Author Archives: K.B. Owen

The Introverted Author, the Malice Domestic Convention, and a Giveaway!

Malice Domestic 29

 

by K.B. Owen

To (liberally) paraphrase Austen: it is a truth universally acknowledged, that we introvert authors need to come out of our writing caves from time to time and interact with our fellows.

The Malice Domestic Convention fits the bill nicely for those of us who are mystery author introverts. Malice celebrates mystery fiction written in the cozy style, aka the tradition of Agatha Christie, and has been held yearly in Bethesda, MD since 1989. With its three days of panel discussions, book signings, awards, and social receptions, the convention draws authors and readers alike.

One of many signings, after the crowd had thinned and I could move around.

When I step into the space, I feel as if I’ve rediscovered my tribe. No one bats an eyelash over you bringing your takeout lunch to Luci Zahray’s (otherwise known as the “Poison Lady”) panel on the use of organophosphates to bump off someone (characters, of course). The audience was practically rubbing its hands and cackling with glee as she detailed the symptoms, the lack of a test to detect the compound, the difficulty in reversing the effects, and the ease of access to the poison (any Home Depot or garage sale…also, apparently DDT can still be found at the random garage or yard sale because folks don’t throw out ANYTHING).

Luci Zahray, “Poison Lady.” You can’t see the rat poison and other samples she had on display from this angle, unfortunately.

For the introvert, the nice thing about a convention is you can pick and choose when you want to converse. You can get a lot out of the convention by simply attending the panels and listening (not an option if you are ON the panel, of course, but then you signed up for that, LOL).

The hospitality lounge is a nice place to get yourself some coffee or tea and browse the long tables for bookmarks and promotional goodies that authors set out. I came away with a pen, a set of sticky notes, a disposable flashlight, and a hand mirror…all kinds of cool stuff! I had brought some of my own material for the hospitality tables, too: bookmarks of my Concordia Wells series, along with a basket of peppermint patties and individually wrapped tea bags with my logo sticker/web address on the back of each piece.

It’s hard to see the stickers here, but they were really cute. *wink*

I kept refilling the basket, but there wasn’t a candy or tea bag left by Sunday morning!

In between browsing the dealers’ tables, chatting with folks, getting my books signed, and going to the Agatha Awards dinner, I attended several terrific panels that weekend (there were many more I couldn’t fit in). Here’s a partial list to give you an idea:

  • Malice Go-Round: It’s Like Speed Dating, But With Authors (Attendees sit and relax while pairs of authors come to them, distribute bookmarks–and sometimes chocolate, and describe their series and new releases. Then the moderator calls time, they rotate to another table, our table gets a new pair of authors, and so on. One of my fave events).
  • Making History: Agatha Best Historical Novel Nominees (Authors nominated for the Agatha in the category of best historical novel talk about their books, their research, etc. A fab and funny group!).
  • Murder on the Menu: Food & Mysteries (Several food-themed series authors talked about their inspiration, where they get their recipes, and the funny coincidence of growing up in households where their moms couldn’t cook all that well…maybe compensation for a deprived childhood? *wink*)
  • Poison Lady (Described above).
  • Book’em: Book-Loving Sleuths (Kind of self-explanatory, but it’s amazing how many bookshop mysteries are out there!)
  • Murder Way Back When: U.S. Historicals (Loved hearing about research challenges and successes…I continued the conversation with a couple of the authors afterward, comparing databases we use).
  • Sherlock Lives! (I love reading about the Great Detective, and it was so much fun to listen to the discussion of the current pastiches out there, and all the SH societies).

Panel for best historical Agatha nominees. Catriona McPherson won!

The most meaningful event for me personally was the Mystery Most Historical Signing, held on Friday evening. Mystery Most Historical is this year’s Malice anthology of short stories, and guess what…a story of mine is in it!

“Summons for a Dead Girl” is set in September of 1911 in New York City, months after the devastating Triangle Factory fire, and features spirit medium/con woman Maddy Cartiere. The blurb and opening paragraphs below give you an idea of the story:

***

This book signing was an additional thrill because I was part of a large group of authors (many of them prolific and best sellers) who were also signing. The reader turnout for autographs was amazing, and it was such a privilege to chat with mystery fans while sitting in the company of award-winning authors such as Catriona McPherson, Victoria Thompson, Carole Nelson Douglas, and Elaine Viets!

Your typical group picture: someone looking away, someone’s eyes closed, someone waving a hand or fussing with something, LOL.

 

Short story author Keenan Powell was signing on my left. Such a nice lady!

To celebrate the release of the anthology, I’m holding an:

Anthology Giveaway

May 9th-23rd

I’ll be giving away five (5) signed paperback copies of Mystery Most Historical!

To help with logistics, I’m using the Gleam giveaway service to keep things organized and randomly select the winners. All you have to do is visit the giveaway page HERE to see your options for entering the drawing. Multiple entries increase your chances:

https://gleam.io/NjmCZ/anthology-giveaway

I’ll notify the winners no later than May 31st, and ask for your street address to ship the book to you. Good luck!

Do you enjoy attending conventions, or do you find them a bit overwhelming? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

Posted by K.B. Owen, misterio press author.

K.B. Owen taught college English for nearly two decades at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC, and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature. A mystery lover ever since she can remember, she drew upon her teaching experiences in creating her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells. Unlike the fictional Miss Wells, she did not have to conduct lectures in a bustle and full skirts.  Thankfully. Learn more about her historical mysteries at her website, Chasing the Cozy Thrill.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

3 Reasons Why a Sleuth Can Never Take a Vacation

by Kathy (K.B.) Owen

Ah, the chance to get away from it all. Our sleuth (amateur or otherwise) is more than ready to leave the bustle behind and relax, dig her toes in the sand, perhaps sip a cool beverage beside the water. Not a care in the world.

Nope. Not gonna happen. The mystery writer is there to ruthlessly yank that illusion away. Bwahaha. 

Why so heartless? Because vacationing is the perfect occasion for mayhem and murder. Here are three reasons why:

State of mind.

No one wants to deal with unpleasantness or disruption while on vacation. And a dead body can be plenty disruptive, as Hercule Poirot found out during his aborted vacation in Christie’s Death on the Nile. Conflict, a key ingredient to any story, increases when our expectations are flouted and we are caught unprepared. A detective’s fellow vacationers would rather be sipping margaritas than answering uncomfortable questions.

The journey.

Henry M. Stanley and party standing on back of train at Monterey, California, March 19th, 1891, porters standing at side of car. Library of Congress.

Trains, planes, cruise ships…great opportunities for chaos and conflict, as strangers are forced to travel together in tight quarters. Tempers flare. Small annoyances turn into big grievances. Moreover, who are these people? What troubles have they brought along with them?

Mystery writers have long turned to such a setting. I couldn’t resist it myself in the fourth book of my Concordia Wells Mysteries, Unseemly Haste, which is set aboard a cross-country sleeper car in the summer of 1898. There may have been a dead body or two, but you’d have to read it to find out. *wink*

The locale.

There are a couple of elements to consider in this category. One is the incongruity between, say, a paradise location and a grisly murder. Everywhere one looks–the swaying palms, the gentle breeze, the gorgeous sunsets–indicates peace, contentment, serenity. Except for the grisly body one has just stumbled upon.

Just a sunset, no body. Photo by K.B. Owen.

Another consideration is the “fish out of water” aspect of being in a strange place. We are completely dependent upon the local hosts who are the only ones familiar with the people, backstories, customs, and overall workings of the community. Misinformation–or outright lying–can make for some wonderful twists and turns to the mystery. Who knows what secrets lurk in paradise?

So, there you have it: our poor, overworked sleuth cannot catch a break.

Any other reasons you can think of as to why a vacation spot works so well for a mystery? I’d love to hear from you.

Speaking of detectives and vacations, I’d like to announce a new release!

 Missing jewels…a haunted inn…a long-held secret…

Penelope Hamilton Wynch, one of the few female operatives employed at the Pinkerton Agency in 1886, is sent to the Adirondacks to investigate the mysterious happenings at Schroon Lake Inn, newly renovated to cater to New York City’s upper crust on summer holiday. Rumors of ghosts are bad enough, but when expensive jewelry disappears, the owner’s livelihood is at stake. A woman’s touch is needed.

Pen’s boss, William Pinkerton, thinks he has given her the perfect cover. She is to play the part of an eccentric spirit medium, eager to experience the purported ghostly manifestations.

Unfortunately, her cover will not remain intact for long, and there are those watching who do not want the secrets disturbed.

Available for pre-order now, goes live March 1st! Just $0.99

 Order from Kindle or iBooks

Until next time,
Kathy

Posted by Kathy Owen (aka K.B. Owen). Kathy is a recovering former English professor with a PhD in 19th century British literature. She is currently raising three boys and working on Book 6 in the Concordia Wells series of historical cozy mysteries.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

1890s Courtship Etiquette

by Kathy Owen

Among the rewarding perks of historical novel writing are the cool bits of info that I find along the way.

While researching the topic of courtship for the fifth book of the Concordia Wells Mysteries – a series set in a fictitious 1890s women’s college – I came upon a fascinating self-help etiquette book by Mrs. John Sherwood, entitled Manners  and Social Usages (1884, revised 1901). I thought I’d share it with you today, focusing on what was expected of men and women in their journey to the altar.

etiquette-manual-title-pg

 

At the time of its original publication, the United States was barely 100 years old. The author (an American woman who had read and traveled widely) was very much aware of the need for a guide. She says in her Preface:

The newness of our country is perpetually renewed by the sudden making of fortunes, and by the absence of a hereditary, reigning set. There is no aristocracy here which has the right and title to set the fashions.

But courtship was no mere fashion. It was a serious business, with significant consequences to the young lady’s reputation if she and her parents/chaperone weren’t careful:

etiquette-manual8a

Sadly, I think the “black sheep” will always be with us.

What were the consequences when one of these black sheep strayed into the fold? Wolfish rather than sheep-like (though a wolf with a big wallet and a taste in theater…but ahh, the metaphor is falling apart on me, so I’ll stop):

etiquette-manual-5a

Ouch. So, what is the remedy?

Chaperones. Yeah, even back then no one was crazy about the idea. Mrs. John Sherwood acknowledges the tedious nature of a young lady having to be chaperoned constantly. Apparently, American girls were particularly resistant:

etiquette-manual-9a

Besides having a chaperone, what else can a young lady do to protect herself? Mrs. Sherwood was a big fan of a girl “playing hard to get.” According to the author, “Men, as they look back on their own varied experience, are apt to remember with great respect the women who were cold and distant….

etiquette-manual-6a

Brrr, it’s getting chilly in here.

And the restrictions weren’t over once a formal engagement was announced…no, no.

etiquette-manual-2a

You can imagine my vexation, as an author, in not being able to get my engaged couple alone for some crucial plot points without the risk of vulgarity…but wait! Dear Mrs. Sherwood notes two exceptions to the rules of chaperonage, both of which apply to Concordia:

etiquette-manual12a

Check. Concordia is twenty-nine (was she ever a “giddy girl”?). On to exception #2:

etiquette-manual10a

Concordia is a literature professor at Hartford Women’s College…double check! Mrs. John Sherwood, I could kiss you. …okay, never mind.

What do you think of the courtship conventions of the 1890s? Are there any we should keep? Or are you relieved to be living in the 21st century? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

P.S. – Check out my new release, Beloved and Unseemly!

belovedandunseemlyebook

A stolen blueprint, a dead body, and wedding bells….
Change is in the air at Hartford Women’s College in the fall of 1898. Renowned inventor Peter Sanbourne—working on Project Blue Arrow for the Navy—heads the school’s new engineering program, and literature professor Concordia Wells prepares to leave to marry David Bradley.

The new routine soon goes awry when a bludgeoned body—clutching a torn scrap of the only blueprint for Blue Arrow—is discovered on the property Concordia and David were planning to call home.

To unravel the mystery that stands between them and their new life together, Concordia must navigate deadly pranks, dark secrets, and long-simmering grudges that threaten to tear apart her beloved school and leave behind an unseemly trail of bodies.

Now available at your favorite online bookseller (buttons are clickable):

Posted by Kathy Owen (aka K.B. Owen). Kathy is a recovering former English professor with a PhD in 19th century British literature. She is currently raising three boys and working on Book 6 in the Concordia Wells series of historical cozy mysteries.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

The mystery of 1890s train travel…and a book release!

Concordia logo FINALby K. B. Owen, misterio press author

I love being a historical mystery writer. Though it means additional research time as well as longer gaps between book releases, I run across fascinating stuff. I enjoy weaving the plot of a mystery into the historical world. I hope you’ve been pleased with the results so far!

I’m here today to announce my newest release, Unseemly Haste (book 4 of the Concordia Wells Mysteries). It’s set in the summer of 1898, as my characters make their way from New York to San Francisco aboard a Pullman sleeper car train. LOTS of research. Want to see some of the cool things I ran across?

I’m so glad you said yes. *wink*

Planning the journey: the route from New York to San Francisco

The New York Tribune, May 21, 1898. ChroniclingAmerica.loc.gov

The New York Tribune, May 21, 1898. ChroniclingAmerica.loc.gov

Railway mergers, shared use agreements, and the standardization of track gauge, platform configurations, etc, made cross-country travel by rail easier than ever by the 1890s. The three-day trip covered 3,270 miles. For the route my characters took, four different railways were involved: the Pennsylvania RR, the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago RR, the Central Pacific RR, and the Union Pacific RR. According to Appletons’ General Guide to the United States and Canada: Western and Southern states (D. Appleton and Company, 1889), the cost of the Chicago Limited Express (sleeper compartment included in the price) from New York to Chicago was $28, then from Chicago to San Francisco, aboard the Overland Limited, $72.50.

All aboard! Dining and Recreation:

Though a short journey for its time, passengers still needed places to sleep, eat, and relax along the way. Pullman Palace cars supplied passengers needs with style. Luxury amenities included electric lighting, steam heat, chandeliers, and gourmet menus.

 

Lithograph advertisement, Strobridge&Co, 1894. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Lithograph advertisement, Strobridge & Co, 1894. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

 

1895 Baltimore and Ohio RR publicity photo. Wikimedia commons public domain).

Dining car, 1895 Baltimore and Ohio RR publicity photo. Wikimedia commons (public domain).

 

courtesy of University of Nevada, Las Vegas University Libraries.

Courtesy of University of Nevada, Las Vegas University Libraries.

 

Pullman parlor car, Smithsonian Institute Archives, http://sirismm.si.edu

Pullman parlor car, Smithsonian Institute Archives, http://sirismm.si.edu

Sleeping:

The ingenious Pullman design converted seats to private bunks at night.

 The interior of a Chicago and Alton Railroad Pullman car circa 1900. Photo by Detroit Publishing Co, c. 1900. Library of Congress.

The interior of a Chicago and Alton Railroad Pullman car circa 1900. Photo by Detroit Publishing Co, c. 1900. Library of Congress.

 

George Pullman's 1865 sketch for patent #49,992, via midcontinent.org.

George Pullman’s 1865 sketch for patent #49,992, via midcontinent.org.

 

For those who could afford it, entire private cars were available, as pictured below. (Less expensively, private compartments within a railway car were also available).

Henry M. Stanley and party standing on back of train at Monterey, California, March 19th, 1891, porters standing at side of car. Library of Congress.

Henry M. Stanley and party standing on back of train at Monterey, California, March 19th, 1891, porters standing at side of car. Library of Congress.

Porters:

Pullman porter helping passenger aboard, 1890s. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Pullman porter helping passenger aboard, 1890s. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

Pullman porters at the time were exclusively African-American, and were referred to by passengers and industry officials alike as “George,” no matter their given name. Working conditions and pay were exploitatively poor. They finally unionized in 1925, under the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, led by A. Phillip Randolph. According to the A. Phillip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum:

The porters had tried to organize since the beginning of the century. The wages and working conditions were below average for decades. For example, the porters were required to work 400 hours per month or 11,000 miles—whichever occurred first to receive full pay. Porters depended on the passengers’ tips in order to earn a decent level of pay. Typically, the porters’ tips were more than their monthly salary earned from the Pullman Company.

It was certainly a thankless job, which I kept in mind when creating Jonas, the porter who features prominently in Unseemly Haste.

Which brings me to my announcement:

NEW RELEASE!

Unseemly Haste

Book 4 of the Concordia Wells Mysteries

cover by Melinda VanLone

cover by Melinda VanLone

 

Murder aboard the Overland Limited…

It is the summer of 1898. Professor Concordia Wells is eager to accompany her friend, Pinkerton detective Penelope Hamilton, on a cross-country train trip to San Francisco. Breathless vistas and exciting locales will be a welcome change from a fiancé impatient to set a wedding date and the threat of revenge from the remaining Inner Circle members back in Hartford.

But Concordia should know there is no such thing as a free ride. When the Pinkerton Agency switches assignments at the last minute, she and Miss Hamilton both have jobs to do. Fellow passengers prove to be both help and hindrance: a lady reporter in hiding, a con man, Chinese acrobats…and a corpse or two. Then there is the handsome gentleman with the dark hair, green eyes, and a secret agenda of his own. Good thing Concordia is an engaged lady. Or is it?

Available now at these retailers (buttons below are hyperlinked):

*coming soon to iBooks

Have you ever traveled via sleeper train? Do you wish you had the chance? I’d love to hear from you.

~Kathy

 

Posted by Kathy Owen (aka K.B. Owen). Kathy is a recovering former English professor with a PhD in 19th century British literature. She is a mom to three sons and writes the Concordia Wells series of historical mysteries. Her twitter handle is @kbowenwriter, or you can connect with her on her Facebook page.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

BoucherCon: an Author’s Guide

bouchercon raleighby K.B. Owen, misterio press author

A couple of days ago I returned from BoucherCon. With an attendance of 1500, it’s considered one of the larger mystery fiction conventions out there. (For those unfamiliar with the name, BoucherCon was created in 1970, in honor of mystery writer/editor/critic Anthony Boucher).

It appeals to every mystery fan along the continuum: authors, readers, agents, publishers, librarians, booksellers. The location changes each year. This year it was in Raleigh, NC.

This was my first BoucherCon. As an introvert who is most comfortable in my writing cave, I knew it was going to be exciting and challenging at the same time.

Here are a few things I learned along the way. I hope these will be of help for those new to the convention experience. I’m specifically targeting fellow authors, but many of these elements apply to anyone attending a large event of this kind.

Before the convention:

bouchercon11. Determine your goals. 

What do you want to get out of this experience? An agent, a possible contract? Connections to fellow writers, potential readers, booksellers? Spreading the word about your new release? A chance to meet well-established authors you’ve always admired? Learning from the panel discussions?

Clarifying your goals in advance will go a long way towards helping you decide how to spend your time at the convention and how you prepare. For me, I wanted to make connections with fellow authors and readers and learn more about this crazy process we call writing novels.

…and meet Laurie King! (Photo at right by fan-girl K.B. Owen).

2. Promo materials.

My convention badge, with my bookmarks front and center.

My convention badge, with my bookmarks front and center.

Chances are you’ll want to get the word out about your books, right? Well, in this environment, bookmarks rule! The numerous panels meant that two hotels were involved, with several corridors and public spaces where tables were situated. The table surfaces were absolutely covered with bookmarks, business cards, cocktail coasters, and rack cards promoting authors’ works. And readers patrolled those tables continually!  They couldn’t get enough bookmarks.

I had brought bookmarks that I thought I’d be hand-delivering, person by person (which I did), but I didn’t know about the tables until I got there. In the future, I’ll be bringing many more bookmarks (and probably adding tassels for extra pop). I’ll also bring some sort of holder for them, to keep them vertical and contained. Horizontal table space is at a premium, and loose printed materials tended to slide around and get buried under other stuff.

Books: one of the nice things about BoucherCon in particular (in contrast to another mystery fic convention I used to attend) is that indie authors have the option to sell their books on consignment through one of the book room vendors. It’s not ideal (my books were only available for one day out of the four), but it is a unique opportunity, so I recommend doing it if you get the chance.

My books for sale at BoucherCon.

My books for sale at BoucherCon.

3. Forge connections.

Conventions are all about connections, and you can get started on that even before you walk in the door. For example, if you’ve been meaning to join Sisters in Crime, join ahead of time. You’ll get emails from them about meet-ups, events, and promo opportunities at the convention.

Use this opportunity to catch up with fellow writers you’ve never been able to meet in person. Find out who’s going, exchange phone numbers, figure out where you might be able to meet up. I met several writer pals this way during the convention, and they turned out to be even more fabulous in person! (Pictured below: Diane Capri, and me with Susan Spann).

bouchercon2abouchercon5a

At the convention:

1. Volunteer.

bouchercon6Big conventions like BoucherCon need lots of volunteers to make the magic happen. When I got an email request to volunteer, my first instinct (being the writer cave-dweller I mentioned earlier) was to think this wasn’t a good idea. After all, I’ve never been to a BoucherCon, and I didn’t know what to expect. But then I realized that I could pick a job that didn’t require a whole lot of knowledge, and it might be a great way to break the ice and get to know some people.

And that’s exactly what happened. I served as a panel monitor twice, Thursday and Saturday. All it involved was keeping time, holding up a discreet sign for the moderator, setting out water for the panelists, and potential troubleshooting of microphone issues (which basically meant fetching someone who knew what to do). It felt good to be of assistance to writers I’ve always admired, such as Dorothy Cannell and Stephanie Barron, and it made me a bit more recognizable in a crowd.

2. Accommodations.

If you can manage it, book your hotel within walking distance, ideally within the convention center itself. BoucherCon’s convention hotel fills quickly (more than a year in advance!), but I learned after the fact that you can keep calling the hotel and snag a last-minute cancellation. That way you don’t have to drive in an unfamiliar city, remember what parking garage you’re in, and lug all of your worldly possessions (including books that get heavier by the minute), which is what happened to me. Fortunately, the garage was only a block and a half away, so I used my car as a place to stow things until I needed them, and just made an extra trip or two to swap things out. Also, fellow mystery writer Susan Spann graciously let me spiff up in her room just before the Anthony Awards reception Saturday night.

3. What to wear.

There were endless variations on this, but the majority of attendees dressed in business casual. There are no hard and fast rules for this. I wore dress slacks, dress blouse, and a nice scarf. Flat dress shoes were a must for me. I have a low frustration threshold for teetering around in heels on city sidewalks and in banquet halls. 😉

4. Making conversation (tips for the introvert).

 The prospect of introducing myself to strangers and making conversation with them used to scare the pants off me. That feeling has abated with practice, though I still get butterflies (and the occasional impulse to hide in the ladies’ room). When I find myself feeling this way, I do three things:

a) I remind myself that there are quite a few people like me out there. I may be cutting someone else a break by initiating the conversation.

b) It’s perfectly okay to talk about myself and what I write. Sharing what we do is a big part of why we’re all coming together in the first place.

c) If I feel tongue-tied about describing my own project, or the conversation seems to be lagging, I ask the other person additional questions about him/herself: what they write, how they’re feeling about the convention, what they’ve enjoyed so far, and so on. Being a good listener is a rare gift these days, and people appreciate it.

BoucherCon was an amazing experience, and I’m so glad I attended. I don’t know if it will translate into better visibility down the road, but it was worthwhile in many intangible ways. My final piece of advice: give it a try for yourself!

Have you ever attended a fiction convention? Any tips you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you!

~Kathy

Concordia logo FINAL

Columbo, a master of mystery

by K.B. Owen

We Misterio Press authors like to gather our inspiration from all sorts of places, one of them being the wonderful detective characters that have come before. Here’s one of my favorite:

Columbo

Publicity photo 1973, Margie Korshak Associates. Wikimedia Commons.

Publicity photo 1973, Margie Korshak Associates. Wikimedia Commons.

Continue reading

4 Signs that it’s St. Pat’s Day and not the Zombie Apocalypse

stpatsday

by K.B. Owen

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone! In honor of the holiday, here are:

 4 Signs that it’s St. Patrick’s Day and NOT the Zombie Apocalypse:

1. Things are green that shouldn’t be.

Green beer, green bagels…even green water in the White House fountain:

Image taken 17 March 2011, via whitehouse.gov (CC).

Image taken 17 March 2011, via whitehouse.gov (CC). I’m thinking the zombie apocalypse will be red…

2. Kilts. Ever seen a zombie wearing one, in any movie or t.v. show? Me neither.

But…David Tennant knows how to rock a kilt:

David Tennant in kilt, 2008. Image by Christine Van Assche, from Slidell, LA, USA (used with permission).

David Tennant in kilt, 2008. Image by Christine Van Assche, from Slidell, LA, USA (used with permission).

…and here’s another cute guy in one (you’re welcome):

Image by Wellcome Images, United Kingdom (used with permission).

Image by Wellcome Images, United Kingdom (used with permission).

3. Bagpipes. Okay, I’ll give you this one: the sound of bagpipes could possibly be mistaken for that of screaming zombie victims. On the other hand, a formidable bagpipe marching band might drive back the zombie horde. Here’s a clip from:

Westchester Country Police Bagpipers, St Patrick’s Day Parade, NY, 2012 – just to give you an idea.

On the subject of bagpipes, here are a couple of riddles, courtesy of AHA Jokes:

Q. What’s the difference between a bagpipe and an onion?
A. No one cries when you chop up a bagpipe.

Q. What’s one thing you never hear people say?
A. Oh, that’s the bagpipe player’s Porsche.

4. Dancing the jig. Duh, we all know that zombies shuffle, right? Speaking of shuffling, here’s late-night host Conan O’Brien, “learning” some Irish step dancing:

Trinity Irish Dancers teach CONAN the Irish Jig.

Whatever you do to celebrate St. Pat’s Day, have fun! And remember:

Guinness storehouse, Dublin. Pic by Bkkbrad at en.wikipedia (CC).

Guinness storehouse, Dublin. Pic by Bkkbrad at en.wikipedia (CC).

Any other signs I’ve missed? I’d love to hear from you.

~Kathy

P.S. – Get a novelette for free!

Never Sleep, the first story in a new series entitled Chronicles of a Lady Detective, is available for free to all of my site subscribers at K.B. Owen Mysteries. Simply sign up on the right-hand sidebar. It’s a special “thank you” to my readers! Here’s the blurb:

cover art by Melinda VanLone

cover art by Melinda VanLone

November 1885

Although Penelope Hamilton Wynch does not especially miss her estranged husband, she does yearn for the excitement of the old days, when they worked together on assignments from the Pinkerton Agency. So it is no surprise that, despite their irreconcilable differences, she finds herself agreeing to help him on a case once again. He needs her to infiltrate the household of H.A. Comstock, a wealthy industrial magnate who has been the victim of factory sabotage and an assassination attempt.

As Pen works the case while dodging her husband’s attempts at reconciliation, she encounters another old flame who is looking more and more like the prime suspect. Pen must resist her renewed feelings for the man, as she races against time to stop the saboteur and would-be assassin before he tries again.

Posted by Kathy Owen (aka K.B. Owen). Kathy is a recovering former English professor with a PhD in 19th century British literature. She is a mom to three boys and working on Book 4 in the Concordia Wells series of historical cozy mysteries. Her twitter handle is @kbowenwriter, or you can connect with her on her Facebook page.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

Time for Chocolate!

by K.B. Owen

With the decadence of Mardi Gras upon us (and the sugar-coma of Valentine’s Day fresh in our minds), a post solely dedicated to chocolate seemed appropriate. Our fascination with this particular food item is older than you might think. Enjoy!

It’s hard to imagine a world without chocolate, isn’t it? But how and when did folks first discover it?  Was it always the sweet dessert we know it to be?

Image by David Leggett, via wikimedia commons.

Image by David Leggett, via wikimedia commons

The beginnings: Mesoamerica (early central Americas)

image via nhcs.wikispaces.com

Chocolate was initially consumed in beverage form.  Some scholars put its use as far back as the Olmecs (1500-400 BCE), even earlier than the generally-acknowledged Mayans (250-900 CE), and Aztecs (14th CE).  Both Mayans and Aztecs used it in their sacred rituals – including cheering up sacrifice victims too depressed to dance in their own pre-sacrifice “celebrations.”

In fact, the Aztecs valued cacao beans as currency.  According to early documents, three cacao beans could get you a turkey egg (source: Cornell University).  Cacao wafers were also issued to soldiers, to be dissolved into beverage form when needed. It was considered fortifying on long campaigns.

Spain

"Cortes". Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cortes.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Cortes.jpg

“Cortes”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

In their travels/take-overs, Spanish Conquistadors were introduced to chocolate (although Cortez considered it a “bitter drink for pigs”) and brought it back to Spain.  Once modifications were made, with the addition of  sweeteners, vanilla, and other flavorings more familiar to the European palate, the beverage became popular among the wealthy class in Spain.  It was also considered somewhat medicinal in nature.  But it wasn’t until the 17th century that it seemed to catch on throughout Europe.

The 19th century: chocolate changes from beverage to candy

We have the Swiss and the Dutch to thank for developing processes whereby the fat content of chocolate was reduced (and some of it added back, in the form of cocoa butter), and the resulting product could be molded more easily into bars and discs.  At first, this was intended to make it easier to dissolve into water or milk as a beverage, but the smooth, aromatic sensation of eating the resulting solid form of the chocolate made it quickly appealing.

We also have the British to thank for passing the first legislative standards for chocolate in 1860, which kept commonly-used adulterations such as brick dust (I kid you not) out of our chocolate!

White's Chocolate House, London, 1708. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

White’s Chocolate House, London, 1708. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Ghirardelli, Guittard, Cadbury, Lindt, Hershey, and Nestle (who invented Milk Chocolate) – all were chocolate makers who furthered the quality of chocolate in the 19th century, through various mechanical processes.  The sources below have more info about them, along with other fascinating facts.  Check them out!

Chocolate – food of the gods (Cornell University)

Cacao and Chocolate Timeline

The Food Timeline

Understanding Chocolate

Smithsonian: A Brief History of Chocolate

In the spirit of Mardi Gras and chocolate decadence, here’s a favorite chocolate recipe of mine.  It’s a cross between cocktail and decadent dessert (even reading about it may be fattening, LOL).  My hubby made them for a murder mystery party we hosted a while back, and they were a big hit:

MUDSLIDE (makes 1)

from the Bartender’s Pocket Guide

Ingredients:

1 oz Kahlua

1 oz vodka

1 oz Bailey’s Irish Cream

2 scoops vanilla ice cream

1 Oreo cookie

chocolate syrup

whipped cream

Directions: Blend the first 5 ingredients until smooth.  Circle a drizzle of chocolate syrup inside a large parfait glass.  Pour in the blended ingredients and top with whipped cream and another drizzle of chocolate syrup.

Yum!!

Image via Wikimedia Commons

Image via Wikimedia Commons

A special salute to the passing of Italian confectioner Michele Ferrero, son of the inventor of Nutella, Pietro Ferrero. Michele coined the term “Nutella” for the spread his father concocted to get more mileage from the scarce cocoa available (there was a shortage during WWII). The company is also responsible for Tic-Tacs and Ferrero-Rocher truffles (among other products). Ironically, or fittingly, he passed away on Valentine’s Day, the holiday best known for chocolate.

What are your favorite forms of chocolate, or do you think chocolate is wa-a-ay too fussed over?  I’d love to hear from you!

Posted by Kathy Owen (aka K.B. Owen). Kathy is a recovering former English professor with a PhD in 19th century British literature. She is currently raising three boys and working on Book 4 in the Concordia Wells series of historical cozy mysteries.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

The Two-Sided Sword of Ambition

by Kassandra Lamb and K.B. Owen

I woke up the other morning with the subject of K.B. Owen’s new release, Unseemly Ambition, on my mind. My muse had apparently spent the night pondering the question: What happens when ambition, normally a good thing, is no longer reined in by a conscience?

When we say someone is an ambitious young man or woman, that’s meant as a compliment. We’re saying that they are going to work hard in life and probably accomplish great things. And if we say that someone “lacks ambition,” we’re putting them down, indicating that they are practicing one of the seven deadly sins: sloth. They are being lazy, cruising through life. We may even view it as an intrinsic flaw in their character.

1725 engraving of "The Lazy Student"

“The Lazy Student” 1725 copper engraving by Johann Georg Puschner

A synonym for ambition might be goal, or even dream. And we’re supposed to have goals and dreams. The only times in life when someone is allowed to not be ambitious are childhood and retirement. And even then, although it’s not expected, we still applaud ambition when it occurs.

Many of my younger writer friends complain about the reactions they sometimes get from others (sometimes even total strangers). Some people tell them to “stop wasting their time” and “get a real job.” These critics don’t see writing as a worthy ambition. “You’re just sitting around all day writing.” As if crafting words were the same as eating bonbons.

I have never gotten that reaction. When people ask me what I’m up to these days and I tell them, their response is always positive. “Wow, that’s so cool!” Why? Because I’m retired from two previous careers as a psychotherapist and college professor. So I’ve already fulfilled the requirement to be ambitious. Now, my efforts to write are seen as a bonus ambition!

But ambition has a dark side. What happens when one is so obsessed by their ambitions that they become ruthless?

I’m reminded of a famous incident 20 years ago, when those close to a champion figure skater conspired to take out the competition via a physical attack. In 1994, Tonya Harding’s ex-husband and her bodyguard hired a man to attack Nancy Kerrigan and break her leg. Their ambitions were successful in the short term. Kerrigan was forced to withdraw from the 1994 U.S. Figure Skating Championship, leaving the path open for Tonya Harding to win that event.

Stamp of Azerbaijan--Nancy Kerrigan skating

1994 Azerbaijan Republic stamp honoring Nancy Kerrigan

Kerrigan, fortunately, recovered from the attack, her leg only bruised rather than broken. She continued her career and won or placed in other champion-ships, including winning a silver medal in the 1994 Olympics.

Those who had engineered the attack ended up in prison, and Harding avoided jail time only by pleading guilty to hindering the prosecution of those men. Her career was over. The U.S. Figure Skating Association conducted their own investigation and determined that she knew about the attack in advance. They stripped her of her 1994 Championship title and banned her from skating.

In this case, the overly ambitious were caught and punished, and their intended victim recovered relatively unscathed, but that doesn’t always happen in the real world. Indeed, when we stop and think about it, much of the evil in the world is perpetrated by those who have crossed the line to the dark side of ambition.

When ambition is no longer balanced by ethics and compassion for others, it becomes ugly… and unseemly. But fortunately, in both the real world and in fiction, there are those who are willing to stand up to the overly ambitious, such as K.B. Owen’s intrepid Concordia Wells.

Your thoughts on the two-edged sword of ambition? Have you ever felt its bite? Talk to us in the comments, but first here’s K.B. to tell you more about her new book, and a contest. Woot!! (Psst, it’s okay to have the ambition to be one of the twelve winners. Make sure you enter multiple times. That’s allowed.)

Hi, K.B. here. So excited to tell you about Concordia’s latest adventure…

book cover UNSEEMLY AMBITION, A Concordia Wells Mystery
by K.B. Owen

A murder…a missing boy…a secret society’s bold and deadly plot.

It is 1898, and Professor Concordia Wells turns to an old ally when her good friend, the eleven-year-old Eli, disappears after his mother’s murder. Complicating Concordia’s desperate search for answers is the ever-watchful college dean, who has recently learned of her past “lady sleuth” doings. It also doesn’t help that Concordia’s own school colleagues are not above suspicion.

Despite the dean’s close scrutiny, the lady professor presses on with her unseemly inquiries. Far more people are in jeopardy than the loved ones she seeks to protect, and now there is no turning back.

Available at:     AMAZON     BARNES & NOBLE      KOBO     SMASHWORDS

And in paperback as well!

Ready for a little “Unseemly” giveaway?

We’re ready to celebrate the recent release of the new Concordia Wells mystery, Unseemly Ambition, and we want you to party with us!

K.B. Owen mysteries logoPrizes: ebooks from the series, a signed paperback, promo goodies (Post-It pads, candy tins), and even the opportunity for folks to collaborate with K.B. to name a character or pick a distinctive trait for a character in book #4, Unseemly Haste! She’ll be randomly drawing twelve winners overall. If any of the winners live outside the United States or Canada, she’ll substitute a gift card to Amazon because of the prohibitive postage for certain items.

When: between now and January 31, 2014. Winners will be announced on February 6, 2014.

How to get your name in the drawings (choose from any or all of these): 

1. subscribe to K.B.’s newsletter (those who have already subscribed will have their names automatically entered);

2. write a review on Amazon or BN for any of the Concordia books (your name will be entered TWICE for each review, and if you’ve already left a review in the past, drop her a line to confirm that you want her to enter your name in the giveaway, either in the comments or email: contact@kbowenmysteries.com);

3. send her a pic of yourself (to the address above) with any of the Concordia books (on your e-reader or in print)…or, if you feel camera-shy, send her a pic of one of the books “in the wild.” She’d love to see where Concordia has traveled to! She’ll post them on her Unseemly Readers page;

4. leave a comment on today’s blog post, and any she writes at kbowenmysteries.com. There will also be the opportunity to comment on upcoming guest posts K.B. writes (to be announced).

Remember, your name can be entered more than once, so participating in multiple ways will increase your chances of winning!

 K.B. Owen is a recovering former English professor with a PhD in 19th century British literature. She is currently raising three boys and working on Book 4 in the Concordia Wells series of historical cozy mysteries.

Add some Betsy to your Fourth!

by G. Liebscher, via wikimedia commons.

by G. Liebscher, via wikimedia commons.

 

by Kathy Owen

I’ll bet you haven’t thought about Betsy Ross since you
were in grade school, right?

With Independence Day almost here, let’s take a look
at some cool facts regarding America’s seamstress.

Interesting facts about Betsy Ross and the
creation of the first flag:

1.   Betsy grew up in a large family: she was the 8th of 17 children.

2.   In her teen years, Betsy was apprenticed to an upholsterer, and that’s the business she worked in the rest of her life, starting her own shop with her first husband, John Ross.  An upholsterer in those times sewed much more than furniture-related items, and tasks included flags and garments.

3.   In May 1776, the now-widowed Betsy was visited in her home by a secret committee from the Continental Congress:  George Washington (then head of the Continental Army), Robert Morris, and George Ross, the uncle to Betsy’s late husband.  Washington already knew the widow; she had embroidered ruffles on his shirts in the past, and their pews at Christ Church were right next to each other.  Along with her skill, she was the natural choice for making the first flag.

4.   The original sketch Washington showed her was of 6-pointed stars, but Betsy proposed using 5-pointed.  They thought 5-pointed stars were too hard to make, but she showed them otherwise, by making a 5-pointed star with a single snip of her scissors.  Want to learn how?  Click here.

Up until this time, each colony had its own flag, and the founding fathers knew the value of a unifying symbol.

5.   Betsy was married three times.  Her first two husbands were killed as a result of the war.

6.   In the winter of 1777 (well after Betsy had finished the flag and the Continental Congress had passed the Declaration of Independence), British soldiers forcibly occupied her home during the time their army had possession of Philadelphia.  This was the same brutal winter the Continental Army was spending in Valley Forge.

7.   Betsy lived to be 84 years old, and had 7 children, 5 of whom survived into adulthood.

"The Birth of Old Glory," by Percy Moran. Image via wikimedia commons.

“The Birth of Old Glory,” by Percy Moran. Image via wikimedia commons.

Want more info?

Betsy Ross Homepage

“Flag Day” – Library of Congress

Flag Timeline

To our American readers, Happy Independence Day, and to our readers from other parts of the world, have a drink on us. Freedom deserves to be celebrated, whenever we take the time to appreciate it!

How about you? What’s your favorite fun fact about the 4th of July?

Until next time,  Kathy

Posted by Kathy Owen (aka K.B. Owen). Kathy is a recovering former English professor with a PhD in 19th century British literature. She is currently raising three boys and working on Book 3 in the Concordia Wells series of historical cozy mysteries.

We blog here at misterio press once (sometimes twice) a week,  usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please follow us so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )