Dangerous and Unseemly

The appeal of the amateur, and a group giveaway!



Hi everyone! Today is the first day of a week-long, Amateur Sleuths Group Giveaway sponsored by Henery Press. The giveaway features books from 32 mystery authors, myself included (more on that below).

The topic of amateur sleuths got me thinking: why do readers and authors find the amateur so appealing? As a former lit professor, I couldn’t resist taking a stab at analyzing it. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Reader engagement:
    • When we’re talking about an amateur investigating a crime, there must be a powerful personal motivation for him/her to get involved in the first place. After all, why disrupt one’s comfortable life as a wedding planner/baker/teacher/knitter/what-have-you, when the police can do the dirty work? When it’s personal, it helps draw the reader in.
    • An amateur sleuth is a “regular joe” – an ordinary person without any specialized training in criminal detection. We as readers can identify more readily with such a character, looking on and sympathizing as the protagonist struggles to blend his/her personal life with this crazy investigation s/he has unexpectedly taken on.
  • Then there are the opportunities for conflict, suspense, and uncertainty, all crucial elements in a good mystery:
    • The amateur is caught unprepared, and struggles to deal with the emotional cost of learning unpleasant truths about those s/he is close to.
    • The amateur is likely to encounter resistance from friends, family, and the authorities in the course of investigating.
    • As an untrained amateur, our protag might very well make mistakes along the way. Could one of those missteps prove fatal? Bwahaha….

What could be more fun than making life harder for our favorite amateur sleuth, right? *wink*

So now…on to the giveaway!

April BookmarkIT Amateur Sleuth Group Giveaway

April 5-11th

Grand Prize: Kindle Fire and 32 ebooks (shown above)

1st Prize: 32 ebooks

…and there will be FOUR 2nd Prize winners, who will each be awarded 8 ebooks (randomly selected) from those listed above!

How to enter: It’s FREE! Simply click on the giveaway link, enter your info on the entry form online, and you’ll be notified if you win! It’s a great way to try out authors you may not have heard of, and you’ll get future info about releases and sales on new-to-you amateur sleuth mysteries.

So, what do you like about amateur detectives? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,


Want to read more about amateur sleuths? Check out these posts:

Nancy Drew: girl detective, Master of Mystery

Miss Marple visits Masters of Mystery Monday

By the way, the Miss Marple post above includes a fun video spoof: Marple, Matrix Style.

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Dangerous and Unseemly Zombies

Dangerous and Unseemly Zombies

Today I’m responding to Piper Bayard’s Firelands Reader/Blogger Challenge (which celebrates the debut of her post-apocalyptic novel Firelands -more on that below), because I can’t resist an opportunity to win a can of Tactical Bacon.


Tactical Bacon.  I may not wait until the Apocalypse to open it.  Image via ThinkGeek.com

Tactical Bacon. I may not wait until the Apocalypse to open it. Image via ThinkGeek.com


Of course, Piper’s Survival Kit includes a lot of other handy tools for surviving The End of the World, but it was the bacon that did it for me. 😉

So I started thinking about various ways the world could end: meteor, nuclear, mutant virus, climate change…and zombies.  Being the Jane Austen fan that I am, thinking of zombies naturally led me to think of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, by Seth Grahame-Smith.  I’m sure Austen was spinning in her grave when that came out in 2009.

Here’s an excerpt from the Wikipedia explanation of the novel:

The story follows the plot of Pride and Prejudice, but places the novel in an alternative universe version of Regency-era England where zombies (and indeed skunks and chipmunks) roam the English countryside. Described as the “stricken”, “sorry stricken”, “undead”, “unmentionables”, or just “zombies”, the deceased ancestors of England are generally viewed by the characters as a troublesome, albeit deadly, nuisance. Their presence alters the original plot of the story in both subtle and significant ways: Messages between houses are sometimes lost when the couriers are captured and eaten; characters openly discuss and judge the zombie-fighting abilities of others; women weigh the pros and cons of carrying a musket (it provides safety but is considered “unladylike”).


cover art by Niki Smith

cover art by Niki Smith

Sounds fun, right?  Let us suppose that the “stricken” have invaded the 19th century world of Dangerous and Unseemly.  The campus of 1890s Hartford Women’s College would be a natural first target for zombies: after all, zombies like brains, right?  Well, these studious and proper ladies have brains a-plenty.  (More than those Harvard fellows up the road, I might add).

The zombies just made a big-time mistake.

After the requisite number of exclamatory drat!s, mercy!s, and bother!s, the women get to work marshalling their resources.

Better hurry, ladies – the fate of the civilized world is in your hands.

Weapon #1: the parasol

Every young woman of breeding carries a parasol when outdoors.  While lovely and often frilled at the edges (see cover above for an example), it can do much more than just protect her complexion.  For the purposes of the zombie apocalypse, it serves as a double weapon.  The pointy end can be honed to razor-sharpness for stabbing the undead; the handle end is already quite weighty and durable, and should stand up to a slew of zombie-conking.


Weapon #2: the prose of Bulwer-Lytton

Should some of the “stricken” be resistant to the power of the parasol, the young college ladies and their professors can resort to a more extreme weapon: the novels of Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton.   As Bulwer-Lytton himself once put it, “the pen is mightier than the sword.”  I can imagine the scene now, as a score or more of the student body, each with a heavy tome of Bulwer-Lytton’s book The Last Days of Pompeii, stand on a platform above the undead horde, and proclaim a passage such as this:

With a shriek of wrath, and wo, and despairing resistance, Arbaces awoke – his hair on end – his brow bathed in dew – his eyes glazed and staring – his mighty frame quivering as an infant’s – beneath the agony of that dream.  He woke – he collected himself – he blessed the gods whom he disbelieved, that he was in a dream! – he turned his eyes from side to side – he saw the dawning light break through his small but lofty window – he was in the Precincts of Day – he rejoiced – he smiled; his eyes fell, and opposite to him he beheld the ghastly features, the lifeless eye, the livid lip – of the hag of Vesuvius!

The effect upon the zombies can take two forms: assuming they still have stomachs, they would immediately regurgitate its contents; otherwise, they will pass out in a deep sleep.

This weapon requires care on the part of the user, however, because the wielder is at risk of succumbing to the same queasy/soporific effect.  Fortunately, these college girls are sufficiently immune after putting in countless hours with tedious literature assignments.


image via wikimedia commons (cc)

Weapon #3: the corset, bustle, and full-length skirt combo

Being proper young women, the ladies would not want to engage in the messy business of chopping the undead into harmless bits.  That would not do.  So, once the “stricken” have been temporarily incapacitated in one form or another as described above, the ladies raid their armoires for the most confining corsets, bustles, and full-length heavy skirts they can find.

You thought zombies moved slowly and shuffled awkwardly before?  Imagine them trying to walk – or even get themselves back up to a standing position – with a whalebone corset that gives them 18″ waists and contorts their torsos into an “S” shape, thrusting their rear ends out at an awkward angle behind them.  They aren’t going anywhere.

Then the ladies of Hartford Women’s College can call in the Zombie Disposal Brigade.  They don’t mind if the men take the credit.

**NOTE: for those unfamiliar with the novel Dangerous and Unseemly, this cozy historical mystery has no zombies.  The scenario in this post is for the purposes of Piper Bayard’s contest.

But, if you’re intrigued by the actual world of Dangerous and Unseemly (sans zombies), there are clickable buttons along the right-hand column, where you can buy it from your vendor of choice!




But back to Piper.  I’d like to share the blurb from her post-apocalyptic novel, Firelands:

Cover art via piperbayard.wordpress.com

Cover art via piperbayard.wordpress.com

Eighty years in the future, America has devolved into a totalitarian theocracy. The ruling Josephites clone the only seeds that grow in the post-apocalyptic climate, allowing their Prophet to control who eats, who starves, and who dies in the ritual fires that atone society.

Subsisting on the fringes, Archer risks violation and death each day as she scours the forest for game to feed her people. When a Josephite refugee seeks sanctuary in her home, Archer is driven to chance a desperate gamble. A gamble that will bring down the Prophet and deliver seeds and freedom, or end in a fiery death for herself and for everyone she loves.

Seeds are life . . . Seeds are power . . . Seeds are the only hope of a despairing people. What will Archer do for the seeds of freedom, and what will she justify in their name?

Buy on Amazon

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Have you tried Tactical Bacon?  What apocalypse do you think is most likely?  How do you think the Victorians would have handled a zombie attack?  I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,


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Time for a Summer Book Crush!

Time for a Summer Book Crush!

Summer Book Crush Banner

Ah, summer…those poolside/beach-y days in our lounge chairs, soaking up the rays…those quiet nights, listening to the crickets, looking at the stars, or watching the fireflies (as a kid, I imagined that if I listened closely enough, I could hear the fireflies switching their little lights on and off, on and off…).

The perfect companion?  A stack of fun summer reads.  And with today’s e-readers, that stack can be as slim as your checkbook.

In honor of the summer read, Young Adult Fantasy author Myndi Shafer has organized more than 50 of us authors (kind of like herding cats) for a special promotion.  From now until Friday, June 28th, our books are discounted to 99 cents in the Amazon Kindle store!  This means that you can seriously stock up on fun summer novels across a range of genres: mystery, romance, paranormal, young adult, thriller, and more!

I hope you have a chance to check it out, by either clicking on the banner above, or here: Summer Book Crush Sale.

The byline?  “50+ chances to land a new book boyfriend.”  At the site, you’ll find blurbs about the boyfriends in the books: bad-boys, boys-next-door, tall-dark-mysterious-boys, and many more.

My cozy 19th century mystery, Dangerous and Unseemly: A Concordia Wells Mystery, has two such gentlemen vying for Professor Concordia Wells’ attentions.  There’s Julian Reynolds, the handsome, wealthy older man, with sandy hair and deep blue eyes.  He’s tall, lean, and elegant; his custom-tailored suits fit him to perfection.  Julian moves with a languid sort of grace, and the way he looks at Concordia takes her breath away.  He leaves her roses and little notes, and is chivalrous and protective.  Will he steal her heart as they waltz along the ballroom floor?

Or will it be David Bradley, the chemistry professor at Concordia’s college, a man the same age as she, with a trim compact build, often hidden by a mismatched hounds-tooth jacket and trousers?  He’s irresistible in his own way,with his dark eyes, dark wavy hair that curls at the base of his neck in just such a way that she wants to reach out and smooth it (but being a proper lady, she will not), and a charming dimple that appears when he laughs, which is often.  How easy it is to spend time with such a man, whose easy-going sense of humor and down-to-earth practicality make one feel so comfortable.

And yet…Concordia soon learns that each man has secrets of his own to keep, secrets which could break her heart or, worse, put her in danger…

I’m so excited about this promotion that I took it a step further: I’ve discounted my ebook across all the ereader devices, not just the Kindle.  That includes Kobo, Nook, and Smashwords!  No matter what ereader you have, it’s just 99 cents, and the price is good through Friday.

Buttons below are clickable:


Thanks, everyone, for your support!  If you can, please spread the word about our promotion.  I’d really appreciate it!

Happy Reading,


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Woo-hoo, I’ve got a book trailer!

Woo-hoo, I’ve got a book trailer!

Thanks to the fabulous Kirsten Weiss, a fellow Misterio Press author who writes the Riga Hayworth series of super-cool, humorous paranormal detective stories, I now have a book trailer for my debut mystery, Dangerous and Unseemly.  

I’ll tell you a bit more about Kirsten in a minute, after you check out the video:

Isn’t that terrific?  This gal is multi-talented.  Next month, when she goes on her book tour for her upcoming release, The Infernal Detective, she’s going to stop here and do a guest post, too (with a contest!).

But if you can’t wait that long (I know that  I’m chomping on the bit, LOL), head over to her post at Misterio Press’s site today.  She’s talking about How to Become a Necromancer – for fun and profit.  Who can resist a title like that?  Hmm, maybe if this author thing doesn’t work out…

If you’d like to check out Kirsten’s first three books in the series, there’s The Metaphysical DetectiveThe Alchemical Detective, and The Shamanic Detective.  Paranormal detection at its fun and finest!

See you over there,


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Why it ROCKS to talk to 6th graders about novel-writing

Why it ROCKS to talk to 6th graders about novel-writing

Hi, everyone!  Yesterday, I had the privilege of giving a talk to two sixth grade classes about writing novels.  The Language Arts teacher is just starting a novel-writing unit that’s really cool, where the kids will come out of the process with a 30-50 page novel of their own creation, illustrated, bound and “published.”

6thgrade talk3So she asked me to give a little presentation.  You know, the Here’s-A-Real-Author-Who-Knows-What-She’s-Talking-About-So-Listen-To-Her kind of talk.

Ahem.  Yeah, I was a little nervous, even though I’ve given presentations like this before, and I’m certainly not new to teaching: I’d taught literature at the college level for many years.  But there’s something about talking with adolescents as opposed to 18-22 year-olds that can heighten the anxiety level a bit.  Especially when your own child is in one of the classes you’ll be talking to.  And I’d be speaking to them as an author, not their teacher.

For this year’s talk, I wanted to bring in more of what I’ve been learning as a writer.  I put together a new powerpoint slide show (more on that below) and revised, revised, revised.

And it went well!  No erasers were thrown, no one was sick…in fact, I got a lot of good questions and participation.  So here’s my take-away:

My Top 5 Reasons Why It Rocks to Talk to 6th Graders About Novel-Writing:

1. You get to pass your own novel around…and later, read aloud from it.  I’m still buzzing from that.

6thgrade talk2

2. The teacher makes you feel like a rock star. When else do I ever get a mocha latte and a blueberry muffin handed to me?  (There was a break between talks – I wasn’t eating in front of the class, LOL).  #WillTeachForMuffins

3. Your kid actually looks happy you’re there.

4. When preparing, you have to strip the material down to its essentials.  What’s absolutely important to say about writing?  What will be the most beneficial?  What’s too complex?  How can this be organized in a meaningful way? (More on that in a minute).  While this was a challenge, it was a wonderfully clarifying process.  Doesn’t that often seem to be the case – the teacher learns, along with the students?

5. They applaud when you’re done, and not just because it’s lunch-time, either. 😉

What I considered important to emphasize:

6thgrade talk11. Commonality:  all human beings crave stories and tell stories in some form or another, every day.  In fact, researchers have found that storytelling makes up 65% of our verbal exchanges.

2. The importance of storytelling:  scientists believe it evolved to give humans a survival edge, and now it is our primary way of sharing, persuading, entertaining, and forming the human experience.  No matter how digital we get, we look to the story form to get our message across.

3. Ways to get started:  the “kernel” idea, “what if” questions, and the logline.  We had lots of fun with my “guess the book/movie” logline activity, and we created a logline from a brainstorming session involving videogames and an evil artificial intelligence.  Bwahaha.

4. Antagonist, Protagonist, and Power Imbalances: I emphasized the importance of developing your antagonist first, because the story would not exist without the problem; I also talked about the power relationship between the two of them, with the protag being the metaphorical gum at the bottom of the antag’s shoe throughout most of the novel, and then how things turn around so the protag finally has the upper hand and vanquishes the antag.  Fun stuff!

5. Structure:  I like the 3-Act structure, although I know there are other paradigms out there.  I talked from this slide:

3Act structure

6. Suspense: I read a suspenseful scene from my debut mystery, Dangerous and Unseemly, and we analyzed the scene’s strategies for creating suspense, which they can apply in their own writing.

Resources I used:

Wired for Story: the Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence (thanks to Rachel Funk Heller for telling me about this book!)

What Listening to a Story Does to Our Brains

Your Brain on Books: 10 Things that Happen to Our Minds When We Read

Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat – really helpful for explaining structure and loglines.

NaNoWriMo’s Young Writer’s Program – this is a fab resource for students and educators.  It has cool workbooks and online support for kids from 4th grade through high school.

Have you given an author talk at an elementary school?  What would you want to emphasize in giving a book talk?  I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,


P.S. – a special thanks to Ms. H, for hosting me!  And thank you to all you school teachers out there – I don’t know how you do this extraordinary job, every day.  You are amazing. 🙂

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College days, then and now: a guest post

College days, then and now: a guest post

RASJHappy Friday!  I’m over at Renee Schuls-Jacobson’s place today, talking about her college experiences in comparison to those of my college teacher protagonist, Professor Concordia Wells.  I hope you’ll stop by – Renee is an engaging writer and fab cyber gal pal, and we’re having tons of fun.  You should see the comment thread.  😀

Also, Renee has a mystery trivia question which will give you the next letter clue in the Whodunnit Game Giveaway!


by K.B. Owen

by K.B. Owen

And there’s more…

Since there doesn’t seem to be enough of me circulating around the blogoverse at the moment (*wink*), Kassandra Lamb at Misterio Press has given me an official welcome to their group today!  That’s right, I’ve signed with Misterio Press to publish Unseemly Pursuits, the sequel to Dangerous and Unseemly.  The date isn’t finalized yet, but we’re expecting it to be the fall of this year.  Squee!


Haven’t heard of Misterio Press?  It’s an indie press, made up of a group of mystery authors dedicated to producing high-quality books “to feed the voracious appetites of mystery fans around the world.”  Cool, huh?  I am honored to be part of this group of talented authors.  If you’d like to learn more about the great mystery offerings they have, check out their bookstore!

Have a great weekend,


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Dangerous and Unseemly’s “book shower”!

Dangerous and Unseemly’s “book shower”!

NLauzonMystery writer Nancy Lauzon knows what any author “parent” of a brand-new book needs:  a community of readers to celebrate the occasion!  She’s interviewing me over at her site today.  Click here to learn more about my new “bundle of joy,” and share a glass of virtual champagne.

Also at Nancy’s place:  the next clue in the Whodunnit Game Giveaway!

See you there!




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What Nancy Drew and Scooby-Doo Taught Me About Writing Mysteries

What Nancy Drew and Scooby-Doo Taught Me About Writing Mysteries

detective clip1

Today I’m guest-posting over at mystery writer Jill Edmondson‘s blog, talking about my fave childhood sleuths!  Check out how Nancy Drew and Scooby have come to influence my 19th century historical mysteries.

I know – strange, right?

Also, you’ll get to grab the next clue in the Whodunnit giveaway.

See you there!



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