Author K.B. Owen on One of Her Favorite TV Detectives – Columbo

Like most of the other writers I adore today, I first met Kathy “K.B.” Owen on social media back in 2011.  We hit it off… talking about writing and pop culture, particularly Survivor.

Author K.B. Owen
Author K.B. Owen

But Kathy and I share something greater than our minor obsession for the popular “Outwit, Outlast, Outplay” reality television program—we both LOVE mysteries.  I keep an eye on Kathy’s blog because I know I can count on her publishing some fabOoolous posts, featuring some of the literary and television sleuths I grew up reading and watching… like Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Perry Mason, and even Scooby Dooby Doo.  She has also introduced me to a few 19th century historical facts, from clothing, to holiday celebrations, to true crime.  I’ve never been one who’s big on the past, but the stories Kathy shares are fascinating!

However, Survivor, mysteries, and 19th century facts aside, Kathy is also a wife and mother, who squeezes in gardening where she can between writing and taking care of her beautiful family.  She’s one of the most genuine and supportive people I have met and I’m lucky to call her a friend.

Since it’s technically Tele-Tuesday here at The Ooo Factor, Kathy is here to talk about one of her favorite TV detectives of all-time (and one of my dad’s) – Columbo.

But Kathy is also here to share a tad about her latest release, Unseemly Pursuits.

Before we jump into Kathy’s TV guest post, check out the blurb for her latest historical mystery:

A deadly secret that won’t stay buried…

UnseemlyPursuitsCover 266x400It 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?

*****

Hi Tiffany, thanks for having me! I’m so glad you asked me to talk about one of my favorite tv detectives:

Columbo

Publicity photo 1973, Margie Korshak Associates. Wikimedia Commons.
Publicity photo 1973, Margie Korshak Associates. Wikimedia Commons.

Some interesting facts about Peter Falk and the Columbo series:

1.  Bing Crosby was first offered the role of Columbo, but he didn’t want to commit to a series.  He joked that it would interfere with his golfing.

2.  In 1968, the first 90-minute pilot (Prescription: Murder) aired, co-starring Gene Barry. The regular tv series ran from 1971 to 1978, and was part of the NBC Mystery Movie anthology, which included McCloud and McMillan and Wife.  Columbo was brought back in 1989 (this time for ABC) for 5 more continuous seasons.  The 13th and final season aired 5 episodes between 1998 and 2003.  It has won multiple Edgars, Emmys, and Golden Globes. There were 69 episodes in all, directed and written by different talent over the years.

3. The first regular episode was directed by a young Steven Spielberg. As Peter Falk later told Spielberg’s biographer:

Let’s face it, we had some good fortune at the beginning. Our debut episode, in 1971, was directed by this young kid named Steven Spielberg. I told the producers, Link and Levinson: “This guy is too good for Columbo” … Steven was shooting me with a long lens from across the street. That wasn’t common twenty years ago. The comfort level it gave me as an actor, besides its great look artistically — well, it told you that this wasn’t any ordinary director.

4.  William Link and Richard Levinson, the show’s creators, did something that was unusual for the time in a mystery series:  instead of a “whodunnit” format, where the progress of the episode moves towards the revelation of the murderer, it was a “how’s-he-gonna-catch-em,” where we see right away, in the opening scene, who did it, why he did it, and how, and then the rest of the episode is the detective hounding, questioning, and drawing the net tighter and tighter around the murderer, until he cannot escape.

5.  One of the cool things about the series is the star-studded guest-murderer cast.  Here are a few of the well-known names:  William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy (they were in separate episodes), Robert Conrad, Johnny Cash, Eddie Albert, Anne Baxter, Dick Van Dyke, Dabney Coleman, Faye Dunaway, Janet Leigh, Ricardo Montalban, Roddy MacDowall.

photo from Wikimedia.org, according to Creative Commons licensing
photo from Wikimedia.org, according to Creative Commons licensing

Columbo’s appeal:

1.  The suit: It looked like it was purchased from a thrift shop, and then perpetually slept in.

2.  The car: It certainly stood out among the Mercedes, BMWs, Cadillacs and Ferraris that typified the wealthy and famous of southern California (which seemed to be the demographic Columbo perpetually found himself working with). Columbo’s car was always breaking down, making a clatter when it did run, and had various parts breaking off.

It took me a while to figure out that it was a Peugeot. According to http://www.columbo-site.freeuk.com, Columbo drove a 1959 Peugeot 403 convertible. And Peugeot only made 504 of that body style in 1959. So when Columbo called his wife’s car “just transportation” – implying that his car is special – he was right!

Columbo’s car, via MSNautos
Columbo’s car, via MSNautos

3.  The “dog”:  Of course Columbo had to have a bassett hound, one of the best sniffer dogs out there.  But it wasn’t your typical bassett hound. “Dog” was a shuffling collection of neuroses and odd behaviors.

4.  The cigar:  It rarely seemed to be lit, did it? Columbo certainly chewed on and spoke around it, though.

5.  The game:  Ah, the wonderful cat-and-mouse interaction that goes on between Columbo and the murder suspect.  The persistence, the squirming, the murderer’s initial coolness and control inevitably giving way to exasperation, rage, and mistake(s) that will prove his undoing.  Masterful!

6.  The humor:  Who doesn’t love those odd little personal side-tracks and idiosyncrasies that peek out when Columbo works a case?  The lethargic “Dog”  (yep, that’s his name, “Dog”) Columbo feeds his ice cream cone to; the never-seen but always-talked-about wife and her personal habits;  the expired driver’s license, which requires Columbo to take another road test with a DMV examiner (hilarious!); the police gun certification that requires him to go back to the shooting range (even though he never carries his gun); his car always breaking down…the list goes on and on.

Oh, there’s just one more thing….

Columbo’s demeanor:  fumbling (does the man ever have a writing implement on his person?), self-effacing, overly-polite, rambling off-topic.  These characteristics make an effective smoke screen (to the murderer…not us, of course) for his sharp mind and keen attention to detail.

Here’s a short clip, just for fun:

Are you familiar with the Columbo series? Do you have a favorite episode or feature from the series? Tiffany and I would love to hear from you!

*****

About K.B.

K.B. Owen taught college English at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature.  A long-time mystery lover, she drew upon her teaching experiences to create her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells.

Unseemly Pursuits is the second book of the series.  The first book, Dangerous and Unseemly, was published in early 2013.

K.B. currently lives in Virginia with her husband and sons, and is busily planning the lady professor’s next adventure.

An Unseemly Giveaway

The Unseemly Swag Kit
The Unseemly Swag Kit

During K.B.’s Unseemly Pursuits book tour, which goes through the first week of March, there’s a giveaway at each blog stop (including here!).  The winner, randomly drawn from the commenters at each stop, will get a free ebook copy of Unseemly Pursuits.  At the end of the tour, she’ll hold another random drawing from among the ebook winners for the final prize: a special Concordia Wells series swag package! It includes customized mug, keychain, JellyBelly mini-tin, and signed paperback copies of the first two mysteries: Dangerous and Unseemly and Unseemly Pursuits. You can read, sip your coffee, and snack on candy in unseemly style. Check the sidebar on the home page of kbowenmysteries.com for the full tour schedule and other info.

But if you can’t wait to win, here’s where to buy Unseemly Pursuits:

Kindle

Paperback

Nook

Smashwords

Kobo

iBooks

*****

Tiffany A. White is the author of the YA mystery Football Sweetheart series available on Kindle and Nook.  She is available for contact via Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or via email at tiffany {at} tiffanyawhite {dot} com.

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Author Catie Rhodes on Ghosts, Hauntings, and Forever Road

Like most of the other writers I adore today, I first met Catie Rhodes on social media back in 2011.  We pretty much hit it off immediately… talking about writing, TV, mysteries, movies, and more.

Author and Blogger Catie Rhodes
Author and Blogger Catie Rhodes

Some of you may recognize Catie’s name from our Original versus Remake monthly blog series.  She almost always covers the classics, also known as the originals, and she lets me review the newer films—luckily for me, my selections usually include eye candy…  No film is off-limits for our series; but if you leave it up to the two of us, we’ll almost always choose a horror or slasher flick.  Why?  Because that’s what we like.  I’ve only met a handful of people who like gore and psychological thrillers the way I do, and Catie happens to be one of them.

But what really drew me to Catie, besides her personality, was her love of true crime, ghosts, and hauntings.  Her blog, Long Roads and Dark Ends, is one of my favorites out there.  She has introduced me to plenty of haunted Texas spots, and one day I will go on a spooky tour.  Hopefully with Catie…

After a year or so of our chats on Twitter and Facebook, we extended our friendship to email and texts.  I cannot express how much I adore this girl.  We’ve never met in person, despite only living four hours apart, but I know we will.  It’s actually probably a blessing that we don’t live any closer; it’s likely we’d meet for coffee and desserts too much and not get enough writing done.

But before I ramble on, here’s a little bit about Catie in her own words:

Catie Rhodes grew up in the piney woods of East Texas where there wasn’t much to do other than daydream and make up stories. She decided to turn her love of lying into writing fiction after getting fired for telling her boss the President was on the phone. (That’s actually a lie, but it got your attention, didn’t it?)

The truth is, Catie knew from an early age what she wanted to do when she grew up. She just went down a lot of dead end streets on her road to becoming a writer. Her travels and trials taught her life is short, and one has to go for the gusto or get left behind.

Drawing on her East Texas roots, her love of true crime, and her love of the paranormal, she writes the kind of stories she wishes the bookstores sold. Catie relishes being that kid your mother warned you about, the one who cusses and never washes her hands after petting the dog.

She lives in the overcrowded, overly noisy, and overrated Houston, Texas suburbs where all the houses look exactly the same.

Before we jump into the interview, check out Catie’s blurb for her debut ghostly suspense novel, Forever Road

Enjoy!

Seeing Ghosts Is Rough, But Owing A Ghost A Favor Flat Out Sucks.

Forever Road by Catie RhodesMy name’s Peri Jean Mace, and I’ve seen ghosts ever since I can remember. Don’t get too excited. Seeing across the veil branded me as a loony during my growing up years, and I learned to keep my yap shut about it.

Now I’m not sure I can anymore.

See, my cousin up and got herself killed the very same day I promised her a favor.  Now she’s back in spirit form and determined to make me pay. If I don’t solve her murder, she’s going to haunt me forever. Talk about the debt collector from hell.

That’s not my only problem. An obnoxiously hot cop wants to arrest my best friend for the murder.  My bigmouthed archenemy holds a clue to the killer’s identity. And there’s this mean—and ugly—woman who wants to beat me up.

None of this can turn out good.

*****

When you were a little girl, did you dream of one day writing a bestseller, or did you have something else in mind?

The earliest memories I have are of wanting to be a doctor. By the time I was twelve or so, however, I wanted to write a bestseller. I loved making up stories much more than I loved science.

Where do you find the inspiration for your stories?

Life, current events, TV, folklore, ghost stories, true crime…you know, the normal stuff.

Who are a few of your favorite authors?

Stephen King, Larry Brown, Jim Thompson, Charlaine Harris, Kim Harrison, Billie Sue Mosiman, Todd Brown, Joe Lansdale, Robert R. McCammon.

When I was a teenager, I devoured Jackie Collins’s and V.C. Andrews’s novels.

The cover art for your book is amazing.  Did you design it yourself?

Thank you, and no. lol

The illustration on the cover is by Kimberlee Ketterman Edgar of Darkstar Artwork. I had very clear ideas about what I wanted and was lucky enough to work with a professional dedicated to helping me achieve my vision.

Indie Author Services did the lettering on the cover.

Many writers imagine a celebrity or familiar face when developing their characters.  Did you have anyone particular in mind when writing Peri Jean and why?

Peri Jean looks a whole lot like Winona Ryder when she wore her hair in a pixie cut. I’m not sure why I chose Winona Ryder. That’s just who felt right.

Speaking of celebrities, who are you thinking of at this very moment?

Paul Walker, who looks a lot like Dean Turgeau, the male lead in Forever Road.

Paul Walker… serious eye candy

Besides writing, what other hobbies do you enjoy?

Research. I love to find a topic that grabs my interest and learn everything I can about it. This hobby is probably clearly evidenced in my blog posts on true crime and paranormal.

I wouldn’t be myself without asking about television – what are your four favorite television programs airing today? 

Only four?! You’re cruel, girl. Just downright cruel.  In order:

1)      Breaking Bad

2)      The Walking Dead

3)      The Killing

4)      Sons of Anarchy

I think I see a pattern…

What is your favorite movie of all-time?

Another hard one!

Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2

Okay, I cheated a little since that’s technically two movies. But it’s only one title. Sort of. Fine…I cheated.

Epic Movie…

What snacks do you order when at a movie theater? 

Sweet Tarts and bottled water. Count on me to live large.

You blog about so many interesting haunted and spooky locations.  Which spot was your favorite to visit and did you sense anything out of the ordinary? 

I used to visit New Orleans, Louisiana a lot. One place I found deliciously creepy was St. Louis Cemetery No. 1. Marie Laveau is supposedly interred there. At least, there’s a grave with her name on it.

A photo from my trip to New Orleans in 2008... I've actually been to St. Louis Cemetry #1!!
A photo from my trip to New Orleans in 2008… I’ve actually been to St. Louis Cemetery #1!!  Catie should be so proud…

Though I saw nothing in St. Louis No. 1, the place had a great spooky vibe, and I could smell death. At the time we went, we were advised not to venture into the cemetery alone and couldn’t afford to take the tour again. But I’d love to go back and let my husband (the photographer) take some good pictures.

And while I can't remember if I took a picture of her grave or not, I definitely visited her Voodoo store... And yes, I bought a doll.
And while I can’t remember if I took a picture of her grave or not, I definitely visited her Voodoo store… And yes, I bought a doll.

Being a fellow Texan, any haunted locations I should visit? 

Next time you go out to the Hill Country, go to Longhorn Caverns in Burnet, Texas. Gorgeous place. Many of the structures were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during The Great Depression. It is also supposedly very haunted. If you feel like it, do a google search on “Longhorn Caverns + Catie Rhodes” and view my ghost picture from our visit.

*****

Isn’t Catie great?

Need more Catie?  I mean, seriously… who doesn’t want to go to a haunted location with her?  I do!  Be sure to catch up with Catie at her website, or follow her via her Pinterest, Goodreads, Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Do you have a question for Catie?  Have you read Forever Road yet?  How about this—do you believe in ghosts?  Have any haunted tales to tell?  We’d love to hear from you! 

Before we go, Forever Road is on sale for 99 cents today and tomorrow (July 5th and 6th).  Be sure to grab a copy if you haven’t already… and check out Catie’s short story, Haste, while you are there.

Haste by Catie RhodesShe just murdered her cheating bastard of a husband and his whore. All that’s left to do is not get caught. Or is it?

A short story about rage and consequences.

Author Sara Barnard on Historical Romance, Oklahoma Plants, Chunky Sugars, and the Real “Friday Night Lights”

Like most of the other writers I adore today, I first met Sara Barnard on social media.  Anytime someone mentions Football Sweetheart on Twitter, I like to take the time to personally thank them… well, as personal as we can all get with a tweet to a stranger.  And sometimes the 140-character lines strike up a conversation that later lead to a new friendship, just like this particular instance with Sara.

Author Sara Barnard

When I thanked Sara for the tweet, her response grabbed my attention—being from the real Friday Night Lights school, she felt she just had to share the news about my book to her Twitterverse friends and family.  The following conversation went something like this:

Tiffany: You went to Odessa Permian?  I graduated from Midland Lee!
Sara: When did you graduate?
Tiffany: Mid ‘90s.  You?
Sara: Late ‘90s.
Tiffany: My mom graduated from Permian… she was a Pepette back in the day.
Sara: I was a member of the PHS pep squad!
Tiffany: And you write?
Sara: I do!
And so on, and so on.

We were instant friends… which makes sense, considering we grew up only fifteen miles apart from one another (give or take a few miles)!  And as my friend, I wanted to introduce Sara and her works to The Ooo Factor’s readers!

For a bit more on Sara, here is a brief bio:

Sara Barnard is a military wife and mother of four beautiful children. Though born and bred Texans, they have made their home all over the world and currently reside in the historic hills of Oklahoma. With each duty station, their family has grown a little more and they now co-exist with two Italian greyhound/border collie mixes, a Texan German shepherd, a beautiful belle of a cat from Colorado, a feisty Oklahoma Tomcat, and of course sweet Francis – the kitty who survived being flung from a speeding truck.

Sara holds her BA in History and is pursuing her MA in European History. Her historical romance series, An Everlasting Heart, is consistently five-star rated with books 3 and 4 releasing in June and December of this year. Her debut picture book, Chunky Sugars, released in January 2013 and her nonfiction regional children’s book, The ABC’s of Oklahoma Plants, has hit bestseller lists in both the print and digital versions. Sara is a member of the Western Writers of America.

Before we jump into the interview, check out Sara’s blurbs for her historical romance series, An Everlasting Heart.

Enjoy!

A Heart on HoldA Heart on Hold (An Everlasting Heart, #1):

How much grief can a heart bear before being tested to the ultimate limit? The war is over, Sanderson is home, and life is good … until the Army comes knocking. They have charged Sanderson with murder and sentenced him to “hang by the neck until dead” – unless he can track down the notorious outlaw William Quantrill with the help of SGT Jerry Thomas, who still may be in love with Charlotte. With Sanderson gone, Charlotte is left to endure a complicated pregnancy and a rash of hydrophobia that threatens Cotton, Achilles, and the entire countryside – her Sanderson included.

A Heart BrokenA Heart Broken (An Everlasting Heart, #2):

War. Devotion. Deceit. Death. How long can a heart hold on before it breaks? Most women would carry on with their lives after being thrust into widowhood, but not Charlotte Adamsland. Upon learning that her husband, Captain Sanderson Redding, was killed in a botched escape from a Confederate prison in Illinois, she clings to his promise to return to her no matter what, and quickly heads north through a war-ravaged country with only her faith in God and her beloved horse to bring her beloved Sanderson home – one way or another.

Heart at HomeA Heart at Home (An Everlasting Heart, #3):

Gold. Massacres. Soldiers. Indians. Can Charlotte survive life on the trail or will the wildness of the west tear her family apart?
With Sanderson’s job as an Indian Agent beckoning from California, Charlotte must leave behind her life in Arkansas to follow the man she loves, and whose child she is carrying, in search of a place they can call home.
From Quanah Parker to Wyatt Earp, Charlotte and Sanderson rub shoulders with some of the American West’s most notable characters as they stumble into Government conspiracies, endure a hard pregnancy, and survive nature’s fury — all while struggling to remember what truly makes a home is love.

*****

When you were a little girl, did you dream of one day writing a bestseller, or did you have something else in mind?

I always dreamt of writing, but never imagined a bestseller. For me, writing is has always been about getting the stories out of me and on paper … creating something that wasn’t there before and that nobody else could create … more than making a list. However, I can’t describe how happy I was when I learned that my very first book, The ABC’s of Oklahoma Plants, made bestseller lists in both kindle and print! I must admit, it does leave you a little hungry for more!

Where do you find the inspiration for your stories and what made you decide to write historical romance?

All of my inspiration comes from life … whether it be my life or someone else’s. For example, in my debut novel, A Heart on Hold, Charlotte is based on me. She has my insecurities, my trademark traits, faults, shortcomings, and even my habits. Sanderson is based on the real-life Confederate Captain E.A. Adams, who was chronicled only a short while before the history books fell silent, and of course he is based on my husband, as well.

I didn’t so much decide to write historical romance as they just sort of happened when I sat down at the computer one day. My husband was deployed and it was rough on both of us, so I took what we were each going through and tossed it back in the 19th century, one of my favorite time periods, and A Heart on Hold was born. My heat level is consistently sweet, not only because I like to keep a Christian thread running through my stories, but because I have a young daughter who reads everything she can get her hands on and I don’t want to write anything that would scar her for life should she read something of mine!

Who are a few of your favorite authors?

Larry McMurtry because he is simply a legend … Lucia St. Clair Robson because her writing is so powerful that I can still recall scenes from Ride the Wind as vividly from memory as I did when I read them 15 years ago … Ann Swann because not only is she my mother, but her writing has influenced me since I was a child, and Phillipa Gregory, whom I just recently started reading. My fellow 5 Prince Publishing authors are all awesome and write everything from paranormal to mystery to spicy contemporary romance.

The cover art for your books is amazing.  Did you design them yourself?

Thank you!! I wish I could take the credit! Viola Estrella is the cover artist for 5 Prince Publishing and she is amazing at what she does! She takes our ideas, the mood and setting of our books, and meshes it all together and the result is always a cover more amazing than you imagined in the first place. I can hardly wait to see how the cover for book 4, A Heart Forever Wild, will look!

Many writers imagine a celebrity or familiar face when developing their characters.  Did you have anyone particular in mind when writing Charlotte and why?

You know, I didn’t really imagine anyone in particular when creating Charlotte—at least not anyone popular in Hollywood today. Perhaps Sophie Marceau would be the closest I could come to pinning Charlotte to a Hollywood starlet J

Speaking of celebrities, who are you thinking of at this very moment?

Well, just writing about Sophie Marceau made me think of Braveheart, so I suppose my mind wandered to the illustrious Mel Gibson!

Besides writing historical romance, you also published a book about plants in Oklahoma.  Do you consider yourself to have a green thumb, and if so, what plants would we find on your back porch?

Well, we recently started a garden consisting of tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, and the like. I don’t really have a green thumb though, as I have managed to kill anything I’ve ever planted before. Sigh. In writing The ABC’s of Oklahoma Plants I hoped to get Oklahoma kids outside and discovering their own environments and the value of plants –that they’re not just boring green things that grow in their peripheral vision. I plan to do a book for each of the states and the Texas version is coming soon … hopefully this May!

 What other hobbies do you enjoy?

I love to read and write and enjoy the outdoors with my precious children. Movies are fun, especially ones that are like my books – based in fact and true historical truths. I love to help my babies with their homework and daydream with my husband about our future. Hiking is a favorite pastime of ours, as well as traveling and seeing new things and experiencing new, well, experiences! I recently was accepted into an MA program for European history, so it is no secret that I love to learn and love love love history. I also like the thought of painting, but am really not very good at it. My daughter is, though.

You have also published a children’s book.  As a mother of four, did any particular experience inspire the story of Chunky Sugars?  And do you have any future children’s books planned?   

Chunky Sugars is a true story. I won’t give any spoilers, but it was a lesson I certainly learned the hard way! I wrote this particular book for my fourth and chunkiest baby, Lil’ Bit. He still loves this story, as do all of my sweet babies! I have written a book for each of them, all are in consideration with 5 Prince Kids right now and I am so excited!

I wouldn’t be myself without asking about television – what are your favorite television programs airing today? 

I like The Americans and I loved Tudors, but neither of those are really suitable for family viewing. Little House on the Prairie, Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman, Touched by an Angel, and Highway to Heaven are some of my all-time favorites. Oh, and Pocoyo.

Let’s switch to the big screen… what is your favorite movie all-time?

Braveheart. And Lonesome Dove.

What snacks do you order when at a movie theater? 

Milk duds, popcorn, and water!

Lastly, you, like me, have experienced the real “Friday Night Lights” in West Texas.  Having graduated from Odessa Permian, what’s your favorite high school football memory? 

And keep in mind I’m a Midland Lee Rebel… so be nice. 

Hehe! My years spent on the pep squad and on the dance team are by far my favorite football-related memories. Painting yard signs, painting run-throughs, Friday morning pep rallies, running with the “Seventh Flag Over Texas” down the football field before the games … the chilly Friday nights in the stands cheering for the Mojo football team – it sure brings back a flood of memories. I have also been accepted into a teacher certification program in the Permian Basin, and my hope is to teach history at Permian when the fam and I get around to moving back down south to Football Land!

*****

Isn’t Sara adorable?

Need more Sara?  Catch up with her at her website, or follow her via her Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Do you have a question for Sara?  Have you read any of her books?  Or how about this… do you have any “Friday Night Light” stories you’d like to share with these two West Texas high school football girls?  We’d love to hear from you! 

Author K.B. Owen on Historical Fiction, Mysteries, Gardening, and the Game of Survivor

Like most of the other writers I adore today, I first met Kathy “K.B.” Owen on social media back in 2011.  We hit it off… talking about writing and pop culture, particularly Survivor.

Historical Fiction Author, Kathy "K.B." Owen
Historical Fiction Author, Kathy “K.B.” Owen

But Kathy and I share something greater than our minor obsession for the popular “Outwit, Outlast, Outplay” reality television program—we both LOVE mysteries.  I keep an eye on Kathy’s blog because I know I can count on her publishing some fabOoolous posts, featuring some of the literary and television sleuths I grew up reading and watching… like Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Perry Mason, Columbo, and even Scooby Dooby Doo.  She has also introduced me to a few 19th century historical facts, from clothing, to holiday celebrations, to true crime.  I’ve never been one who’s big on the past, but the stories Kathy shares are fascinating!

However, Survivor, mysteries, and 19th century facts aside, Kathy is also a wife and mother, who squeezes in gardening where she can between writing and taking care of her beautiful family.  She’s one of the most genuine and supportive people I have met and I’m lucky to call her a friend.

For those who are unfamiliar with Kathy, here is a brief bio:

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.

Before we jump into the interview, check out Kathy’s blurb for her debut historical mystery, Dangerous and Unseemly: A Concordia Wells Mystery

Enjoy!

Dangerous and Unseemly: A Concordia Wells Mystery –

An unseemly lesson…in murder.

cover art by Niki Smith

The year is 1896, and Professor Concordia Wells has her hands full:  teaching classes, acting as live-in chaperone to a cottage of lively female students, and directing the student play,  Macbeth.

But mystery and murder are not confined to the stage.  Malicious pranks, arson, money troubles, and the apparent suicide of a college official create turmoil at the women’s college.  For Concordia, it becomes personal when a family member dies of a mysterious illness, and her best friend is attacked and left for dead.

With her friend still in danger and her beloved school facing certain ruin, Concordia knows that she must act.  But uncovering secrets is a dangerous business, and there are some who do not appreciate the unseemly inquiries and bold actions of the young lady professor.  Can she discover the ones responsible…before she becomes the next target?

*****

When you were a little girl, did you dream of one day writing a bestseller, or did you have something else in mind?

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Nancy Drew, LOL.  But I also enjoyed writing short stories as a kid; I just didn’t think of it as a career.  I remember one story I co-wrote with some school friends that involved a gladiator who had his arm severed, and the hand came back to life and took revenge…but that’s another post!

What little girl didn’t want to be Nancy Drew?

Where do you find the inspiration for your stories and what made you decide to write historical mysteries?

My doctoral area of study was the nineteenth century, so I knew I wanted to go with that time period for my mystery.  I was inspired to set it in a women’s college when my mother-in-law passed away; I stumbled upon old letters and yearbooks from her time at an all-female community college back in the 1950s.  My own years in college teaching provided plenty of inspiration, too – lots of quirky characters in that environment, I can tell you.

Who are a few of your favorite authors?

Just a few?  That will be tough, LOL.  Some of my fave mystery writers are Sue Grafton, Anne Perry, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Margaret Frazer, and Conan Doyle; outside of the mystery category, I like Jane Austen, Dorothy Gilman and Kazuo Ishiguro (among others).

The cover art for your book is amazing.  Did you design it yourself?

Thanks!  I hired a very talented artist – Niki Smith, who does mostly graphic novel art.  I wanted the cover to be in the art style popular in the 1890s, called “Art Nouveau.”  I sent her some samples and explained what impression I wanted to convey by the cover, and she took it from there!

Many writers imagine a celebrity or familiar face when developing their characters.  Did you have anyone particular in mind when writing Miss Concordia and why?

I didn’t have a visual image of any particular Hollywood celebrity when creating Concordia, but I’ve realized since then that she’s sort of a cross between a grown-up Nancy Drew and Harriet Vane (from Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night).

Speaking of celebrities, who are you thinking of at this very moment?

Ha!  You got me.  Sean Connery.  I don’t care how old he gets, I still have a crush.  I could listen to his accent all day long.  Well, he’s easy on the eyes, too. 😉

Bond. James Bond. AKA Sir Sean Connery. I, too, could listen to his accent all day long…

Besides writing, you seem to love gardening.  Do you consider yourself to have a green thumb, and if so, what plants would we find on your back porch?

I have a somewhat-green thumb – sometimes plants won’t cooperate, or get diseases, or bugs from hell will descend upon your carefully-nurtured beloveds and feast upon them.  Stink bugs, spider mites, powdery mildew…the list is endless.  But I try to be prepared.  *wink*  In the summer you’ll find tomatoes, peppers, beans, raspberries, impatiens, and morning glories in the backyard.  All container plantings, because it’s mostly deck back there.

 What other hobbies do you enjoy?

I love to read, backyard bird-watch, knit and crochet, and bake yummy things.  I have a real weakness for cookies.

Photo provide by K.B. Owen
Photo provide by K.B. Owen

I wouldn’t be myself without asking about television – what are your favorite television programs airing today? 

Good thing you asked that, Tiffany – I was getting worried there for a minute, LOL.  No pod in the basement…phew!

There are so many good shows out there, but I don’t have time to watch that many.  I do make time to see Survivor, Big Bang Theory, and Downton Abbey regularly – although we’re done with Downton for a while! *sniff*  Sometimes I’ll catch Sherlock, Person of Interest, and Elementary, which are terrific, too!

Let’s switch to the big screen… what is your favorite movie all-time?

Casablanca.  And there are so many quotable lines from that, don’t you think?

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

What snacks do you order when at a movie theater? 

I’m a big fan of popcorn – WITH salt and butter!  I might as well go all in.  But I don’t go often, so my waistline has been (somewhat) spared!

Lastly, you, like me, love the game of Survivor.  So let’s get down to it… 

Who’s your favorite Survivor all-time and why? 

Wow, you don’t hold back on the tough questions, do you, Tiffany?  While I admire Ozzie and Boston Rob, Rupert has always been my favorite: big, loud, unpretentious, and a heart of gold.

Have you ever applied to be a contestant, and if not, would you tomorrow if the producers came to a town near you? 

No, and no!  I’m definitely a spectator when it comes to that show.  I’d be the wimpy girl that everyone voted out first.  Have you seen all the RATS that crawl around their camp at night?  *shudder*

Can you start fire using only the elements and supplies one would find on a deserted island? 

Sure – if the deserted island had a Bic lighter and a Duraflame log.  No problem!  😉

KBOwen Porch
Photo provided by K.B. Owen

I don’t know, Kathy… if your porch is as beautiful as the pictures you provided, I bet you could start fire using only flint!

What would your one luxury item be? 

Chocolate!  (I would have said my Nook, but it would run out of power fairly quickly).

AND, who are you rooting for this season?  Malcolm, right?  

You bet!  There are a few others on the Favorites tribe whom I wouldn’t mind winning if Malcolm was eliminated (gasp), but fingers crossed!

Team Malcolm!!

*****

Isn’t Kathy great?

Need more Kathy?  Catch up with her at her website, or follow her via her Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Do you have a question for Kathy?  Have you read Dangerous and Unseemly yet?  Or do you enjoy Survivor with us?  We’d love to hear from you! 

To help celebrate Kathy’s debut novel, The Ooo Factor has decided to participate in her book tour and the Whodunnit giveaway!

So, how about a little mystery fun… with a prize!

Each stop in K.B. Owen’s book launch tour has a mystery question/s (below).  The alphabet letter next to the correct answer is what you want.  By the end of the tour you’ll have enough letters to unscramble the answers to which ROOM, WEAPON, and SUSPECT.  

Question #1 –

Sherlock Holmes is partly modeled after a person in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life.  His name was:

O) Han Solo
P) Dr. Joseph Bell
Q) Dr. Joseph Whittingham
R) Oliver Wendell Holmes

Question #2 –

Jessica Fletcher, a mystery writer/amateur detective on the long-running Murder, She Wrote, lived in which town (whose per capita murder rate would have been the despair of local real estate agents)?

J) Ann Arbor, MI
K) Intercourse, PA
L) Cabot Cove, ME
M) Martha’s Vineyard, MA

But it’s just for fun, so even if you just want to answer one quiz question, email Kathy with the answer at kbowenwriter (at) gmail (dot) com.  She’d love to hear from you!

She’ll draw a winner from all the entries and announce it at Karen McFarland’s blog, the last stop of the tour.

What could you win?  A free ebook copy of Dangerous and Unseemly, and a $25 gift card of your choice to either Starbucks, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble!

Find the full details (with the story of the untimely demise of Sir Reginald “Good Riddance” Crenshaw) here.

Good luck!

Email Deadline: Monday, April 1st

And if you can’t wait to win a copy of Dangerous and Unseemly, the first book of the Concordia Wells mystery series, grab a copy today!  Available in KindleNookKoboSmashwords, iTunes, and Scribd formats, as well as in paperback.

Unseemly Pursuits, the second book in the series, will be released later in 2013, and Kathy’s hard at work plotting Concordia’s next adventure.

Author Jen Kirchner on Science Fiction, Necromancy, and Her Talking Knives

Like most of the other writers I adore today, I first met Jen Kirchner on social media in 2011.  We hit it off… talking about writing, pop culture, and sharing general life experiences with each other.

Fantasy Author and Humorist, Jen Kirchner

Besides the fact that we have both worked as Executive Assistants and were both looking to venture into the world of indie publishing in 2012 for the first time, we really didn’t have that much in common.  Take her love of science fiction and gaming for instance.  These two worlds might as well be written in a language lost centuries ago as far as I’m concerned; but she’s teaching me and making me look smarter to my guy, since he too is an avid sci-fi lover and gamer.

But our differences have never mattered.  Jen’s one of the funniest people I know, and this humor carries over into her writing.  But most importantly, her heart is about as warm and inviting as a winter fire burning and candlelight.  She’s not a casual acquaintance, but a dear friend who helps me when I most need it.  We’ve grown so close over the last year and a half that it seems almost impossible that we’ve never met in person.

I cannot express how much Jen means to me.  There have been days where I have wanted to bang my head against the wall, throw my laptop out the window, and quit writing altogether.  In these moments, Jen jumps in and talks me down off the ledge, sharing her words of wisdom and a virtual hug.  One day, we will meet face to face.  And, when we do, I will hug her like there’s no tomorrow.  Heck, I hope she’s a hugger…

For those who are unfamiliar with Jen, here is a brief bio:

Jen Kirchner is an Executive Assistant by day and a writer by night. Jen just published her first novel, The Fourth Channel, about the world’s worst necromancer and a set of deranged, talking knives.

Before we jump into the interview, check out Jen’s blurb for her debut fantasy novel, The Fourth Channel.

Enjoy!

The Fourth Channel:

For years, Kari Hunter’s fooled the world into thinking she’s just an everyday girl. Sure, she’s the lead singer of world-renowned band Vis Viva, but outside of that, she recycles religiously, is an avid supporter of the environment, and she’s a certifiable coffee addict. The Fourth Channel by Jen KirchnerBut Kari has a secret she keeps from her family, friends, and fans.

Kari Hunter is a necromancer.

The rarest and most powerful of all magic-born, necromancers are notorious for leaving a trail of sacrifices in their wake. But Kari isn’t interested in hurting anyone. She works hard at being as un-necromancer-like as possible: everyone she stabs gets a bandage and a lollipop, and whenever her sacrificial knives get too excited by the prospect of violence, she puts them in time-out… in her lingerie drawer.

But when an agent of voodoo master Ruairí O’Bryne catches Kari using her powers, her secret’s out. And if Ruairí finds out who Kari is, he’ll stop at nothing to make her his next sacrifice.

*****

She had me at sacrificial knives… oh, and they talk!

When you were a little girl, did you dream of one day writing a bestseller, or did you have something else in mind?

I really didn’t! My childhood revolved around music. I was classically trained as a vocalist, participated in competitions and competitive choirs, performed more times than I can count, and I played piano. On the weekends, I was involved in the worship ministry in church. I always thought—or perhaps, hoped—that my path would be music. But I guess it wasn’t meant to be. As it turns out, I’m not big on the spotlight anyway. I’m much better hiding behind my computer!

Where do you find the inspiration for your stories?

I look for inspiration everywhere—I even find it in things I hate. That’s actually how I came up with a lot of ideas for The Fourth Channel: I was thinking about a lot of elements in modern fantasy that bothered me, and I wanted to do my own spin on them. If I were to tell you all of them, you’d be mighty surprised. Actually, I’d better not point them out because then people would take back their claims of how original my story is. Hah!

Who are a few of your favorite authors?

I don’t really have favorite authors. Most authors aren’t like rock stars, living some hyped-up, glamorous life—like Nathan Fillion in Castle. Maybe that’s what appeals to me about being an author: it’s an unassuming profession. Most writers don’t worry about getting mobbed by fans when they walk down the street. Our characters are more famous than we are.  And I’m fine with that.

“Most authors aren’t like rock stars, living some hyped-up, glamorous life—like Nathan Fillion in Castle.”

The cover art for your book is amazing.  Did you design it yourself?

Thank you so much! My cover was designed by Amber Shah at Book Beautiful. I really didn’t know what I wanted for a cover, and when she sent me the mock up for the current cover, I was blown away. She’s a very talented gal and amazing to work with. I can’t recommend her services enough.

Many writers imagine a celebrity or familiar face when developing their characters.  Did you have anyone particular in mind when writing Kari and why?

I didn’t have a single person in mind, though I did borrow features from different people. Mostly, I wanted someone who looked a bit different from me because I didn’t want my friends accusing me of writing myself into a story! And in case you’re wondering, it didn’t work. My friends still ask me if I’m Kari. The answer is no!

Speaking of celebrities, who are you thinking of at this very moment?

I am thinking of a Dutch singer named Charlotte Wessels because her band, Delain, is playing on my speakers right now. Funny, because Charlotte’s very long hair (that she likes to headbang with) inspired Kari’s very long hair.

I wouldn’t be myself without asking about television – what’s your favorite television program?

Ooh, that’s a good one. I am a huge Red Dwarf fan. It’s a British sci-fi comedy about the last human being alive, a hologram of his dead boss, a humanoid creature who evolved from the ship’s cat, and a mechanoid. They recently released the latest episodes on DVD for the US. When the DVDs arrived, we had a big party at my house and watched them.

I had never even heard of Red Dwarf until I met Jen…

How about films… what is your favorite movie of all-time?

I’m going to have to say The Great Race with Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis, Natalie Wood, and Peter Faulk. It’s an oldie but a goody. The dashing hero, The Great Leslie (who wears all-white and makes the girls go crazy) races his arch-nemesis Professor Fate (who wears all-black and has a hilariously dastardly mustache) in old-style automobiles from New York to Paris. No airplanes. No boats. But they get there in the end. I won’t spoil it by telling you how. The movie contains a very famous sword fight, as well as a famous large-scale pie fight. The Great Race embraces everything that I like to put in a story: action, danger, comedy, headstrong heroines, and a splash of romance. If you watch this movie, you will understand my writing aesthetic.

What snacks do you order when at a movie theater? 

Don’t look down on me when I say this but I’m too cheap to pay for theater snacks! Concession stand prices are unbelievable so my husband and I smuggle in whatever we can fit into my purse. Since we don’t usually keep candy in the house, we grab whatever we can find–Fig Newtons, trail mix, you name it. The funny part is, I don’t even know why we grab snacks since we never eat them anyway!

Lastly, you are what I like to call a science fiction enthusiast.  Who are a few of your favorite characters within this genre (books, TV, movies, games) and why? 

Great question! Every month on my website, I write a tongue-in-cheek feature called “Sci-Fi Pinups.” Each post highlights one male and one female from the sci-fi/fantasy universe. The funny thing about the pinups is that each month I have an even tougher time finding women to feature. Considering how I’ve only featured fourteen women, that probably sounds strange. But, finding strong female role models in this genre is a lot harder than it sounds. The majority of sci-fi/fantasy women are overly emotional, I.Q. deficient, and oversexed. Many tough women are portrayed as gun-toting men with breasts. It’s tough finding the Princess Leias, Colonel Wilma Deerings, and Wonder Womans of the bunch. I’d love to see better role models in this category, as would most geek women like me. I think that’s why I wrote the main character of The Fourth Channel, Kari Hunter, the way I did. She has her own quirks, strengths, and weaknesses, and doesn’t need to rely on big guns or sex. Not that there’s anything wrong with guns and sex, I just wanted to show that women can be strong and not have to pop a cap while falling out of their tight, low-cut sweaters to prove it.

Wonder Woman!! Yes, all little girls dream of being Wonder Woman. And yes, I have a Wonder Woman costume… who doesn’t?

*****

Isn’t Jen amazing AND adorable?

Need more Jen?  Catch up with her at her website, or follow her via her Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Do you have a question for Jen?  Have you read The Fourth Channel yet?  Who’s your favorite sci-fi character (male and female) and why?  We’d love to hear from you! 

Lisette Brodey on Writing and Hollywood

Like most of the other writers I adore today, I first met Lisette Brodey on Twitter last year.  Whoever says social media is a waste of time, obviously hasn’t been hanging in the right hashtags and groups…

LisetteBrodeyHeadshot
Author and Actress Lisette Brodey

Lisette is like a ray of sunshine.  She always sends the sweetest notes and makes me smile.  Not only do I enjoy chatting with her about her writing, but I also love hearing all about her recent adventures in Hollywood.  That’s right—I said Hollywood.

Originally from Philadelphia, Lisette moved to New York City where she studied drama.  Ten years later, she moved to Los Angeles where she held various positions at Paramount Studios in Hollywood and CBS Studio Center in Studio City.  Back in Philadelphia for several years, Lisette worked as a freelance writer, with clients both in Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and other cities.  In 2010, she finally moved back to Los Angeles permanently.  She has freelanced for the entertainment industry and published three books: Crooked Moon, a story about childhood best friends whose lives come crashing back together after twenty-three years apart; Squalor, New Mexico, a coming-of-age story shrouded in a family mystery; and Molly Hacker is Too Picky!, a romantic comedy.

Before we jump into the interview, check out Lisette’s blurb for her romantic comedy, Molly Hacker is Too Picky!.

Molly Hacker Is Too Picky!:

At thirty-two, newspaper reporter Molly Hacker vows to never attend another wedding until she has had her own. And that’s a problem because Molly’s younger sister, Hannah, is going to be married in one year. Armed with snark, wit, and fabulous good looks, “Picky Molly Hacker is Too Picky! by Lisette BrodeyMolly” embarks on a quest to find Mr. Right in her hometown.

Things get complicated fast. In no time at all, Molly has four “men of interest” and the memories of a lost love to send her overanalytic, befuddled mind into serious overdrive. Determined not to let her “helpful” girlfriends help her right out of another relationship, Molly tries to keep mum on the state of her love life. Her BFF male coworker, Randy, becomes her closest confidant as he stumbles over romantic issues with his new Mr. Right, Kyle. Meanwhile, Molly’s gal pals aren’t too happy about being left out of the loop.

Tweaking Molly’s last nerve is the town’s most visible socialite, Naomi Hall-Benchley, who, for self-serving reasons, is hell-bent on setting up “Picky Molly Hacker,” and she doesn’t care who she has to manipulate or hurt to do it. Just how far will she go?

“Molly Hacker Is Too Picky!” takes the reader on a yearlong romp through Molly’s mind and a joyride through her life. Her dating life, town secrets, a group of quirky, crazy characters, and Naomi’s machinations collide head-on at a holiday gala that will change the social landscape of her hometown, Swansea, forever. As the New Year rolls in, Molly gets earth-shattering news. Can she go on? Will life ever return to abnormal again?

*****

When you were a little girl, did you dream of one day writing a bestseller, or did you have something else in mind?

When I was a little girl, even a teenager, I dreamed of being an actress. But that didn’t take away from my love for writing.

Where do you find the inspiration for your stories?

I write character-driven, multilayered novels, so I’d have to say that people are my number one inspiration. I usually find a character and develop a story around him or her, but sometimes it is the other way around.

Knowing that I’m a writer, people often say to me, “I’ve got a great story for you.” It’s usually a great story for them, not for me. We all have to write about what we feel passionate about in our own lives, not someone else’s.

Who are a few of your favorite authors?

I love Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald and many writers of the classics. These days, however, I mostly read novels by my fellow indie authors.

Charles Dickens…  Great Expectations is one of my all-time favorites. 

My Charles Dickens Complete Works with my other favorite book, Football Sweetheart.
My Charles Dickens Collection standing on my other favorite book, Football Sweetheart.

The cover art for Molly Hacker is Too Picky! is adorable.  Did you design it yourself?

No. The cover was created by artist Megan Hansen. I gave her a great deal of information about the character of Molly, and she worked with me to develop her visually.

Many writers imagine a celebrity or familiar face when developing their characters.  Did you have anyone particular in mind when writing Molly and why?

I didn’t have anybody in mind when I wrote the character, but I often do picture someone famous when I’m writing. Doing so helps to develop a character in the initial stages.

Speaking of celebrities, who are you thinking of at this very moment?

Actually, I’m thinking about you, Tiffany!

Hahaha, Lisette.  Flattery will get you… everywhere with me!  🙂

I wouldn’t be myself without asking about television – what are your four favorite television programs airing today? 

Scandal, Castle, Grey’s Anatomy, and American Idol.

Now, let’s go to the movies… what is your favorite film of all-time?

Gone with the Wind

My mom loves you already!!

Scarlett. Rhett. It doesn’t get much better than this classic!

What snacks do you order when at a movie theater? 

Always a soda and popcorn. I LOVE my popcorn. I think I eat it differently than everyone else. Sometimes I take several bites out of one popped kernel. I make it last throughout the entire film. 🙂

Besides writing, I know you have landed a few “extra” roles in some Hollywood films.  Where can we watch for you? 

No big deal, really! I’m in the wedding dance scene in End of Watch. I’m a green-faced witch in Fun Size, but if you blink, I’m afraid you’ll miss me. I worked several days on a film called The Incredible Burt Wonderstone with Steve Carrell, Steve Buscemi, and Jim Carrey. It’s going to be a fabulous movie! I’m sitting in the fourth row of the audience. You might see me cheering for the two Steves, who portray a team of magicians during their 1980s Vegas heyday. I think I’ll keep the rest of the roles/films secret, especially the one in which I’m wearing a bathing suit! Ha ha.

This movie is on my “To Be Watched” list. And now that I know Lisette is in the wedding scene, I REALLY want to check it out!

What’s next on the horizon for you?

I’m currently close to publishing a book of poetry written by my mother about 60 years ago. She wrote beautiful poetry as a young woman (had a few poems published), then went on to get her master’s and doctorate and become a university professor.  She’s now retired and looking forward to the publication of her book within the next couple of months.

As for me, I’m approximately 25% into my next novel, which will be in the YA Paranormal genre. I’m eager to pick up the pace on this novel and publish it in mid-2013.

I’m also eager to move on to novel #5. I will be novelizing a play that I wrote many years ago, which actually began as a short story when I was 17. So, these characters have been itching to make themselves known for a very long time.

*****

Isn’t Lisette adorable?  I am totally going to watch for her in those movies… maybe if we beg enough, she’ll tell us the title of the film where she wears a bathing suit!

Need more Lisette?  Catch up with her at her website, or follow her via her Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook accounts.

Do you have a question for Lisette?  Have you read Molly Hacker is Too Picky!?  If so, share your thoughts here!  We’d love to hear from you! 

Friday FabOoolousness – Amber West on Smuggling, Scotch, Home Remedies, and The Ruth Valley Missing

Like most of the other writers I adore today, I first met Amber West on social media last year.  We hit it off… talking about writing, watching television, and sharing general life experiences with each other.  Then, one day, Amber contacted me with one of her brilliant ideas—we should start a weekly blog series where we review television shows to help busy people know what is worth a watch and what is not.  With that, Why It’s Worth a Watch Wednesday was born.

Author, Photographer, Blogger, Mother, And All-Around Awesome Amber West
(photo courtesy of Jonas West Photography)

Amber and I have grown so close over the last year and a half that it seems almost impossible that we’ve never met in person.  My parents are her friends on Facebook… and they also adore her.  Her sister and I chat on Twitter… and hopefully everyone meets her soon as I’ve asked her to use her fabOoolous fashion sense to do a guest post covering my Football Sweetheart characters… but that’s later; today is all about Amber.

I cannot express how much Amber means to me.  There have been days where I have wanted to bang my head against the wall, throw my laptop out the window, and quit writing altogether.  In these moments, Amber jumps in and talks me down off the ledge.  She makes me laugh; she makes me cry (tears of joy); she makes me feel loved.  One day, we will meet face to face.  And, when we do, I will hug her like there’s no tomorrow.  Heck, I hope she’s a hugger…

For those who are unfamiliar with Amber, here is a brief bio:

Amber West is a Northeastern transplant dodging rodent sized bugs and sweltering heat in the jungles of Central Florida. When she isn’t battling the urge to pass out, she’s busy being a wife, mother, geek, photographer, and writer, in no particular order. You can read her ramblings at her website or find her on Twitter where she abuses hashtags and makes people laugh. Or at least, makes herself laugh.

The bio is in Amber’s words, but I will concur that she makes people laugh.  A lot.  Just look at this video she built for our WatchWed series:

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Before we jump into the interview, check out Amber’s blurb for her debut mystery novel, The Ruth Valley Missing.

Enjoy!

The Ruth Valley Missing:

Jameson Quinn is sick of trying to find herself in the big city. After a gallery opening ends in a trip to the ER and an argument with her self-involved boyfriend, she decides to take off for the peace and quiet of a small town — Ruth Valley.

The small town has everything Brooklyn lacked: simple people, peaceful surroundings, and a feeling of safety. Jameson even finds the perfect house to rent from the town’s most eligible bachelor, Sheriff Jack. Life is finally headed in a promising direction.

But something isn’t right. A young man is mysteriously injured, then disappears — and Jameson finds he isn’t the only person to suddenly vanish. The suspicious behavior of an abrasive nun and a creepy priest set her off on an investigation of what’s really happening. Will she figure out the secrets of Ruth Valley before she’s the next to go missing?

*****

When you were a little girl, did you dream of one day writing a bestseller, or did you have something else in mind?

I don’t think being a bestseller was ever something I dreamed of, little or not so little. I was never the kid who had grand ideas of being rich and famous. I loved writing and acting, but never entertained either of those as a career. They were just something to do for entertainment.

Little did Toddler Amber know that her days of thievery would pay off in the end… as research for her books!
(photo courtesy of Jonas West Photography)

But, in fifth grade, the school I went to did one of those “slam books” for the entire fifth grade class. One of the questions was “what do you want to be when you grow up?” My answer: a writer. I guess that means that I just didn’t care if I made money being one.

Fifth grade was also the first time I had a work of mine published. A short story I wrote about an orphaned tiger was accepted for a Young Writers’ Anthology.

Really?  Why haven’t I read this short story, Amber?  You know I want to!

I don’t have it anywhere!  I may have to go on a little expedition in my mom’s closets…

Where do you find the inspiration for your stories?

I remember being on the monorail at Disney with my family when I was a kid and seeing a man looking out the window. He looked sad and alone, which seemed odd given where we were. For the rest of that day (and days after) I kept trying to work out his story.

Basically, I’ve always been a bit of a watcher. Well, that sounds creepy…like I’m some kind of peeping tom! I have a habit of watching how people interact, or the expressions on their faces, the way they stand, etc… If I see something that doesn’t quite fit, stories start popping into my head.

It’s not just people watching, though. I can be inspired by a place, too. I love photography, so even when I don’t have a camera with me, I’m always taking mental snapshots. Some of those snapshots turn into stories.

I also have really vivid dreams. Every once in a while, I wake up thinking, “That would make a great scene in a movie/story!”

Who are a few of your favorite authors?

I’m so incredibly behind in current reading, so I feel like my author list is completely antiquated. I’m a dorky Shakespeare girl, and I’ve read Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead about a million times. If it’s witty, even in the darker moments, then chances are I’ll enjoy it.

As a kid, Roald Dahl was one of my favorites, but I was a pretty voracious reader very early on, so the more I sit here and think, the more the list will grow.

Shakespeare likes to help Amber in the kitchen…
(photo courtesy of Jonas West Photography)

The cover art for your book is amazing.  Did you design it yourself?

Oh, thank you! I did, actually. I wanted something that would capture the mood of the book without really giving anything away; but being broke as all-get-out, I needed to design the cover myself. As I’ve mentioned, I love photography, so I used an original image of my own and built on that.

Many writers imagine a celebrity or familiar face when developing their characters.  Did you have anyone particular in mind when writing Jameson and why?

Oddly enough, no celebs in mind for Jameson. There aren’t too many redheaded American actresses that fit her, and I didn’t want to have the voice of an actress with an accent in my head while I wrote, so I didn’t try to have anyone in mind.

I’ve since explored someone who would fit, but still haven’t found the exact woman right for the role. When I write in first person, there’s a bit of me that feels like I’m method acting, so in some ways, I imagine myself in the role.

Granted, Jameson would be a red-haired, green-eyed, fitter version of me, but still.

I DID picture specific celebs for two other characters in the book. Taking a note from you, I may have to do a blog post on that in the future. 😉

I know exactly who you are talking about AND I can’t wait to see The Ruth Valley Missing dream cast! 

Speaking of celebrities, who are you thinking of at this very moment?

David Tennant. He might be occupying the role of a future character in another novel starring Jameson. Yes, after some really great feedback from readers who want more, I am considering making a series…

And I just watched The Decoy Bride, some episodes of Doctor Who, and an episode of the BBC’s QI on which he guest starred.

Personally, I loved Mr. Tennant in Fright Night. His portrayal of Peter Vincent was absolutely fabOoolous!

I wouldn’t be myself without asking about television – what are your four favorite television programs airing today? 

Oh…that is a tough one. The Good Wife used to be high on the list, but now that I am without cable, I haven’t been keeping up (CBS doesn’t have a great iPad viewing option). Parenthood, Grimm, Castle, and I’ll say Downton Abbey, since here in the states we are between seasons.

Now, let’s go to the movies… what is your favorite film of all-time?

Oh, that’s a terrible question. I can’t possibly answer it. But I’ll tell you three movies I own: Emma, Ever After, and Serenity. My movie collection is nearly non-existent, so the fact that I own these speaks volumes.

What snacks do you order when at a movie theater? 

Generally, I stick to stealing a little popcorn from my neighbor (so long as I know them, of course) and either water or Cherry Coke. I can’t handle a lot of sugar, so candy snacks don’t happen often, and most movie chocolate isn’t the kind I like.

If we are being honest, I’m more likely to bring snacks in my purse than buy any. When we were kids, we rarely got to go to the movies (five kids meant a lot of creative free outings), so when we did, we were total snack smugglers.

Amber and her group of smugglers… scheming their next job.
(photo courtesy of Jonas West Photography)

Besides writing, I’ve noticed you’re quite the photographer and you love to share tons of fun home remedies and recipes…

First, name one place that you’d like to visit with your camera and why…

Right now I am on a major Scotland/Ireland kick. I know. That’s two, not one, I know. So if you are going to twist my arm, Scotland. It would be the ultimate retreat for me. I’d do nothing but take photos and write.

And eat. And drink proper beer and scotch.

It’s a good thing I plan on walking a lot on this imaginary trip.

Now, share with us the craziest home remedy that everyone should know about…

Well, for any of your readers that didn’t read about me shoving a garlic clove in my ear, that probably sounds pretty crazy.

Also, dipping your feet in raw egg yolks to bring down a fever…

WHAT??!!??  Dipping your feet in raw egg yolks will bring down a fever??  That’s nuts!  But, I’ll try it next time.  Why not?

That’s pretty much how I approach most home remedies.  If they can’t hurt me, why not try them?

And, lastly, do you have a tasty, quick, and easy recipe you’d like to share with us today? 

My parents gave me a waffle iron sometime back. It is a very cool tool to have, but I was curious to find more uses for it than just making waffles. So, I took a can of biscuits, split the biscuits open and filled them with whatever I was craving – jalapeños and cream cheese – and stuck them in the iron.

In minutes, you get stuffed biscuits. A yummy quick and easy snack!

Another quick treat that is surprisingly delicious – roasted cauliflower. Chop it up, toss it in olive oil and some salt, crumble goat cheese and crushed walnuts over the top, then toss it in the oven to roast at about 375 degrees. When it gets nice golden edges, it’s done!

Roasted Cauliflower… I may have to try this, minus the goat cheese of course.  No cheese for me!

*****

Isn’t Amber amazing AND adorable?

Need more Amber?  Catch up with her at her website, or follow her via her Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, and Loveit accounts.

Do you have a question for Amber?  Have you read The Ruth Valley Missing yet?  If so, share your thoughts here!  We’d love to hear from you! 

And, because Amber is so fabOoolous, she’s kept her Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales price live just for the Ooo Factor readers!  Be sure to click over to Amazon and buy The Ruth Valley Missing today if you haven’t already.  It’s worth it!