A Mother’s Day Salute

Hi there, guys and dolls! One of the favorite special occasions is right around the corner. Mother’s Day is something we all should share and celebrate, from the perspective of mother and/or child. Mothers do so much for the future of our wo4806463_l3rld, so let’s take a few moments through the magic of educational video to honor the terrific ladies in our lives.

All great film experiences should start with a cartoon. Here we have Goo Goo Goliath who is a cute, big baby that still this mother truly loved.12_0524_05

Now for you more traditional mothers out there, here’s a clip of the modern hospital,where baby will get a much better delivery than a drunk stork. Do pay special attention to the wonderful feature of the baby drawer. Just whisk them in and out, at your pleasure.answering_the_childs_why

And then, just a few years down the road of life, the happy mother shares her wisdom and always remembers to Answer The Child’s Why, or risk developing a poor case study like Molly, who will have to learn life’s liEatforHe1954_00030000ttle answers for herself.

And mothers help us all grow big and strong. In Eat for Health, Ralph may learn about the five food groups (a little different from our times now), but mother’s the one to make sure they’re oA_Date_with_Your_Familyn the table, ready and yummy.

Speaking of food, what’s a better thing than all sitting down together to celebrate Mother’s Day and the Family Dinner Date. Just remember to always do your share to help out and make the meal pleasant and happy.

Of course, some of this is very hokey, dated and sexist, but honestly, aren’t these clips just a hoot? What with the choppy editing, wonky music and grainy quality, the old fashioned attitudes fit right in. Take it all with a grain of salt. There are still some terrific values in what is being said, and the rest, well, be glad we’ve evolved ;-)!


Barbara Jean

Posted in 1950's, 50's Fashions, Communication, Conversation, educational films, entertainment, Etiquette, family life, Humor, Mother's Day, Nostalgia, Perspective, Social Mores, Socializing, Uncategorized, Vintage | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.


Barbara Jean

Posted in Authors, books, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, creative writing, ebooks, Inspiration, Interviews, murder mystery, Mysteries, Readers, reading, Uncategorized, Writers, Writing, Writing Ideas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The View from my Soapbox

Hi there, guys and dolls! This week I heard from a talented writer friend that I highly admire who was unfortunately down in the dumps, and quite frankly it made me a little sad. They were doubting their ability as a storyteller, not basing it on a lack of creativity, ideas or responses from readers, but on sales, or the lack thereof. This terrific and prolific author feels that it must be because they are bad at the craft and they are planning to let their hard worked creations go for less than a song, all in the name of self doubt, rooted in numbers. I say, in the warmest way, fiddle faddle to that.

Yours truly (and my writer alter egos) are names and not a number. Writing is about telling a story, not adding up numbers in some skewed popularity contest. Fleeting rankings and sales figures do not mean a book is good or bad. Publishing these days is like the wild west, which has its positive and negative sides, where great works that may have been overlooked now reach readers, but also ones that should not see the light of day end up on bookshelves. It has led to a glut in the marketplace and with the birth of the mcnovel capitalizing on the novelty aspect of Kindle, with some books being produced without any attention to detail and some others being just cut and paste mashups of others’ hard work and original thought. Now of course, there are some great stories that are popular as well, but just because a book is not in the top ten does not mean it shouldn’t be. Marketing can be smart, but not always perfect and does not reflect the value of the product, and comparing all the items available in such a schmozzle is degrading and futile.

I say to my friend, myself and my other fellow writers who are truly in the craft for the love of it, hang in there. Offer your work at a fair price, believe in your value, know your work, and have gratitude for those who do appreciate you. Connect with those you admire and keep writing what you are inspired to tell. Let the rest fall by the wayside. When the fickle give up (and they always eventually do), you will remain, satisfied that you did.


Barbara Jean

Posted in Authors, books, creative writing, Creativity, e-publishing, ebooks, Inspiration, kindle, novels, Publishing, Readers, reading, Uncategorized, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Happy to Make Your Acquaintance

Hi there, guys and dolls! Andrea and Heather here and don’t we feel blessed. Lately, we have made so many new friends and curious visitors to the wonderful world of Barbara Jean Coast, and the Santa Lucia she inhabits. It keeps us walking happy and finger snappy (currently listening to Radio Deluxe playing Peggy Lee as we write this, thank you so much for the inspiration, John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey :-)). Anyhoo, for our new travelers interested in a trip to our fair town and to meet Poppy Cove’s fair Daphne and Margot, here is the scoop on the first three books and links to the Kindle copies. And for those of you who have been with us all along and are all caught up, we are happy to report that personal situations have become more manageable and health is improving, and on course for a full recovery by mid to the end of July, allowing us to finally be able to devote more time, love and energy in Barbara Jean’s glamorous gals and the world they live in. We’ll deliver book four to you as soon as we can. What we are able to say now is that there are some new faces, old dears, blossoming ladies ready to make your acquaintance in their very fashionable way. And as it turns out, not all homemakers are happy, and being a domestic goddess may not be natural to all our delightful ladies. So there!

As promised, here’s the scoop on the first three (STRANGLED BY SILK, DEATH OF A BEAUTY QUEEN and A NATE TO REMEMBER). Enjoy:-)

bfef1-barbarajeancoast27sbookSTRANGLED BY SILK – Darlings!  Here’s the scoop on my first mystery. It’s all about Daphne and Margot — two independent young California women in 1957 -– own their own dress shop called Poppy Cove.

When one of their top clients –– Constance Stearns-Montgomery –– is strangled to death with her own silk scarf at the opening ceremonies for her new girls’ academy, Daphne and Margot are shocked.  They can’t believe that such a horrid crime could take place in their sleepy little oceanside village of Santa Lucia.  Worse, they’ve lost one of their best clients.  The two women quickly become embroiled in solving the crime.  After all, if anyone can track down the killer, it should be them.  Margot’s long-time beau is the town’s top cop, and Daphne is a master at using her flirtatious wiles to extract information from unsuspecting men.

Of course, neither girl will let their snooping get in the way of more urgent tasks such as choosing new textiles and accessories for Poppy Cove or planning their fall fashion show or –– most important –– selecting the appropriate ensemble to wear for each and every occasion.  But these two fashion detectives are on the case, and the murderer –– and the poorly attired –– had better watch out!e058f-barbarajeancoast27sbookjpg

DEATH OF A BEAUTY QUEEN – It’s the 1950’s in Santa Lucia, California, and the height of the social season.  Time for the new Miss Santa Lucia, Nora Burbank, to display her loveliness at a high society fashion show produced by the city’s own fashionistas — Margot and Daphne, owners of Poppy Cove, the most elegant and “in” little dress shop in the county.

Nora steals the show in her designer gown and custom-made necklace created by local jeweler Isaac Mendelson, and used on the sly by his apprentice son-in-law, Efrem Goldberg.  At the conclusion of the show, the young queen is allowed to keep her dress and a replica of the necklace for her own.  But Monday morning, Efrem arrives in a panic at Poppy Cove to beg Margot and Daphne’s assistance in tracking down the real necklace, which he believes was inadvertently switched for the replica backstage.  The girls get involved in Efrem’s dilemma and try to help him before Isaac’s any the wiser.  But before that can happen, Miss Santa Lucia is found dead in her bed and the necklace is missing.

Who killed Nora Burbank?   Is it someone jealous of her new royal position and all of its perks?  Or did she just happen to be in the way when a thief attempted to steal her diamond-studded necklace?  Did Nora have the real or the fake necklace, and how much did the thief and murderer know about it?  But, of course, before the girls can find the killer, they’ll have to create several beautiful ensembles, calm numerous irate clients, and flirt with their ever-so-attentive boyfriends, before solving this mystery.

A_Nate_To_RememberA NATE TO REMEMBER – It’s springtime in Santa Lucia and everything is blooming, including the Poppy Cove dress shop. 1958 is proving to be a banner year for its young owners Margot Williams and Daphne Huntington-Smythe –– with Hollywood starlets becoming customers and attracting national attention to their business. Even the girls’ love lives are blossoming. But a casual walk with their boyfriends along the beachfront after an art show suddenly turns shocking, when an unidentified man’s body is found washed up on the shore, with a gunshot wound clean through his heart.

The startling discovery becomes personal when the police arrive at the dress shop the next day and confirm that the dead man is none other than Nate––Nathan––Reed, Margot’s ex-husband!  Everyone is astounded; Margot has always been secretive about her background, but no one thought it included a spouse. The news becomes even worse when it’s discovered that Margot had a hidden handgun which has now gone missing, and is the same caliber as the one that killed her ex. The young designer finds herself the prime suspect in the murder. She feels even more alone when her police detective boyfriend Tom is forbidden to associate with her while the crime is investigated.

As Margot’s past comes to light, Daphne must come to terms with the news about her friend and business partner, which causes her to wonder if maybe she’s lived too sheltered a life. Determined to have her own secret adventure, Daphne gets herself involved in a predicament more daring than she bargained for.

With Margot working hard to prove her innocence and Daphne trying to lose hers, Nathan’s killer is still on the loose and creating more havoc. That dead man on the beach is truly A NATE TO REMEMBER.

Warm Regards,

Andrea & Heather

aka that Barbara Jean

Posted in 1950's California, 50's Novels, book series, California, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, ebooks, Fiction, Fictional Characters, First Novel, kindle, murder mystery, Mysteries, novels, Readers, Reading, romantic suspense, Uncategorized, Vintage, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Feeling Good :-)

Hi there, guys and dolls! Wishing you a happy Monday, one and all. My girls, Andrea and Heather have had an interesting time over the last year or so. Like everyone else, they have had the various assortments of ups and downs, but there certainly have been some doozies as of late. The highs of course, how much love and fun they have with Daphne, Margot and the gang, and sharing the Santa Lucia set with loyal fans and readers (thank you so much – fourth book is coming, we promise, and in that one, let’s just say not all homemakers are happy…).

The downs however, have been situations with family members who needed personal help, care and attention, which of course takes priority. That’s what love is, after all. And as those of you who have been with us a long time, are aware of some rather serious health matters for one of my girls, of the female housekeeping variety that has been hanging around like the plague for a while. Yours truly is happy to report that the treatments are doing what they should and helping. The surgery is still needed, in about two and a bit months, followed by a lengthy recovery, but all will be better than ever afterward. Gratitude abounds in my world.

What my girls realized is sometimes you just have to feel good taking the time to feel good. I believe that we, as a society, take it for granted sometimes, and when we have those moments when everything feels a little better or right in the world, stop and take it in. Give yourself a giddy grin and realize how happy you are to just be fine. And in times when you are not (and we all have them, don’t we), take a deep breath, recall the times you were just fine and know they will come again. I wish you the very best of health, love and happiness.


Barbara Jean


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

JT Takes 5 with Barbara Jean

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 to catch a new spring beau as well! Anyhoo, that’s enough about me. Let’s talk about one of my talented writer friends, J.T. Toman. She’s the author of one of my favorite Cozy Cat Press books, PICKING LEMONS, the first in her C.J. Whitmore Mysteries series. Friends, why don’t you take a few moments out of your busy day and get to know J.T. a little better? She has some great news. Read along to find out her latest scoop.

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

My mystery series is about an economics professor named C.J. Whitmore.

C.J.  is a brassy, sassy Texan, who wears hot pink cowboy boots. She works at Eaton University, a prestigious college on the east coast. Her colleagues are almost all male, often old, and extremely egotistical. What I love most about C.J. is that she says all the things I would love to say, but don’t have the self-confidence to utter.

The first book in the series is PICKING LEMONS, and the second book, OCCAM’S MURDER, is coming out soon.

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

In my mind, I always plan to write for two hours a day, writing a minimum of 1000 words each time. However, the great thing about plans is that they can be flexible! I find that home life sometimes gets busy, and I won’t write for weeks at a time. And then things slow down and I find myself writing for hours every day.

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

I don’t think I have fully grasped that realization yet. When people ask me “what do you do?” I still fumble for an answer. Generally it is my husband who pipes up and says “my wife is an author.”

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

When I am feeling not-so-creative, I often go to a local coffee shop and eavesdrop! It sounds so terrible when I write it down, but people say the most outrageous and surprising things. By the time I am halfway through my latte, I am surreptitiously writing notes and itching to get back to my computer to write.

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

I have always enjoyed Agatha Christie. Her plots of her books are so clever and I love the distinctive characters of Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. I also really enjoy reading Jane Austen and L.M. Montgomery. Both of those authors remind me that astute observations of everyday life has be both humorous and humbling.

My girls love those authors, too. Such great news about your second book coming out, J.T. A toast of the bubbly to you. And fellow mystery lovers, be sure to check out PICKING LEMONS on your Kindle if you haven’t already done so. You’ve probably got just enough time before OCCAM’S MURDER is ready for your voracious reading appetites.


Babara Jean

Posted in books, Communication, Conversation, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, creative writing, Creativity, ebooks, Interviews, kindle, Readers, Reading, Uncategorized, Writers, Writing, Writing Ideas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Skip the Spring Cleaning, Do Some Spring Reading

Hi there, guys and dolls! Yours truly loves the idea of having a freshly cleaned house, with the fresh scent of spring in the air, inside and out. But honestly, I’d rather read a good book than get the work done. If you share my passions of both good reads and procrastination, here are some suggestions to help you enjoy your days. In the meantime, I think I’ll just hire a houseboy/bartender to take care of things. The screening process is so rigorous, sigh.

Oh, and please forgive if the spacing is kooky on this post. After numerous unhappy hours we could not get WordPress to play nice😦 !


CATERED TO DEATH by Marlo Hollinger – Catering can apparently be hazardous to your life, and then you are going to need to call in the professionals. Was it the lunch you ate, or the company you keep? Dee Dee Pearson has chosen catering as her new profession, but it’s not going as well as she would have liked when the school principle is found murdered! The business that she started to bring in an extra income soon turns into something else altogether.
The little town she lives in may have swanky soirees but it seems to be a deadly business, full of people who loathe one another and Eden Academy is no paradise. Will Dee Dee collect her pay check, will the killer be caught before it’s too late, and what will Dee Dee do next as her Midlife Crisis continues? Be sure to read this suspenseful and catered affair by Marlo Hollinger. You’ll want some canapes and bubbly for your reading pleasure.

THE FEUD AT GLENCOE by Owen Magruder – Let me introduce you to a swell detective duo: private investigator John Braemhor and his wife Mary, the Nick and Nora of the modern day sleuthing world! The pair have a keen eye for details, and are very capable of finding the clues that will solve the case. The Braemhors run a B&B in the Scottish Highlands and yet are ready at a moment’s notice to travel the distance it takes to solve the mysteries that come their way. They always say two heads are better than one and in the case of John and Mary it is proven to be true. They can talk through the case with reasoning and logic and undercover work can be conducted with a wink and a smile.
What great tales author Owen Magruder has spun with his adept understanding of the true British cozy. John and Mary could certainly match wits with Paul Temple and his wife Louise or Holmes and Watson. There is such a wonderful thread running through all of these tales that kept yours truly reading through the night, with a spot of whiskey and a blanket on hand. So if ever find yourself in Scotland, in a spot of trouble or a mystery to solve you may want to contact John and Mary to investigate the matter. Hold on, that’s right they’re only to be found in the pages of a book. Guess I got caught up in THE FEUD AT GLENCOE!

Dead StockDEAD STOCK by Tim Hall – Yours truly has found a man who is more of a disaster than she is! Bert Shambles is a modern man with many problems, including having to report to a probation officer, falling in love with a mafia leader’s daughter, and is into vintage clothing, which makes him stylish in a sloppy sort of way. A man of murder, mystery and mayhem in Long Island until he serves out his probation. Although Burt does have some great hangouts, that I would think would work for me. The laundry mat that serves as bar too. Now I know where I’ll be adding an extra spin cycle if I ever find myself on Long Island. Not that it’s very likely! Although there does appear to be a social set that is full of secrets including members of the mafia.Three years is a long time when you are stuck in a small town, working at a thrift shop and trying to keep out of trouble that seems to keep finding you.
On a routine pick up for the store, Bert learns that the widow of a recently deceased pro golfer is offering a reward for the return of her dead husband’s favorite putter—and an even bigger reward for proof that her husband was murdered. The forces of good and evil close in around Bert and he is in a race to clear his name and discover the truth so he doesn’t wind up in prison or worse. I think it is true to say that this young man will have you laughing and cheering for him. So pour yourself a cold one, take a load off your feet and put a load in the washer. Now you are ready to read about Bert, his kooky friends, neighbors, and love-ones. Bravo to author Tim Hall for creating such a swell mystery with an interesting sleuth at the center of all the action!
TIE DIED byTie_Died Tim Hall – The lovable Bert Shambles is back and he’s in deep trouble, in more ways than one! He finds himself mixed up in music, murder, and mayhem and then his girlfriend returns and is not impressed with his antics that involve two other women. This is one of those stories that had yours truly snorting (yes, I know, not very lady-like behavior) with laughter! Tim Hall is a writer with a wicked sense of humor. Bert gets involved investigating the suspicious death of a popular rock singer who is electrocuted during a performance at a local festival. A beautiful hippie named Scarlet had asked him to help sort out her late father’s music collection, which then leads to his being caught up in what may turn out to be a deadly deal. Will this poor guy ever get a break or is he destined to trip over the cords of trouble all his life?
There’s a cast of unforgettable and colorful characters that you won’t want to miss reading about. Tim Hall is a brilliant and funny writer whose books are destined to be among the classics of humorous mysteries. Bert Shambles is a man with a plan and I certainly can’t wait to find out what those plans are. A long, tall, cool drink will be required for this one and there’s nothing like it to slake your thirst.
MANNERS AND MURDER by Helen Grochmal -The old girls may have it after Manners_and_Murder_1600x2400_Ebook.jpgall! When Carolina Pennsbury retired librarian and observant lady sets out to make things right in her senior’s home, she’s not alone, her dining room companions aim to help her. Daily life in a retirement home may not be as boring as this young gal thought. Anyone for movie night or shuffle board?

There are dark deeds and a murderer on the loose, no one’s safe and the police are not helping the situation and neither are the staff who seem to have it in for some of the residents. Along come Carolina, Rita, Annie, Dot, Lillian, and the newest addition to their table Margie. What to do about Margie is a going concern for Carolina and how to make things work out for the eccentric new lady who is twenty years younger than most of the residents, but taken in by the retirement home as they were more than happy to take her money. Is Margie a disturbed lunatic, a murderer or just a lady whose life has hit the skids? Carolina takes on the role of amateur sleuth, protector and supporter of Margie to solve the crime and get their lives back in order. The only question is can she do it before anyone else falls victim? Will good manners save the day? Be sure to mix up a brew of your choice and curl up with the first book in Helen Grochmal’s series to see if Carolina and her friends save the day.

Barbara Jean
Posted in Book Reviews, book series, books, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, detectives, ebooks, Fiction, Fictional Characters, Mysteries, Readers, Reading, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chasing the Codex – Another Reason to Toast the Bubbly!

Hi there, guys and dolls! I’m very proud to share with you a novel that yours truly has taken part in writing. It’s called CHASING THE CODEX and is the brainchild of our beloved Cozy Cat Press founder and editor, Patricia Rockwell.  It’s also the 100th book published by Cozy Cat Press — quite a feat for this little engine that’s actively proving that it could. This cozy mystery was written by 24 of Cozy Cat Press’s 40-some authors, with each author penning their own individual chapter or chapters. How did we make this happen? Easy! We started at the top of the alphabet with Amy Beth Arkawy and moved down the alphabet through Diane Weiner (with a few detours along the way). None of the authors had any idea where the next author would take the story; they only knew what they wanted to do with the characters and the plot in their own chapter. We think you’ll find the results amazing––and exciting! So, be prepared for quite a ride, as we go CHASING THE CODEX!

In the story, Bryndis Palmer, owner of The Neglected Word bookstore, invites her 61+dh81saEL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_fourteen-year-old niece Frida to visit her so that the precocious, Jane Austen-loving young girl can accompany Bryn to the “Midwest Booklovers’ Convention” being held in nearby Saint Louis. Never mind that Bryn has just broken up with her on-again, off-again boyfriend Holt Furst, or that said boyfriend has suddenly disappeared from his apartment above her shop––possibly in a violent kidnapping. Bryndis dutifully heads to the airport to pick up Frida, only to discover that Frida has also disappeared––reportedly swooped up by a chauffeur and whisked away in a limousine. Who would kidnap her niece? Where could they have taken her? Where could Holt be? Bryn is an amateur sleuth from her childhood days of reading Nancy Drew mysteries, and she barges ahead with her own investigation, certain that the local police and the airport authorities will bungle the job, and fearing the wrath of her sister Lia if anything happens to Frida. Of course, Bryn doesn’t know that the disappearances of Holt and Frida are actually connected, and as she begins her search, a mystifying tale starts to unravel––introducing her to a host of strange characters, all more unusual than those in the murder mysteries she’s accustomed to reading. Along the way, she discovers that she herself is somehow at the center of it all, and swirling around her are other strange curiosities––a missing Bible, a famous frontier hero, and a hidden secret code. Will she find Frida? And Holt? How does it all connect? And how is Bryn involved? Readers will find all the answers in CHASING THE CODEX.

The authors who helped write the book are, in alphabetical order:  Amy Beth Arkawy, Christian Belz, Lane Buckman, Sally Carpenter, Barbara Jean Coast, B. J. Gilbertson, Helen Grochmal, Tim Hall, Owen Magruder, Joyce Oroz, Emma Pivato, Drema Reed, Joe and Pam Reese, Patricia Rockwell, Sharon Rose, Julie Seedorf, David Selcer, Steve Shrott, Leslie Matthews Stansfield, Lane Stone, Jennifer Vido, and Diane Weiner.

So for all of you curious cats out there, the book is available for purchase in both print and ebook format from Amazon.  Click here to be taken to the book’s Amazon page. Enjoy!


Barbara Jean


Posted in Authors, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, creative writing, Creativity, ebooks, group project, kindle, Mysteries, novels, Readers, Reading, Uncategorized, Writers, Writing, Writing Ideas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How About This? How About That?

Hi there, guys and dolls! Well, yours truly has been diligently working on book four in my Poppy Cove Mystery Series (among health issues and life’s assortment of fun and games – it will get better, patience and perspective until it does). The process is always interesting, and such a learning experience every time, every step of the way. Although much of the work is sedentary and cerebral, the challenge of writing a story can be as exhilarating and daunting as mountain climbing and cliff jumping.

As many of you know, Barbara Jean is the shared pen name for two writers (Andrea Taylor and Heather Shkuratoff), and being such gives way to constant discussion and lively conversations of how things will happen to the residents and visitors to the the fair Santa Lucia. The girls love their imaginary people and places, speculating adventures and outcomes and the incidentals along the way.

They always have a plot and outline for what will happen in each book, a main story and some of what will happen to others and why certain things happen. But along the way, they discuss out loud and for many lengthy sessions on the details, the paths that the stories take. One will ask about a certain event or topic, the other will bring up something else. They will look at the progress of the story, the individual book, or a book to come, a plot point, a scene, or a certain piece of dialogue. Many people ask how can they work together?

Truth is, quite happily. They have known each other a long time (to say it again would just age them again, so let’s not and pretend we did), and have a great deal of respect for each other, themselves, and the project. The ideas come, they weigh them out, deciding if it fits there or somewhere else in the story, or in another book (or out the window, usually said in a tactful manner), remembering it’s not about ego, but the course of the story. Letting preconceived notions go, the storytelling can be as much as an adventure as the story reading, and sometimes surprising when the plot reveals itself, much akin to the next rock to grip on the climb, or finding that the view is wonderful from up here when you take that leap and land on soft ground.


Barbara Jean

Posted in collaboration, Communication, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, creative writing, Inspiration, Reading, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Ideas | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Alice Takes 5 with Barbara Jean

Hi there, guys and dolls! So here it is again, the end of another month. And I for one am always glad to see the back end of February, which even though it is the shortest month according to 1202_Boatwright_087_colorthe calendar, it always feels like the longest to me. Sigh, the ennui that sets in, forming a whole heap of general malaise as yours truly awaits the breathiness of spring, naturally in the form of the birds and the bees, of course.

One thing that was a bright spot in the gloomy month was my interview with fellow Cozy Cat Press author Alice K. Boatwright. She wrote one of my favorite cozies, UNDER AN ENGLISH HEAVEN, the first in her Ellie Kent mysteries, and she assures me there’s another to come. So fellow readers, it’s time to settle down with a cuppa or two and learn all about Alice and her writing life.

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

The Ellie Kent mysteries are set in Little Beecham, a village in the English Cots61mraKamudLwolds. Their heroine is a divorced professor of English literature from San Francisco who favors wearing “black and more black”, but who is now, through the vicissitudes of love, the new wife of a charming English vicar, Graham Kent. In the first book, UNDER AN ENGLISH HEAVEN, her adjustment problems quickly move past knowing the difference between cookies and biscuits, when she stumbles over a body in the churchyard – and becomes the murder’s chief suspect. An ex-pat, she finds, can be rude; and a vicar’s wife hears secrets. With these tools – plus her experience as a researcher – she sets out on another unexpected career path: detective. As evidence piles up against her, Ellie tries to stay one step ahead of the police to unravel a decades-old literary mystery and love story. In the second book (now underway), Ellie continues to find out more about who her friends and allies are – and who they aren’t – as she takes on the search for a missing Oxford student.

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

I am a morning writer and most content and focused when I work every day at about the same time. One of the most important lessons I ever learned is that the way to write a book is one sentence – one page– at a time. Thinking about your project is critical to the process, but it is not writing. Only writing is writing. And writing is rewriting. I am definitely a “how will I know what I think until I see what I say” writer. I love the process of discovery that unfolds between my first notion of a story and the final final draft.

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

I began telling stories when I was young, and people’s reactions surprised and pleased me. For example, my grandmother loved a story I told her about the life of a nickel, and forever after I was linked in her mind to that story. When I was 15, my English teacher assigned us to write a short story, and I had my first experience of becoming totally immersed in my characters and the world they lived in. I still remember the chair I was curled up in when it happened, and I still have the pencil copy I wrote that day. Writing is not always like that – there are plenty of hours devoted to “just trying to get the words right” (as Hemingway said), but those moments – when I am so absorbed in creating a world with words that hours just disappear and when people are delighted or moved by something I wrote – that’s when I know this is the right path for me.

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

When I feel as if the writing well is dry, I turn to other arts to get re-inspired. Taking a walk and listening to old rock ‘n’ roll helps. Stopping in to look around an art or crafts store helps. Looking at paintings or going to a concert helps. But actually, one of the best things is doing the dishes. I get some of my best ideas with my hands in hot water. I think essentially, what I am doing is turning off my word brain and letting it rest, while stimulating my other senses.

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

As a mystery writer, I love Dorothy L. Sayers the best of all. The four Harriet Vane books are my favorites for the complexity of the puzzles they offer and the long, drawn out, witty and thoughtful courtship of Peter and Harriet. I also recently re-read all of the books by Josephine Tey and thought they were brilliant. I like to read women writers who write cracking good mysteries that are not bound by the conventions of the genre and also offer strong characters and relationships, interesting commentary about life and the world, and fresh, clean prose. Other writers who have influenced me in different ways are P.D. James, Mary Stewart, Agatha Christie and M.C. Beaton. Speaking more broadly, I am a huge fan of the Brontës (all of them), Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf. Stir them all together and that’s the writer I would like to become.

Thanks so much for taking the time for our little confab, Alice. It was a true delight. I’d also like to mention that Alice is the author of COLLATERAL DAMAGE, a collection of three novellas about the impact of the Vietnam War. Want to get to know Alice a little better? Be sure to look for her on Facebook and Twitter.  And friends, don’t forget to check out UNDER AN ENGLISH HEAVEN on your Kindle.


Barbara Jean

Posted in Authors, British Mystery, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, England, Interviews, Readers, Reading, Uncategorized, Writers, Writing, Writing Ideas | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment