Vicki Takes 5 with Barbara Jean

Hi there, guys and dolls! So, so long April. Can you believe that it’s already the last week of the month? I do hope that wherever you are, you’ve had your share of April showers to bring some of those beautiful May flowers. Of course, the month end also means one of my favorite things, an interview with one of my fellow Cozy Cat Press authors. This time, it’s Vicki Vass, who has the fantabulous Antique Hunters Mystery series. I love them. She’s got a couple of savvy sleuths whose curiosity keeps them finding not only valuable treasures but a great deal of fun and romance, too. Settle on in, friends and get to know all about Vicki and her tales. Her latest and third in the series, KILLER FINDS has just been released.51pFOD4vi8L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

1. So tell me a little about your series and main characters.

My series tells the not-so-real life adventures of my two best friends, Anne and CC. It is based on their weekly exploits hunting for antiques. Anne is a consummate shopper, searching for bargains among flea markets, antique stores, garage sales and auctions. Like me, CC is a journalist who has a vast wealth of knowledge except for when not to share it.

2.What is your writing process like? Do you thrive on routine or work spontaneously as the whim takes you?

My writing process is a little bit of both. With my years of experience as a journalist, I try to make it a practice of writing every night after my full-time job. However, I have been known to be inspired at other times and write. I do not write an exhaustive outline instead letting the story build.

3. What exciting moment or moments have made you realize that you were really an “author”?

There are several. I think the first time that we received the actual book in the mail. Even after having 1,400 articles published in the Chicago Tribune, it was still exciting to see that book. When I did my first book signing and people were actually waiting to meet me.

4. What do you do to spark up your creativity when you feel the well of inspiration is running dry?

I don’t know. I haven’t actually had that problem. I have plenty of ideas for characters, series, my only limit is time. When I get stuck in a story, I usually take a break and walk my Australian shepherd or take a shower. The best ideas sometimes come when I’m not sitting at the computer but instead doing something else.

5. Who are some of your favorite authors and how do you feel they have influenced your desire to write?

Would I be predictable if I said Jane Austen? I’ve loved her command of language and dialogue since I first read PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. I’ve also been a fan of Nancy Drew, Cherry Ames and Vicki Barr mysteries. In fact, I changed the spelling of my first name after reading Vicki Barr. I think reading those authors helped steer me toward writing mysteries, and I love cozy mysteries. I enjoy getting to know the characters and their environments.

Thanks for joining me, Vicki. It was great fun to clink a glass or two with you. And fellow mystery lovers, be sure to get your copy of KILLER FINDS today. She’s also on Facebook and has a swell website and blog that she would love to have you visit. Till next week, friends.

Toodles,

Barbara Jean

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JT Takes 5 with Barbara Jean — Welcome to Poppy Cove

Hi there, guys and dolls! Here we go again, the end of another month. I do hope you had a pleasant Easter. Yours truly certainly did. I never miss a chance to parade around in a new pastel frock and bonnet, or pass by anything chocolate. Plus those egg hunts provide such an excellent opportunity […]

via JT Takes 5 with Barbara Jean — Welcome to Poppy Cove

Life Style, Circa 1950’s

Welcome to the Wonderful World of Barbara Jean Coast

Hi there, guys and dolls! Let’s have a little stylish fun today, shall we? My Poppy Cove Mysteries of course have a little murder and mayhem in them, but being that Daphne and Margot, the two main super sleuths, design for and accessorize the beautiful people in their fair Santa Lucia as their main gig, the books have been greatly inspired by the fabulous fashions of the 1950’s. Yours truly whiles away many  hours looking at beautiful clothes and the way they were worn, all in the name of research. Sigh, the things I do for my craft. Now of course, the influences are plenty, but here are a few of the lovely ladies who wore them so well. Credit needs to go to photographer Richard Avedon and the many people who made magic as they set up such scenes to make us dream and imagine ourselves in adventurous capers…

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Annie and Rae Take 5 with Barbara Jean

Welcome to the Wonderful World of Barbara Jean Coast

Hi there, guys and dolls! So it’s already the last Monday of January. Who would have thought it would come so fast. Guess I better take the tree down and pack away the mistletoe till the next go round. I’ll get to it sometime, when I’m not too busy and/or have the inclination.

Today though, I would much prefer to share a great little confab with another pair of Cozy Cat Press authors. Friends, if you haven’t already met Annie Irvin (Libby Vivone) and Rae Sanders (Candi Wilde), it is certainly time to do so. The write the Bitter Sweet Hollow Mysteries, with the first one being FINAL SALE, with more to come. I have to be honest, I thoroughly enjoyed the story (I’ll elaborate further in my review in the future) and look forward to more stories. The ladies are another writing team and my alter egos Andrea…

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Steve Takes 5 with Barbara Jean

Hi there, guys and dolls! Now where the heck did 2015 go? It’s disappearing faster than my waistline (and believe me, with all the delish food and drink around, it’s long gone). Now where did I put that industrial strength girdle? Oh never mind, I have a far better topic today.

Friends and fellow book lovers, let me share my latest author confab. This jpg_front_Audition_for_deathmonth’s very special guest is Steve Shrott, who has written a couple of terrific cozies published by my publisher, Cozy Cat Press. Both AUDITION FOR DEATH and DEAD MEN DON’T GET MARRIED are great fun not only to figure out, but also to be along for the ride with Steve’s characters.

1. So tell me a little about your series and main characters.
I’ve written two humorous mysteries, AUDITION FOR DEATH, and DEAD MEN DON’T GET MARRIED. They are not a series—as yet. I’m waiting for crowds to gather in front of my house and yell, ‘Steve, we need a new ‘Dead Men Don’t Get Married’ book! Hopefully, that will happen soon.

AUDITION FOR DEATH stars Joshua Mclintock, a career-obsessed actor. He’s appeared in numerous films and stage productions, although most of his roles have been as dead bodies. When he’s about to be arrested for a murder he didn’t commit, Joshua makes a run for it. After all, he has an audition for a great new role! Joshua believes he can track down the killer and keep his career going full blast at the same time. In the process he discovers deadly forces threatening to destroy Hollywood, and he must try to save show business before it’s too late.

Dead_Men_Don't_Get_Married_360x540_(Website)DEAD MEN DON’T GET MARRIED involves Arnie Katz, dentist, and part-time PI. (Note –No dentists were harmed in the writing of this book.) When Arnie’s ex-girlfriend asks him to find out who murdered her fiancé, Arnie packs his pockets with dental probes and picks so he can defend himself in case he runs into ‘difficult’ situations. And there are a truckload of those, including two warring crime families, a maniac killing local orthodontists, and an eighty-year-old dental patient who, under gas, thinks she’s Lady Godiva. Arnie has his hands full as he attempts to figure out what happened to his ex’s fiancé, and just why, DEAD MEN DON’T GET MARRIED.

2. What is your writing process like? Do you thrive on routine or work spontaneously as the whim takes you?

I generally write most weekday mornings and take weekends off. That way I feel fresh when I come back on Monday. I like routine but I also like variety so it helps that I write in different areas—creating jokes for comedy performers, screenplays, routines for magic tricks, short stories, and, of course, novels. I think this assortment of writing activities helps keep my creative juices flowing.

3. What exciting moment or moments have made you realize that you were really an “author”?

Even though I had previously done a lot of writing, I only thought of myself as an author when I held a copy of my first book, AUDITION FOR DEATH in my hands. Thank you Cozy Cat Press! Of course circumstances sometimes change your thinking a little. A library in town happened to order copies of one of my books. So I decided to take it out and show the librarian at the check-out desk that I was the author. I figured that would make her day. I proudly pointed to my name on the cover and said, “That’s me,” waiting for the oohs and aahs. She read a little of the book, and even flipped to the picture on the inside. Then she shook her head and said, “No it isn’t.” I never did convince her.

4. What do you do to spark up your creativity when you feel the well of inspiration is running dry?

If I’m blocked on my novel, I usually just switch gears and start working on a short story or other writing. I also find that doing something completely different such as taking a walk, or looking around a place that sells interesting gadgets very helpful. I often go to dollar stores and try to figure out how I can use items like squeegee’s for nefarious purposes in my crime stories.

5. Who are some of your favorite authors and how do you feel they have influenced your desire to write?

Originally, most of my writing involved jokes for performers. But when I read a few of Dave Barry’s humorous novels, they inspired me, gave me the idea that maybe I could write some fun books.

A second favorite is Jonathan Kellerman. I really enjoy his descriptions and noir-ish style. He made me want to write that type of material, and I ended up selling a few noir short stories.

Another favorite is Harlan Coben. He made me want to write a book where the readers kept turning pages as I did when I read his work. Due to his influence there is probably a thriller in my future.

Well, this has been fun, and I’d like to thank Barbara Jean for the opportunity.

And to you too, Steve.  It’s been fabulous to share a hot toddy or two with you. Now all you mystery fans out there need to read Steve’s books if you haven’t already done so. Click on the covers and/or titles to get your Kindle copies today and while you at it, visit his webpage at steveshrottwriter.weebly.com

From the bottom of our hearts to yours, we wish you a healthy, happy and harmonious 2016.

Toodles,

Barbara Jean

(and those half wits who make me whole – Andrea & Heather)

Cozies, a Cure for the Common Cold

Hi there, guys and dolls! Well, I have to admit, that yours truly has been a bit under the weather this week. Truth be told, of course it was my alter egos Andrea Taylor and Heather Shkuratoff that were the ones with the bug, and while they sniffled, hacked and coughed, doing just what has to be done to get through the days between as much sleep as possible,  I got to be the one who got to swan around sighing, “I’ve been unwell,” and “I need my rest,” while sipping hot toddies with my fictional attentive man servant. Imaginvintage-sick-woman-with-book_zps71e77b05ation is great.

Which brings me to what is good about being just a tad ill. Now I do love writing my Poppy Cove Mysteries, sharing and chatting away with friends and fans, doing interviews and such – I just adore Santa Lucia, and have some new places and people bubbling up in the background that will eventually come to light, but recuperating from minor sickness gives one the excuse to hunker down and enjoy the work of others.

Cozy mysteries are just the ticket. The words flow beautifully, with enough suspense to keep you guessing without confusing your already befuddled brain, the places are usually bucolic, with just enough black humor so it doesn’t add to your nausea, and characters who you love and love to hate, all wrapped up in a neat package, just long enough to see you through your box of tissues between medicine rounds and bouts of coughing fits. There is a certain delight to being tucked in on the couch or in your bed with hot soup, warm drinks and permission (heck, encouragement!) to take it easy, even if you do feel icky.

No, being sick is not necessarily fun, but that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge or treat yourself to a little fun reading. In fact, maybe the cure is just giving in to being cozy!

Toodles,

Barbara Jean

Bret Takes 5 with Barbara Jean

Hi there, guys and dolls! And here we go again, another month coming to a close. With it comes one of my favorite things, cozying up to another one of my fellow writers. Please meet Bret Jones, who also loves all things past as much as I do. His LISTENER IN THE DARK, an Old Time Radio Mystery, is just fantabulous and I can’t wait for the next. Keep on reading to get to know the delightful Mr. Jones.

1. So tell me a little about your series and main characters.

The Old Time Radio Mystery series focuses on mysteries involving shows, items, Listener_frontMcGuffins from “old time radio,” which covers a period from the 1920s to 1962. Once the most popular medium for entertainment and media, radio had the life choked out of it when TV became popular. Today, there are several appreciation groups for the lost art form, as well as performers who re-create old shows at conventions and other venues. Tucker Niles, the series’ protagonist, is a DJ in a town in Oklahoma who has a Sunday night slot showcasing old time radio shows. In the first book, a fellow collector and fan of OTR finds the “lost ark” of missing radio shows and ends up dead. Niles sets to find his friend’s killer and discover what he had found.

2.  What is your writing process like? Do you thrive on routine or work spontaneously as the whim takes you? 

The writing process, unfortunately, is interrupted by life! I have writing chores I perform at my job – a Theatre professor at Wichita State University. I write screenplays and web series for student performers to film. I don’t wait on the muse. I try and schedule the time!

3. What exciting moment or moments have made you realize that you were really an “author”?

I thought of myself as an “author” when my first book was published. It made me feel as if I might be on the right track with my writing work.

4. What do you do to spark up your creativity when you feel the well of inspiration is running dry?

I listen to music, old time radio, or watch old movies. All of these spark my creativity and imagination.

5. Who are some of your favorite authors and how do you feel they have influenced your desire to write?

Thomas H. Cook, Charles Todd, and Simon Brett’s Blotto and Twinks series all have inspired me as of late. Cook’s work is so powerful in creating intense emotional moments on the page. Todd’s work is in a time period that I am interested in and study. The Blotto and Twinks series is so silly and fun, which gives me comedic inspiration.

Thanks for dropping by for a chinwag, Bret.  I just love meeting interesting people. And dear friends and readers, be sure to pick up your Kindle copy of LISTENER IN THE DARK today and click here to check out Bret’s website. You’ll be glad you did. Till next time, darlings!

Toodles,

Barbara Jean

Where We Do What We Do

Hi there, guys and dolls! Today, my real life alter egos Andrea and Heather are taking over the blog again, writing about well, writing. What they write and where they write it, to be specific. Not only in the matter of place, but also the atmosphere and feeling the surroundings give.

On the weekend, they conducted a very successful Creative Writing Workshop, generously hosted by the Mission Branch of the Okanagan Regional Library System. They met some wonderful fellow authors, some who write fiction too, but also people who write memoirs, poetry, nature blogs, and various non-fiction projects, of all walks of life and age at various stages of accomplishments. It was fascinating to connect and share their experiences, giving thoughts on what works and doesn’t work for them.

The biggest thing? Write, just write. Give reverence to your projects, to the ideas buzzing in your head. Set aside time, take it seriously, even if you are only at the beginning, as it is a very good place to start.

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The girls also talked about different processes in writing projects, from germinating to saving the final draft. Through their experiences, they’ve found some places and ways that naturally keep them in the groove and literally on the page as they go along.

peachland

It seems that when they are at the beginning of a book, namely their Poppy Cove Mystery Series at this point (other works will be forthcoming, give them time!), being somewhere lively and busy is very helpful. A mid-afternoon spent in a beautiful restaurant, bustling cafe, or pub lingering over a glass of wine or cup of coffee while the world goes by does wonders for how they plot and scheme the complicated lives of their Santa Lucians. A beautiful view down by the lake on a delightful beach in the shade, listening to waves and laughter of others is helpful as well.

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For the actual writing, however, having a dedicated writing room is ideal. Being able to come and go from it between writing sessions is terrific, along with the solace of a room of one’s own lends itself to filling in the color of the plots and story. Background music is always playing, usually Frank Sinatra or jazz such as Charlie Parker, Nina Simone, Blossom Dearie, Chet Baker and the like from the mid-century era does wonders for their creativity. During editing, classical such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach are very helpful with their rhythmic foundations.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on what inspires you to do what you do and where you do it.

Warm Regards,

Andrea & Heather

aka that Barbara Jean

 

What Makes a Good Book?

Hi there, guys and dolls! Hope you are having a lovely September. As the seasons change, if you are a reader (which I’m guessing if you reading this, you are…think about it, it’s not that hard), then one thing remains the same – the love of a good book. 11870869_1686002078286509_313793752052374959_n

Us book lovers just keep right on reading throughout the year. The seasons may reflect our choices, perhaps our thoughts turn to love and light reads during the milder and warmer months, and then our interests may shift to heavier tomes and/or the classics during the crisp and chilly autumn and winter, but the reason for reading may remain the same. To transport ourselves to places and on adventures we can take from a comfortable chair at anywhere and anytime we choose. We may also select books where the hero or heroine may have slices of life that reflect our own, which helps us think about how we handle or view our own personal journeys.

Deeming a novel a good book is so subjective, and it should be. It’s a very personal and intimate thing, which is sometimes reflected in reviews and stars, but not always. A good book should be what you get out of it, the thoughts and emotions that are provoked within you. Do you long to be in the world that the author has created? Do you weep with joy or sorrow as the story unfolds? Does time slip away as you turn the page? Do you want to rush to finish, yet at the same time savor every word? Do you simply find yourself caring about the people and places you visit in your mind’s eye? A good book will do that for you.

I love to read (as do my writing alter egos Andrea and Heather). I also do my best to put those qualities into what I write. Time creating my town and my people is like another realm, yet feels so real that when something exciting (good or bad) happens, I sometimes catch myself thinking, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to tell Margot and Daphne about it!’ then chuckle, realizing they’re imaginary. The good thing is, being that they are, in a funny way, they are always there, just waiting in my mind’s eye to hear from me.

Toodles,

Barbara Jean

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