Life at Warp 10

It’s Okay to Be Angry

AvengersBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Too often we’re made to think that anger is a negative emotion, one we should avoid because it’s weak or shows a lack of self-control.

You can see it in The Avengers in the way Dr. Bruce Banner is treated. His character is a personification of anger. If Banner gets angry, he turns into a giant green monster capable of breaking an entire city. 

When we first meet Banner in The Avengers, he’s working as a doctor in the slums of Calcutta. S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Natasha Romanoff tricks him into coming to a deserted hut on the edge of the city. The hut is secretly surrounded by snipers just in case Banner loses control.

Banner ducks inside, and she steps out of the shadows.

“For a man who’s supposed to be avoiding stress,” she says, “you picked a hell of a place to settle.”

Banner turns around. “Avoiding stress isn’t the secret.”

“What’s the secret then?”

Banner doesn’t tell her how he’s managed to go a year without turning into the Hulk, and throughout the movie, that becomes the question.

The others either tiptoe around him, try to provoke him to expose his “secret,” or they take protective measures in case he does get angry. (Measures that include a giant cage that will drop him from the sky.)

We treat anger the same way in our lives. We block it off, pretend we aren’t angry when we are, or try to learn techniques and tricks to keep from getting angry.

But the secret isn’t to keep from becoming angry.

At the end of the movie, the Avengers line up to fight the alien army set to invade earth.

“Dr. Banner,” Captain America says, “now might be a really good time for you to get angry.”

Banner strides toward the aliens. “That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always angry.”

Everyone thought that Banner had discovered some way to keep from getting angry and that was how he prevented himself from becoming the Hulk.

The truth was he hadn’t purged his anger. He’d learned how to control it. By the end of the movie, he’d even learned how to harness it and redirect it for good.

Feeling angry isn’t wrong. Anger is merely an emotion. Sometimes it can even be healthy if we’re angry over injustice or true evil. And denying it or hiding it won’t make it go away.

It’s what we do with anger that matters. (Click here if you’d like to tweet that.)

Do we allow our anger to hurt and destroy? Or do we channel it into righting wrongs?

It’s the difference between a father who goes out and murders the drunk driver who killed his only daughter and a father who finds a way to bring about stricter punishments for drunk drivers and establishes a safe ride program in his town. Both were justified in their anger. But one used it for evil while the other used it for good.

It’s the difference between saying something cruel back to a person who’s hurt our feelings and using that anger to remind us how not to treat other people.

It’s the difference between screaming at our spouse because we feel like they never help us around the house and letting that anger be our cue that it’s time to have a painfully honest talk about weaknesses in the marriage that we need to work on.

What do you think? Is it alright to get angry? Or should we work on trying to purge ourselves of anger?

If you like suspense, I hope you’ll take a look at my ebook Frozen (it’s only 99 cents). Twisted sleepwalking. A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag. And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

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I Miss Old-Fashioned Values

Captain America The First AvengerBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Avengers: Age of Ultron comes to theaters this Friday, and because of that, I thought I’d take a look at some of the lessons hidden in the first movie. A couple of the posts I’m going to share in this Tuesday series are flashbacks (I posted them when the original Avengers movie released), but I’m going to be adding a few new ones as well. Hopefully, I’ll find as many gems in the second movie as I did in the first. So here we go…

Do We Need to Be a Little More Old-Fashioned?

If you woke up one day to find that 70 years had passed, would you be excited or would you mourn for lost friends and family and the way of life you’d known?

When we meet Steve Rogers again in The Avengers, he’s still struggling with this very thing. Back in 1942, a special serum turned him into Captain America, and in the middle of fighting a rogue group of Nazis known as Hydra, he accidentally ended up in suspended animation. He wakes up in the “present day.” The world has changed a lot since 1942.

Not surprisingly, Steve feels like he and his values are obsolete. He doesn’t understand Tony Stark’s cavalier attitude or circumvention of the rules, or Bruce Banner’s scientific mumbo jumbo, or any of the pop references the others make (except for one about flying monkeys—and he’s almost pathetically excited about finally “getting one”).

It doesn’t look like there’s much that can break up the gloom surrounding what should be a golden boy character. But on their way to the flying ship, Agent Coulson tells Steve that they’ve updated his Captain America costume.

“Aren’t the stars and stripes a little old fashioned?” Steve asks.

Agent Coulson looks him straight in the eyes. “With all that’s going on in the world, people might want a little old fashioned.”

Throughout the movie, Steve comes to realize that Coulson was right. People are starting to not only want a little old-fashioned, we’re starting to need it.

And it’s not about the evils of technology. Technology isn’t evil. It’s not about needing to reconnect with nature and unplug. It’s not about retro becoming the latest fashion trend or collecting records or bottle caps.

It’s about reviving some old-fashioned values. I suspect that, like me, a lot of people long for the return of some of the things we’ve lost.

I’m only 30, but when I was a child, stores in my town were closed on Sundays. Was it an inconvenience if you wanted to buy something? Yes. But didn’t we always manage to survive until Monday? And wasn’t that a small price to pay to give everyone a day of rest, a day focused on friends and family?

I miss the idea of a day of rest. And a 40-hour work week that gave you enough income to live off of. Not only live off of, but raise a family on.

I miss when a handshake meant something, people did what they promised, and you could leave your doors unlocked.

I miss teamwork. Days when it wasn’t about getting ahead as an individual by stepping on others, but rather about working together to make sure everyone achieved their goals. We didn’t feel the need to shout to be heard. We didn’t feel the need to sing our own praises because we knew that if we did a good job, someone else would sing them for us.

Those are the type of things that made the good old days good. Those are the things that are now old-fashioned, and those are the things I think we need to fight to get back.

I’m an optimist, but even I know that I can’t turn back time. I can’t change society to make stores close on Sundays again, and we can’t safely leave our doors unlocked even in small towns anymore.

Captain America couldn’t force Tony Stark or any of the others to accept his values either, but he chose to act on what he believed, and by the end of the movie, however subtly, it was his example they followed, even Stark. The man who “didn’t play well with others” worked as part of a team, and even risked sacrificing himself to save the world.

While I can’t change the world, I can change me. Like Captain America, I can still live by those old-fashioned values.

I can refuse to work seven days a week because my body and my relationships need that day of rest. My handshake and my word can still mean something. And I can support others and let my actions speak for themselves. I have control over me.

And maybe, just maybe, if enough of us change ourselves, the world will one day follow.

What old-fashioned value do you think needs to be revived? How are you helping to bring it back?

If you like suspense, I hope you’ll take a look at my ebook Frozen (it’s only 99 cents). Twisted sleepwalking. A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag. And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

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Why I Hate the Jedi

Why I Hate the JediFor those of you who missed it, I’ve been having an…interesting few weeks. You can catch the pertinent details in my post I’m Having One of Those Weeks. Thank you to everyone who sent me kind messages and helped to cheer me up. I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. Unfortunately, since I wrote that post, my grandma fell and fractured her pelvis. Because I’ve been caring for her, my wonderful husband (and resident Star Wars expert in our house) offered to write a guest post for me to prevent my blog from sitting dormant. So I’ll hand my blog over to him…

(P.S. For those of you who were wondering about the results of the poll I took last week, the results were overwhelming. Over 75% of you like both the writing and the “other” posts and don’t want me to change this blog. So I won’t :) )

Why I Hate the Jedi

And Why I Love the Mandalorians

By Marcy’s Husband Chris

For many Star Wars fans, Luke Skywalker is a hero. He’s the hometown boy who discovers himself and goes on to save the galaxy, starting with a two-meter-wide exhaust port on the Death Star I. But what makes Luke Skywalker able to do these things is that he’s a Jedi, maybe one of the greatest ever. In my mind, it’s quite possible that Luke Skywalker—not Darth Vader—was the Chosen One of the Jedi prophesies.

But he’s also whiny and indecisive. He spends too much time meditating and trying to peer into the Force to find guidance. He lacks the killer edge needed to finish a fight against a deadly enemy.

But the main reason I dislike him is simple–he’s a rotten, stinking Jedi.

You might be wondering whether I’ve had too much ale if I have such a view of the Jedi, and maybe on some counts you’d be right. But I’ve read too much about the Jedi to continue to have a view of them as heroes. So here’s a list of why I hate the Jedi—and why I love Boba Fett’s fellow Mandalorians.

Why I Hate the Jedi

They’re only special because of a random genetic manifestation. The Jedi are only able to do the things they do because the Force manifests itself in them. Take away the Force, and the Jedi are just regular beings like you and me. They generally do nothing that makes them special in the grand scheme of things—they don’t cure diseases, they don’t avert wars, they don’t create inventions that revolutionize the way the people of the galaxy live. In short, they’re only special because of their genetics, and that doesn’t make them very special in my book.

They rely too much on their feelings. From the time they’re young, Jedi are taught to trust the Force, to rely on their feelings. They aren’t encouraged to think for themselves or to develop their brainpower. They don’t know how to effectively analyze a situation and come up with the best solution. And they allow their feelings to drive them, rather than trying to strike a good balance between emotion driving them and logic directing them.

They are hypocrites. This point goes hand-in-hand with the next point. The Jedi profess to holding all life as being sacred, but they don’t seem to live up to that mantra very often. They’re too quick to pull out their lightsabers and lop off limbs or sever heads from bodies. With all their powers, they too often resort to violence. But the worst part of this was the way the Jedi accepted command of the clone army at the start of the Clone Wars. The clones were bred to fight; they had no choice. The clones had no rights, no freedoms, no possessions. The Jedi unthinkingly accepted command of this army, despite having little to no training at leading troops, and got untold numbers of clone troops killed during the war. And none of the members of the Jedi leadership cabal stopped to ask where the army came from, or questioned the use of the Jedi as generals in fighting a pointless war. This is the biggest reason I hate the Jedi.

They aren’t held accountable for their actions. Too many times, Jedi caused massive property damage or loss of life and weren’t held accountable for their actions. When they commit crimes, they don’t have to go to prison the way anyone else would. It’s almost like they feel being Jedi gives them a blank slate to do what they want without thinking about the consequences of their actions or having to deal with the consequences of their actions in any way. They’re above the law, and that makes them selfish and cavalier with the lives and possessions of others.

So there you have it: four reasons why I hate the Jedi. Now I’ll give four reasons why I love the Mandalorians instead—even though they’re almost universally considered to be thugs.

They aren’t afraid to love. Mandalorians love strongly and unflinchingly. They willingly adopt people as their own children, including those they would otherwise hate. They aren’t afraid to wear their emotions on their sleeves, but unlike the Jedi, they don’t let their emotions guild them. Emotions are the Mandalorians’ power source, but their brains remain the pilot. This is how the Jedi should operate.

Family is paramount. Mandalorians are very family-oriented. Their families and their clans are all that matters to them. Fathers take their sons out to teach them their trade, and everyone contributes to the effective running of the homestead. It is also common for a Mandalorian to formally adopt the child of a comrade that was killed in battle—no Mandalorian should be without a family to love them and care for them.

They are a united front. Regardless of their personal feuds, Mandalorians put aside their differences when facing a common enemy or threat. Antagonists become allies, and they apply all of their considerable ingenuity and martial skill to defeating their common enemy. Nobody wants to mess with a combat-ready force of Mandalorians—not even Jedi.

Cin vhetin. This is a phrase meaning “fresh start.” Regardless of who you are, no matter what your past is, once you join the Mandalorians, nobody cares about who you once were. You are now a Mandalorian, and that’s all that matters. This also applies to settling feuds between Mando’ade; once cin vhetin is declared, those two might become the best of friends.

What do you think? Do you still love the Jedi? Do you still think the Mandalorians are violent thugs? Or do you maybe think I’m right?

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I’m Having One of Those Weeks

Chance and Diesel - This is what I felt like last week :)

Chance and Diesel – This is what I felt like last week :)

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Last week, I had “one of those weeks.” Again.

My husband and I both came down with a cold/flu bug that (literally) knocked us off our feet for days. I couldn’t stand up long enough to even cook dinner. Before we were back to full health, one of our cats cut her paw pad and we had to take her to the vet. We came home to find that the snow plow had destroyed our mailbox. Lopped it off right at the ground. The frozen ground. Which you can’t dig a new post hole in for at least another month.

I got up the next day and, thanks to a shower that felt like someone was stabbing me with icicles, discovered that our water heater had stopped working. Just as I got out of the ice shower, my grandparents called to say their ride to water therapy had cancelled for that day and Friday and could I take them? And of course I took them and worked late to try to make up for the time I lost. Last count I had over 1,000 unread emails…if I ignore them, will they magically answer themselves? A girl can hope. (P.S. If you’re one of those emails, I’m not ignoring you. Promise. It’s not you. It’s me.)

To top it all off, our car, which was nearly totaled in my husband’s car accident on February 1st, still hasn’t been returned to us. The repair shop has given us yet another delay and excuse, and since the accident happened four hours from home, we can’t even check on it. I’m starting to think they’re secretly renting it out or trying to source used parts from a junk yard…or maybe that’s just my paranoid writer-brain talking. I think I might be sleep deprived.

By the time the weekend hit, the time change felt like adding insult to injury. I needed that extra hour that we lost.

I don’t normally blog about a lot of the little, private, personal struggles in my life because I know that so many people have it worse than I do. I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining. I have a good life. I’m mostly happy.

But when the cut-paw cat with the cone on her head tried to jump up on the counter and fell in the sink (taking everything on the drain board with her), and I noticed that our teething kitten had chewed the tail off the dog’s brand new toy monkey (along with the cord on my housecoat and the tie on my yoga pants), and I realized that even though I’d managed to get my grandparents’ laundry washed, we ourselves were one (cold) shower away from having to use the spare pillowcases as towels, I think I might have snapped. Just a bit.

So I had to share. Because sometimes “those weeks” reach absolutely ridiculous proportions, and you find yourself sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor with the choice of either laughing until you snort or crying until you run out of tears. Maybe both. I’m not admitting to anything. *insert shifty eyes here*

I wanted to let anyone else enduring “one of those days,” or “one of those weeks,” or even “one of those years” know that you’re not alone. I’ve been there too. You’re not being punished. You haven’t done anything wrong. Hang in there. Think of it this way. It has to get better soon…because, after a while, there’s pretty much nothing left that could break, backfire, or be delayed :)

Have you ever had one of those days/weeks? I’d love to hear your story!

I’m also taking a little survey. I’ve been considering making this blog entirely about writing and moving my fantasy, unbelievable real life, and mythology-type posts to a newsletter (that you’d sign up for separately if you wanted to keep receiving them).

I’d appreciate it if you’d take a second to let me know your thoughts on the potential change because this blog is for you as much as it’s for me. Please pick the answer that fits you best. For those of you reading this post via email, please click through and vote.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

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Why I Hate Gale in The Mockingjay

The Mockingjay Part 1By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

When The Hunger Games first became popular, readers were drawn into picking sides about who was the best match for Katniss Everdeen—Gale or Peeta. It never reached the level of Twilight’s Jacob vs. Edward debate, but any love triangle encourages people to pick sides.

I always felt like Peeta was the right match for Katniss, but I didn’t have anything against Gale. He seemed like a nice guy, just not the right guy.

When I watched Mockingjay: Part 1 in theater, one line sparked a lot of anger in my towards Gale. (And, I admit, I can’t remember if this line was in the book or not.)

Over the course of the movie, Katniss and the rebels in District 13 watched Peeta on TV. He encouraged the rebels to stop. He spoke out against the rebellion. It was clear the Capital and Snow were doing something to him as he began to visibly disintegrate.

But Gale had no compassion at all. He insisted he’d never say what Peeta had said. No matter what they did to him. He’d rather die.

It struck a nerve in me. I’ll admit that I’m not objective. One of my pet peeves is people who judge others that way. Gale had never experienced what Peeta was going through. He didn’t even know the full extent of what Peeta was going through. He saw one small aspect and felt justified in condemning Peeta.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t call wrong wrong. If someone is clearly doing something they shouldn’t, then we need to acknowledge that what they’re doing is wrong.

But life is much more grey than it is black and white. How many hours someone works, the clothes they wear, whether or not they volunteer, how clean their house is…I could drag that list out almost indefinitely.

We can’t know what’s going on behind the scenes in their life so we shouldn’t judge them. The older I get, the more people I meet who are struggling quietly and bravely with extremely difficult situations. They don’t publicize what’s happening. Maybe they’re private people, maybe they don’t want pity, or maybe they know—better than most—that everyone is struggling in their own way and they don’t want to add pressure to someone else.

I wish more people would show mercy and grace, rather than criticizing others when there’s no way they can know exactly what those people are going through.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?

If you like suspense, I hope you’ll take a look at my ebook Frozen (it’s only 99 cents). Twisted sleepwalking. A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag. And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

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The Hobbit and the Love of Money

The Hobbit Battle of Five ArmiesBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

A commonly misquoted Biblical passage is that “money is the root of all evil.” The actual passage is “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Timothy 6:10).

When we’re talking about money, that’s an important distinction to make. Many wealthy people give generously and live frugal, moral lives. Having money doesn’t necessarily make us evil.

And money isn’t the root of all evil either. It isn’t always at the root cause of murder, for example.

But loving money can lead to all different kinds of evil. Everything we love competes with everything else we love for the position of priority in our lives. If we love money, we can end up loving it and valuing it more than our family, more than our friends, more than our honor and morality.

That’s what happens in The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies.

Once Smaug, the dragon under the mountain, is killed, Thorin Oakenshield (the new dwarven king), Bilbo, and the rest of the dwarves take possession of the mountain and the treasure within it.

The treasure goes to Thorin’s head. He refuses to honor the agreement he made with the nearby city of men. They helped him, and thanks to his meddling with the dragon, their city was destroyed. The survivors are facing winter with no home. Thorin refuses to take them into the mountain or to give them the money he promised so that they can get a fresh start.

He won’t return the jewels that rightfully belong to the eleven king either, and he stands by and watches as hundreds of dwarves, elves, and humans are slaughtered by orcs. All he cares about is making sure his treasure is secure.

While I was watching the movie, the friend I was with leaned over and said “what people won’t do for money, eh?”

Her words burrowed inside, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking of them because I know someone who seems to love his money almost more than he loves anything else. To him, having wealth is a sign that someone is a “good man.” He spends hours worrying that someone is going to steal his money from him. He trusts no one. And when he gives his money away, he does it to try to earn God’s favor or to buy respect, loyalty, love, and obedience from the people around him.

It makes my heart hurt for him. You can’t buy those things. At least, when it comes to me, they’re not for sale. And money, or the lack thereof, doesn’t prove that someone is a good person or a bad person.

He reminds me so much of Thorin. Or perhaps I should say that Thorin reminded me so much of him.

At the end of The Hobbit, Thorin was redeemed, but I don’t think it’s as easy in real life. Once the love of money has hold of us, it’s much harder to see it and change.

It served as a good reminder for me of where I want my values to lie.

Has a movie ever reminded you of something important?

If you like suspense, I hope you’ll take a look at my ebook Frozen (it’s only 99 cents). Twisted sleepwalking. A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag. And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

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What Cupid Teaches Us About Love

Image Credit: Vinicius Fujii (www.freeimages.com)

Image Credit: Vinicius Fujii (www.freeimages.com)

By Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

I’ve never been a fan of Valentine’s Day. My husband and I don’t exchange Valentine’s gifts or plan an evening out, and I think I might be a bit miffed if he bought me a box of overpriced chocolates or a marked-up bouquet of flowers that he could get for half the cost a week later. I realize I’m the exception in this. I’ve always been practical.

But it’s not just my practicality that makes me shy away from the Valentine’s Day hype.

One of the iconic symbols of Valentine’s Day is the cubby, arrow-wielding Cupid. For me, Cupid represents everything I dislike about Valentine’s Day.

Cupid has wings because lovers are flighty or fickle. Cupid is depicted as chubby and boyish because love is irrational. He’s often shown as blindfolded to represent that love is blind to the flaws of the beloved. His arrows wound the heart instantly, and nothing else is taken into consideration.

In other words, Cupid isn’t the representative of love, at least not of the kind of love that makes a marriage last. He’s the representative of infatuation, a “love” that’s swayed by the emotions and by circumstances.

Like Cupid, Valentine’s Day isn’t about love. It’s about infatuation and endorphin rushes. Anyone can woo for a day, but it takes something deeper to endure for a lifetime. Our culture likes to emphasize this day to the point where succeeding on Valentine’s Day is sometimes valued above the day-to-day sacrifices and acts that exemplify true love.

But there’s one thing I think Cupid can teach us about love. As a character in mythology, Cupid plays a minor role. His main purpose is to set the plot in motion.

Likewise, infatuation is what sets most of us on the path that will eventually lead to marriage, but it’s only the start. It’s the inciting incident. The ignition for love, but not the definition of it.

Somewhere along the way, Cupid needs to grow up. He’ll need to take off his blindfold so that he can see the flaws of his beloved and either accept them or help to overcome them. His body will need to be hardened and his wings lost by walking the path of life with someone else, enduring the challenges that come.

That’s more romantic than Valentine’s Day, not less. And it happens every single day.

How would you sum up love? What does it mean to you to love someone?

If you like suspense, I hope you’ll take a look at my ebook Frozen (it’s only 99 cents). Twisted sleepwalking. A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag. And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

I’d love to have you sign up to receive my posts by email. All you need to do is enter your email address below and hit the “Follow” botton.

Enter your email address to follow this blog:

Sometimes Truth Is Stranger than Fantasy

You’ve likely heard the saying before that truth is stranger than fiction. Today my special guest poster, mystery author Kassandra Lamb, is putting her own spin on that saying to tell you why she thinks truth can be stranger than fantasy. She’s going to let us into the minds and motivations of serial killers. First allow me to introduce you to Kassandra:

Kassandra Lamb

Kassandra Lamb

Psychology and writing, or writing and psychology, have always vied for number one on Kassandra Lamb’s list of greatest passions. Now retired from a career as a psychotherapist and college professor, she can focus on creating an alternate universe in which her protagonist, Kate Huntington, is always the kind, generous and insightful person that Kass wishes she were herself. When she is not at her computer, transported in mind and spirit into the world of her characters, Kass lives in Florida and Maryland with her husband and her Alaskan Husky, Amelia.

I hope when you finish reading the post that you’ll take a look at Kassandra’s latest release Fatal Forty-Eight. It’s part of her Kate Huntington series, but it stands alone as well. You don’t have to read the first books before reading this one. If you enjoy mysteries or thrillers, I recommend you grab a copy (and I’m not just saying that because I’m Kassandra’s editor–this book is really good). Take it away, Kassandra!

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Sometimes Truth Is Stranger than Fantasy

By Kassandra Lamb

When Marcy graciously invited me to guest post on her blog (thanks so much, Marcy!), I wondered what the heck I would write about since I write traditional mysteries and thrillers, not fantasy or sci-fi like she does.

Then I asked myself, why is it that I don’t write fantasy? (BTW, I talk to myself a lot.) The answer came back that it’s because I’ve seen so much weird, surreal stuff on this planet during my years as a psychotherapist. In my newly released thriller, I explore one of the most surreal phenomena on the Earth plane–the serial killer.

A few weeks ago I posted about psychopaths. They are totally self-centered thrill seekers who feel little or no empathy, remorse or fear. Pretty scary folks! (Read more HERE.)

Unfortunately psychopaths (i.e. those who have antisocial personality disorder–the official diagnosis) make up 3% of males and 1% of females in the U.S. and at least 1.7% of the Canadian population. Fortunately, only a very small percentage of psychopaths become serial killers.

An FBI Symposium in 2008* attempted to come up with a simple definition of serial murder:

The unlawful killing of two or more victims by the same offender(s), in separate events at different times.

According to this definition, the guy who kills his wife, and then kills his neighbor when he finds out said neighbor witnessed the first murder, is a serial killer. Now you might be tempted to say that this guy isn’t really a serial killer, because he doesn’t match the picture of one painted by TV shows and movies.

But he fits the definition, and furthermore he is probably a psychopath. One can think of circumstances where a husband might kill his wife, either premeditated or in a fit of rage. But to go on and kill one’s neighbor in cold blood–that requires a self-centeredness and a lack of empathy and remorse that lands the killer on the psychopath continuum.

The motivation of serial killers is varied and complicated. The FBI* has identified several themes:

  • Financial/Criminal Gain: The person kills for money (hit men, black widows/widowers) or to gain status in a criminal group (gang members).
  • Anger: The person vents their rage toward someone (perhaps symbolically) and/or toward society in general.
  • Sexual: Violence has become eroticized somewhere in the person’s background so that they get sexual satisfaction through killing (may or may not be signs of sexual activity at the crime scene).
  • Ideology: The person kills as a way–in their mind–of advancing a strongly held ideological belief (for example, by killing prostitutes to rid society of their immoral behavior).
  • Power/Thrill: Having the ultimate power of life and death over someone provides a rush.
  • Psychosis: Truly being out of touch with reality and being driven by hallucinations and/or delusions.

Often two or more of these motivations apply in any given case. Most often the serial killer starts out killing for financial or practical gain–robbing people and then killing them to eliminate witnesses, for example. Then they discover that killing gives them a thrill, and they start to kill more for that reason. These are the hardest killers to identify and capture because their victims often have little or nothing in common, which is the case with the killer in Fatal Forty-Eight.

But my killer also falls into the ideology category of motivation, or at least he convinces himself that he is killing for a good cause, and there is also a bit of the sexual motive as well. (I won’t say more for fear of spoiling the story.)

Let me dispel several myths about serial murder and serial killers.

(1) Not all are sexually motivated by any stretch, and only a small number of serial killers are psychotic.

(2) There is a huge difference between a psychopath and a psychotic even though the two words sound so similar. A psychotic is someone who has completely lost touch with reality. Often their brains have just stopped functioning in any kind of rational way, or they may be living in a world created by their own hallucinations and delusions. Sometimes those delusions or hallucinations may drive them to commit crimes, but this is rare. Mostly they are a danger only to themselves.

Psychopaths, however, are legally sane. They know what is real and unreal in at least a concrete sense. In other words, they aren’t seeing things that aren’t there or hearing voices in their heads. But their ability to distort reality to suit their own self-centered perspectives is incredible sometimes. And they know right from wrong; they just don’t care.

Ted Bundy, 1979, leaving Leon County, Fla. Courthouse (Photo from The Florida Memory Project–CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

Ted Bundy, 1979, leaving Leon County, Fla. Courthouse (Photo from The Florida Memory Project–CC-BY-SA 3.0 Wikimedia Commons)

(3) Most psychopaths are not obvious. They are experts at fitting in. Ted Bundy, one of the most notorious and sadistic serial killers in the U.S., was handsome and charismatic. He seduced his victims into trusting him.

The Green River Killer, Gary Ridgeway, confessed to killing 48 women over a twenty-year time period in the Seattle, Washington area. He was married at the time of his arrest and had been employed as a truck painter for thirty-two years. He attended church regularly, read the Bible at home and at work, and talked about religion with co-workers.

A letter to the police from Jack the Ripper (U.S. National Archives–public domain)

A letter to the police from Jack the Ripper (U.S. National Archives–public domain)

(4) Serial killers are not hoping someone will stop them; they are not trying to get caught. But since they feel little or no fear, they aren’t all that worried about getting caught either. They will sometimes contact the police or newspapers with taunts or even hints as to where they might strike next, or they may intentionally leave clues behind at crime scenes.

They do this to enhance the thrill! Killing is starting to lose its buzz so they have to up the ante.

(5) Serial killers are not all white males. Racially, they run the gamut of the population, and some are female.

Aileen Wuornos killed seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990 (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

Aileen Wuornos killed seven men in Florida between 1989 and 1990 (public domain, Wikimedia Commons)

And here’s another interesting tidbit I read about recently. The one group of serial murderers that perhaps we would be tempted to say are not psychopaths are the medical personnel who commit so-called mercy killings of terminally-ill and suffering patients.

Guess again. A recent, small study** in England found that the majority of these killers crave attention and are inordinately obsessed with death. The researchers only looked at 16 cases so this is not a definitive study, but nonetheless…

Okay, now that I’ve given you enough material to populate your nightmares for weeks to come, let me remind you again that serial killers are rare. It is likely that each of us has known a psychopath or two in our lifetimes, but very few of us will ever cross paths in real life with a serial killer.

My fictional heroine, however, has a real penchant for getting herself mixed up with murders. Please check out my new release below, and also I have a CONTEST going to celebrate its release. So pop over to my publisher’s site (misteriopress.com) to enter.

I promised Marcy I’d hang around for a while if you have any questions. Also I will be talking more about the origins of psychopaths in a post on the misterio press site next week.

Oh, and this book is dedicated to Marcy, who is my editor and from whom I have learned so much!!

References:

Carey, Elea and George Krucik, MD. Psychosis, Healthline.

*FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit. Serial Murder: Multi-Disciplinary Perspectives for Investigators, July, 2008.

**Townsend, Mark. Study identifies key traits and methods of serial killer nurses, The Guardian, November 22, 2014.

Fatal48 Ebook FINALFATAL FORTY-EIGHT, A Kate Huntington Mystery

Celebration turns to nightmare when psychotherapist Kate Huntington’s guest of honor disappears en route to her own retirement party. Kate’s former boss, Sally Ford, has been kidnapped by a serial killer who holds his victims exactly forty-eight hours before killing them.

With time ticking away, the police allow Kate and her P.I. husband to help with the investigation. The FBI agents involved in the case have mixed reactions to the “civilian consultants.” The senior agent welcomes Kate’s assistance as he fine-tunes his psychological profile. His voluptuous, young partner is more by the book. She locks horns out in the field with Kate’s husband, while back at headquarters, misunderstandings abound.

But they can ill afford these distractions. Sally’s time is about to expire.

(This book is part of a series but is designed to be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone novel.)

Buy Links:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon CA

BARNES & NOBLE

APPLE

KOBO

SCRIBD

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Interstellar: How Much Would You Sacrifice to Save Humanity?

Interstellar movieBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

Every time I hear a story of someone who died to spare the life of another—a first responder, a parent in place of a child, a soldier who took a bullet for a comrade—I wonder whether I would have done the same.

I like to think I’d be altruistic if it came down to saving someone else, that if push came to shove, I’d be brave. I love my life and I hope to live a long, healthy, happy existence on this Earth, but I’m not afraid of being dead either.

But whenever I think about that situation, I think about saving an individual, a current life.

That’s the motivation of former NASA pilot Cooper, Matthew McConaughey’s character in the recently released movie Interstellar. The earth is dying, and what remains of NASA has established what they call the Lazarus missions. Pilots have taken a one-way trip into a wormhole to see if the planets they find on the other side are habitable. Transmissions from three of the pilots indicate they may have found hospitable worlds.

Unfortunately, time and resources have run out. NASA asks Cooper to go on the final mission. Either they’ll be able to transmit back the data needed on the potential planets to evacuate what remains of Earth’s population (including Cooper’s children) or they’re supposed to use pre-fertilized eggs in an incubator to reseed humanity on another planet, sacrificing those left on Earth but saving the human race.

And Cooper agrees, even though it might mean never seeing his children again, because he believes that at least he can save their lives. The scientist in charge promises him that his children will be among those evacuated from Earth.

What Cooper finds out is that the NASA scientist in charge never intended to save the people left on Earth. The real plan all along was to save humanity as a species and sacrifice everyone remaining on Earth, including Cooper’s family.

He lied to everyone involved in the final mission because he believed that, while we’ll sacrifice everything to save those we love, we’re much less likely to sacrifice everything to save the human race as a generic whole—especially if doing so meant our loved ones would die.

And while I don’t condone his methods, I think I agree with his conclusion.

I’m not sure I’d sacrifice everyone I love to save “the human race.” I’m not sure I place a higher value on “the human race” as a species than I do on the already living people who belong to humanity. I don’t think I’d take comfort knowing that “the human race” would survive if it meant sacrificing everyone currently alive to ensure that survival.

It begs the question: Is the value in humanity as a species or is the value in each individual life?

If you like suspense, I hope you’ll take a look at my ebook Frozen (it’s only 99 cents). Twisted sleepwalking. A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag. And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

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The Danger in Trying to Revisit the Past

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesBy Marcy Kennedy (@MarcyKennedy)

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went to watch the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie. For both of us, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were a childhood favorite. We watched the cartoons, watched the movies, played the video games, had the Halloween costumes.

We went for the nostalgia.

But they’d downgraded the acting, had less plot, and made the turtles seem less like teenagers and more like twelve-year-olds. I was disappointed because I wanted to re-experience the joy I found in the Ninja Turtles as a child.

I think most of us have the desire to relive some of the happy moments of our past and re-experience some of the things we used to love.

Most of the times I’ve tried, though, they haven’t been the way I remembered.

When I was a kid, I loved those Hostess chocolate cupcakes with the white filling and white icing loops on the top. When I tried them as an adult, they tasted stale and lacking in flavor.

Maybe the problem was in looking back rather than looking forward. Maybe we shouldn’t be trying to relive or recapture the good moments of the past. Maybe we should leave those as happy memories and instead focus our time on forming new happy memories in the present.

Have you tried to recapture a happy childhood memory? How did it work out for you?

If you like suspense, I hope you’ll take a look at my ebook Frozen, on sale for 99 cents. Twisted sleepwalking. A frozen goldfish in a plastic bag. And a woman afraid she’s losing her grip on reality.

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