but I can hardly wait to write the chapter in which they make the connection. Every time I think about it, I want to rub my hands together and laugh diabolically.

Landing Page link https://misteriopress.com/bookstore/to-bark-or-not-to-bark-a-marcia-banks-and-buddy-mystery/

WEBSITE: https://kassandralamb.com

FACEBOOK:  https://www.facebook.com/kassandralambauthor

INSTAGRAM:  https://www.instagram.com/kasslamb/

BOOKBUB PROFILE:  https://www.bookbub.com/profile/kassandra-lamb

Buy Links:

AMAZON:  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B3WNQY1Z

NOOK: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/to-bark-or-not-to-bark-a-marcia-banks-and-buddy-mystery-kassandra-lamb/1141653124

APPLE:  https://books.apple.com/us/book/id6442979080

KOBO:  https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/to-bark-or-not-to-bark-a-marcia-banks-and-buddy-mystery

GOOGLE PLAY:  https://play.google.com/store/books/details?id=UHh4EAAAQBAJ

FACEBOOK

Cozy Mystery Book Promotion  –  https://www.facebook.com/groups/411905245685888/

Get Cozy with a Cozy Mystery – https://www.facebook.com/groups/6187961084/

Cozy Mysteries 24/7 – https://www.facebook.com/groups/329691697186568/

Murder and Mayhem Cozy Mysteries – https://www.facebook.com/groups/170170699796894/

Cozy Mystery Blogger & Author Promotion – https://www.facebook.com/groups/703842223009480/

8 Comments

  1. Donnell Bell

    I’m digging into To Bark or Not Bark tonight. I’m excited to read about the corpse inside a locked room, and very excited to read your police procedurals.

    Reply
  2. Jackie Layton

    Police procedurals sound fun!

    Reply
  3. Vinnie Hansen

    My friends are conjoining here. Kassandra, meet my Drop-In writing friend, George. George, meet my misterio press cohort, Kassandra.

    Candace, I’m also not a big cozy reader but I’ve enjoyed what I learned about dogs and training dogs in this series.

    Reply
  4. Valerie

    I’m in awe that you can do multiple genres. I’d never be able to write cozies because I can’t keep my characters from using the f bomb. LOL. Thanks for the interview, both of you. Loved learning more about my SinC sister.

    Reply
  5. Candace

    Enjoyed the interview. I feel inspired to sample all your sub genres. I’m not a cozy fan, but I am a dog fan.

    Reply
  6. Michael A. Black

    It sounds like you’re adept at blending your knowledge of psychology into your writing. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Kassandra Lamb

      Thanks, Michael. And thank you for stopping by!

      Reply
  7. Kassandra Lamb

    Thanks so much, George, for having me over to chat today!

    Reply

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ELLEN KIRSCHMAN, PhD. – Public Safety Psychologist – Author

Ellen Kirschman, PhD. is an award-winning public safety psychologist and author of I Love a Cop: What Police Families Need to Know, I Love a Firefighter: What the Family Needs to Know, lead author of Counseling Cops: What Clinicians Need to Know, and four mysteries, all told from the perspective of police psychologist Dr. Dot Meyerhoff. She blogs with Psychology Today and is a member of Sisters-in-Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and the Public Safety Writers Association.

Thanks, George, for inviting me back just in time for the December 12th launch of my latest, never-before-published fourth Dot Meyerhoff mystery—The Answer to His Prayers—and my first venture into the world of independent publishing.

Poor Dot is in trouble again. She’s trying to plan her wedding to Frank when a 911 dispatcher takes the worst call of her young life. As Dot helps track down the possible arsonist, she proves herself a sensitive yet doggedly persistent sleuth—even when ordered to mind her own business. The case drags her through the seedy underbelly of her small town and finally to the local prison where she meets the imprisoned puppet master Badger, who is an unexpected acquaintance from her past. Badger believes Dot is the only one who can help him get what he wants most in life—contact with a son he’s never met. Stopping at nothing, including kidnapping, his efforts to bend Dot to his will endangers Dot and everyone she loves.

Crime is not the only thing on Dot’s mind. Her anxiety about getting married is causing rifts in her relationship with Frank. Memories of her family and her first marriage are overwhelming, prompting Dot to start therapy with Dr. Philipp Rogoff. Their relationship is contentious. Dot thinks Rogoff doesn’t know what he’s doing. Rogoff thinks Dot is resistant to his advice and only pretending to want help.

I had a good time writing this book, especially the dueling relationship between Dot and Dr. Rogoff. Therapists make the worst clients. Ask me; I’ve been on both sides of the couch. I loved writing about Rivka Meyerhoff, Dot’s plucky widowed mother. Rivka’s rants about anti-Semitism are timely, given the recent rise in hate crimes against Jews. Even though I am Jewish, writing and thinking deeply about what it means to be Jewish in the modern world is a first for me. I have written about religion before. Buddhism is at the heart of The Fifth Reflection, as the mother of a missing child cloaks her pain with kindness, frustrating the police who need her cooperation to catch the abductor.

What I’m Working on Now: Moral choice and moral pain are themes in many of my books, including my WIP, a standalone that is taking up a lot of my time. The provisional title is Call me Carmela. It’s the story of a young girl searching for her birth parents. What she discovers will destroy one family and heal another. The theme is courage: The courage to let go of someone you love, the courage to overcome trauma to help someone who needs you, and the courage to pursue justice, no matter the cost.

For the first time ever, I joined NaNoWriMo with my buddy, Anne Gelder, author of much short fiction and the enchanting, off-beat novel, Bigfoot and the Baby. Another first, I joined up with a NaNoWriMo sub-group of the NorCal Sisters-in-Crime chapter. About ten of us, including our blog host George Cramer, met online almost every day for a short chat and shared writing time. It was more helpful than I anticipated. It helped me stay on track, kept me accountable, and reduced the isolation that is part of any writer’s life. These groups will continue after NaNoWriMo. I intend to keep on going.

Another first is the entrance into the world of independent publishing. When my traditional publisher rejected The Answer to His Prayers, I decided to get my rights back so that I could publish the series all under one roof. I am working with an online marketer. All four books are now available as eBooks on Amazon, with a boxed set coming in January. So far, so good. The first book in the series, Burying Ben, was a #1 best seller in the Kindle Store, Literature & Fiction, Women Sleuths, Police Procedurals, and Jewish American Fiction. The others are also doing better than ever before. Stay tuned to see where this heads.

Thanks again, George, for the opportunity to vent, crow, and indulge in SSP. I am happy to assist my fellow writers with any questions they may have about police psychology, PTSD, psychotherapy, self-publishing, etc. Your readers can follow my occasional blog on Psychology Today or sign up for my occasional newsletter at www.ellenkirschman.com. New signers get a copy of my mini-memoir about my short-lived career as a dance hall hostess.

28 Comments

  1. Lisa Towles

    Great interview, George and Ellen, wonderful to hear more about your milieu and your forthcoming projects! #inspiration

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Thanks Lisa. Good luck with your launch of 95, it’s really a good read.

      Reply
  2. Vinnie

    Good books. I look forward to reading the fourth, Ellen.

    Reply
  3. Thonie Hevron

    I’ve read all your books and am eagerly awaiting the new one! Happy Holidays, Ellen. Hope to see you next year at PSWA.

    Reply
  4. Marilyn Meredith

    This was a wonderful post. So glad to see what you’ve accomplished. I too hope you can come to the next PSWA conference. Also wondered about your independent publishing experience and your online marketer. Would be a great panel topic.

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Hi Marilyn
      I am waiting to see how being an indie works out. So far, so good. Fingers crossed we’ll both be at PSWA.

      Reply
  5. Joseph Bryce HAGGERTY Sr

    I’ve read I Love A Cop and Burying Ben. That means I’ll be reading more of your books because I enjoyed those two so much. I Love A Cop was very insightful and made me see things I hadn’t seen before in my 41 years in law enforcement. Keep up the great work you do as well as your writing.

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Hi Joe- what a compliment coming from you, such an experienced LEO. I’m blushing.

      Reply
  6. Ellen Kirschman

    Hi Vicki: thanks for reading and writing. So nice to meet new readers.

    Reply
  7. Ellen Kirschman

    Hi Margaret: Thanks for your wishes. I do hope our paths cross in person some day.

    Reply
  8. Heidi Noroozy

    Ellen, your WIP sounds intriguing! I’ll look forward to reading it. I’m also glad you will continue with the SinC Norcal drop in writing lessons. They help keep me on track!

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Hi Heidi
      Our online writing groups are fun and helpful. See you soon. I’ll miss all next week, but I’ll be back.

      Reply
  9. John G. Bluck

    Thank you for the interesting write-up about your books. I’m wondering if in your writing process you purposely pit different psychological types of persons against one other. Or do you just rely on your inner muse to guide you when creating characters?

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Hi John- interesting question. A combo of experience, inner muse, research, and an eye for individual differences.

      Reply
  10. John Schembra

    Congrats on your new release, Ellen! I’ll be checking our your books!

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Hi John
      Thanks so much. Hope to see you at PSWA next year.

      Reply
  11. Vicki Batman

    So interesting to learn about you.

    Reply
  12. Vicki Weisfeld

    She manages to weave current issues into these books in what sounds like a most effective way. Her WIP also sounds fascinating! The whole “birth parent” question is becoming increasingly complicated!

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Thanks Vicki. Things are getting more complicated every day.

      Reply
  13. Margaret Mizushima

    Ellen, congratulations on becoming a hybrid author. I know this transition has been a lot of work, and I wish you all the best. I hope we get a chance to meet at a conference sometime, and I look forward to reading your new book! Happy Holidays, blessings, and peace.

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Hi Margaret: Thanks for your good wishes, I need all those I can get. Hope our paths cross in person in the near future.

      Reply
  14. Michael A. Black

    Good to hear about your latest writing ventures, Ellen. I hope to see you at the next PSWA conference. Good luck with your new one.

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Thanks Mike. I share your hopes to meet up again at PWSA. Good luck with your new book as well.

      Reply
  15. Donnell

    My goodness, there are so many books I would love to own as a result of reading this blog. Thank you, George, for hosting Ms. Kirschman. I plan to look over her long list of books.

    Reply
    • Ellen Kirschman

      Thanks Donnell. All four in the series will be available as ebooks on 12/11. Some may even be free!

      Reply

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