Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Shared Psychology of Dieting and of Planning a Fictional Murder

Today my guest is Janet Greger and I am so excited to have her visit.  Like me, she's a retired academic who has turned her skills and knowledge to writing mysteries.  
As a biologist and professor emerita of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she enjoys putting tidbits of science into her novels.  She also includes Bug, her Japanese Chin and a pet therapy dog, in her stories.  They live in the Southwest.
Janet and Chin

 Janet's newest book is Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight.  And no, it's not really a diet book, but read on and you'll see how it could be.

Someone in this southwestern medical school doesn’t like women. Two have been murdered already. At first, Linda Almquist suspects the deaths are related to her investigation of Dr. Richard Varegos, a “diet doctor.” He is alleged to be recklessly endangering the lives of his obese research subjects. Maybe she’s wrong. The murders might be related to something in the past – something involving her boss the Dean. While Linda fears for her job, the police fear for her life.

 And now here's Janet:

I know that Lesley is a psychologist by training so I tried to give this guest blog a psychology twist. No, that’s not some sort of new drink? I’m going to demonstrate similarities between dieting and plotting a fictional murder. (I don’t have any experience plotting a real murder.)


Why am I doing this? It’s because my new mystery/suspense novel is called Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight. The protagonist Linda Almquist is struggling with change. She’s trying to lose weight and adjust to a new job – being the interim associate dean of a medical school. Then she gets dragged into the investigation of the murder of a “diet” doctor at the school. And food, diets, and murder investigations get hopelessly mixed up.


Let’s get back to diet and plotting fictional murders.


Rule 1 of Dieting: You can’t eat what your hand can’t reach to put in your mouth. Please note in the first chapter of Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight Linda has just cleared her office of all goodies. If you want to lose weight, you should do the same. Don’t buy high calorie snacks and desserts. You know the stuff that you just can’t stop eating - potato chips, cookies, etc. If you want the crunch, eat celery, radish, and carrots sticks. (I know they don’t taste as good.)


Similarly, you can’t kill someone without a weapon. It doesn’t have to be a gun, a knife, or your hands trained to do karate chops. Do you realize you could find hundred of ways to kill someone with the items in a medical school? And many of the drugs and chemicals are hard to detect, at least if the medical examiner, isn’t looking for signs of murder.


Part of the fun of Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight is all the new things you’ll learn about “poisons.” And the science behind them is real. (At one point in my career I was an associate dean in a medical school.)


Rule 2 of Dieting: Exercise more. Many forget that walking is exercise. Instead of calling people, Linda Almquist walks to their offices because she thinks they’re less apt to say no to her requests. She also likes to see problems first hand. You might find ways to sit less and walk more at work, too.


Did you know you could walk two or three miles or more without ever going outside or retracing your steps in many med schools? They’re real mazes. As you follow Linda down long, sometime darkened, corridors, you’ll see a medical school is a lot more than patient rooms and clinics. The suspects know all the passageways, too. So there’s plenty of action.


Rule 3 of Dieting: Choose your dining partners carefully. It’s easier to eat less when those with you are also eating less. Linda doesn’t do a good job of selecting lunch partner, especially Al Diaz, the cop who loves Hurricane burritos. But you’ll get a tour of actual restaurants in Albuquerque in Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight. And Albuquerque has lots of great southwestern cooking.


As the plot writhes along, you’ll discover that the villain(s) (left unnamed for you to discover) also may not have selected reliable cohorts, but the cast of characters are colorful and, perhaps unfortunately, believable.


Rule 4 of Dieting: Be patient. Keep at your diet. You have to eat 500 calories less than you expend every day for a week to lose a pound. That means it could take a couple of months to lose ten pounds.


Several characters in Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight have kept secrets (or grudges) for as long as thirty years. Now that’s patience. And Linda and the police are afraid if they don’t uncover these secrets, she may be next.


Did I convince you of similarities between dieting and plotting a fictional murder? Hope so. To learn more, read Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight and its prequel Coming Flu. Both are available on Amazon.

Sales link for Coming Flu: http://www.amazon.com/Coming-Flu-J-L-Greger/dp/1610090985/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1365543761&sr=1-1&keywords=Coming+Flu

You could also visit my website (www.jlgreger.com) or blog (http://jlgregerblog.blogspot.com

Teaser for Coming Flu (the prequel):

A new, mysterious flu strain kills more than two hundred in less than a week in the small walled community near the Rio Grande. The rest face a bleak future under quarantine. One of the residents Sara Almquist, as a medical epidemiologist, pries into every aspect of her neighbors’ lives looking for ways to stop the spread of the flu. She finds promising clues – maybe one too many? Not all her neighbors are what they appear to be.


  1. Dang, I'm still carrying my holiday-season weight. Need to drop ten pounds. Guess I'll follow your advice and rid the premises of cookies.

    Many calories in cornbread?

  2. I enjoyed the post, Janet, even though the last thing I need to do is lose weight. (I recently lost 15 lbs. when my mother fell and broke her hip twice.) For me, stress definitely causes weight loss.
    I love your sense of humor and your books sound intriguing.

  3. Clever post, Janet! Sound diet advice from a murder mystery--cool! Unlike Patricia Gilgor, stress eating is my big problem! Thanks for an entertaining few minutes. Can't wait to read the book!

  4. Thanks for the comments.

    Patricia, sorry to hear about your mother. When I was younger, I always lost weight (10-15 pounds) when I broke up with a serious boyfriend. That stress caused me to lose my appetite. Nothing else ever caused me to lose my appetite. But that doesn't happen any more so I'm like Dac and Sharon. Gee, isn't being older nice.

  5. Hmm. Sorry, but I can give up almost anything except chocolate. Like Patricia, stress caused weight loss for me, or at least it used to. Things change as we age.

    Excellent blog, and I enjoyed the way you wove a web around murder and dieting.
    Marja McGraw

  6. Thanks. Now the question is: Will readers be intrigued enough by the web around dieting and plotting a fictional murder to read Murder: A New Way to Lose Weight?

  7. Thanks for all your comments. I hope all of you enjoy reading Janet's books. I apologize for not commenting also, but I've had internet probelms for a week or so. Grrr.