k.b. owen

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,

Kathy

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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Spring Fling Blog Hop!

Happy Spring! Today, fellow writers (links below) and I are participating in a blog hop to celebrate the vernal equinox. We’ll each be talking about spring-y things.

As an avid container gardener (my only option for gardening, as we live on property that’s mostly deck), spring for me starts in January, when the seed catalogs start rolling in. They are a welcome sight, I have to say, and help me dream of greenery in the midst of the gray-brown backyard. Usually I start seeds–cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, and vining flowers such as morning glory and cardinal climber–in mid-March:

Cukes, tomatoes, and peppers in this pic. Notice the capillary wicking mats, which is the best way to water seedlings.

Recently we had a week or so of 70-degree days that lulled me into a false sense of security, and I direct-planted sweet peas, scallions, and lettuce seeds outside. Um, well, that turned out to be ill-advised, as you can see by this pic of my lettuce pot (taken three days ago):

 

uh oh…I may have to replant….

But the false starts and hard work are worth it, in the end. Here’s a photo montage of how things look by mid summer:

 

So, what are your favorite things to do in the spring? I’d love to hear from you.

Be sure to check out the rest of the blog-hopper sites, and see how these gals ring in the vernal equinox:

Allyson Charles

Connie diMarco

Gilian Baker

Layla Reyne

Kirsten Weiss

Mona Karel

Misterio Press

Shannon Esposito

Victoria De La O

 

Until next time,

Kathy

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3 Reasons Why Sleuths Can’t Take a Vacation, and a New Release!

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…. Read the rest at Misterio Press.

 

Announcing 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!

Order for Kindle or iBooks
Until next time,
Kathy

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My funny Valentine

Hubby and I have been married a while now (27 years and counting), so we’ve seen a lot of Valentine’s Days come and go. For us, the occasion is usually marked by wine, chocolate, and me not cooking. Winning!

It’s also a great occasion to reflect on relationships. With that in mind, I’m re-posting a piece that Paul and I co-wrote 5 years ago when, in honor of Valentine’s Day, we commented upon one another’s “eccentricities.” (My updates/new commentary in RED).  Enjoy!

Foibles

“Foible” is defined as “a minor weakness or eccentricity in one’s character.”  Sometimes foibles can be the death of relationships; however, in other instances, they are what lend interest and individuality.

To celebrate foibles “up close” in all their quirky glory, we’re approaching today’s blog post a little differently:  hubby and I are going to discuss each other’s foibles.  Yep, I’m going to point out his “eccentricities” and he’s going to point out mine!  Let’s hope we make it to Valentine’s Day next year, LOL.

But I get to go first (hey, it’s my blog).

My description of Paul:

My hubby. He’s smiling now; just wait until he reads this…

Paul enjoys what he himself terms “geeky” pursuits.  He loves boardgaming and math – whether it’s Age of Renaissance or Fractals, he shows equal enthusiasm.  He has me playing a lot of these boardgames now, too, and he designed one of his own that was published last year by BlueSquare Games – squee! – called Trains, Planes, and Automobiles. It’s a cool game, although I know I’m biased.  By the way, fractals look nice, but I’ll never get it.

He’s a former Naval Academy grad and submariner who now works in the computer software/project management field (and that’s all I can tell you without having the free world fall to pieces and being required to shoot myself or something), has played classical piano since elementary school (never mind how long ago that was), and is a fab father to our three boys, who also like to tease dad about his little eccentricities.

 

On to…Paul’s foibles:

Here are a few that stem from his Yankee frugality:

  • He saves everything, especially boxes.  We have a gazillion cardboard shipping boxes, of all different shapes and sizes.  It’s sort of an archaeological dig of nearly everything we’ve ever ordered or been gifted with in the past decade.  Amazon seems to be our biggest supplier. I’ve nested them as best I can so they don’t take up too much space.  Now it’s a long row of big boxes at the top of the laundry room rafters, with “MORE BOXES INSIDE” scrawled across the fronts in sharpie.
  • He puts scrap paper back in the printer tray.  The rest of us keep forgetting he does this, and when we click “print”  and pull out the sheet – arghh!!  Dad put scrap paper in the printer again! It’s like a little ambush, every time.  Bwahaha. One of these days, I’m going to remember to swap out the paper.
  • He disassembles and saves wooden planks/parts from broken Ikea furniture.  It starts to build up after a while (although I’ll admit, it came in handy a couple of times).  Spiders and stinkbugs seem to like hanging out there, so whenever we need wood for a project, he has to go get it.

And then there are the times when we’re in the car, and he’s the one driving:  he waits until what feels like the last blessed moment to get into the turn lane. Meanwhile, I’m dying to say something, like “Um, the turn’s coming up, honey, are you going to change lanes now?”  My knuckles turn white, clenching the arm rest, willing myself to stay quiet, but all the while, thinking:  “we’re going to miss the turn, we’re not going to make it, no one will let us in the lane….”  I have to admit, it gives each trip a little zing! of uncertainty.

If he’s feeling particularly generous that day, he’ll give me a little look, and change lanes early.  Happy Birthday, dear. (Maybe he’ll take pity on me this Valentine’s Day).

Speaking of driving, the kids crack up when Paul is backing up the car; he turns his head toward the rear window (where they can see him at ground zero), and makes his “pirate back-up face.”   It’s totally unconscious, but he bares his teeth and scrunches his cheeks in a sort of “Arrr” pirate grimace. (He got new glasses since then, and doesn’t need to scrunch his face anymore. I miss pirate back-up face….)

The boys also like to tease dad about the following:

  • the way he eats corn on the cob (indescribable)
  • laughing (big, belly-laughing guffaws.  No one hearing him can keep from laughing, too)
  • His pet phrase of exasperation: “Oh, for crying out loud.”  I seem to be picking up that one nowadays, LOL. (Yes, it is definitely now part of my vocabulary. You can’t swing a cat without hitting a “for crying out loud.”)

So that is my dear-heart, frugal, laugh-out-loud man, whom I love with all my being.  I wouldn’t trade a single foible.  And it would be really easy to tell if aliens ever kidnap him and switch him out for a pod growing in the basement.

…Your turn, honey!

Hello, this is Paul, husband of K.B. Owen. I should start by making absolutely clear that I love my wife with all my heart, and nothing she can do will sway me from my eternal devotion to her, heart and soul. (K: Isn’t he just the cutest thing?) 

That said, I understand that I am free to share with the Internet World a few observations that I have made regarding the customary behavior of my Beloved that some might consider … idiosyncratic.  Only a few things come to mind.

image via clker.com

First, my darling Sweetheart has a propensity for always finding a better way to arrange and store things that we as a family all need to be able to find every day.  The best example is the kitchen.  Whenever I go to look for, say, a coffee cup, I go to the cupboard where I remember that we said we would put them … “oh, wait, that was where they were last fall.  I remember now, she moved them over here by the refrigerator. … No, wait, that was around Christmas time.  I think they’re … Kathy, where are the coffee cups now?”  I kid you not, this happens several times a week.  “Don’t you remember, Paul?  I told you two weeks ago that I moved the coffee cups over by the microwave.”  “Oh, yes, you moved them [with a certain pained emphasis to imply, ‘for no earthly reason that I can imagine’].  Of course you told me.  Of course I remember.”  The problem is that’s not the first thing I remember when I think of where to look for a coffee cup.  Truth is, it’s about the eighth candidate on the list of possible places the coffee cups could be today. (K: Hmm…I haven’t rearranged anything in a while. That gives me an idea….)

Second, the delight of my heart bakes Christmas cookies, dozens upon dozens, in a major evolution that spans weeks and dominates the kitchen and dining room and fills the house with the irresistable aroma of baking, only to forbid upon penalty of death and severed fingers that anybody should so much as touch one of them.  “They’re for the neighbors/friends / homeless people / strangers in the bayou.  You can’t touch them.  Here, have this one; it’s burnt/broken/ otherwise defective and therefore unpresentable outside the family whom I don’t have to impress.”  So we all, our three sons and myself, swoon over the odors of Christmas cookies, drool over the sight of them on their cooling racks, and console ourselves with the notion that at some point on Christmas day, after all the neighbors, friends, and vagrants have been satisfied, we’ll have our crack at whatever small fraction of the baked manifestation of our wife and mother’s love remains in the house in the form of leftover Christmas cookies.

(K: I now bake “decoy” cookies to keep the hungry horde away from the more time-intensive Christmas cookies…hey, I’m not without a heart….)

Sanders and Snowball. RIP.

Third, I have learned never to maintain hope that our home will be rodent-free.  For as long as I can remember, our house has had some kind of terrarium or cage (or two or three), and within them some form of cute, fuzzy hamster, gerbil, Guinea pig, or even rabbit running on its wheel or in its ball or around its cage.  Over the years, I found that no sooner would I have buried some poor beastie (K: after it has languished in a paper bag in the freezer for a few months) in the woods behind our house than the next day I would come home from work greeted by my darling wife’s latest find at the pet store, some new little creature twitching its whiskers at me as if to say, “Aren’t I cute?  Don’t you just love me?  Won’t you feed me for the rest of my fuzzy little captive life?” Oh, for crying out loud. (No more rodents…we now have a cat. Hubby pretends he grudgingly accepts her. Yeah, right–he’s not fooling anyone. *wink*)

 

So, there you have it – wife and hubby, dishing on each other’s “foibles.”

What foibles do you live with on behalf of your beloved?  We’d love to hear from you!  Come on, give us the good stuff!

 

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Kathy and Paul

Paul tweets at @paulowengames

Blog: paulowengames.blogspot.com

(Here’s a pic of us celebrating our 26th anniversary in Bermuda!)

 

 

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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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Happy Thanksgiving! What’s on the Menu?

Puck Thanksgiving cover, 1896.

Puck Thanksgiving cover, 1896.

Happy Tuesday before Thanksgiving! We’re all pressed for time right now, so I’ll just share a brief montage of interesting historical menus as you plan yours…who knows? It may give you ideas.

Another cool thing about the following menus is who is hosting it. We have a hotel, a college, and…a hospital. I guess everyone wants turkey on Thanksgiving, although some of these menus make it seem like turkey is an afterthought. *wink*

 

 

Hotel Vendome Thanksgiving Menu, 1895. Image via wikimedia commons.

Hotel Vendome Thanksgiving Menu, 1895.

The one below is tough to read, my apologies. I can make out Mock Turtle Soup, and Salmon, but I have trouble after that. I’m sure turkey is in there somewhere.

1874 Vassar College Thanksgiving Menu. Image via wikimedia commons.

1874 Vassar College Thanksgiving Menu.

 

Thanksgiving menu, 1864. Jarvis U.S.A. General Hospital, Baltimore.

Thanksgiving menu, 1864. Jarvis U.S.A. General Hospital, Baltimore.

Hmm, looks yummy. And what variety! Who knew hospital food was holiday-worthy? But someone needed spell-check on “turkies.”

Most of us won’t be eating at a fancy hotel or at a college, and I sure hope we won’t be eating at a hospital! So, if you’re cooking at home, be safe. Firefighters see house fires triple on Thanksgiving Day, with some states in the Union more prone than others. For more info on that, check out my 2014 post:

When Turkeys Strike Back

However you spend your holiday, or even if it isn’t a holiday in your part of the world, I wish you much to be grateful for. I know that I’m grateful for all of you!

Until next time,

Kathy

P.S. – If you’re in the vicinity of Manassas, Virginia on Shop Small Saturday (Nov 26th), I’ll be doing a book signing and would love to see you!

booksigningflyer

 

 

 

 

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Research for the Historical Author

Research for the Historical Author

Hi everyone! I’m guest posting at Jami Gold’s site today, talking about my Top 7 online resources for historical research. Hope you can stop by!

Researching History for Fiction Authors

 

If you haven’t had a chance to pick up the latest Concordia Wells mystery, it’s available now at all the major online booksellers. Here’s a bit more about book #5 and what the lady professor is up to:

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.

Available at your favorite online bookseller (buttons are clickable):

Thanks so much! Hope to see you at Jami’s place!

~Kathy

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1890s Etiquette for Engaged Couples

1890s Etiquette for Engaged Couples

Today I’m over at Misterio Press, talking about what was considered proper conduct for engaged couples in the late-nineteenth century. Since Concordia Wells is an engaged lady in Beloved and Unseemly (book 5 of the series, and just released), it seemed a fitting topic!

1890s Courtship Etiquette

Hope you can join us!

~Kathy

Concordia logo FINAL small

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