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Brain Food: Trying Something New

Category: Health and Wellness Issues

by Lucy Burdette

If you are a regular follower of TopRetirements, do you take the website’s advice? Maybe you’ll have read the article from November 21 discussing Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s The Five Secrets of Super Agers. Having watched my father’s mental faculties wane under the onslaught of dementia, I’m definitely interested in keeping my brain healthy as I age. I’m pretty good at his number one, exercise, though I don’t try to keep up with my hub, Mr. Top Retirements. Number four, a Mediterranean-style diet and number five, staying connected, have been important to me for a long time.

Trying something new was number three on the list. At first I thought: I write most days, and all the words are new, so I have this one down cold. On the other hand, in the mystery world, I’m mostly known for my series featuring a food critic living in quirky Key West. I’m comfortable writing that series—I know the characters and the setting, and I love talking about restaurants and food. Even though this is a long-running series, every book is new in some way. Each story has a new plot, usually some new characters, and often new layers in the relationships between the regulars. 

But over the years, darker ideas have come to me that would not have fit in that genre. I filed away snippets of characters and plots that seemed too gritty or dark for a cozy mystery even though I recognized them as elements of a good story. For example, what if a terrified young girl handed you a newborn—and then vanished? It took ten years to write this book and get it published, but this week I saw the publication of thriller, UNSAFE HAVEN, something definitely outside of my cozy mystery comfort zone. 

Here’s the one-sentence description: After giving birth in a subway bathroom and thrusting her newborn into a newly jilted bride’s arms, a teenage runaway teams up with that stranger to save herself and her baby from the ruthless sex trafficker in pursuit.

No one is dining at restaurants in this story, or discussing recipes—they are too busy running for their lives. And the book is told from the perspective of four different characters—also a new approach for me. The upshot? This was hard! I feel certain it worked new muscles and synapses in my brain. I also hope some of my readers will enjoy reading something very different.

How about you, TR fans? Are you trying new things in your lives? 

Lucy Burdette aka clinical psychologist Roberta Isleib is the author of the popular Key West Food Critic mystery series, including the latest, A SCONE OF CONTENTION. Lucy’s first novel of suspense, UNSAFE HAVEN, was published by Severn House December 7.

Posted by Admin on December 10th, 2021


  1. Congratulations! Well done!

    Besides being an author (the third edition of The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life will be published in May), I love trying new things: sports (tennis), volunteering (Habitat for Humanity, Library Board of Trustees), coordinating activities through the social committee of the community where I live, reading books outside of my usual genre, and doing “Escape Rooms” with my adult children (I find them very challenging!).

    by Jan — December 16, 2021

  2. I like trying new adventures and follow Dr. Sanjay Gupta (thanks for the article about his new book) so this topic is interesting. I have read all of Lucy Burdette’ Key West mysteries and recommend them to anyone visiting Key West as a great read, and for fun of it as the landmarks and restaurants in the mysteries are real. And I admire the author for trying something new, I pretty much stick with the same genres of books, but I will read this one, as change is good. During covid I admired friends who found some new hobby to pursue and became passionate about it and those made it a point to stay connected or get reacquainted with old friends through email and social media. But I think trying something new is great advice whether it’s a club or sports or organization, especially for the socialization. Jan sounds like she keeps very busy and mentioned escape rooms which I have just recently heard about from a retired friend, but not sure that is for me, sounds too challenging!

    by Jemmie — December 17, 2021

  3. So uplifting, Lucy! Afraid I’ve allowed my world to become quite small and dark obsessing about the pandemic and what’s happening in our country right now, and have dug myself a rut. But this is a new day, and your column is inspiring. I think an escape into a Key West mystery is just what I need right now (since I can’t escape to Key West currently.) I am grateful for my life and health and family, but would love to hear how other people are dealing with it all, and whether they have found distractions or a whole new way of looking at things that can kick some of us out of our ruts.

    by Daryl — December 17, 2021

  4. WOW!!! Lucy I can’t wait to check out your new book! It sounds like quite an adventure. Just when things seemed to be returning to normal we now have the omicron which is spreading like wildfire. Understandably government leaders are hesitant to close up everything again. So now it’s up to individuals to do a careful re-think before going anywhere. For now, I’m happy to have all my new experiences through the pages of a book like yours!!!

    by CAM — December 17, 2021

  5. Thank you all for the kind words! Jan–escape rooms with your kids? Hope everyone makes it out alive LOL.

    Jemmie, thanks so much for recommending the Key West books to your friends! I agree, sometimes it’s comfortable to read the same genre of books. From time to time I push myself out of the mystery and women’s fiction zone, but that’s what I gravitate toward most of the time.

    Daryl, these times are challenging for sure! One thing I can recommend is to read less news. I have a friend who has a habit of scrolling for doom, and you can usually find it. I’ve tried to get more involved in the other good parts of the world. I think the public health experts now are recommending that we try to continue to live our lives while being mindful of what risks we’re willing to take.

    Cam, exactly, the virus is still with us so we have to choose what’s most important to be worth risking.

    by Lucy Burdette — December 17, 2021

  6. Lucy, just started reading The Key Lime Crime and loving it. You’re absolutely right about doom-scrolling news all day, might as well be putting poison in my morning coffee. Thank you!

    by Daryl — December 19, 2021

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