Everything Old is New Again

Hi there, guys and dolls!  Looks like spring has sprung and looking pretty is in the forecast.  Dressing head to toe in a vintage era can be a lot of fun and will make you look timelessly beautiful to boot, but here’s a few ideas if you just want to add a little 50′s flare to your 21st century wardrobe.

Think Pink!  AsThink Pink the song in Funny Face goes, “You can get a little wink, if you put a little pink…” in your step.  There’s a shade or hue to suit any girl’s complexion, from a breathy baby pink to a corally orange, or even a nude skinny dip shade for the daring or a hot fuchsia for the shocking.  Cat eye Glasses

Cat-eye Glasses  Don’t worry, the men will still make passes — least they always have in my experience!  In today’s modern life, who isn’t needing a pair after staring at computer screens?  Why not go for fun in a kicky horned rim with rhinestones?  They’ll make you look both glammy and clever!

Emeraude Retro Perfume   Want to go for a classic scent?  For daytime, try Youth Dew or Chanel No. 5 (has that one ever gone out of favor?) and at night, be your exotic best — Emeraude or Tabu.  They’ll let your suitor know exactly what your intentions are!  A little dab (behind the ears) will do ya.






Scarves  Well, okay — I discovered in my first Poppy Cove Mystery that one did not bode well for dear Constance Stearns-Montgomery (read STRANGLED BY SILK for the skinny on that tale), but it doesn’t mean that it would happen to you, dear reader!  Choose a silky scarf in a polka dot, delicate floral or atomic mod print and play!  A quick kerchief says you’re ready to cruise the strip with the top down, a ponytail up-do says your up for anything or choose to tie one on around your wrist, waist or neck to a add a little splash of joie de vivre  to yPatent leatherour day.

Patent leather  When in doubt, shine it up!  Glossy black, bright white, flashy red or anything else goes.  Nothing says hello there, mister than the glint of shiny leather.  Go bold with a purse, shoes or wide belt — give yourself compelling command over your place in the crowd.  Matchy-matchy of multiple accessories may only be for the proudest of peacocks, but a little peppering of patent will give any girl her status in  even the most polite of societies.

Well, as usual, I could go on.  Let your own imagination guide you to your own nod to the vintage past.


Barbara Jean



Posted in 1950's, 50's Fashions, 50's Movies, Accessories, Alter Ego, Audrey Hepburn, Beauty, Classic Movies, Communication, Conversation, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, Creativity, Dating, Etiquette, fashion, Fiction, Fictional Characters, First Novel, Humor, Inspiration, Marylin Monroe, Mysteries, New Authors, Newly Published, Nostalgia, Pen Names, Perspective, Publicity, Readers, Romance, Self Esteem, Socializing, Uncategorized, Vintage, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Here Comes Barbara Cottontail, Hopping Down the Bloggy Trail :-)!

Hi there, guys and dolls!  Spring has sprung, which means Easter’s right around the corner.  This week, yours truly has been playing a game of tag with a few writer friends!  My dear friend Bart J. Gilbertson, author of DEATHBED AND BREAKFAST, the first in the Pookotz Sisters Mystery series, is currently working on book number two.  I’ve been doubly blessed, as another kindred spirit, Julie Seedorf, author of the just released GRANNY SKEWERS A SCOUNDREL, the second in her Fuchsia, Minnesota Granny Mysteries.  You can check out their blogs by clicking on their names above.   Click on the titles to learn more about their current offerings.

Now, on with my interview!

Question 1:  What am I working on?

I’ve just signed the contract (or rather, Andrea Taylor and Heather Shkuratoff, the two behind Barbara Jean) on my second Poppy Cove Mystery DEATH OF A BEAUTY QUEEN off to my publisher, Cozy Cat Press.  It’s the follow-up to the series debut, STRANGLED BY SILK.  Certainly a very exciting time!  Currently, I’m making plans to do some public appearances, blog tours and the like when the book is ready for market.  Also, book three is getting roughed out — really happy about the story.  It’s all about the intrigue of one of the major characters past life — that’s all I’ll say!

Question 2: How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, it’s set in the late fifties, early sixties, which makes it more historical than many, but not all of the cozies out there.  Poppy Cove is the name of the dress shop/design atelier run by the two main heroines, Daphne Huntington-Smythe and Margot Williams.  Most cozies are written with one amateur sleuth, I have two.  Being that it’s set during that time, I love to feature the clothing and attitudes of the era in Technicolor VistaVision, some things that have changed and some things that are still the same.  Also, the Barbara Jean pen name is reflective of the time, while the two ladies behind it are very much in the 21st century.  It gives a fun romp through the research.

Question 3:  Why do I write what I do?

Mainly, because if I didn’t, I might burst like an atom bomb!  The stories, images, places run around in the brains of my creators, and they would be thinking, feeling, talking about it whether or not the stories made it to print!  Why not give it a whirl and share it with others who may enjoy the Santa Lucia in-crowd?

Question 4:  How does my writing process work?

Andrea and Heather talk and talk and talk!  They laugh, drink wine, scroll out reams of paper with plot ideas, character details, and type along.  Then hit delete, type over, delete and type again.  More notes furiously scribbled down, repeating as often as possible, usually two full days a week and generally a little work every day, whenever time allows.  Jazz is generally playing, and they’ve set up a room which is dedicated to writing, so that they can leave everything out without disrupting their home lives.  That has been a Godsend, to be able to leave things out, but to be able to turn off to emotionally, creatively and mentally refuel.

And here are some folks I’d like to share on our little Hop excursion.

Amy Beth Arkawy is the author of  KILLING TIME:  AN ELIZA GORDON MYSTERY and several plays including:  Psychic Chicken Soup (McLaren Comedy Award nominee); Full Moon, Saturday Night; Listening to Insomnia: Rage Amongst Yourselves; Crazy Vivian Doesn’t Shop at Bloomie’s Anymore,  The Lost Mertz and The Postman Always Writes Twice.  Her work has been produced in New York City and across the country and featured in several anthologies. She is also a creativity coach/writing teacher, radio talk show host and freelance journalist.  At her website  http://amybetharkawy.com/  you will find Dead Silent the second in her Eliza Gordon mystery series.

Tim Hall was a journalist, musician, bike messenger and moving man before turning to the lucrative world of independent publishing. DEAD STOCK is his first mystery novel. He lives in New York City.

Rita Gard Seedorf is a retired academic who became reacquainted with her high school classmate, Margaret Verhoef, as they worked on planning their high school reunion.  Together they soon began writing LETTERS FROM BRACKHAM WOOD.   Besides academic publications she has written articles on local history and is the author of One Room out West, the story of a one-room schoolhouse and its students.  She and her husband Marty live in Cheney Washington. They have a son and a daughter and two wonderful grandsons.

Thanks, one and all!  Until next week, friends.


Barbara Jean

Posted in 1950's, 1950's California, 50's Fashions, Alter Ego, Authors, Blog Hop, Blog Tours, Blogs, Characters, Commitment, Communication, Conversation, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, Creativity, e-publishing, Fiction, Fictional Characters, First Novel, Guest Blogs, Inspiration, Interviews, Mysteries, New Authors, Newly Published, Nostalgia, Pen Names, Perspective, Publicity, Publishing, Readers, Socializing, Uncategorized, Unpublished, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jacob Takes 5 with Barbara Jean

Hi there, guys and dolls!  Time for another installation of Take 5 with yours truly!  Today we have a delightful visit with my fellow writer friend, Jacob M. Appel, author of the Rabbi Kappelmacher Mysteries, the first in the series being WEDDING WIPEOUT.  Jacob’s a prolific scribe, with a couple of additional novels and a plethora of short stories under his belt, and awards that give that icing on the cake.  He is also a physician, which should make my mother proud to know I am spending some time with such an accomplished man of letters and medicine.  Settle in along with us as we share a nice chat!

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

My main character is a suburban rabbi, Jacob Kappelmacher, who is both sincere in his religious beliefs and irreverent in all other matters. I grew up attending Hebrew school and synagogue as a child and I suppose he embodies the qualities I hoped to find in my own rabbi: humor, compassion and sound reasoning. Most of my writing is outside the mystery genre (I’ve published two mainstream novels and over 200 literary short stories), so mysteries are something of an indulgence. WEDDING WIPEOUT is the only work I’ve written that my elderly Jewish grandmother actually enjoyed – and it might make a fine gift for yours, as well. (Some people think that the rabbi is named after me, but Appel is not short for Kappelmacher; rather, it’s the maiden name of my grandfather’s mother.)

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

I’m a physician by day, so I do much of my writing in time I cobble together before or after seeing patients. I suspect that I am not alone: When you see medical personnel typing away at computers in nursing stations, you likely assume they’re working on patients’ charts. The reality, I imagine, is that many are scribbling away at fiction.

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

I’d love to say it was a love of literature that drove me to writing, but I’ll confess it was initially the fear of not writing. As a child in a bedroom suburb, I can still recall watching the businesspeople and professionals disembarking from the commuter train at our local station, looking beleaguered and depleted, and thinking: I don’t want to end up like that someday. The great thing about writing is that you can do it anywhere, anytime, even in your pajamas. It’s a lot more rewarding than traveling to someone else’s skyscraper to push someone else’s paperwork in circles. So I started writing in the hope that I’d never have to hold a real job. Fortunately, I stumbled into a second career in medicine, which is also fun and rewarding, and–since I’m a psychiatrist–I don’t even have to wear a necktie.

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

I tell myself that if I win a Pulitzer Prize, Sofia Loren and Lauren Bacall will reach out to me to praise my work–and invite me over for a nightcap. In this fantasy, Sofia and Lauren are around thirty and stunning. There’s nothing like the prospect of romance, no matter how farfetched, to motivate a would-be artist. When that fails, of course, I take a glance at my credit card balance and then my typing kicks into overdrive.

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

I’ve always been an avid reader of the so-called classics. I’ve probably read Anna Karenina twenty time, Middlemarch at least ten times, most of Virginia Woolf’s major novels five times each. Among modern authors, I adore Kevin Brockmeier, Elizabeth Graver, Chris Adrian and my own mentors, Tina Howe and Andre Aciman. I would also be remiss if I didn’t praise the most talented of my former students and mentees: Chanan Tigay, CJ Hauser and Brigit Kelly Young. All are far more gifted than I will ever be. Ironically, I rarely read mysteries any longer. There was a time when I could read four Agatha Christie novels each week. Now, I prefer to solve medical mysteries in the hospital and read nineteenth century epics in my bedroom…..

Thank you so much for Taking 5 with me today, Jacob.  It’s always nice to spend time in the company of a man with your charm, wit and bright humor.  Come back and visit anytime.  And fellow book lovers, be sure to give WEDDING WIPEOUT a read, visit his website:  www.jacobmappel.com and Goodreads page, https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6884139.Jacob_M_Appel to learn more about him and his other works.


Barbara Jean

Posted in Alter Ego, Authors, Blogs, Characters, Commitment, Communication, Conversation, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, Creativity, Dialogue, Etiquette, Fiction, Fictional Characters, First Novel, Guest Blogs, Humor, Indie Presses, Inspiration, Interviews, Mysteries, New Authors, Newly Published, Pen Names, Perspective, Publishing, Readers, Uncategorized, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Best is Yet to Come!

Hi there, guys and dolls!  I’m very happy to announce that I have sent off my manuscript for my second Poppy Cove Mystery to my publisher, Cozy Cat Press.  I’ll keep you all in the know on the progress.

There’s no rest for the wicked; I’m living proof of that!  Andrea and Heather, the ones behind me are already plotting fiendishly and feverishly, giggling with glee as they map out book three.  Their moods got even brighter when they realized that they had a solid plot hatching for book four hot on its trail.

Whew!  Well, I had to put up my kitten (heels, that is) and tell them to take a deep breath and let me and the rest of their lives catch up.  They’ve got plans for me as well.  Being that STRANGLED BY SILK is still just the beginning, they’re now taking the time to find more ways to reach new friends through cozy mystery lover sites and groups and meeting potential new Santa Lucia visitors by getting involved with people sharing my era and fashion interests.

And what’s the point of dreaming if you don’t go past your horizons?  The girls would like to take my show on the road and are looking at scheduling readings, appearances and getting to conferences (Left Coast Crime looked like way too much fun and brought a tear to yours truly’s eye when attendance this year was not in the cards).  Plans are in the works for more interviews and blog tours, both contributing and hosting, promoting and celebrating the Poppy Cove folks and the works of our fellow authors and kindred spirits.  There’s a website needing to be created and some kooky goodies still too new and fresh to speak of yet, but rest assured, I love your company — so happy and grateful to be in your presence and carving my own little niche in the world to stay!  Thank you for traveling the road with me.


Barbara Jean

Posted in 1950's, 1950's California, 50's Fashions, Alter Ego, Authors, Blog Tours, Blogs, Characters, Commitment, Communication, Conversation, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, Creativity, De-stressing, e-publishing, Fiction, Fictional Characters, First Novel, Guest Blogs, Humor, Indie Presses, Inspiration, Interviews, Mysteries, New Authors, Newly Published, Nostalgia, Patience, Pen Names, Perspective, Publicity, Publishing, Readers, Socializing, Uncategorized, Unpublished, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

So What’s on Tonight, Barbara Jean?

Hi there, guys and dolls!  Let’s all settle down in my living room for a spell, shall we?  It has been said many times that television had its golden age during the 50′s.  Now I think that every era has had some great hits and misses, but I’m going to talk about some of the shows that I enjoy and gave that time such a reputation.  Some of these shows were on in different years, but thanks to the new mod cons we have today, you could have your own 50′s TV night, just like me!  It takes a few minutes for the 21″ Admiral bright white tubes to warm up to full glow, so use the time to pop some corn, grab a soda, argue over who’s going to sit close enough to the controls to turn the channel while the ladies adjust their crinolines to cover modestly and not splay or flip up and enjoy the shows!

120px-Coca_caesar_your_show_of_shows_1952 1.  Your Show of Shows (1950-54) — Sketch comedy at its finest, starring Sid Ceasar and Imogene Coca.  Their perfect timing, sparkling characters and polished wit made us laugh and see ourselves and others in humorously exaggerated, yet familiar situations and conversations that helped us cope with the foibles of being human.  Not only were the main stars phenomenal, they had burgeoning young staff behind them, such as Carl Reiner, Neil Simon and Mel Brooks involved in production.120px-I_Love_Lucy_1955

2.  I Love Lucy (1951-57) — Well, who doesn’t?  Who can resist bursting out laughing when watching tango practice with a dozen eggs in a gingham shirt or empathize with Lucy’s home economic logic when purchasing an entire side of beef, only to discover they have to purchase extra freezer storage to keep it, costing at least twice as much in the end?  And I would have slugged that grape stomping hussy, too.  You go, Lucy!

Alfred_Hitchcock_19553.  Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955-62) — Ah, the master of suspense and style.  His movies were always fascinating, and the television series also did not disappoint.  Interesting and creepy stories of human nature, featuring some of the best actors and actresses around, such as Robert Redford, Bette Davis, Charles Bronson and Jessica Tandy to just name a few.94px-Cleaver_family_Leave_it_to_Beaver_1960

4.  Leave It to Beaver (1957-63) — The Beev was just so cute!  The Cleavers were such a delightful little fam!  Ward, mister tall, dark and handsome, June always so perfect and polished (although she could stand up just fine for herself and keep her troupe of men in line), and Wally, with just enough older brother wisdom to help his lil bro get into and out of enough mischief to form productive members of society.  Just avoid Eddie Haskell if you can…

92px-Raymond_Burr_Ralph_Clanton_Perry_Mason_premiere_episode_19575.  Perry Mason (1957-66) — Earle Stanley Gardner’s sleuth attorney always got his man in the end, with help from Della and Paul along the way.  He fought for the underdog, the damsels in true distress, the ones who needed help when the outlook seemed hopeless, he would guarantee justice would prevail, and the streets would be that one criminal safer after his work was done.

Now of course I could go on, there were so many more fabulous shows.  I’m sure you all out there have some favorites that I have missed.  Thanks for sharing a little time with me, and back to your regularly scheduled program ;-)!


Barbara Jean

PS — for any of you that are interested, all photos are registered as public domain and obtained through Wikipedia Commons.  No copyright infringement intended, just wanting to share the love of good television.

Posted in 1950's, 50's television, Alfred Hitchcock, Characters, De-stressing, Etiquette, Fiction, Fictional Characters, Humor, Inspiration, Nostalgia, Perspective, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sometimes You Just Gotta Laugh

Hi there, guys and dolls!  Welcome back to my weekly blog — nice to see you.  Today, I’m going to talk about having a sense of humor — even at the most awkward of times.  My girls, Andrea and Heather have certainly brought me through the university of life with many more courses to go, being the freshmen that they are ;-)!

It’s very easy to smile and feel blissful when the good news comes in.  Things run smoothly, passages flow like water through the minds and fingertips and a tangible reality takes shape on paper.  People tell you they love what you have created, share your vision for your world, get your jokes, you sell a book or two (or more…) — those are the salad days.  Why, just this week, yours truly connected with a few people and places that I have long admired as well as made a couple of new found friends who like what I have to say.

Then there is the other side that happens, too.  For instance, as the girls are editing away, making great progress on the new Poppy Cove Mystery (DEATH OF A BEAUTY QUEEN, tentative title, mind you…), all of a sudden when two-thirds through a discovery is made that all the formatting went SNAFU, randomly through the whole document…causing delays…ugh.  Other past mini-dramas have occurred, such as working all morning on pages and pages of scenes, really happy with how things went then breaking for lunch, only to come back and realize that the changes weren’t saved…yeah.  Personal issues and outside life makes demands that can’t be avoided or ignored.  Technology doesn’t co-operate.  A review shows up that is just plain bad and lazy; only reason why they rated it low was that they don’t like the genre you write in, nothing is necessarily bad in your story, but it’s not their thing, yet they feel compelled to complain.  A reader contacts you about their personal chip on their shoulder about growing up in the fifties, not happy that you had fun writing your fictional tale.  What’s a girl to do?

Well, laugh!  Pick yourself up, let some things go and look at the bright side — everything is either fixable or stings less over time — all is not lost.  Maybe the universe has better timing than you, what you write on the second round is better than what went missing.   Better reviews and unexpected cheerleaders show up and spread the word just because they plain want to.  By sharing your plight and adventures with others, you bond — making new friends and connections.  Becoming stronger and more human.  That’s a lot for an alter ego to evolve into, isn’t it?


Barbara Jean

Posted in Alter Ego, Authors, Commitment, Communication, Conversation, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, Creativity, e-publishing, Etiquette, Fiction, Fictional Characters, Humor, Indie Presses, Inspiration, Love, Mysteries, New Authors, Newly Published, Patience, Pen Names, Perspective, Publicity, Publishing, Readers, Self Esteem, Socializing, Uncategorized, Unpublished, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

In the Alternate Universe…

Hi there, guys and dolls!  Andrea and Heather here, taking over the blog from Barbara Jean once again.  This week we wanted to talk about our lives outside of the alter ego domain.

Being that we are relatively new to the professional author’s world, we still have day jobs.  We plan and dream about one day being lucky and prosperous enough to write and pursue independent creative endeavors as our full time livelihoods.  Currently we are working very hard to build that up (our tentatively titled DEATH OF A BEAUTY QUEEN is getting polished up before we send it off to Patricia Rockwell at Cozy Cat Press), patiently and persistently, but we also enjoy our lives and work we do now.  We feel very fortunate to have the current positions in the world we hold now and would like to share with you our perspective on why our world is a good place to be as we grow.

We are both employed in the retail industry.  As writers, you couldn’t ask for a better place to be.  We see all walks of life — young, old and in-between.  We see good and bad behavior, kindness and rudeness, generous and stingy souls.  We have and overhear various conversations all day, long.  It is a rich hotbed of dialogue, stories and characters.  We’ve made friends with our people and also learn whom in the clientele to stand back from.  As the observers, then writers, we feel like a couple of magpies, gathering snippets and gems of social vignettes.

We write fiction, and we’ll make that very clear.  None of our characters or situations are directly from actual, literal reality — more like amalgams of our experiences and involvements between what happens as the day goes on and the imagination we creatively develop in our own writing space.

Having other responsibilities and focus than just writing at this stage helps us keep the desire and momentum to remain writing, especially when the creative well runs dry or word fatigue sets in — that feeling of what do I write now, what should we do with that scene and when you need time to mull over a passage.  We get involved in our other paid profession, and the higher mind takes over of the writing process and by the time we sit down at it again, we often have a solution to our writing dilemma.  All in all at this stage, we are truly grateful that we have had to foresight to resist the urge to quit the day job just yet and find the reward in every aspect of our double careers.

Warm Regards,

Andrea & Heather

aka Barbara Jean

Posted in Alter Ego, Authors, Characters, Commitment, Communication, Conversation, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, Creativity, Dialogue, e-publishing, Etiquette, Fiction, Fictional Characters, Indie Presses, Inspiration, Mysteries, New Authors, Newly Published, Patience, Pen Names, Perspective, Publishing, Readers, Socializing, Uncategorized, Unpublished, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment