Mystery

From Ivory Tower to Amateur Sleuth, a “character” guest post

Hi, fellow mystery fans! I’m Jade Blackwell, the protagonist in Gilian Baker’s cozy mystery series. Our lovely host, a former college English professor herself, asked if I’d drop in to explain to her readers how a tenured English professor winds up as a blogger…and an amateur sleuth. 🙂 Thanks K.B., for inviting me to share my story. Here goes.

Five years ago, I was working as an English professor at the University of Wyoming, near my hometown of Aspen Falls. I’d worked there since receiving my Ph.D., and had finally clawed my way to the top to earn one of the few coveted tenured positions in the department. It was my dream job… until it wasn’t.

After years of working in the Ivory Tower, I was becoming more dispirited with each passing semester. The endless department meetings, apathetic students and mounds of grading were wearing me down. And really, who was I kidding? I wasn’t convincing anyone to study the classics with zeal or to write coherent literary analyses. I was ready for a new adventure, but where to begin? Teaching was the only thing I’d ever known.

Then one day, while flipping through a back copy of Writer’s Digest, I came across an article on how blogging was changing the writing world. I’d been on very few blogs, and only then to disqualify them as credible references for a scholarly research paper a student had submitted. But the thought captivated me, and over the next few weeks, I spent my spare time researching writing in the blogosphere. And so, my new adventure began.

I started “a side hustle” by ghostwriting for bloggers and other online entrepreneurs. After several months, my clientele had grown, and I was ready to make the switch. I loved working from home and being my own boss! And, I found a passion for writing again. Instead of “publish or perish,” I got the chance to research and write on a huge variety of fascinating topics—everything from gourmet pet food to email marketing. I turned in my digital grade book and gave myself over to living life as a solopreneur.

Later, I started my own blog as a part of my online business. A Writerz Block offers fledgling freelance writers information on making a living from their skills. It’s the best of both worlds—I get to teach people who actually want the information I’m dispersing, while at the same time, I get paid to write.

That also means I have time to play the amateur sleuth, something I couldn’t have done while teaching. Even A Time to Kilnthough I taught classic literature for years, in my humble opinion, there’s nothing better than a well-plotted mystery. I’ve now helped our local sheriff, Ross Lawson, tie up two murders.

Now, I wasn’t looking for a real live case to solve. I thought the only whodunit I’d ever figure out would be in between the pages of a book. Like most amateur sleuths, I stumbled into the first murder to help a friend–Liz is a fellow blogger who was being cyber-stalked. Admittedly, my first attempts to assist her made things worse, but I made it up to her in the end by proving who the real killer was.

What a thrill! (Though I could have done without the perilous situation I landed in.) And I was ready to get back to my normal routine once my friend, Liz, was back safe and sound at home with her family. I chalked her case up as a fluke–a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be a real detective. I mean, living in rural Wyoming doesn’t offer many opportunities to sniff out murder.

So imagine my surprise when my very own pottery teacher was killed a few months later! And on top of that, my daughter’s former boyfriend ended up being the main suspect. What is a girl to do? I reluctantly teamed up once again with my lawyer friend, Gabby, to figure out who was killing people off in our quiet, little village. {Oh, did I mention there was more than one murder?}

Luckily, Gilian has written up my adventures in her second book. So, if you’d like to see how I nimbly cracked the case (okay, how I stumbled onto it) follow the link to pick up a copy of my latest escapades in A Time to Kiln.

 

Gilian Baker is a former English professor who threw in the towel and decided to show ‘em how it’s done. She’s gone on to forge a life outside of academia by adding blogger, ghostwriter and cozy mystery author to her C.V. She currently uses her geeky superpowers only for good to entertain murder mystery readers the world over. When she’s not plotting murder for her Jade Blackwell cozy mystery series, you can find her puttering in her vegetable garden, knitting in front of the fire, snuggling with her husband watching British TV or discussing literary theory with her daughter.

Gilian lives in Flagstaff, Arizona with her family and their three pampered felines. In her next life, she fervently hopes to come back as a cat, though she understands that would be going down the karmic ladder. She’s the author of Blogging is Murder and A Time to Kiln. Be the first to learn about new releases and discounts, plus get exclusive content by signing up for Gilian’s email list here: http://gilianbaker.com/blogging-murder-first-chapter

How lovely to meet you, Jade! What a journey…from literature professor to blogger to amateur sleuth! I agree wholeheartedly with your statement: “there’s nothing better than a well-plotted mystery.” I know my readers think so, too. I’m tempted to advise you to keep out of trouble, but then Gilian wouldn’t have anything to chronicle, would she? *wink*

Congrats on your new cozy, Gilian, and best of luck!

~Kathy

 

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

Malice Domestic 29

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!

 

The volunteer photographer got my blurry side, LOL. I never looked so good.

So, to celebrate the release of the Malice anthology (and my birthday, hubby’s birthday, Mother’s Day…so many excuses), I’m holding a…

Giveaway Drawing

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 make the random selections. All you have to do is click below to see your options for entering the drawing (you can enter multiple times, if you wish):

Anthology Giveaway!

Once the contest is over and the winners are notified, I won’t keep your email info for any reason. I respect your privacy.

However, if you’re interested in signing up for my author newsletter (sent out approximately 4 times a year to announce sales, giveaways, and book releases), I would love to have you on board! Here’s the sign-up for that:

concordia-1thru5

Sign up today, and receive a FREE novelette!

Thanks for signing up! Your email is in good hands, I promise. Once you have confirmed your subscription you’ll receive a thank you email with a link to my FREE novelette, NEVER SLEEP!
~KBO

Whew! This was a longer post than I usually write. Thanks for reading, and good luck with the contest!

~Kathy

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Merry Christmas, Sherlock Holmes style

blue-carbuncle-1892

Illustration by Sidney Paget, 1892. Wikimedia Commons.

Happy Holidays! As a mystery lover, Christmas reminds me of one of my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories, “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle.” The mystery starts with a dropped hat and a Christmas goose left behind.

The following recording is from the Sherlock Holmes audio archive of stories, many of them (including this one) narrated by none other than Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson. My favorite team! The recording includes the classic touches of dramatic organ interludes and even a couple of commercials. I hope you’ll enjoy it.

Let the adventure begin!

 

 

From a different adventure...Basil Rathbone (Holmes) and Nigel Bruce (Watson), Universal Pictures, 1943. Wikimedia Commons.

From a different adventure…Basil Rathbone (Holmes) and Nigel Bruce (Watson), Universal Pictures, 1943. Wikimedia Commons.

To listen to other stories in the archive (more than 125 of them!), click here.

May your Christmas be filled with fun and mystery!

Until next time,

Kathy

P.S. – Book 1 of the Concordia Wells Mysteries, Dangerous and Unseemly, is on sale! You can now get the ebook version for only 99 cents. (Psst…it makes a great gift for the mystery lover in your life). The discount is available through Amazon, iBooks, Barnes and Noble, and Kobo, and is good until January 6th.

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Gardening for the Mystery Lover: a mash-up

Gardening for the Mystery Lover: a mash-up
Hydrangeas from my garden.

Hydrangeas from my garden.

Happy Monday, everyone! Those of us north of latitude 32 or so have been longing for the end to the snow/sleet/freezing rain and the dreary gray-brown landscape. The gardeners among us have been deluged with seed catalogs and Pinterest prompts that have us dreaming of the lush backyards we delude ourselves each year into thinking we will achieve. *wink*

So today I thought I would provide a few links to entertain both gardeners and mystery lovers, because yes, there is a way to have it all!

Garden fun:

Below is a slideshow of pictures from my garden. Not professional by any means, but isn’t it great to see something green this time of year?

Garden Slideshow

Here’s a post from a couple of years ago about the benefits of gardening, including why dirt is good for you!

Life is a box of seeds

Mystery-style gardening:

Gardening and murder can be connected in so many ways: the heavy spade, the razor-sharp pruning shears, the deadly foxglove growing by the fence….

  • Mystery author Margot Kinberg discusses the role of gardening in several classic Christie novels (among others). Click on her banner below:

 

confessions

  • The Cozy Mystery List Blog is an excellent resource for finding themed mysteries, and there are plenty of garden-themed stories out there.

Gardening Cozy Mysteries…

  • How about something more interactive? Shot in the Dark Mysteries has created Mystery Party kits for kids and adults, including something sure to chase away the winter blues: Garden Party Murder – Mystery Party Game.

Do you enjoy gardening? Ever been to a garden party? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

 

Concordia logo FINAL small

 

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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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Never Sleep: the story of a lady Pinkerton

Never Sleep: the story of a lady Pinkerton

I have a new series coming out, and I wanted you all to be the first to know about it!

Chronicles of a Lady Detective

The series is centered upon a character many of you know from the Concordia Wells mysteries: Penelope Hamilton. You may recall that she served as lady principal of Hartford Women’s College in book 1 (Dangerous and Unseemly), and recently made a return in book 3 (Unseemly Ambition) to help with a difficult case.

Readers have long told me that they enjoy Miss Hamilton’s character and would like to see more of her, so I decided to go backwards in time and explore her early detective cases.

cover art by Melinda VanLone

cover art by Melinda VanLone

Never Sleep, set in 1885 (more than a decade before Concordia meets her), is the story of how Miss Hamilton first gets started as a Pinkerton in her own right. Each of the stories in the series will be novelette-length and published in ebook form only (for now).

Historical Background:

Although a rarity in the 19th century, women working as Pinkertons wasn’t without precedent. The first and most noteworthy was Kate Warne in 1856. According to Allan Pinkerton, the young widow walked into the Chicago office and asked straight away for a position as a detective, rather than requesting a clerical job. Her argument pointing out the unique qualifications of women as detectives persuaded Pinkerton to hire her, and to later put her in charge of Pinkerton’s “Female Detective Force.”

Allan Pinkerton (seated, right) at Antietam. The beardless man is thought to be Kate Warne in disguise. Image via Library of Congress, n.d.

Allan Pinkerton (seated, right) at Antietam. The clean-shaven man is thought to be Kate Warne in disguise. Image via Library of Congress, n.d.

Warne was quite successful as a detective. She acted as an intelligence operative before, during, and after the Civil War, and was instrumental in uncovering the “Baltimore Plot” to assassinate Lincoln on the way to his inauguration. She relayed key information and was part of the group that helped protect the President-elect during this time, as he traveled by train (a different one than announced earlier) between Harrisburg and Baltimore, in disguise.

Excerpt from Pinkerton's report, published in Norma Cuthbert's 1949 book: Lincoln and the Baltimore Plot, 1861.

Excerpt from Pinkerton’s report mentioning Kate Warne. Published in Norma Cuthbert’s 1949 book: Lincoln and the Baltimore Plot, 1861.

My gift to you:

I wanted to find a way to say “thank you” to everyone who reads my books and follows my posts. Your support means so much to me! Where would I be without my readers? So, during the month of March, I’m giving away Never Sleep to every subscriber. And this is exclusive access; I won’t be putting it up on Amazon or anywhere else until April. 

How to get Never SleepThe story will be available for download as a mobi (Kindle) and epub (iPad, Nook) on a password-protected page here at the website. Current subscribers will get an email newsletter tomorrow (didn’t want to send you guys two email notifications in one day) with the page link and a password. Future subscribers (during the month of March) will receive the same email newsletter with the link and password when they confirm their subscription.

If you have any difficulties getting it, drop me a line: contact@kbowenmysteries.com and I’ll directly email you the file.

Thanks again!

~Kathy

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Romance can be murder: Valentine’s gifts for mystery lovers

Romance can be murder: Valentine’s gifts for mystery lovers

heartUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that Valentine’s Day is coming up. Yep, the holiday that keeps the greeting card, flower, and chocolate industries afloat until Mother’s Day.

Usually the gifts are simple: chocolates, cards, flowers…maybe a diamond? But what about the special mystery lover in your life? The usual offerings just won’t cut it.

No worries. I have some ideas for you!

Here are my Top 5 Valentine’s Gift Ideas for the Mystery Lover in Your Life (ranked from least-committed to most-committed; I like to make it easy on you guys):

#5: Gun-shaped chocolate. Now you can have your gun and eat it, too.

Image via Amazon.com

Image via Amazon.com

 

#4: Chocolate- or Valentine’s-themed mystery books. Death by Chocolate, anyone? Sally Berneathy has a well-reviewed series by that name. For further options, MysterySequels.com has an extensive list of Valentine’s Day murder mysteries.

Image via Amazon.com

Image via Amazon.com

 

#3: Since Valentine’s is a time of romance, perhaps an undergarment would make a fun gift. Here’s the Sherlock Holmes Quotable Thong from CafePress.com. As the Great Detective says, “You see, but you do not observe.” I’ll forgo any comment on the strategic placement of the quote. This is a PG blog, after all. 😉

 

Image via Cafe Press.

Image via Cafe Press.

#2: Take your beloved to a Broadway show, where “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” is playing. It won the Tony for Best Musical. I’m assuming that was for the music, not the sentiment.

"A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder" by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:A_Gentleman%27s_Guide_to_Love_and_Murder.jpg#mediaviewer/File:A_Gentleman%27s_Guide_to_Love_and_Murder.jpg

“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” by Source (WP:NFCC#4). Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia

And finally, the over-the-top Valentine’s gift for the true mystery lover:

#1: A Murder Mystery Bed-and-Breakfast Weekend.

You can see why it’s #1. Committing to an entire weekend, while at the mercy of trouble-loving fellow mystery fans and mischievous B&B hosts?  Who knows what might be in the food?

*gack* *choke*  Give me a moment.

To celebrate our wedding anniversary one year, my hubby and I visited the historic house-turned-B&B Harry Packer Mansion in Jim Thorpe, PA for a murder mystery getaway.

Image by Frederikto, via wikimedia commons (CC).

Image by Frederikto, via wikimedia commons (CC). Looks innocent, doesn’t it?

Not only did we stay the weekend in a comfortable suite enjoying gourmet food, we also participated in a murder mystery based upon the history of the Packer family, who once owned the mansion and ran the town.  We were assigned roles shortly after check-in, and the mystery was conducted in three “rounds” over the course of the weekend, with plenty of free time in between to shop and sight-see.  As is customary with such a setup, in each round you get additional bits of information about your own character and others.  However, not even the murderer knew her own identity until the big reveal (’cause, hey, she should have fun, too – right?).  Turned out, I was the murderer.  Bwahaha.

 

So, there you have it – my Top 5, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Your beloved will thank you!

Have you ever given or received an “unusual” Valentine’s gift? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,

Kathy

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