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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Psychotic Characters: Types of Serial Killers

Since I got feedback last week from readers wanting more posts like this one, here's a second in what is now a short series on serial killers.

Serial killers come in one of two basic types, both having to do with their motives:


These killers generally don't kill for the gratification of the kill, making the act itself their primary emphasis. They kill quickly, and in two subtypes:

Visionaries - usually directed by them getting a vision or hearing voices telling them to kill (either God or the devil), both of which legitimate their violence.

Missionaries - are on "missions" to eradicate a specific group of people, such as prostitutes, white-collared bankers, etc.


The majority of serial killers are process-focused. They get off (yes, in that way) on the method of their kill. They kill for the enjoyment of it, and usually get a perverse sexual thrill out of it, so therefore they take their time and go very slowly. Hedonism at it's worse. So these killers fall into 4 subtypes, based on their motives as well:

Gain - they get some profit or personal gain from the kill. Most females usually fall into this category, like Lavinia Fisher, who would murder her hotel guests and keep whatever belongings and cash they had. You can read up on the 10 most infamous females here....and almost every one of them stood to get personal gain.

Lust - sexual pleasure is associated with murder. These sick folk actually will have sex while in the process of killing or engage in necrophilia after they have killed. Either/or....twisted.

Thrill - killing someone gives these folk a rush or high. They especially like to watch the lights go out in their victim's eyes. It's the ultimate adrenaline rush...makes them feel alive and euphoric. They typically don't engage in sex either before or after.

Power - The pleasure comes from manipulating and dominating, although the argument could be made for this to fall in with any of the above. Usually sex is involved, but it's not as important to this killer than to the Lust killer? That's confusing, I know. Some research I found led me to think that this is considered the "sociopath," but I think you and I both know that every person talked about on this post would be one of those.

Next week I'll do one more post on Lust Killers, since they seem to be the most prevalent. Stay tuned, although I know some of you will absolutely NOT click back on my blog next week for that post, and that's okay too. :)

Let's Analyze: Most of us probably have heard of a few serial killers. Can you see how these killers fit into either Act-Focused or Process-Focused? Which do you think would make for better fiction?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Character Clinic: Draghixa Samantha Schmidtweiler

I've got Darin's character Draghixa from his sci-fi horror on the couch this week. She was made in a lab by a scientist to be an animal, but she's not. She has feelings like a human. She was raised in a cage like an animal, but read The Fey Dragon Chronicles as a father would a child. When she was sent off the planet for field trials, she was raped and had a son, who was taken from him. Draghixa doesn't want to kill humans like she was intended to do. Not doing so--being better than them--has given her meaning. She has a human male friend, Jacob, who she would love to have a family with if they can find her son, but she also asked Jacob to kill her because she's too afraid to do it herself and doesn't want to live like she currently is.

Darin didn't have any specific questions he wanted to ask, so I'll just jump in.

I'm sure your book is much more specific with what exactly Draghixa is, although it was hard for me to tell from your intake form. But you wrote that she looked like an animal, so I've kinda got this picture of one of the actresses from CATS or something. Is that about right? (Please answer this below! I'm so curious!)

Being raised in a cage is something I could talk to, b/c that's fairly translatable to today's time, as is the rape, of course. Some children are brought up so overprotected, they might as well be in a cage. The cage would be stifling, limiting, bringing up questions for her about her lack of freedom. Children who are held on too tightly always wonder about the "outside." What it would be like to break free. Usually there is a period of time when the child goes through a great rebellion, though I didn't see any evidence of that in the intake form. Would it hurt for her to have a short killing spree (or whatever you meant by the "carnage" that might ensue when she was let go)? Perhaps them to feel remorse over killing would be more powerful than to simply let her want to be better than they had anticipated her being.

Perhaps the biggest concern I have is contradictory motivations from her. She wants to live happily ever after with her son (and she's dead-set and determined to find him, which gives her a rock-solid motivation to live, I'd think) and Jacob, but yet she doesn't want to live? When I read that part of the intake, it totally threw me off, because it was inconsistent with her strong desire to reconnect with her son. In fact, most counselors utilize the existence of children as huge motivators not to commit suicide, such as what would they do without you, what kind of legacy would that leave them, etc.

Quite honestly, this story premise interests me b/c it's so unusual. I wish you the best with it. I think you can go deeper with her, for sure.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Therapeutic Review of Gypsy's Game and Winner's Choice Giveaway!

Gypsy's Game is Delia Latham's third and final book in her Solomon's Gate series, following Destiny's Dream (book 1) and Kylie's Kiss (book 2). Here's an blurb from Delia's website:

Gypsy Lovell stands to inherit an enormous amount of money from a father who never gave her anything but a ridiculous name. Even now, he doesn’t make it easy. A stipulation in the man’s will demands that Gypsy be married in order to claim what is hers. 

Desperate for the monetary windfall that could save her ailing mother’s life, Gypsy visits a Christian dating agency, hoping to find a temporary husband. Someone easy to handle for the required six months, and easy to get rid of when she no longer needs him. 

Jal Garridan is neither of those things, but he's willing to take on the challenge presented by the beautiful stranger—on his own terms. What Gypsy doesn’t know is that Solomon’s Gate is a dating agency with a Divine connection. What she finds there may save more than her mother’s life. It may save Gypsy’s soul.

I've done reviews of each of the other books in this series, and each time, I was again taken captive by the premise of Delia's series. Not only the Christian dating aspect of it (Solomon's Gate is the name of the dating agency) but each storyline's inherent conflict.

Gypsy appears on day one full of hurt and anguish at her father's abandonment. I found it so telling, as people walk around with huge amounts of baggage--usually invisible to the naked eye--from their pasts. The uncontrollable loss of a parent (and by that, I mean, not by natural means) comes to effect children in many ways, mostly with a hypervigilant sense of distrust. If one person they loved can up and leave, then why can't anyone they love up and leave? Gypsy is wounded in adulthood from this traumatic experience, and Delia writes Gypsy's doubts and misgivings very realistically.

Jal (pronounced J-al, which I loved that Delia threw that in there at the beginning of the book, so I wasn't saying it wrong in my head for too long) wasn't as psychologically developed as Gypsy. He seems pretty dang perfect (and hot - I wanted a picture of that little scar on his lip, Delia!!). He agrees to marry Gypsy, knowing she's not a Christian, because Solomon told him to do so. [Aside, there are spiritually supernatural elements to this book....angel appearances and the beating of angel wings. Since I'm a believer in angels, I loved those parts of the books!] So we get the tense, thrown-together bride and groom, which is always a tried and true favorite for romance readers.

Delia has agreed to give away either a print or digital copy of Gypsy's Game or one of the first two books in her series (winner's choice) to a lucky commenter! Since I like for my giveaways to be a perk for my blog followers, please click on "Follow" in the column to the right, and then just leave a comment below to be entered. Giveaway will run through Sunday night.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Weekend Funnies: Skinner's Rat

That's for you, Rich! :) 

Last chance to win Ann H. Gabhart's new release, Words Spoken True! Click here!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Free Association Chain

The word is........


First commenter free associates with the above word. Second commenter takes the first commenter's word and free associates, and so on.

Remember -- FIRST thing that comes to mind. GO!!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Psychotic Characters: Where to Start?

Psychosis truly does have its roots in childhood. I spent a goodly portion of the week watching documentaries on YouTube about serial killers, and this fact is glaringly in common with all of them.

Further research led to me the concept of the Macdonald Triad, which is also known as the Triad of Psychopathy (which is pronounced sigh-KOP-athy for those who like to say it the other way!). It's named for J.M. Macdonald, a forensic psychiatrist who wrote "The Threat to Kill" in 1963, a paper which appeared in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

In this paper, he detailed a set of three behavioral characteristics that he claimed, if were found present together in a person, to be associated with later violent tendencies. It should be noted that Macdonald focused on hospitalized patients who had threatened to kill, not patients who had actually killed. The patients who had threatened the most violence often did have these three traits in their background. Other studies have found statistical significance to the Triad, and some studies have not.

The traits, in no particular order, are:

1) Bedwetting

If a child bedwets past the age of 5, Macdonald found this to be significant. Two psychiatrists (Hellman and Blackman), claimed that enuresis - the act of voiding urine while asleep - was a form of sadism or hostility, because the act of voiding "in fantasy was equated with damaging and destroying."

Research had subsequently discounted associating bedwetting with violent tendencies, but does make the point that bedwetting past the age of five can be humiliating for the child, depending on how the child is treated by parental figures for the act. If belittled or treated cruelly, the child might then be more inclined to engage in the other aspects of the triad as an outlet for their frustration.

2) Animal Cruelty

Torturing animals can be seen as a precursor or rehearsal for killing humans. Torturing any animal is bad, but messing with dogs and cats is particularly so, because they are seen as more humanlike due to being pets. Toads, turtles, worms and the like are less like pets and doesn't violate that connection between humans and pets as much.

Some psychopaths engage in animal cruelty as a way to vent frustrations, since in childhood, the child could not retaliate toward those who humiliated them. So they selected vulnerable animals, seeing them as's future victim selection at a young age. Studies have been done that prove those killers who engaged in animal cruelty often used the same method on their victims.

3) Firesetting

Firesetting is seen as a less severe or "first shot" at releasing aggression. Since extensive humiliation is found in the backgrounds of many serial killers, it's been theorized that setting fire and venting frustration and anger by doing so helps return the child to a normal state of self-worth.

It doesn't have to be huge fires to be an outlet for aggression. Trash cans, small flame throwers, homemade "bombs"--they all serve their purpose, just as setting fire to a building or car does.

Hopefully I haven't freaked you out, but serial killers really fascinate me, and I was happy to stumble upon this concept and relay it to those of you, who, like me, get into this stuff.

Let's Analyze: What might some other childhood predictors of later violence be? Do you think this idea holds water? Do you ever want me to post on something this disturbing again? :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Character Clinic: Bridger Heidemann

I've got Liberty's character, Bridger "Brick" Heidemann on the couch today. Lucky for me, I've already assessed the love interest in the futuristic sci-fi romance. Brick is sort of an anomaly in his convictions for his day and age where everybody is sleeping with everybody else and there are few moral standards adhered to. He's a private investigator, hired by the heroine Tamryn to track down her best friend, who's missing. Brick values remaining chaste, but he's drawn to Tamryn, despite their different backgrounds and moral codes of conduct. Brick gets kidnapped near the end of the book to be part of an "active sperm donor" business for women looking to get impregnated. (Yikes, Liberty!)

Liberty wants to know: How do I play out dynamics between two very different leads in a believable way? What kinds of mental issues will Bridger face following the kidnapping, especially if there is some physical abuse (i.e., kicking, punching, stabbing) to go along with it?

Liberty -

What we've got here is opposites attracting. Nothing new, but the angle of morality that you are taking is a different twist. I'm not sure how much this is played up in your book, but it sounds like remaining pure is a big part of Bridger's identity, and this is a value Tamryn doesn't hold.

One thing's for certain, his or her stance on morality doesn't have to play a part in physical attraction. Sparks between people can often be surprising, given the different poles they come from. So writing some very real scenes of them trying to deny that chemistry will give your romance readers something to appreciate.

Tamryn will likely want to take things to the next level, riding the wave of her baser desires and instincts. This will be the initial cause of conflict, I assume, and it needs to shake Bridger up a bit....that he could get so close again to "doing the deed," this time with his full faculties about him (i.e., not half asleep). But it will be his lesson in how strong physical attraction can be, and you can subtly get a point in with readers that our mental capacity to stop can overcome the pleasure principle (if you so desire).

Bridger will be wary of her, as she embodies and represents a sensual side of himself that he's either refused to acknowledge or has kept buried because it's safer. But he'll be drawn to her anyway b/c of the attraction. Great place for him to feel that tension...which is great for page turning in a romance.

An aside about your idea to have them both ask to marry each other at the end...Bridger seems to be a pretty traditional sort. Comes from a traditional family, remaining pure, etc. If Tamryn beats him to the punch, even if he has the ring in his pocket, I'd make sure that it was the completion of a character arc for both of them. Bridger possible needing to relinquish some of his iron-tight control, and Tamryn forging ahead into a commitment with a man that up until then she's tried to evade. Something like that. Otherwise, it won't be satisfying to the reader (in my opinion) for the original/traditional role of the man asking the woman to marry him to be usurped.

Really quick about the abduction: He's going to be traumatized, especially given the nature of what he's being abducted for. It would be like his worse nightmare...almost like forced prostitution, even though the end result is impregnation rather than debauchery. him, it won't be much different. So even if he doesn't actually have sex with anyone before he's rescued, that would mess with his head. (In my weird, psychocrazy way, I think this is awesome, btw.) If he's abused, he'll probably have the usual PTSD responses of flashbacks, nightmares, exaggerated startle response, hypervigilance, etc. I've done many posts on this subject, so I won't go into it here.

Hope this helps, and thanks for being so patient!

Let's Analyze: What are some great examples to point Liberty to of books that have dynamic heroes and heroines who are POLAR opposites?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Words Spoken True Review and Giveaway!

Up next for my therapeutic review is Ann H. Gabhart's new historical, Words Spoken True.

Here's a blurb about the book from Ann's website:
One woman stands ready to defend her newspaper...even if it means losing out on love.

Adriane Darcy was practically raised in her father's newspaper offices. She can't imagine life without the clatter of the press and the push to be first to write the news that matters. Their Tribune is the leading paper in Louisville in 1855. Then Blake Garrett, a brash young editor from the North with a controversial new style of reporting, takes over a failing competing paper and the battle for readers gets fierce.

When Adriane and Blake meet at a benefit tea, their surprising mutual attraction is hard to ignore. Still, Blake is the enemy, and Adriane is engaged to the son of a powerful businessman who holds the keys to the Tribune's future. Blake will stop at almost nothing to get the story – and the girl. Can he do both before it's too late? Set against the volatile backdrop of political and civil unrest in 1850s Louisville, this exciting story of love and loyalty will hold readers in its grip until the very last page.

I love stories of women stepping out of societal norms. Ann's story just happened to be of even more interest to me in that Adriane was in the newspaper business, and so was I. I wasn't disappointed with her shenanigans to get the latest scoop (read: dressing like a boy! Gotta love that!).

And above all, this was a romance. The chemistry between Adriane and Blake left me absolutely breathless. Of course there were plenty of hurdles for them to overcome, mainly that Blake is Adriane's father's enemy.

I liked the picture of a father raising a daughter, and the relationship between them. Adriane has significant PTSD-like symptoms of being locked in a dark closet by her stepmother, and her thoughts on darkness and light serve a symbolic purpose in the book that I really appreciated.

Blake's backstory contributes to his motivation to see justice brought about for the River Slasher serial killer. (An aside here....but any romance book that also contains a serial killer is a major plus in my book). I was very curious as to what his deal was, so much so that I wanted to skip pages to find out. You won't be disappointed. :)

And last but not least...the way Ann handled the serial killer was well done. She gave him just the right amount of motivation and backstory to make his actions believable. I was inspired to do a post later this week about the Macdonald triad (or triad of sociopathy), so stay tuned.

To enter to win this book:

The giveaways on this blog are meant to be a perk for my readership, so please click to "follow" this blog before leaving a comment below to be entered to win my review copy. Giveaway will last through next Sunday, the 26th. Good luck!

Let's Analyze: This will be a selfish question, purely based on my own interests, but are there any other books out there that you know of who have serial killers within a romance?

Available February 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, 
a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Weekend Funnies: Loneliness v. Solitude

Fusco Brothers