Thanksgivings past

Thanksgivings past

To all of my American friends, Happy Thanksgiving! Here’s a re-post from one I wrote a few years back, about the similar ways in which Thanksgiving was celebrated a hundred years ago. Food, football, helping those in need…notice that Black Friday is conspicuously missing.

Enjoy your holiday,

Kathy

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Check out these snippets of late-19th/early-20th century Thanksgivings, through the eyes of reporters from The New York Times. Enjoy!

Even back then, it was all about the turkey:

…although Thanksgiving was about generosity, too:

Click here for the entire November 26, 1908 article.

 

College football was another Thanksgiving tradition:

 


 

Click here for the entire November 30, 1899 article.

Hope this helps get you in the mood for the upcoming holiday!  What do you consider absolutely essential for your Thanksgiving?  I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

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Hedy Lamarr, Hollywood Bombshell…and Inventor

Hedy Lamarr, Hollywood Bombshell…and Inventor

image via wikimedia.org

Since today is Hedy Lamarr’s 101st birthday (thanks for the reminder, Google!), I’m re-posting something I wrote about her, three years ago.

Thanks for stopping by!

~KBO

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Fans of old movies know Hedy Lamarr, star of 1930s and 40s American films, such as Ziegfield Girl, and Samson and Delilah.  She was dubbed “the most beautiful woman in the world,” and worked with such Hollywood greats as Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Jimmy Stewart, Lana Turner, Judy Garland, Louis B. Mayer, and Cecil B. DeMille.

Ah, but you know there’s more, right?  Apparently, Lamarr was one smart cookie, and loved to tinker.  Did you know that, during World War II, she co-invented a frequency-hopping torpedo guidance system?  It was designed to evade the enemy’s jamming devices.  She received the patent for it in 1942.  If you think about it, it’s a precursor to what we now call spread-spectrum communication technology, used in wifi and cell phones.

So how did this come about, and why didn’t the U.S. Navy jump on it when she offered to give it to them during the war?  Check out the following video clip (only 4 minutes) for the fascinating story:

So what do you all think: was the device not taken seriously because one of its inventors was a beautiful, wildly successful actress, or the idea itself seemed too weird?  What about today’s Hollywood celebrities: do they struggle to “cross over” in the public sector, and be taken seriously in other endeavors?  I’d love to hear from you!

For anyone who’s interested, The Atlantic website has an index of links to more celebrity patents.  Check it out here:  Celebrity Invention.  My fave?  That’s a tough one: I’m torn between Lawrence Welk’s accordion ashtray and Bill Nye’s ballet slipper.  LOL!

Until next time…keep tinkering!

Kathy
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…and in case anyone missed it:

Just Released: a new Concordia Wells Mystery!

Unseemly Ambition: 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 have their work cut out for them. Fellow passengers prove to be both help and hindrance: a lady reporter in hiding, a con man…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?

 

 

Start reading at the click of a button:

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Oh, that explains it: she’s a WRITER

Oh, that explains it: she’s a WRITER

coolerWelcome to Watercooler Wednesday, where the water is above-average, the topics are bubbly, and the company is sparkling. Today’s topic:

Writer Weirdness

Writers and the writing process have been on my mind lately, with National Novel Writing month now upon us. Many of my writer friends are participating, challenging themselves to write 50K words (the length of a short novel) during this time. (I just published a novel and am plotting the next, so the timing didn’t work out for me).

Whether we’re in the midst of speed writing or more sedentary plotting, it’s so easy for us writers to be humming along with our day-to-day lives without realizing that, maybe, we’re not quite normal.

 

It's kind of a chicken-or-egg conundrum

It’s kind of a chicken-or-egg conundrum

Oh, sure, we joke about working in our pajamas until the kids come home from school, tell stories of coffee shop conversations overheard that we might be able to put to future use, and even wonder if we’re on some NSA watch list because of our web searches (my poor hubby was wringing his hands over my research into 19th century bomb-making, for example, since he has a security clearance).

meme by Kristen Lamb, at warriorwriters.wordpress.com

meme by Kristen Lamb, at warriorwriters.wordpress.com

Check out the rest of Kristen’s post, where you’ll get writer tips on unconventional uses for Febreze, and the upside of natural disasters, among other gems: You Know You’re a Writer When…

But we’re not always aware that this weirdness begins in our own heads. YA author Julie Glover reminded me of this important fact in her funny-but-ouch Facebook post:

julie glover

Julie isn’t the only writer to use pain and physical misfortune as fodder for writing. Here’s another tale of woe and oddity from Misterio Press mystery author Kassandra Lamb:

writer weird2

Pretty neat when you can get your spouse to drink the Kool-Aid, too. 😉

Basically, writers make up lies for a living. Sometimes it’s a challenge to extricate ourselves from the worlds of our creation, even when we aren’t in front of the keyboard.

writer humor1

Those scenarios above? All me.

Mystery writer Janice Hamrick certainly danced the fine line between writing and reality (with great hilarity) when trying to break into her own house:

I was in the back yard when my daughter poked her head out the door to let me know she was leaving and by habit (and a very good habit it is) locked the door. Twenty minutes later, I turned the door knob to go inside and found the deadbolt doing the job for which it was designed. My first thought was a fairly standard, “Oh, no!” However, my second was…and I’m not kidding here… “I’ve always wanted to break into a house.”

The top half of my back door has one of those large windows with nine panes, and I had a toolbox on the porch. It seemed like Fate. In a flash of inspiration, I conceived the brilliant idea that I would break through the lower left pane, reach through the gap, and unlock the deadbolt.  I even decided to time myself so I’d know just how long the hapless homeowners had between the first tinkling of shattered glass on the concrete floor and the inevitable brutal entry. Using a pair of sunglasses as eye protection, I placed an old towel over the pane and swung the hammer with a certain amount of trepidation.

It bounced like a superball off a brick wall.

Undaunted, I swung a second time. Once again I achieved only a bounce of the hammer and some seriously undamaged glass.  Mildly annoyed, I dropped the towel, which was obviously  providing too much protection, and tried again. The bounce, if anything, was higher. I gritted my teeth, widened my stance, and narrowed my eyes. Then, I lifted my arm and struck like a snake, assuming a snake had a hammer and the upper body strength of a toddler.

Absolutely nothing. I was pretty sure the door was mocking me.

Completely annoyed, I gripped the hammer with both hands and began pounding with all my might. And finally – triumph! The glass broke.

Sort of.  A single crack ran from the lower left pane all the way to the upper right pane. That’s when I realized that the “panes” were simply slats of wood across a very large single sheet of glass.  I also realized that the repair was now going to be seriously expensive, but I’d already crossed the glass Rubicon so to speak. I hammered away until the glass finally crazed (it was safety glass and there would be no tinkling), and I was able to break out enough pieces to make a hole large enough for my hand.

Only my hand wouldn’t go through. After all that effort, my questing fingers stubbed against a second undamaged pane. Foiled by the curse of double glazing!

Want to know how it ends? Did Janice wander forever in her backyard, living the life of an itinerant writer/camper? Did the neighbors call the police? Did feral cats adopt her as one of their own? Read the rest of the story here.

image via wnyc.org

image via wnyc.org

I want to thank Julie, Kassandra, and Janice for their gracious permission to post their stories here. I’d like to especially thank Janice, because now I won’t be tempted to wreck my own windows to see if I can break into my house. Though I’m thinking, on a nice day, the screen might work….

So, do you think writers are born this way, or are their eccentricities an occupational hazard, like asbestos exposure or fossie jaw? Writers, any experiences you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time, wave your freak flag proudly!

~Kathy

 

…and in case anyone missed it:

Just Released: a new Concordia Wells Mystery!

Unseemly Ambition: 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 have their work cut out for them. Fellow passengers prove to be both help and hindrance: a lady reporter in hiding, a con man…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?

 

 

Start reading at the click of a button:

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Halloween and National Cat Day

Halloween and National Cat Day
word cloud created via Tagul.com

word cloud created via Tagul.com

Happy Halloween, everyone! In our neck of the woods, the trees are getting really pretty, there’s a nip in the air, and I’m scouring Pinterest for decor ideas and recipes to enhance the Halloween fun here at Casa Owen. Our cat Tora is starting to snuggle on my lap for longer stretches of time as I work at the keyboard.

 

Speaking of cats, Halloween isn’t the only occasion to celebrate this week. Did you know that October 29th is National Cat Day? Of course, as Tora would point out, every day should be cat day. I know, right? Of course, some people may celebrate both occasions by dressing up their cats in Halloween costumes, though I would advise against it:

cat costume composite

But there’s more to our beloved felines than their tolerance (or lack thereof) for funny costumes. As history attests, they have gone beyond bringing us live crickets or licking our hair to wake us up in the morning. Cats actually lived aboard U.S. Naval ships in the nineteenth century, and served with sailors and soldiers during the first world war.

Photo courtesy of USNI.org

Caption: “Crewmen on the deck of the USS Olympia using a mirror to play with their cats in 1898. The Olympia served as Admiral George Dewey’s flagship at the Battle of Manila during the Spanish American War.” Photo courtesy of USNI.org

 

Photo courtesy of USNI.org

Caption: “Waiting instructions in the briefing room, pilots on a US Navy aircraft carrier relax by playing with the ship’s mascot. Shortly after this picture was taken they were flying far above the Atlantic on a battle-mission. Probably the USS Ranger, July 1944.” Photo courtesy of USNI.org

 

Here’s what Wiki has to say about cats “keeping the free world free” during WWI:

Throughout the “war to end all wars,” cats were a common sight in the trenches and aboard ships, where they hunted mice and rats. Beyond their “official” duties, they were also embraced as mascots and pets by the soldiers and sailors with whom they served.

Wow, who knew? Cats served in the Second World War, too. Maybe Cleo threw up in the Nazis’ boots. Serves them right.

Want to read more? Check out these sources:

These Are the Brave and Fluffy Cats Who Served in World War I

Cats in the Sea Services | U.S. Naval Institute

So if a cat (black or otherwise) crosses your path this Halloween, I’d say it was good luck!

What are your plans this Halloween? Do you have a cat? Do you dress him/her up in a costume? I’d love to hear from you.

~Kathy

…and in case you missed it:

Just Released: a new Concordia Wells Mystery!

Unseemly Ambition: 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 have their work cut out for them. Fellow passengers prove to be both help and hindrance: a lady reporter in hiding, a con man…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?

 

 

Start reading at the click of a button:

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Where my research takes me: 1890s railway travel (and new release!)

Where my research takes me: 1890s railway travel (and new release!)

locomotive closeupWelcome to another installment of “Where my research takes me,” an impromptu series of posts inspired by all the little odds and ends of Victoriana I collect in my book researches.

My new release, Unseemly Haste (book 4 of the Concordia Wells Mysteries), provided a treasure trove of research opportunity. The story is set in the summer of 1898, as my characters make their way from New York to San Francisco aboard a Pullman sleeper car train.

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.

read more at Misterio Press (including the details of my new book, Unseemly Haste!)

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Murder Under the Oaks: my experience at BoucherCon

Murder Under the Oaks: my experience at BoucherCon

bouchercon raleighA 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 what you want 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 by fan-girl K.B. Owen).

 

Read the rest of this post at Misterio Press.

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Did you hear…? Unseemly Pursuits is out on audio!

Did you hear…? Unseemly Pursuits is out on audio!

I hope you’ll forgive the punny title, but I’m so excited to share this news with you! Becket Royce, the narrator for the audiobook version of Dangerous and Unseemly, has lent her voice talent once again to the Concordia Wells series.

UnseemlyPursuitsAudio

Unseemly Pursuits, book 2 of the Concordia Wells Mysteries, is now available as an audiobook at these vendors:

itunes buy button

A deadly secret that won’t stay buried…

It is the fall of 1896, and Miss Concordia Wells is hip-deep in the usual tumult of a lady professor’s life: classes, clubs, student pranks, and the unending drama generated by the girls she lives with on campus.  Complicating this normality is the new Lady Principal, whom the students have nicknamed “the Ogre.”  The woman seems bent on making Concordia’s life miserable.

Events take a grave turn, however, when an ancient Egyptian amulet donated to the college mysteriously disappears, the donor is found murdered, and his daughter – Concordia’s best friend – confesses to killing him.

Desperate for answers, Concordia unravels a 20-year-old secret, closely guarded by men now dead.  But such secrets can be dangerous for the daughters left behind, including Concordia herself.  Can she make sense of the mystery that has bound together their fates, before it’s too late?

Intrigued? Here’s the audio sample:

 

Not an audio book listener? Consider these advantages:

  • Boredom-buster. In one survey, 73% of those who listen to audio books do so while commuting, 33% while doing housework, and 25% while exercising. That treadmill is boring no longer!
  • Convenience. Audio books are easy to load and listen to on your tablet or smartphone. According to the Wall Street Journal, audio books are now a $1.2 billion industry, which means more of your fave books are being made into audio than ever before. Audio book companies are even developing original stories, that have never been in print or digital form before.
  • Versatile. With Amazon’s WhisperSync technology, it’s easy to switch between reading an ebook on your Kindle, then continuing to listen to the story on audio as you jump in the car or wash the dishes.
  • New perspective. Great voice talent brings a book to life in a way that you may not have imagined. For me, just the experience of reviewing the audio chapters of my own book gave me a fun new perspective on my characters!

Until next time,

Kathy

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It’s National Coffee Day!

It’s National Coffee Day!

Hurray, September 29th is National Coffee Day! I’d say the beverage was worthy of some recognition, don’t you?

Facebook meme, photographer unknown

Facebook meme, photographer unknown

Fun facts about coffee:

  • Coffee is said to have been first used by Sufi monasteries in Yemen in the 15th century
  • Americans drink an average of 30 oz of coffee per day
  • $40 billion (yep, that’s a “b”) is spent on coffee in the United States each year
  • According to a study by the American Chemical Society, coffee is America’s number one dietary source of antioxidants (tea is #2).
  • Coffee consumption has been found to offer protection against Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, liver cirrhosis, and colon cancer.
  • An NIH study found that people who drank four or more cups of coffee a day were less likely to suffer depression.
  • Harvard University study found that drinking two to four cups of coffee reduced the risk of suicide by 50%. Something to do with aiding in the production of neurotransmitters that balance mood.

Ready to grab a cup of java? Me, too!

my little Bialetti, a stovetop 4 oz espresso maker. Cute, isn't it?

my little Bialetti, a stovetop 4 oz espresso maker. Cute, isn’t it?

 

image via wikimedia commons

image via wikimedia commons

Want more coffee?

National Coffee Day

Harvard University – School of Public Health

Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti drinks coffee in space, dressed as Captain Janeway

 

11 Amazing Benefits of Coffee (#7 Will Surprise You)

 

Are you a coffee drinker? If so, how do you prefer your beverage? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

Soon to be released, October 2015:

Unseemly Haste: Book 4 of the Concordia Wells Mysteries

As promised last week, here’s the cover:

UnseemlyHasteEbookCover

Isn’t it cool? Melinda VanLone at BookCoverCorner.com does wonderful work. Obviously, a train is involved, but y’all knew that would be the case at the end of book #3. I’ll post the blurb and specific release date next week, as those are still in the works. 😉

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