Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Unseemly Pursuits: Interview with K.B. Owen

I'm so excited to host K.B. Owen! She graciously agreed to be my guest, and we're discussing her second book, Unseemly Pursuits, available now. 

Let's get to it!

1. Unseemly Pursuits is the second book in the Concordia Wells Mystery series. Set in Hartford, CT in the late 19th century, Concordia is still a professor at the university, but she has a new mystery to solve—one that determines the fate of her best friend. Did you experience any second book challenges or was it pure fun to return to the characters?

Ah, I see you’ve been there, right? It was a little of both. What a luxury it was to return to well-established characters (although a few die off or are arrested – an occupational hazard of the mystery genre) and a setting it took me a long time to build.  On the other hand, I knew I didn’t want to spend 5 years writing the second one, I didn’t want to be formulaic, and my standards were higher.

2. What new skills does the unique and clever Concordia rely on to solve this mystery?

As before, Concordia’s knowledge of literary classics will help her understand hidden aspects of human nature. This novel features her long-dead father (and his past) quite prominently. Concordia and her father liked to do a lot of brain-puzzlers together when she was a child, and she’ll need to turn to that ability again in order to discover a secret. Her physical bravery will serve her well in the story, too, as she finds herself in quite a desperate circumstance.

3. What’s next for Concordia Wells?

I’m in the second draft of a mystery tentatively titled Unseemly Secrets.  In the process of finding a missing boy to whom she’s grown close, Concordia stumbles upon the presence of a powerful secret society that will do anything to protect its own. Their reach is so great that Concordia doesn’t know whom to trust, so she turns to an old ally for help. In Concordia’s love life, the romance gets cranked up a few notches, which always makes things interesting!  

Wow, K.B., it sounds like you're busy,  busy! I love that you're raising your standards with each book--I'm the same way. And it's funny you mention brain-puzzlers. My daughter and I used to do logic puzzles. They're a lot of fun! Best wishes to you!!

Unseemly Pursuits ~

cover art by Melinda VanLone
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.
And then there’s the exotic spirit medium, Madame Durand, who has befriended Concordia’s mother and has started a “Spirit Club” on campus.  Madame’s prognostications of doom are at first only mildly irritating – until events take a sobering turn.  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?
ABOUT K.B. OWEN ~
K.B. Owen taught college English for nearly two decades at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC, and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature. A mystery lover ever since she can remember, she drew upon her teaching experiences in creating her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells. Unlike the fictional Miss Wells, K.B. did not have to conduct lectures in a bustle and full skirts.  Thankfully.  No doubt, many folks are grateful for that little fact.  :D
Dangerous and Unseemlythe first book of the Concordia Wells mystery series, was released in early 2013.  Available on KindleNookKoboSmashwords, and Scribd.  Also available in paperback.
Unseemly Pursuitsthe second book in the series, was just released in December 2013. Available on KindlepaperbackNookKoboSmashwords, and iTunes.
Thanks so much for being my guest today!
I get romantic about the past, but I'll be the first to admit I love modern conveniences. 
What is one thing about today you wouldn't want to live without?
Have a wonderful day!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Be Back on Wednesday

Sorry, everyone, but I've been under the weather the last few days. I'll be back on Wednesday. Have a terrific day!!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Friday Inspiration 1: Careless People

Every Friday I'm sharing something I read, watched, listened to, or inspired me during the week.

Careless People: Murder, Mayhem, and the Invention of the Great Gatsby by Sarah Churchwell (Amazon link here) really opened my eyes about the social climate in and around New York during the 1920's.
Careless People by Sarah Churchwell. Published by Penguin Press HC 2014.
Sure, I've studied American history and have a basic understanding of the overall world politics, economic structure in America, and changes taking place in the twenties, but this book honed in on the Fitzgeralds' seemingly charmed lives for a brief period of time. Ms. Churchwell focused on the comings and goings of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda from 1922 to 1925 and how the parties, newspaper headlines, and their friends influenced The Great Gatsby.

I've read The Great Gatsby four or five times before (I love the book), but after soaking in the rich details and history in Careless People, I had to read Fitzgerald's book again. My fresh perspective helped me gain insight I'd previously overlooked.

Ms. Churchwell showed me 1922 through Fitzgerald's eyes. How old money differed from new money. How murders were sensationalized, covered up, and not handled professionally by the police.

The Great Gatsby could be set today and still make complete sense.

If you're interested in the twenties, New York, or Fitzgerald, read Careless People. It's excellent!

What inspired you this week?

Have a terrific weekend!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Smiling. It's a Good Thing.

I recently read an article about how smiling changes your mood. Just the act of your lips curving upward triggers good feelings. I have no idea if there is any scientific data to support this. In fact, I've read the opposite in other posts on the Internet.

But it's Wednesday, and I'm not a human behavior scientist, so bear with me.



Anyway... On Monday, I pushed the grocery cart through the slushy parking lot toward the store as the freezing air bit my face. My mood? Not good. I'd woken up overwhelmed with the kids home (again), a pile of laundry (as usual), a grocery list to write (yep), and a forecast of eight to eleven inches more snow on its way (NO!). So I'm zooming to the tea and coffee aisle, certain I'm missing something, irritated at the price of brown sugar, and I remember the smile article.

Has it come to this? I have to force myself to smile in an attempt to get in a good mood?

Yes. It had come to that. And, yes, I did force myself to smile.

And something glorious happened. I felt light, happy. I giggled!

It's been a long winter. A long, cold, stuck-inside, constant snow, icy roads, white sky, when-will-it-end winter. But I broke out of my rut. With one little smile.

Until next Monday...

What do you do when you're in a funky mood? 

Have a terrific day!

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Upside of Waiting

If you're a writer trying to get published, waiting is an inevitable part of life. You wait for a contest result, a reply from an agent, a yes or no from an editor, for the annual conference to come around again. You wait for revisions, edits, cover art, and your release date. Then there are other waits--your first reviews, sales reports, royalty statements. And the cycle starts again when you submit your next book.




I've been blessed to spend years waiting. Most days I don't think of it as a blessing. In fact, very few days do I thank the Lord for my wait. Usually it just sits inside my heart like a jagged piece of crystal, weighing, poking, hurting. But even in my baby-ish emotions (I want it now, waaah!), I comprehend the upside to waiting.

1. I'm a better writer. 

My writing has become more complex with all the practice I've gotten over the years. I instinctively understand things that I had to piece together when I started submitting. By no means would I consider myself a master, but it's good for the soul to truly know you've improved.

2. The publishing industry is not a big mystery as it once was.

I've been following publishing news for several years. Blogs, magazines, conferences, agents, editors, and other writers--all have informed me. Knowledge throws reality on expectations. It's good to know what you're getting into. Sure, getting published is a dream come true, but it doesn't make all your dreams come true.

3. Humble confidence

I can't speak for all newer writers, but it's easy to buy into your own hype. An editor requested your first novel? It must mean you're a genius! This is your destiny!

Long waits pave the way for rejections. Rejections fill you with humility. Humility brings you back to the drawing board and forces you to admit your weaknesses. Then you address those weaknesses by studying, trying to overcome them in your next book, finding critique partners to help point out ways you can improve. And when you repeat this, you gain confidence in your writing. But it isn't puffed up, prideful confidence. It's humble. And it's real.

4. You understand how much you want it.

Ask any writer how badly they want to see their work in print, and you'll be reduced to tears at the sincerity oozing from them. We ALL want it. But time has a way of weeding out those willing to sit in a state of failure for years on end because they believe in their dream. They want it on a level many writers claim but few put in practice.

Let me ask you this. If someone told you it would take exactly two years, three months, and five days from the day you first submitted to an editor until the day you were offered a contract, would the time seem reasonable? What if the prediction was five years, eleven months, and twenty days? How about eight years, three months, and one day?

What if you wrote steadily throughout those years? What if you wrote fifteen novels? Twenty? And what if you still didn't have a contract?

Would you give up? Decide you don't have what it takes? Assume every published writer has talent but you don't?

No one knows how long it will take to get published. Might be your first book. Might be your twenty-second.

But I can tell you one thing. The longer your wait, the more you realize how much you want it. You take nothing for granted. Nothing. Every tiny crumb that comes your way becomes a three-layer cake. Small beginnings? Brilliant. Jesus himself fed five thousand people with a few fish and a couple loaves of bread.

Whether you've just begun your wait or have slogged through years of it, remember there is an upside. And on the days you can't find an upside, know you aren't alone. Most writers are waiting.

Do you see an upside in waiting? 

Have a terrific day!


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Inspired by Life

This morning I bit into a huge, ripe blackberry. Mmm. So good! The color made me pause, though. Is it black? Purple? Wine-red? A medley of all three?

Yes.


Whatever the color, I enjoyed its beauty in appearance and its taste.

My houseplant sits smugly front and center in a corner window. The sunlit leaves glow a light, celery green, while the other side broods in darker shades. Romaine, perhaps? All the same plant, but the colors morph in the light.

I love the way they take a completely different tone, much like when a song plays on the radio--it changes the mood.

Colors inspire me. Music inspires me. And I'll admit to another thing I could sit around and watch for hours (why? I don't know! I'm weird!).

Birds.

I love them! Their itty-bitty feathers--so soft--arrayed against their bodies. Their speed. Their caution. Boy, they can flit and fly. Wish my reflexes were that swift. They jockey for seed at feeders, zoom off at the first hint of danger, and before you know it, they're back. Picking away at the seed. Social, wary, tough, and fun to watch.

What's inspiring you lately?

Have a wonderful day!

Monday, February 10, 2014

When Software Slows Your Progress

For years I've loved Microsoft's OneNote. It's a brilliant software program for note-taking, organizing, lists, research, and oodles more. (You can read about my love of OneNote in "My Secret: Organizing Book Notes.") I keep ALL of  my research for each project there. I also track my writing progress, plotting dates, revising sessions, and business activity (submissions, etc..).



Early last year, though, I started having problems with OneNote. Every time I opened the program, it would go into a frozen cycle with the message "Not responding." After about two minutes of this, it would unlock, immediately "not respond" again, then in a little while it would allow me to work. It also would "not respond," if I let it sit idle too long.

Two minutes doesn't sound like a big deal, but anything more than five seconds is crazy to me. I just want to copy/paste a link, update my writing log, or check on some research. Is that too much to ask?

Well, I Googled the issue. Went on forums. Saw that some other people had the same problem. Tried their advice. Closed most of my notebooks. Deleted all but 2-3 pictures for each notebook.

Nothing worked.

I started relying on OneNote less. Tinkered with Evernote (a great program, but not as simple to use, plus I'm not sure it has the same functionality with tables). Bookmarked research sites instead of linking them. But I've had to come to a sobering truth.

My software is slowing my daily writing progress. I find that unacceptable. 

It's one thing when I procrastinate or spend too much time with my thesaurus, but it's another matter entirely when I'm desperate to stay in my groove and have to wait for a little circle to spin for two minutes before I can access my notes!

I do not have a solution at this point. Friends use Scrivener and love it. It looks ideal for me. Tons of organization, ways to incorporate pictures for research, index card scene breakdown--you name it. Everything for the book in one place. It's pretty reasonable, too, at only $40.00.

My writing budget has been depleted, but I plan on purchasing Scrivener as soon as my budget allows. It just doesn't make sense to get frustrated and lose precious minutes each writing session.

In the meantime, I'm researching Evernote more to see if I can easily make tables to chart my progress.

What do you use for organizing your research, notes, and all things book related?

Have a terrific day!

Friday, February 7, 2014

What's New with Jill February 2014 Vlog

Now that it's 2014, it's time for a new web-series! Welcome to "What's New with Jill"!

My dog keeps photo-bombing these things! Sorry you have to see so much doggy rear. :)





Wallpaper removal, anyone?

My mailbox is buried in snow. :(
Now you know what's new with me, I'd love to hear what's new with you!

Have a fabulous weekend!!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Why Don't I Exercise Every Day?

I have a treadmill. Free weights. Yoga DVDs. Dance DVDs. A Wii. A Wii Fit. Running shoes. Athletic apparel. The big wide world out my door.



I have all these things, so tell me:

Why don't I exercise every day?

Exercising always makes me feel good, like I did something nice for my body. I like stretching and walking and pumping my arms.

It doesn't even take that long. I mean, twenty minutes on the treadmill or doing a Yoga DVD isn't a big time commitment.

So why am I not consistent? Why??

I'll exercise 4-5 days a week for months. Then the season changes or the kids add a sport or life gets thrown off by the hair of a dandelion fluff and, what do you know? My exercise routine waves bye-bye.

It's frustrating.

Anyway, I don't really have an answer at this point. I'm pushing myself now to move this body for twenty minutes a day--every day--and I can only pray this time I stick with it.

Do you have a hard time following through with a healthy habit? If not, what are your tips? 

Have a terrific day!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Party Dips!

We stayed home for the Super Bowl this year, not because we had nothing better to do, but to begin giving our half bathroom a makeover. Yes, watching the game with friends would have been fun, but we don't have many weekends with an entire Saturday free and most of a Sunday too!

To keep it festive, I made party dips. And nachos! The dips were fabulous. One was healthy and one was not. Both made me cry a little in a good way. And both were recommended to me by my friend. Yay! :)

Here are the links for the recipes: Tex Mex Black Bean Dip (courtesy of Cooking Light) and Jalapeno Popper Dip (courtesy of Big Red Kitchen via About.com).

Soooo good! Try them!!

The bathroom makeover is moving slowly. We had to remove wallpaper, which is a three step process for us. We steam the top layer off, go back and steam the glued paper layer, and finally, we steam off the glue. Then we'll skim coat all of the problem areas, prime it, and give her two coats of paint.

The wallpaper removal worked up my appetite, so I'm glad I had yummy snacks!

Do you have a favorite go-to party dip?

Hope you had a wonderful weekend!!