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.


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,


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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,


Soon to be released, October 2015:

Unseemly Haste: Book 4 of the Concordia Wells Mysteries

As promised last week, here’s the cover:


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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Funny thing happened on the way to the autumnal equinox…

Funny thing happened on the way to the autumnal equinox…
nasa equinox

Image courtesy of NASA.gov

Happy Equinox, everyone! Today is the day when the angle of the sun is straight on the equator, and the amount of day and night are nearly equal. In the northern hemisphere, this makes it our autumnal equinox (southern hemisphere has the vernal equinox). So for those of you who have been eagerly awaiting the “official” start of fall to decorate your yard with pumpkins and chrysanthemums, have at it!

photo by K.B. Owen

photo by K.B. Owen

On the equinox, some folks claim you can stand a broom on its brushy end or an egg on its pointy end, but that’s just an urban myth. (If it works, send me a pic!).

...a little salt was added to keep it upright. Pic by Hustvedt, wikimedia commons.

…a little salt was added to keep it upright. Pic by Hustvedt, wikimedia commons.

Here at K.B. Owen Mysteries, we like to give many of our posts a historical feel, so when I was putting this one together, I wracked my brain to figure out how I could make it historical. I turned to one of my favorite resources: the Library of Congress’s historical newspaper archive, Chronicling America. It’s a terrific source of U.S. digitized newspapers from 1836 to 1922. Here’s the link, if you’d like to do some searching of your own.

So I plugged in “autumn equinox,” and some date parameters (1880 to 1900, I think). Here are some of the fun items that turned up:

the Evening Herald, Shenandoah PA 25 Sept 1891

The Evening Herald, Shenandoah PA Sept 25, 1891

Wow…24 new ways to tie men’s neckwear, cheap cider, a scarcity of squirrels to hunt, and leaving couples by THEMSELVES? What is the world coming to?

fall clipart

I love the tagline for The Evening Herald, by the way:

Who could pass up a deal like that?

“All the news for one cent.” Who can pass up a deal like that?

The next article is quite poetic for what we’re used to seeing in a newspaper. There’s a little astronomy lesson, with some astrology thrown in. Didn’t know those two were compatible – except for the fact that I used to mix them up all the time.

Alexandria Gazette, 1 Sept 1892

Alexandria Gazette, 1 Sept 1892

Alexandria Gazette, 1 Sept 1892

Sometimes, what I find next to what I’m looking for is even more interesting, such as this ad:

Alexandria Gazette, Sept 22, 1893

Alexandria Gazette, Sept 22, 1893

Oh, the horror! Poor, slaughtered blankets. But hey, winter’s coming, so get yours while you can!


If the equinox isn’t enough occasion to celebrate, Sept 23 is also: National Checkers Day, and Dogs in Politics Day. This link explains.

Are you looking forward to fall? Ever try to stand a broom or an egg on its end? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,


P.S. – next week: cover reveal for the latest Concordia Wells mystery, Unseemly Haste!

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Grandparents’ Day!

Grandparents’ Day!

Yesterday (the second Sunday of September) was National Grandparents’ Day, first celebrated officially in 1978, when the proclamation was signed by President Jimmy Carter. We’re a little late, but grandparents are so awesome that I think they deserve an extra day of celebration, don’t you? 😉

Sadly, none of my grandparents are still living, but I was fortunate enough to grow up with a wonderful grandfather who lived nearby. Grandpop certainly had his own style, driving a Chevy Nova of army-staff-car-green that he called Betsy (he talked to it often), telling goofy knock-knock jokes and rhymes, and sharing his stories of working in the coal mines in upstate Pennsylvania.

One of his many peccadilloes was an aversion to ringing the doorbell when he arrived at our house. Instead, he would get out of his car and just start wandering around the front or back yard until someone noticed his car had pulled up or spotted him through a window and invited him in.

I think I was 12 years old in this pic.

Grandpop wrote in my “autograph” book.


Both my parents worked long hours, so he and I spent a lot of time together over the years. When I was 18, he lost his battle with lung cancer, the result of miner’s black lung and a lifetime of smoking unfiltered Camels. I miss him still.

Now that I’m a mom, I get to watch my own Mom and Dad play the role of grandparents to my kids. Both they and my husband’s parents have been awesome grandparents for our boys, though we lost my mother-in-law much too soon.

from right: my mom, dad, and mom-in-law, with their first grandchild

from right: my mom, dad, and mom-in-law, with their first grandchild

Grandpop to my boys...

The next Grandpop generation…

What are your fondest memories of your grandparents? I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,


P.S. – for more about grandparents, check out my post on Top 10 Reasons Why Grandparents Rock. I wrote it a few years ago (and talk about my grandpop there, too – you can skip that part), but the reasons still hold true today!

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It’s National Pollinator Week!

It’s National Pollinator Week!
Image from USDA.gov

Those agriculture folks know how to party…image from USDA.gov

I know, we almost missed it! If you think about it, though, we here in the northern hemisphere have the rest of the summer and early autumn to appreciate all of the birds, bats, bees, butterflies, small mammals, and other insects who pollinate our flowers and crops.

Some facts about pollinators:

  • There are more than 200,000 species of pollinators.
  • 75% of flowering plants rely upon pollinators for the fertilization necessary to produce fruit and seeds.
  • Pollinators make possible some of our favorite foods, spices, and flavorings, such as blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes, chocolate, vanilla, and almonds.
  • Bats are the only ones who pollinate the agave plant, which is used to make tequila.
  • A teeny fly called a midge is the only species that pollinates the cacao tree, which gives us the cacao beans to make chocolate.
  • Honey bees alone are responsible for pollinating 15 billion dollars’ worth of crops every year.
  • Pollinator populations are dwindling because of exposure to pesticides, the decline of their habitats, and various pathogenic stressors.

What can you do to help pollinators?

  • If you have a yard, plant pollinator-friendly flowers, staggering the time the flowers bloom, if possible. Here’s a great guide, Selecting Plants for Pollinators, from Pollinator Partnership. You type in your zip code, and it compiles a list of beneficial plants that work well in your ecoregion. There’s even a free app on this page that you can download to your smartphone. Here are a few pics of my backyard, where plants, bird feeders and bird houses are crammed in a small space:

mid-June 2015 021mid-June 2015 023mid-June 2015 011

  • Reduce your use of pesticides.
  • Install a bat house on your property. Some species eat a lot of mosquitoes. A bonus!
  • Supply fresh water for birds, bees, and other pollinators.
  • Attend a National Pollinator Week event in your area. There’s something going on nearly everywhere. Check out this page for details.
Image via pollinator.org

Image via pollinator.org

  • Support your local beekeepers. Many sell their honey at farmer’s markets. Also, I found this cool Indiegogo invention that’s being crowd-funded right now. You have to check out this awesome device, whether or not you would ever do beekeeping. While the conventional harvesting of honey is a difficult process and stressful on the bees, this method is as simple as turning a spigot!

Source: Flow Hive: Honey on Tap Directly From Your Beehive | Indiegogo

Isn’t that amazing? There’s no way we could keep bees in our townhouse backyard, but it looks so cool.

How will you celebrate National Pollinator Week? Plant a flowering shrub? Eat some honey or chocolate? I’d love to hear from you.

Starting next week, I will be on a summer blogging hiatus, so that I can spend more time working on edits to the fourth book in the Concordia Wells Mysteries, and finish the first draft of the sequel to Never Sleep. I’ll also be spending time roasting marshmallows, star-gazing, listening to the crickets, playing boardgames, and hanging out with my family. I hope you enjoy your summer, too!



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