Emotional Vampires, Anyone?

My close friend and critique partner, Catie Rhodes, and I have been discussing personality types a lot lately. People are downright scary, but the emotional manipulator can cause havoc on you, and the worst part is they can ensconce themselves into your lives before you truly realize how toxic they can be.

Now, we’re all guilty of some type of manipulation. Every one of us has told a white lie of some sort to get what we want. The difference is, most of us knew it and hopefully felt bad about it later. This behavior is so embedded in the emotionally manipulator it’s a part of their personality they aren’t even aware of.

Types of Emotional Manipulators (taken from The Counselling Blog).

The Constant Victim – This kind of individual will always finds a way to end up as a victim in their relationships.

One-Upmanship Expert – This person uses put downs, snide remarks and criticisms, to show that they’re superior, and know much more than you.

Triangulators – This person tries to get other people on their side. They’re quick to put you down, and to say some nasty things. They separate good friends or drive a wedge in families.

The Projector – This person thinks they’re perfect and others have the flaws. They take no ownership – because they’re never, ever wrong.  

The Flirt – This person uses flirting to get their way in life. They want to be admired and to have an audience. However, your feelings and your needs are of no concern to them.

Spotting An Emotional Manipulator

So how do you spot an emotional manipulator? It’s tough, especially if they’re in your close circle of friends. And once you spot them, you’re stuck between the cliché rock and a hard place. Are they worth keeping in your life? That’s a decision only you can make.

But if you do decide to hang in there, make sure you don’t allow them to have control over your emotions. When the EM tries to twist you up, don’t allow it. Tell yourself their issues are about them, not you. If an EM deliberately baits you, for example trying to engage you in a debate they won’t allow you to win, don’t engage, no matter how much your pride demands.

Dealing With Emotional Manipulators

Emotional manipulators control the room temperature. Whatever an EM is feeling, whether they are down in the dumps or on cloud nine, the room atmosphere flows around them. And if it doesn’t, they will manage the situation until it does.

I’m sorry that happened, but here’s what happened to ME. You could have a death in the family that day, and the EM will find a way to up the anti and get the attention turned back to them. And to be honest, I don’t think it’s a conscious decision by many of them. It’s just a deeply ingrained behavior. And calling them on this is a mistake – see my next point!

Being honest with emotional manipulators is a waste of time. They’ll turn it around on you. Example: “I’m really upset you’d say I hurt your feelings. I’ve got a lot going on right now, and I didn’t want to burden you. But I’m really sorry.” Even worse, you’re suddenly apologizing to them. You feel like you’re getting a load of b.s., and you probably are. Trust your intuition, always.

It’s all your fault. No matter what the issue, EM’s can make you feel guilty for slighting them in the smallest of ways. And many times, the slight doesn’t even make sense until they’ve twisted it around so you’ve got nothing to argue against.

To Wrap It Up

The thing to remember with emotional manipulators is that we can’t control their behavior. We can only control our own. Don’t allow an EM to have so much power over you that your daily life is effected.

Check out The Counseling Blog for the full list of emotionally manipulative behavior, and visit the reference links below for more strategies.

Eight Ways To Spot An Emotional Manipulator

Protecting Ourselves Against Emotional Manipulators

An Examination of Emotional Manipulation

The Perfect Comeback For Your Passive Aggressive Friends (courtesy of Catie Rhodes).

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This bad mom is counting the days until school starts!

I know I’m lucky to get to be a stay at home mom. The sacrifices my hubby and I have made to raise our daughter, and later, for me to be able to write, have been worth it.

But I’m really friggin’ ready for school to start, and I feel totally guilty.


Enjoying the Justin Bieber concert in July.

I’ve tried to do as much as I could with her this summer. I’ve taken her to several movies. Our favorites were Star Trek: Into Darkness (she loves Chris Pine, too. Fabulous taste, just like her mother), Iron Man 3, and Despicable Me 2. We’ve seen several more, but those top our list. We’ve done the museum, the historical home, the park. I took her for a long weekend to visit friends in the Twin Cities and we hit the Minneapolis Museum of History and Como Zoo. Of course there’s swim team and various play dates. And oh yeah, that Justin Bieber concert in Des Moines that took ninety minutes between the second opening act and the “star” attraction.

I’ve done a lot with her – more than my parents were able to do with me. Hell, when we were kids, it was “go outside and entertain yourself.” I wonder why we’ve changed so much as a society. Kids dominate our schedules, and so many of them, like my own child, are so spoiled by STUFF and DOING THINGS that simple down time can be boring.

But I still feel as though I haven’t made enough time for her. And yet I am counting the days – 11! – until school starts. Which adds on to the guilty, of course.

Do other parents go through this for summer? What activities have you done with the kiddos to keep them entertained?

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Thriller Thursday: Can Psychopaths Be Cured?

Clinical psychologist and author Kassandra Lamb is talking about one of my favorite twisted subjects: psychopaths. She’s dealt with her fair share, and she has some great thoughts on whether or not they can be cured.

I’ve written a couple guest posts for my friend and colleague, Stacy Green, over at Get Twisted on the topic of psychopaths. In those posts, I talked about how they develop and how they are different from narcissists.

Another question people often ask is how treatable psychopaths are. Can they be cured?

The short answer is ‘No.’  But have you all ever known me to settle for a short answer.

Read the rest HERE!

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Is your eReader stealing your sleep?

As someone who is constantly searching for more sleep, I want to share this bit of information my doctor passed along to me last month.

I’d been having even more trouble sleeping than normal, waking up several times a night, and not just to go to the bathroom or because my shoulder ached. When I told my doc, she asked if I spent much time before bed in front of a backlit electronic device in a darkened room.

Um, yeah. I used my Ipad every night, watching various shows on Netflix. She told me there’s been a huge increase in sleep disorders over the past few years because of tablets, phones, etc. 

Why? Because staring at those backlit devices in the dark essentially triggers your brain into thinking it’s day time, and you wind up napping instead of sleeping. She said it’s fine to read before bed, but with muted lamp light. Don’t just rely on the back light of your eReader. Television in darkened rooms isn’t as bad because we aren’t sitting right on top of the TV.

I was skeptical but also desperate. So I gave up the iPad at night, and guess what? Within a few weeks, my sleeping returned to my level of normal. Now, if I’m on my computer at night, I make sure I’ve got the lamp on. Same with texting. An no iPad at bedtime. All of these changes have helped me a lot, and I wanted to pass them on to you all.

Do you use backlit electronic devices at night? Have you noticed trouble sleeping?

In totally unrelated news, TIN GOD received its 50th 5-star review and is featured with some elite company. THANK YOU!

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Why blogging is hurting authors–at least this one!

Blogging doesn’t sell many books. More books and word of mouth sell books, which is why I have really scaled back on my blogging. I simply don’t have time to write at the pace and quality I need to in order to be successful and put up a blog post every week. 

And I urge new, serious writers to do the same. Yes, the network I’ve built is wonderful. Yes, social media sells books–to an extent–but it is more about building an audience and engaging those people. And in this over saturated environment, blogging is becoming less and less effective. 

I know some will disagree, and that’s fine. We are all entitle to our opinions. I’ve been blogging over two years, and I am getting ready to publish my third book. I am certainly a work in progress, but I know what is working for me now and what isn’t.

I do think blogs work better for some genres than others. I think they are more effective for young adult readers simply because of lifestyle. But my target audience is a bit older and many don’t have time to keep up with blogs, FB, etc. 

For me, Facebook has been the best way for interaction with my readers, and even that is limited because of their parameters and, let’s face it, people are busy, busy, bust. So, unless you are a lucky duck with a bestselling book right out of the gate (and yay! if you are), your best bet is to spend as much time writing and working on your craft. More books, better quality books = more reviews and more readers.

I don’t believe indie authors will rise to compete with the quality (or sometimes, perceived quality) of traditional publishing unless we continue to hone our crafts and treat our writing as a business. That means in investing in editing, craft books if necessary, and great cover artists. 

And my goal as a writer is for each book to be better than the last, and to continue to earn great word of mouth by good reviews. 

Which means I will continue to keep the blog on the back burner. This summer I am editing the second Delta Crossroads book, SKELETON’S KEY, and I am also plotting two new ideas I am really excited about. 

I will continue to post the occasional Thriller Thursday, and you can absolutely stay updated with me on Facebook and Twitter. I’ll also be posting every few weeks on the misterio press blog, which is the amazing publishing co-op I belong to. 

So to wrap this up, I’d urge new authors who are being bombarded with the call to social media (and more experienced who may have fallen into the habit) to make sure they are spending the vast majority of their time and energy on their writing, period. 

That’s our best chance at success. Good luck!

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Thriller Thursday: Child Killer Released – Again

Remember this post about the two ten-year-old boys who led a toddler out of a Liverpool, England mall, tortured and eventually killed him?

One of those men is being set free. Again.

Jon Venables and Robert Thompson received life sentences after the horrifying 1993 murder, but were paroled in 2001. Like Mary Bell, they were given new identities so they could start their lives as adults. There’s no information on Thompson, but in 2010 Venables pled guilty to possessing and distributing child porn.

Guess what? Apparently that’s not enough for the parole board to consider him a threat to society. He’s been released again! Reports say it is unknown if he will get another new identity.

Again, like Mary Bell, these boys had to have serious mental issues to do what they did, especially at such a young age. I realize the laws are not set up to keep jailed minors beyond certain ages, but at what point do lawmakers decide those laws need to be changed? Will Venables have to abuse and/or kill more children for something to be done?

What do you think? Did Veneables, Thompson, or Bell deserve those new identities? What needs to be done with them now to protect children?

Thanks to Rhonda Hopkins for alerting me to this story!


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Measuring success and the title of bestselling author

Hi everyone! Life and writing have been taking up a lot of time lately. As some may know, TIN GOD had a recent sales success. I stopped by Crime Fiction Collective to chat about success and why I’m not a bestselling author.

That is a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately. My second novel, TIN GOD, recently became an Amazon bestseller. It was a wonderful, euphoric feeling, but I shun the idea of being called a bestselling author.

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Summer Book Crush! Great Reads for .99!

Hot sun, hot sand, cool drinks, dark tans. Ahhhh. But your summer won’t be complete until you land a new BOOK BOYFRIEND, right? Lucky for you, we’ve got you covered!


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SUMMER BOOK CRUSH offers 50+ titles in many genres. This means 50+ chances to (fictitiously) fall in love. And the best part? Each of these gems is only 99¢, but for a limited time only. The SUMMER BOOK CRUSH event starts on June 26th and ends (yes, even the best things in life end at some point) on June 28th. So don’t wait up! Mingle with our BOOK BOYFRIENDS and invite all your friends to participate too. There are plenty of BOOK BOYS to share!

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Find your summer’s fling between the pages of a book. And don’t stop on one – after all we have many BOOK BOYFRIENDS for you to mingle with.



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Thriller Thursday: Narcissist or Psychopath?

Welcome back to our resident psychologist, mystery author Kassandra Lamb. She’s got a great post for us today. Please be sure to leave her some love:)

Five Differences Between Narcissists and Psychopaths

Thanks so much, Stacy, for inviting me to Thriller Thursday.

One of my all-time favorite TV shows is Criminal Minds, but every now and then they tick me off. The other night, my husband and I were watching an episode (from Season Five) and the BAU team kept referring to the serial killer as a narcissist. Never once did they point out that he was also a psychopath.

What’s the big difference, you might be wondering. There are some pretty significant differences. In this particular Criminal Minds case, narcissism was the motive, but being a psychopath was what allowed the killer to ruthlessly murder random women to fulfill his narcissistic needs.

And no, this isn’t a semantic hair split.

First let’s clarify what narcissists and psychopaths have in common. They both have personality disorders (narcissistic and antisocial). This means that their unhealthy behaviors and attitudes are very deeply ingrained. They are part of their basic personalities.

Costanzi_narcissus_and_echo pub domain wiki

The term ‘narcissist’ comes from the Greek myth about a beautiful young man who fell in love with his own reflection in a pool of water.

Second they are both egocentric. They are very focused on themselves–their feelings, their needs, their desires. It’s all about them. Now to how they are different.

1.  Empathy: Psychopaths have none. They are incapable of experiencing and don’t care about other people’s emotions. Their own feelings, on the other hand, are all important. They view other people’s feelings as something to be manipulated.

Narcissists are so totally focused on their own feelings that they almost always miss the cues regarding others’ emotions, even when the other person tells them what they’re feeling.

“Honey, when you do such-and-such, that really hurts my feelings.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry, but…”

Narcissists can be masters at “yeah, butting” their way through a discussion of feelings. However, if you can get them to realize how their behavior is affecting someone else, they are capable of empathy. But you may need to smack them upside the head with a two-by-four a few times to get their attention.

2.  Remorse: Narcissists have a conscience; they feel guilt and remorse. Psychopaths do not.

Are narcissists capable of violence? Most definitely! A fair number of wife-batterers are narcissists. Are they capable of murder? Oh, yeah, especially in a fit of rage. They may even commit cold-blooded murder but they would have to be able to justify it to themselves, because they would feel remorse. They might tell themselves that the person didn’t deserve to live. Or they wouldn’t have gotten hurt if they’d just done what they were told to do, say in an armed robbery situation gone bad.

The psychopathic killer doesn’t have to rationalize to appease their guilt, because they don’t feel any. They may even get off on the power that violence gives them over others.


Narcissists crave being the center of attention. Photo by Thore Siebrands, CC-BY-SA 2.0 Wikimedia Commons

3.  Can they change?  Narcissists, maybe. Psychopaths, extremely unlikely. Because narcissists are capable of empathy and remorse, once you get their attention, they may be motivated to change. But personality disorders, by definition, are very hard to ‘cure’ because they are so deeply ingrained in the person’s basic make-up.

I have ‘cured’ a couple personality disorders in my career as a psychotherapist, one of them a narcissist. And I know firsthand of another case of narcissism where there was considerable change. This latter case was the husband of one of my clients. (Note: I have changed several details in this story to protect confidentiality.) Over the first couple years of their marriage, his behavior became increasingly emotionally abusive. His new wife told him repeatedly that this was not okay. Finally she’d had enough. While he was at work one day, she moved out. He came home to a completely empty apartment–no wife, no furniture, no dog. That was the two-by-four upside his head!

He begged her to come back to him but she stuck to her guns. (I was very proud of her.) He agreed to go into therapy but she still wouldn’t move back. They remained separated for almost a year while he worked with a therapist and they saw a couples counselor together. After she moved back in, he continued in therapy until he had healed from the childhood experiences that had warped his personality development in the first place. Last I heard from them, this couple was still happily married.

I have never heard of an actual case of antisocial personality disorder (i.e, a psychopath) being cured. The best a therapist may accomplish–and this is a long shot–is to get the person to change some of their behavior by convincing them that behavior is not in their own best interests. In other words, it’s still all about them.

While psychopaths may very well be loners.

While psychopaths may very well be loners.

4.  The underlying emotions and motivations: Both narcissists and psychopaths come from bad childhood situations, often with some kind of abuse. The outcomes of these experiences are different however. Narcissists are riddled with self-doubt. They are trying to build themselves up to compensate for this. They are needy little kids in adult bodies who put on a false and often arrogant front.

Psychopaths genetically start out with different wiring (see my previous guest post, The Making of a Psychopath). They have more difficulty feeling remorse and empathy than other children do. Add to that a bad home environment and what little bit of these feelings they were capable of is drummed out of them.

They certainly aren’t confident people but they aren’t blatantly concerned about their self-image either. They usually lack introspection. They really don’t think about it.

5.  Seeking attention/adoration vs. seeking thrills: Narcissists care what others think of them. They may cover this up with false bravado but they really want praise and adulation. They are often braggarts, exaggerating their own accomplishments while envying others’ success.

A psychopath may also be full of themselves and they aren’t going to tolerate anything that strikes them as a putdown, but for the most part they don’t give a flying you-know-what about what others think of them. Their showing off or bragging is more about power. They are getting off on feeling superior to others, and especially if other people are afraid of them.

Another problem with the psychopath’s initial wiring is that his/her (more often his) nervous system is under-responsive to stimulation. It takes a lot to get them excited. Normal everyday life, that makes most of us feel fairly happy, is totally boring and leaves them feeling dead inside.  They’re constantly seeking high levels of stimulation–the adrenaline rush, the thrill that will make them feel alive for a little while.

I’ve had narcissists vs. psychopaths on the mind lately because a key character in my latest novel is a recovered narcissist. He is a former client of psychotherapist Kate Huntington and when she first started working with him years ago she thought he might be a psychopath. (The line between the two is fuzzy sometimes.) After a lot of hard work in therapy, he transformed himself into the person he wanted to be and built the good life he’d always wanted.

And then his past comes back to haunt him. He meets a man at a party whom he used to know years ago, by a different name and under very different circumstances.

I hope I’ve intrigued you enough to check out the book. And then feel free to ask any questions you may have about narcissists vs. psychopaths.



When a former client reaches out to psychotherapist Kate Huntington and reveals a foreign diplomat’s dark secret, then dies of ‘natural causes’ just days later, Kate isn’t sure what to think. Was the man delusional or is she now privy to dangerous information?

Soon she discovers her client was totally sane… and he was murdered. Someone is now trying to eliminate her, and anyone and everyone she might have told. Forced into hiding, she and her husband, Skip, along with the operatives of his private investigating agency, struggle to stay one step ahead of a ruthless killer. Skip and his P.I. partner are good investigators, but this time they may be in over their heads… and they could all end up drowning in a sea of international intrigue.

(This book is part of a series but is designed to work quite well as a stand-alone.)




Barnes and Noble


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Thriller Thursday: The excitement of plotting

Yes, you read that right. First, instead of talking about true crime today, I’m going to talk about something that is thrilling to me. And today, that’s the power of plotting. Pansters, don’t leave! I promise there is something for you in this post.

When I started writing INTO THE DARK, I was a true pantster. I had no idea where the story was going, and it was only when I really started studying story structure that I started seeing the value of plotting. But I still clung to the belief that I couldn’t be inspired if I didn’t write by the seat of my (too big) pants.

And then TIN GOD came along, and I had 987 ideas and my critique partner Catie Rhodes introduced me to Scrivener. If you haven’t tried it, definitely check the program out. For the organizationally challenged like me, it is a Godsend.

TIN GOD is the first book I tried to plot. I really did have my own version of an outline…which changed about 10 times as I wrote. And that was all right. I was still learning structure and how to use my ideas efficiently. The second Delta Crossroads Book, SKELETON’S KEY, just got delivered to the developmental editor, and while I managed to mostly stick to the loose outline, it was also a story that sort of raged out of me in about three months total.

Which brings me to my current WIP. It’s going to be different than anything I’ve attempted. It’s a thriller and a time slip novel, meaning there will be scenes set in the past, and the subject matter(s) are delicate. The plot is the most intricate I’ve ever attempted.

I had to plan this book out, because by now, my control freak tendencies have crept into my writing and will not be ignored. I’ve read a lot of plotting books, including Scene and Structure, but I still struggled with how to full visualize my story before I started writing. Again, at the prodding (almost always gentle) of my critique partner Catie Rhodes, I studied Patti Larsen’s method. If you don’t know Patti, she is a prolific writer (30 books in something like two years, and they are good!) and great teacher. Her method is easy to understand and was a huge lightbulb moment for me.

But I also had to make it my own. I started out with my notebook and wrote down idea after idea, slowly fleshing out each character. Then came the plot ideas. What if this, and what if that? A lot of them were chucked out. A few were kept. Over and over, narrowing it down. I started this journey at the end of April and today, I have a 43 scene detailed synopsis. When I say detailed synopsis, I mean I know what the arc is of each individual scene, what the high points are, which ones have the key symbolism that plays into the plot, etc. Catie’s read the synopsis, we made some changes, and now I am fine tuning.

The benefit of having this synopsis is that we can see plot issues before we even start writing! Now, that doesn’t mean that more won’t pop up–that’s inevitable. But hopefully, we can catch the worst offenders now.

A year ago, I would have said this would never work for me, that the scenes would be flat and uninspired with so much early planning. Maybe that was true then, but it isn’t now. I’ve also been doing a lot of craft studying, and if you haven’t read Donald’s Maass’s Writing 21st Century Fiction, do it now. There is much to be learned from that book, for writers of any stage. As I’ve developed as a writer, my process has changed, and it changes for each book. I can’t tell you exactly how I got to this point for the WIP, and I probably won’t be able to replicate it for the third Delta Crossroads book. And that’s okay, because writing is ever evolving. Point is, we as authors need to be willing to learn and change. Just like a child, every book we write has different needs.

The point of this post? To tell you that I am SO FREAKING EXCITED to have this synopsis. Going this route has been perfect for me, and it will enable me to write slower, focus more on the nuances and micro-tension of each scene. I’ve gone from feeling as though I were flailing around like a decapitated chicken to being just a bit cocky about my plans for this book.

So there’s my thrilling story. Thrilling to me, anyway. I feel as though I’ve turned a corner with my writing, and I’m excited to see what’s down the road. And if you’re a panster, I’m not saying give that up and start plotting ahead. Just be flexible. Let the book tell you how it needs to be written.

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