Ghostbusting, 100 Years Ago — Guest Post by K.B. Owen

Today we welcome historical mystery writer K.B. Owen to tell us about Ghostbusting in the early 20th century. K.B. 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. She currently lives in Virginia with her husband and sons and is busily planning the lady professor’s next adventure.

K profile pic 2014

Historical Mystery Author K.B. Owen

You’ll find K.B.’s latest release, Unseemly Pursuits, at the links below. Be sure to enter her Big Giveaway for a chance to win the Swag Kit.

Ghostbusting, 100 Years Ago

By K.B. Owen

Among the joys of writing historical mysteries is running across cool nuggets of research. While writing Unseemly Pursuits, I needed to learn more about late-19th century spirit mediums and their tricks, which inevitably led me to some ghostbusters and absurd situations that I like to call “gotcha” moments. The public exposure was sometimes funny, sometimes pathetic. I thought I’d share some with you today.

Ghostbusters

Almost as plentiful as fraudulent mediums were the debunkers who sought to catch them at it.  Below are some of the most well-known of their time, made up of earnest scientific researchers as well as flamboyant entertainers.

John Nevil Maskelyne, 1839-1917

John Nevil Maskelyne image by wikimedia commons

John Nevil Maskelyne 1839-1917
image via wikimedia commons

After watching the Davenport brothers exhibit their “spirit cabinet,” purported to manifest spirits while the brothers were tied up inside, Maskelyne suspected fraud.  He built his own cabinet and in 1865 launched a career of stage magic that lasted decades, whereby he demonstrated how to artificially create many of the spiritualists’ effects. The picture below gives you an idea of what a spirit cabinet looked like.

Davenport Brothers 1870 image via Wikimedia Commons

Davenport Brothers 1870
image via Wikimedia Commons

Harry Houdini 1874-1926

Harry Houdini 1874-1926

Harry Houdini 1874-1926
Image via Wikimedia Commons

image via Wikimedia Commons

image via Wikimedia Commons

Harry Houdini was the ultimate showman.  We associate him primarily with escape artistry, but many of his shows were based on re-creating spiritualists’ effects and demonstrating the fraud behind them. He was particularly impressed with researcher Harry Price’s work (below) in exposing the tricks behind spirit photography. Price’s findings enabled Houdini to duplicate the effect. Below is a photo of Houdini with the “ghost” of Abraham Lincoln (1920-30), created by Houdini to prove how easy it was to perpetrate the fraud.

Harry Houdini and the "Ghost" of Abraham Lincoln image via Wikimedia Commons

Harry Houdini and the “Ghost” of Abraham Lincoln
image via Wikimedia Commons

Harry Price Testing 1930

Harry Price 1881-1948 image via Wikimedia Commons

Harry Price 1881-1948
1930 image via Wikimedia Commons

Price had an impressive credentials list: he was a member of the National Laboratory of Psychical Research, London, belonged to the Society of American Magicians, and was Librarian for the Magicians’ Club of London. He authored many well-respected journal articles documenting the fraudulent techniques of spiritualists, including spirit-writing and spirit-photography. A master-conjurer himself, he could spot sleight-of-hand and other maneuvers. However, unlike other “ghostbusters,” he deeply believed in psychic phenomena and did endorse some spirit mediums. Think of him as a believer in the psychic world – as long as he could first subject it to strict scientific controls.

Slade vs. Lankester

Owen Lankester 1908 image via Wikimedia Commons

Ray Lankester
1908 image via Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Henry Slade (1835-1905) was an American medium who specialized in spirit writing on slate blackboards.  “Spirit slates” consisted of two chalkboards bound together that, when opened, were said to reveal messages written by spirits.  The trick was performed by putting a blank slate on an audience member’s head, or asking him/her to hold it under the table.  Then, after a suitable interval, a chalk-written message would be revealed.  It wouldn’t be that difficult to switch out a pre-written slate, or for the medium to hold a piece of chalk in a ring and become proficient at writing under the table.

During Slade’s tour in Britain, Professor (of Zoology, of all things) Ray Lankester (1847-1929) set out to expose him.  During Slade’s seances, Lankester and another witness watched carefully. At the second séance, Lankester snatched the supposedly blank “spirit slate” to find that it had been pre-written.  Lankester published an account of the incident in a letter to the Times, and sued him. Slade was convicted and sentenced to three months of hard labor (in England, they typically used an old statute of vagrancy, originially meant for gypsies). However, upon appeal the sentence was dismissed, whereupon Slade fled England.

Rival Mediums: Cook vs. Guppy 

Florence Cook image via Wikimedia Commons

Florence Cook
image via Wikimedia Commons 

Sometimes a jealous rival or the skeptical onlooker can prove to be one’s undoing, which was the case with medium Florence Cook.

Florence Cook (1856-1904) began her career as a medium at 15, when she apparently levitated off the floor while with a group of friends.  Soon after, she was causing the ghost of Katie King to materialize.  Katie King was rather notorious in spiritualist circles, as she was supposed to be a murderess who, to atone for her sins in the afterlife, returned to convince people that the spirit world was real.  (I think Jacob Marley had better justification for returning to save Ebenezer Scrooge, but that’s just my opinion).  Being able to produce Katie King on demand became a profitable venture for Florence Cook. The spirit cabinet was Cook’s go-to device for perpetrating the trick.

However, success is not without its drawbacks.  Rival medium Mrs. Samuel Guppy (1838-1917), an older and, by some accounts, a less attractive woman (couldn’t find a picture to bear this out, sorry), decided to give her rival a come-uppance.  Of course, Mrs. Guppy couldn’t attend a seance of Cook’s – she was too well-known – so she enlisted the aid of William Volckman (who later became her husband).  He bribed his way in with jewelery. When the spirit appeared, he grabbed her and proclaimed the fraud. However, other attendees at the séance fought back and assisted Cook’s escape (one of them was Cook’s fiance at the time).  Volkman got a bloody nose and no proof out of the deal, for by the time they looked back in the spirit cabinet, there was Florence Cook tied up again, although her clothes were disarranged.

Cook was caught for real later, when she was pretending to be the spirit of a young girl. One of the sitters noticed the spirit was wearing a corset – not something your young Victorian girl would wear – and decided to grab the lady the next time he got the chance. He did, and the spirit cabinet was found empty, except for boots and outer garments. When the lights were turned on, there was Florence Cook, in her underwear.

So what do you think of these daring ghostbusters and their undergarment-clad targets? What fraud-perpetrators today get caught with their pants down?

Piper and Holmes, thanks so much for hosting me today. I had a blast!

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Unseemly Pursuits: A Concordia Wells Mystery

 KB Owen Unseemly Pursuits Cover

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?

Available as:

KindlePaperback, Nook, Smashwords, Kobo, iBooks

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

KB Owen SwagKit

An Unseemly Giveaway:

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.

To comment and enter for the Big Giveaway, come to 

Bayard & Holmes

Ghostbusters, 100 Years Ago by K.B. Owen

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Microsoft “Smart Bra” Nags You to Not Overeat

Microsoft Developed a “Smart Bra” for Dieting

Those of us over a size 8 already have to take crap from the TV, modeling, and White House industries. Now Microsoft wants us to take crap from our underwear, too? I have a better idea. How about use the money for a gym membership instead of a bra that nags us like a disapproving relative?

Canstock Red Bra

Click on the link below to go to the new Bayard & Holmes site for the rest of the mashup, including some wonderful books, links for Nelson Mandela and Paul Walker, great points about working out, and some humor. Remember to subscribe while you’re there. We would hate to lose you in the move.

Bayard & Holmes

The End Is Near (and we deserve it) . . .

Microsoft “Smart Bra” Nags You to Not Overeat

Cop Killer: A Phenomenal Thriller

Today we welcome two of our favorites to our site–Screenwriter and Best Selling Author Ryne Douglas Pearson and Author/Editor Ellie Ann. Holmes and I both thoroughly enjoyed this book by Ryne, the man Piper calls the Prince of Prose, and we hope you’ll check it out.

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Review of Cop Killer, by Ellie Ann

Product Synopsis:

Danny Owen. A hard-charging detective who thrives on the thrill of the chase, the danger in the catch. His life is the street. Dark alleys and vicious crimes fill his every waking moment, and often his dreams.

Until tragedy turns his world upside down.

Transferred to District One, considered the tamest slice of the city, Danny is partnered with veteran detective Jack James, a cool and methodical investigator whose near legendary tenure is considered pivotal in creating the District’s peaceful environment.

But even shining cities have their shadows, and the new partners find themselves facing a cold and calculating killer. One who might be avenging angel, or may simply be atoning for their own sins.

As Danny and Jack identify and close in on their suspect, the bounds of right and wrong, justice and vengeance, begin to blur. So much so that one detective begins to doubt just who is adversary, and who is ally.

This is an incredible tale of loyalty and trust, murder and mystery. What with the dark style and beautifully written prose, not to mention the themes of coldness/hardness and betrayal, it reminded me of a classic gothic novel. This is Wuthering Heights meets District 1.

The story is masterfully told. From the very first murder scene, I had a feeling I knew where the plot would end up–but I was wrong. And then around half the book I was sure I knew where it was headed–only to be surprised again. There’s nothing simple about this story. No decisions are black and white, and there are no knights in shining armor.

Danny is not your average protagonists. The first scene he was in made me sure I wasn’t going to like him–but as more layers were revealed in his character the more I realized what a complex, flawed, and inexplicably heroic soul he had.
I really can’t wait to see where this series goes. This book is highly recommended.

Check out Ryne Douglas Pearson’s website for buying options.

***

Screen Shot 2012-11-24 at 2.35.45 PM

Ellie Ann is an author and an editor for Stonehouse Ink Publishing. Check out her new thriller, Breaking Steele, and Twisting Steele, she co-authored with #1 Amazon bestseller Aaron Patterson. Her first solo novel, a YA science fiction called The Silver Sickle, was released this spring. Something else that tickles her fancy is working with transmedia books at Noble Beast Publishing, where she is a producer of enhanced digital books.

Ellie Ann blogs at EllieAnn.net and would love to meet you on Facebook or Twitter.

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Bacon-Wrapped Ford Fiesta

Bacon-Wrapped Ford Fiesta

Proving once again that everything’s better with bacon. Click on title for text article.

Bacon Wrapped Ford Fiesta

Blogs and Articles in No Particular Order

Of course with this headline, my first thought was Best Selling Author of Cop Killer and Bacon Aficionado, Ryne Douglas Pearson. A One-Way Trip to Mars via Ryne.

Why I’m on Strike Today:  I can’t support myself on $7.85 at Burger King by Willietta Dukes at The Guardian.

Stop Jumping Jack Dogs by pet whisperer and thriller author Amy Shojai.

Rihanna writes A Letter to Miley Cyrus in a level-headed response to her criminal misuse of stage time.

Big congratulations to USA Today’s Best Selling Author Vicki Hinze! She and her co-authors of the Dangerous Desires Boxed Set make the List this week. Write on, Vicki! Now only $0.99 at Amazon.

Dangerous Desires

KM Huber tells us how Craniosacral Therapy is unique. The Gentle Touch

Slenderman’s Coming for You by Catie Rhodes at Misterio Press.

A Warning to College Profs from a High School Teacher via Sonia G. Medeiros.

The brilliant comedian Christina Bianco Diva Impressions ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ as Adele, Celine Dion, Julie Andrews, and others. Seriously impressive.

All the best to all of you for a tasty week.

Piper Bayard

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Power Company Sends Hate Mail to Streetlight

Power Company Sends Threatening Letter to Freeloading Streetlight

Streetlight Canstock

In New Zealand, Clive Saleman received a letter from the power company warning that it was going to cut off his electricity. Then he noticed the letter wasn’t addressed to him. It was addressed to the streetlight outside his house. Click on the title above for the full story.

I am told that though this streetlight in New Zealand may lose its electric services, it is still a registered voter in Chicago.

And on a light note . . . couldn’t help myself, didn’t try . . . sometimes a picture really does say it all.

Marine helps boy finish race

A nine-year-old boy in a 5k race in Charlevoix, Michigan lost sight of his friends and asked a front runner, Marine Lance Corporal Myles Kerr, to help him. Kerr dropped back and kept pace with the child, encouraging him over the finish line. Read the full story here. Marine Runs Alongside Boy Struggling to Finish 5k Race

FIRELANDS News:

Find out what a theology professor has to say about FIRELANDS and its theocratic post-apocalyptic world. Dr. Steve Wiggins reviews the dystopian thriller at Sects and Violence in the Ancient World. FIRELANDS

Donna Newton interrogates me in 30 Seconds and pries out how Holmes has corrupted my language. 30 Second Interview with . . . Piper Bayard

Blogs and Articles in No Particular Order

J.K. Rowling and the Writer’s Dilemma – Discovery by M.J. Wright takes a look at what it takes to be “discovered.”

The Real Iron Throne by Marc Simonetti

The Real Iron Throne, Interview with Artist Marc Simonetti by Ellie Ann. Click over and see more brilliant art work from the man who George R.R. Martin says gets it.

Korean News Station Pokes Fun at KTVU with Fake American Pilot Names after Southwest Airlines Landing Gear Failure from Slothed.

Montana AG Denies All Media Requests to ID Those with Concealed Carry Weapons Permits. Thank you, Montana. We are not pedophiles or serial killers. We are law-abiding citizens. If we weren’t, we would be among the millions of criminals who carry concealed weapons without applying for permits.

Out this week from New York Times Best Selling Author and Special Forces Vet Bob Mayer–AREA 51: THE NIGHTSTALKERS BOOK 2.

Nightstalkers The Book of Truths

Susan Spann, brilliant historical author and publishing attorney, visits fellow author Kerry Schafer and talks about how grateful she is for the opportunity to pass on the generosity of NYT Bestselling Author and Heckuva Guy James Rollins. Paying It Forward

Why We Agree To and Achieve Goals. A fascinating article via Bestselling Author Diane Capri.

As some folks may have noticed, about half of the blogosphere is out on vacation this month. I think they must have seen this over at Julie Davidoski’s site, Go Jules Go.

I once spent a couple of weeks on Caye Caulker in Belize. The island motto is “Go Slow.” After watching this, I’m going to check on tickets.

Campaign Style Poll Daddy Question of the Week:

All the best to all of you for an enlightened week.

Piper Bayard

Everything I Know About Writing Sci Fi I Learned from Star Trek

By Piper Bayard

There are dozens of books out there that will teach you to write, but I learned everything I need to know about writing Sci Fi from Star Trek: The Original Series. Star Trek has it all.

Star Trek Original Series

Great Structure

The typical episode starts with some kind of “normal world” setting. Spock is irritating Bones, or Kirk is settling into his bridge chair after a strenuous night seducing an alien. The ship or crew is attacked by a mysterious force that’s set on complete domination or destruction of the future world as we know it. The struggle ensues. The Starfleet crew responds by learning and growing in a way that makes them capable of being the heroes they were hired to act like. It all culminates in a grand battle and the enemy’s defeat, followed by a denouement consisting of a pensive thought or a humorous exchange. The hero’s journey in an hour, minus commercials.

Regardless of what kind of novels we are writing, they need structure. Look to Star Trek.

Cool Gadgets

Star Trek has the lock on cool gadgets. Warp engines, communicators, motion sensor doors, etc., and Bones McCoy always has some sort of scanner in his hand that makes surgery unnecessary. But as with all great Sci Fi, each of these enterprising gadgets is a logical extension of existing scientific theory.

Star Trek Kirk Pregnant Meme

Science fiction definitely needs some science in it, and it’s okay if we indulge our imaginations to the limit. But we need to stay rooted in reality so that people will quickly relate to our worlds without being distracted by objects that have no frame of reference.

When we pull pie in the sky technology out of the air, our stories become about the gadgets. Readers may get a kick out of gadgets, but they don’t relate to gadgets. We must always remember that the meat of our stories is our people. Transporter beams and food replicators are only side dishes.

BTW, Bones’ scanning instruments are mostly salt & pepper shakers acquired from garage sales and the like. And the motion sensor doors?  People standing behind the wall waiting for cues to pull them back when someone approaches. The Shat cracked his nose more than once when the “door men” weren’t paying attention. But today those and so many other Star Trek gadgets are part of our current reality because they were based on science in the first place.

Hot Babes

Spock Vulcan of Love Meme

James T. Kirk was Da Bomb back in the day. Always passionate, always taking the go-for-broke gamble and winning, and always getting either the girl or the alien. Even if we prefer the cool, emotionally unavailable guys, we girls have Spock and plenty of material for Pon Farr fantasies. And for the guys, there’s a limitless selection from the beautiful, competent Uhura, to pixie-like, mute empaths, to an occasional dominatrix.

Lesson to be learned? Every good Sci Fi story needs a babe to build a dream on.

Extra Crew Members

Somewhere between our third and fifth episodes of Star Trek, we all catch on that whenever there is an extra crew member present, someone is going to die a horrible death. This has both Do This and Don’t Do This lessons.

Most Interesting Man Star Trek Red Shirt

DO put in extra crew members (characters) to murder, mutilate, torture, blow up, starve, kidnap, feed to monsters, and take back to the pod for a slow blood drain, etc. But DON’T broadcast which characters those are by giving them all red shirts. Treat them with just as much attention as your regular crew so that we (the readers) are surprised when they die, and we mourn them.

High Concept Parable

The most important element of great writing, including Sci Fi, is an idealistic integrity. That can be anything from a halcyon future worth fighting for to a post-apocalyptic world where at least some humans retain their humanity. Star Trek: The Original Series is penultimate in this respect.

Star Trek takes on themes such as racism, class warfare, human rights, feminism, and the role of technology in society, but it never comes out and tells us that. Instead, it speaks to us in parables.

Let’s take racism, for example, which was a violently charged issue during the 1960s, as it has become once again. Star Trek’s creator, Gene Roddenberry, makes the radical move of casting a racially diverse crew, and then making their racial diversity irrelevant. Instead, he uses alien races to teach his lessons about racism.

Star Trek Half Black Half White

Each of these alien races behaves in very human ways and represents some human race or culture. That allows us to relate to them, even if we do not consciously identify them. Klingons at the time represented the Soviets, our sworn enemies. Romulans were the Chinese behind their Bamboo Curtain. And Spock was the minority outsider within our own American society.

In Star Trek, these alien races and their interactions with humans reveal our fears and small-mindedness to us, as well as show us what is possible when we all work together with respect and good will to solve our problems. In doing so, it calls us to be better people.

The fascination of Science Fiction is its ability to show us dreamers and romantics what is possible. To remind us that there is reason for our struggles, and that no matter how grim our reality might be, there is always hope for a better day. When we write Sci Fi, that hope is the gift we give to our readers. The gift I received from Star Trek.

Write well and prosper. 🙂

Rise of the Machines and the WANAMama

By Piper Bayard

She has many names–WANAMama, Writerchik, the Death Star–but you may know her as Kristen Lamb. Fiction writer, blogger, and social media maven. I met her just over three years ago on a patio in Ft. Worth. She was gesticulating wildly, glass of wine in hand, and Texas-twang-talking a mile a minute about antagonists and log lines. It was a watershed moment in my career.

Author Kristen Lamb

I thought I was safe behind a few other writers as I listened, hoping I wouldn’t catch her eye. Then she looked straight at me and asked me, “Do you blog?”

Me: “Blog? . . . Isn’t that cousin to The Creature from the Black Lagoon?”

Kristen: “In the Internet Age, every writer needs a social media platform if they are going to be taken seriously and be viable in today’s market. But here’s the good news. We are not alone.”

And so it began. She was writing a book about her approach to author platform building on social media–WANA, standing for We Are Not Alone. She adopted me as her guinea pig for her methods because she had never met anyone who knew less about social media. As her experiment, I began to blog and started Facebook and Twitter accounts. Major steps for a technophobe.

The result? In three years, I have a social media platform that reaches over two million people. My debut dystopian thriller, FIRELANDS, hit #21 at Amazon for Science Fiction/Genetic Engineering the day I announced it, and it now has a dozen or so five-star reviews from people I’ve never met. After six weeks, FIRELANDS is still sitting at #11 for Young Adult/Dystopia at Kobo, which is pretty amazing since it isn’t even a YA book.

The point of telling you this is not to toot my own horn. It’s to let you know that Kristen’s WANA methods really work. Since I met her, Kristen’s WANA method has developed into three best-selling social media books, a popular new social media site for authors called WANA Tribe, a bi-annual online writers convention called WANACon featuring first class teachers and author keynotes, a series of online writing and social media classes, and her latest achievement, Rise of the Machines.

Rise of the Machines Cover

No one has the ability to interpret social media and what it means to authors and the changing publishing industry like Kristen does. She can take the most complicated information and translate it into a digestible and entertaining form, making it useful to noobs and New York Times best sellers, alike. I can’t recommend Kristen’s books or the WANA method highly enough.

Rise of the Machines is and author’s best friend. You can find it at Amazon.

This week over at Kristen’s site, she is devoting her efforts to an Apocalypse Week to celebrate the success of her guinea pig (me). Please visit her at Kristen Lamb’s Blog and enjoy her hysterical voice as she explores the more humorous aspects of total annihilation. Who else can talk about the Kardashians, e. bola, and apocalypse at the same time and make it funny? It starts here . . .

The Stuff of Legends–Creating a Character Apocalypse

by Kristen Lamb

Have a great week, everyone! Bayard & Holmes will be back next Monday with an update from Holmes on the Syrian situation.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Field on Fire Canstock

FIRELANDS

Available from Amazon in Paperback and on Kindle

Also in e-book at Barnes & Noble and Kobo,

and at iTunes for iPad and mobile devices.

Susan Spann–Historical Mystery Author or Ninja Conspirator?

By Piper Bayard & Jay Holmes

It’s happened again. It starts with a twitch, and then, before you know it, Holmes and I are kidnapping another author and whisking them away to our secret blog prison.

Today, our victim guest is Debut Historical Author Susan Spann. Susan earned her bachelor’s degree in Asian Studies at Tufts University in Boston. She somehow got bamboozled into pursuing a law career—friends don’t let friends go to law school—and received her J.D. from UCLA. After years of teaching and a stint as Associate Academic Dean at Trinity Law School in Santa Ana, she now practices intellectual property law and writes historical mysteries set in 1500s Japan. Her debut, CLAWS OF THE CAT, is due out tomorrow (Minotaur Books).

Claws of the Cat Cover

We snatched Susan gave Susan a ride from her office in Sacramento. It wasn’t too hard to get her to come with us. We lured her into our black helicopter by telling her that her favorite author, James Rollins, had once been held against his will  spent a lovely afternoon in it with us.

Welcome to our blog today, Susan. Please make yourself comfortable. We had these tatami mats flown in especially for your visit . . . No, not from Japan. From Kansas. They’re woven from genuine American GMO wheat stalks. We believe in buying American. Hope you don’t have any allergies.

You’re welcome to remove your blindfold now. If you notice, it’s a Hello Kitty sleep mask to match the Hello Kitty handcuffs. Very Japanese.

Would you like some tea? I studied that scene in Shogun several times to get it right.

Let’s begin our interrogation conversation. Keep in mind that Intelligence Operative Holmes is just behind this one-way glass *waves*, and the NSA will have a permanent and complete record of your answers.

Susan Spann Historical Author and Ninja Conspirator

Susan Spann
Historical Author and Ninja Conspirator

Now, Ms. Spann—just what is your connection to the Orient?

I’d say “I’m a ninja” but if I was really a ninja this blindfold and handcuffs would be on someone else.

So, instead, I’ll say I’ve always loved Japanese history and culture, especially medieval Japan. In college, my studies focused on early Imperial China and medieval Japan, including the Muromachi period (1337-1573) when samurai ruled and ninjas really existed.

It was a dangerous time, but also beautiful and intriguing – and the Shinobi series gives me a fabulous chance to explore the era in more detail and translate it into fiction.

So your special interest is ninjas, is it? Exactly why would you be studying these assassins and their ways?

Technically, they attacked me first. I’m just returning the favor.

Hmm. The old “he started it first” line.  Doesn’t work for my kids, either. Please go on.

The moment I had the idea to write a mystery novel featuring a ninja detective, I realized a shinobi (which is the Japanese pronunciation — “ninja” is based on a Chinese word) would make the perfect sleuth. Shinobi were masters of disguise who trained in undercover operations as well as assassination – much like modern spies.

Speaking of spies … Hi Holmes! Can he see me waving?

Ahem. Holmes prefers the term “spook.” Spying is a bit seamy—its what the NSA and the Russians do.

Anyway, a shinobi seemed like the perfect sleuth, provided I could find a believable reason for Hiro to use his skills to solve murders instead of committing them. Fortunately, the mystery in CLAWS OF THE CAT offers just the right “incentive.”

I love your style in CLAWS OF THE CAT in that you weave in the setting and history of 1500s Japan in just the right amount as you unfold the story. You’ve heard me describe it as the ultimate cozy whodunit with a healthy dose of “Cool, I didn’t know that” on the side. Is there some dark force that draws you to creating intricate patterns of deception in the form of mystery novels?

I learned it from my kitten, Oobie. Who better to teach deception than a cat?

And thank you. One of my goals for the novel was to immerse the narrative in an unusual cultural setting, showing the reader the beauty and danger of samurai Japan within the scope of a fast-paced mystery romp. Each book in the series incorporates a different facet of Japanese culture, which means new and unusual settings in every one.

Also, I’m delighted to hear you enjoyed the book. I loved your novel, FIRELANDS, and it means a lot to me when authors whose works I enjoy like my book too.

I have someone here who is familiar with your novel, and who has some tough questions for you to answer. *crosses to intercom* Bring in Inspector Parker.

Inspector Parker

Inspector Parker

*enters and sniffs at Susan’s ankle* You don’t smell too suspicious, but I don’t like that large, black bag you’re carrying. I deduce that you are hiding ninja weapons in it. Your hero, Hiro, uses a number of them. Please empty your purse and explain these items.

The weapons on the cover of CLAWS are neko-te, which translates “claws of the cat” – a specialized weapon favored by female ninjas (called kunoichi). The claws were worn on the ends of the fingers, transforming a kunoichi’s hands into lethal weapons. In many cases, the claws were poisoned too.

This thing that looks like a stick is a ninja smoke bomb, made from a length of bamboo filled with a special powdered mixture that produces smoke when ignited. Ninjas used a variety of bombs and other explosive devices, mostly to create distractions but sometimes for destructive purposes too. Hiro doesn’t use any bombs in CLAWS OF THE CAT, but he will in some of the later books. 

That last thing is a pen. For signing books …

Surely you are aware that all the world has heard of war dogs, but no one has ever heard of war cats. It’s a proven fact that writing about war dogs increases an author’s book sales. Why would you instead choose to glorify cats in your writing?

I humbly beg forgiveness for that oversight, Inspector Parker! It’s true that dogs make any book better, but in the interests of interspecies fairness, I decided to give a kitten equal time.

When I started writing CLAWS OF THE CAT, I knew I needed to soften Hiro’s ninja edge and make him someone readers could relate to—unrepentant assassins aren’t a classic hero archetype. The fastest way to demonstrate Hiro’s gentler side was letting him rescue, and keep, an orphaned kitten.

But I didn’t want to make Hiro too soft, and I like books with plenty of tension, so I also made Father Mateo, Hiro’s Jesuit sidekick, allergic to cats.

While you’ve written an excellent book, even the name CLAWS OF THE CAT might unjustly put off your dog readership. Do you have any plans to remedy that unfortunate choice by adding dogs to your novels in the future?

Absolutely! A dog appears in the series’ second installment, Blade of the Samurai, which is scheduled for publication in July 2014. I’m afraid he’s not as nice a dog as you are, Inspector Parker, but he’s a brave Akita who does his best to protect his people.

If the series continues beyond three books, you’ll also get to see a ninja dog—but I can’t reveal any more or I’ll blow his cover!

I will look forward to reading about such noble members of my species . . . Excuse me, but may I sniff your bag again, please? . . . Is that salami? Did you bring that for me? *sticks head in Susan’s handbag*

Now, now, Inspector Parker, it’s not appropriate to beg from our subjects. If you’ll just go to Holmes, he’ll share some salami with you. Thank you for your input in this case. *Inspector Parker departs*

Ms. Spann, what is your current Work In Progress?

I’ve delivered Blade of the Samurai to my editor at Minotaur, and I’m currently working on Flask of the Drunken Master, the third installment in the Shinobi Mystery series. I love spending time with Hiro and Father Mateo.

And where do you go from here? Do you have any upcoming book tours or other promotions?

CLAWS releases tomorrow, and I’m really excited about sharing it with readers! I currently have signings scheduled in California and Colorado:

Thursday, July 18, 2013: 6:30pm Launch Event: Face in a Book Bookstore, 4359 Town Center Blvd., #113, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762

Thursday, July 25, 2013: 7:00 PM Reading & Signing: Barnes & Noble (3rd Street Promenade), 1201 Third Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401

Tuesday, July 30, 2013: 11:00 AM Reading & Signing: Towne Center Books, 555 Main Street Pleasanton, CA 94566

Wednesday, August 28, 2013: 7:00PM Reading & Signing: Barnes & Noble, 6111 Sunrise Boulevard, Citrus Heights, CA 95610

Monday, September 16, 2013: 7:30 PM Reading & Signing: Tattered Cover Bookstore
2526 East Colfax Avenue Denver, CO 80206

You can also get up to date information on these and other signings at my author events page: Find Susan–Live Events and Conferences

Thank you for your time today, Susan. I’m going to have to ask you to put this parachute on over your kimono before we leave. Don’t worry—we’ll remove your handcuffs and blindfold before we push you out of the helicopter deliver you safely to your home. You may keep the Hello Kitty paraphernalia as a souvenir of our chat, if you like, but we’ll be sending someone by to collect the parachute. Tight budget, and all.

I can certainly confirm that CLAWS OF THE CAT is a great read. Find it now in hardback and paperback at Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. Also find this awesome book at IndieBound, Powell’s, and at the iTunes Apple Store.

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . UK Politician Claims He’s Alien Baby-Daddy

English Politician Claims to have Fathered a Child with an Alien

Will Riker would be proud. I don’t think he ever did have sex with a human on Star Trek: The Next Generation.

image from YouTube

image from YouTube

It takes a lot to make American politicians look good.

So if his child visits him in the UK, would it be an “illegal alien”?

And what sort of child support would a court order for this love child?

FIRELANDS Apocalypse Reader/Blogger Challenge Entries In the Past Two Weeks:

Ryan Ryan (yes, that’s her name) at That Girl Ryan writes a Letter to the Mayans, complaining about their poor apocalypse prediction service, and how she had been looking forward to the hilarious benefits of the apocalypse. A Letter to the Mayans

Diana Beebe addresses a post-apocalyptic lifestyle by asking What Would You Do? Or Grow?

Shea McIntosh Ford looks at Surviving the Apocalypse — Henry Bemis Style. Would you kick ass, or would you be her reading buddy?

Ellie Ann gives you the opportunity to Choose Your Apocalypse. How do you want the world to end?

Catie Rhodes reviews FIRELANDS in Review Roundup: Youth is Wasted on the Young.

Angela Ackerman elevates FIRELANDS to the level of a prize at The Bookshelf Muse: Reality Check, Gratitude, and Cool Books to WIN. Pop on over and leave a comment for a chance to win one of three awesome books.

Julie Glover, a lady I count on the keep me grammatically honest, looks at Words for the End of the World.

FIRELANDS Cover

How would you have fought off Victorian zombies? Historical mystery author K.B. Owen gives us some great ideas in Dangerous and Unseemly Zombies.

It’s not too late! Don’t miss your chance to win fantastic prizes in the FIRELANDS Apocalypse Reader/Blogger Challenge. You can enter until midnight on July 18, 2013. Bloggers enter by posting about apocalypse and linking up. Readers can enter now by signing up for the Bayard & Holmes Newsletter, or by leaving quotes, pics, or reviews of FIRELANDS. Great prizes! Check out the details at FIRELANDS Apocalypse Reader/Blogger Challenge.

FIRELANDS  is available for purchase from Amazon in Paperback and on Kindle and in e-book at Barnes & NobleKobo, and iTunes for iPad and mobile devices.

Thank you to the participants thus far!

Book Releases

Congratulations to Ellie Ann on her release of her debut YA cyberpunk novel, The Silver Sickle. I love this book and highly recommend it. Already a best seller in Cyberpunk, The Silver Sickle will thrill you as it takes you to a world where humanity has lost its soul, and aliens keep us drugged into submission. One brave young woman and her best friend decide to stand against the “goddesses,” and that starts a chain of events that can either save humanity or see it go extinct.

The Silver Sickle

Check out this great review from GeekDad: A Unique World Mythology–The Silver Sickle.

Also, a revealing interview of Ellie Ann by Anna Greer at An Interview with Ellie Ann.

The Independent Ladies–Vicki Hinze, C.J. Lyons, Debra Webb, Peggy Webb, Kathy Carmichael, V.R. Marks or Regan Black–have just come out with a new collection called Dangerous Desires. Five full length novels and two bonus novellas in the same package. Read more about it in Vicki Hinze’s post, Getting Creative. Dangerous Desires is now on sale for $ .99 on Kindle.

Dangerous Desires

Kristen Lamb continues to spread the word that We Are Not Alone with her latest outstanding guide to social media for New York Times Bestsellers and New Writers, alike. Rise of the Machines will have you connecting with others on social media in ways that boost your platform and increase your sales. Read about it at Celebrating Writer Independence & I Got to Be a Cyborg.

Rise of the Machines Cover

Articles and Blogs In No Particular Order

Xi’an China Bell Tower Timelapse HD Video by ooaworld: ooa’s Travels, Photos, and Art made me feel grateful for my quiet neighborhood. very cool visual.

Dumb State Laws that Made Me Laugh by Jenny Hansen. They made me laugh, too.

Don’t believe everything you read (unless it’s from Bayard & Holmes, and it’s not one of our crazy ideas to make money–then you can safely believe it). Mara House Luxor gives us the straight skinny from the ground on the inaccurate reporting going on in Attack on Egypt via Social Media.

How Becoming a Good Christian Made Me a Bad Person

Cate Russell-Cole fills us on on Where to Get Free Images for Blog Posts.

This hysterical video via Jay Donovan has me thinking I’m in the wrong profession if I really want to get things done.

All the best to all of you for knowing your own.

Piper Bayard

The End is Near (and we deserve it) . . . Breast Milk Flavored Lollipops

Breast Milk Lollipops, By Lollyphile, Can Be Yours

I guess some people are bored with grape and cherry. Go figure.

imagee by Lollyphile

imagee by Lollyphile

Maybe we could use these to wean the Congressmen and corporations that are hanging off  the teats of America.

Blogs and Articles in No Particular Order

FIRELANDS is out! Watch for the FIRELANDS Apocalyptic Challenge coming soon. Susan Spann has a great review at her site today. A Review of FIRELANDS

FIRELANDS Cover

Now available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo and iPad.

Last Friday was Susie Strong Day in honor of Susie Lindau, who is battling breast cancer and went in for a double mastectomy on that day. I’m happy to report that Susie is doing great, and her lymph nodes were all clear. Many bloggers wrote posts in support of Susie. This is a quite clever one by Jules at Go Jules Go. Susie Strong

Catie Rhodes wrote a great blog about The Servant Girl Annihilator. She’s been contacted by a TV show about it, and now she’s looking for anyone descended from anyone involved in the murder cases. Fascinating story! The Servant Girl Annihilator: A Call for Help

Navy SEALs are known for having some serious courage, and I consider this lady one of the ballsiest of the lot. Retired Navy SEAL Comes Out as a Woman, Writes Book to Inspire Others

Warrior Princess Book

“Should” is a limiting word, but with “can,” all things are possible. Why We Ought to Ask Ourselves “Can We” Rather than “Should We” by Marcy Kennedy.

Lisa Hall-Wilson has helped many a professional maximize their presence on Facebook. She’s holding an outstanding two part class starting on Saturday, June 15 through WANA International. Steering Through the Facebook Winds of Change

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure how it was humanly possible to be this oblivious. Woman Unaware of Pregnancy Gives Birth Training for Half-Marathon

Don’t Make Me Turn This Plane Around: 100 Kids Kicked Off Flight. Having been on a flight with a teenage girls’ volleyball team once, I find this one more reason to love Southwest Airlines.

New York Times Best Seller and Heckuva Guy James Rollins now has his next Sigma Force novel, The Eye of God, available for pre-order.

Allison Brennan, New York Times Best Seller and Fun Lady, looks at storytelling in books and in movies at Jungle Red Writers. Allison Brennan on Storytelling

A fun read from Historical Mystery Author K.B. Owen. Historic June Weddings: Grover Cleveland

Why Tweets about Obese Doctors are Never Your Own. A very funny cautionary tale via Colin Falconer.

The Ever Clever Julie Glover takes a look at what would happen If Hitchcock Tweeted.

Hobbit Fans Alert! M.J. Wright is Sneaking a Peek at a Character from the Second Hobbit Movie.

Jeff Goins gives us the straight skinny on our relationship to work and success. The Truth About Going Viral: What I Did After 1 Million People Stopped By My Blog. Via Rhonda Hopkins.

Love those rare moments when two things that should never be together come together anyway to result in a great laugh. Jimmy Fallon edits Brian “Bri Wi” Williams newscasts and creates a Snoop Dogg Rap.

Campaign Poll Daddy Question of the Week:

All the best to all of you for a week of good taste.

Piper Bayard