Christian Takes 5 with Barbara Jean

Hi there, guys and dolls! Hope your May flowers are in full bloom. Can you believe it’s the last Monday of the month? Me neither, but happily what it means to yours truly is that I get to share with you another one of my great Cozy Cat Press author friends, Christian Belz. His Ken Knoll series is one of my faves, so it’s a treat to have a chinwag with its charming storyteller. So settle on in for your own happy hour and get to know Christian and his work for yourself.

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

In the murder mystery THE ACCUSED ARCHITECT, a mid-level architect, Ken Knoll, in a medium size firm is suddenly drawn to solving two murders which occur on his project site. The setting is Metro Detroit, where I have been a practicing architect for 31 years. The interesting and always unpredictable world of architecture provides a backdrop to the adventures of Ken, affectionately known as Cannoli, and his eccentric intern, Edison. A well meaning sidekick, Edison is not always in sync with the people aroundindex him.

In THE CIVIC CENTER CORPSE, Ken Knoll’s world is again turned upside when the sign atop his new auditorium building–bearing the donor’s name–plunges from the building, killing the donor. Ken’s boss prods him to prove the firm was not at fault in this “accident,” while the donor’s wife is certain her husband was murdered and begs Ken to find the person responsible. In a puzzling case, Ken is thrown off balance when two women enter his life, a Hollywood actress who first appears at the site of the sign’s unfortunate plunge; and his college nemesis, now an investigative reporter. The latter becomes a thorn in Ken’s side as they race toward the discovery of the murderer.

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

It’s definitely more spontaneous. I hate writing on the blank page, and use the index card method of writing down key elements, fragments of dialog, description, etc. I keep the cards with me and add thoughts at odd moments. I repeatedly shuffle through the cards, rearranging and tweaking until a scene or chapter comes together. At that point I can easily transpose the points from the cards onto the page, adding words where they belong. Before I know it, I have a draft done!

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

About thirteen years before Cozy Cat Press accepted my first book, I went through the process of querying 32 publishers. I was able to get the full manuscript in front of two of them. One rejected the work with a form letter, the other editor sent me a very nice, detailed letter citing page numbers and characters. When I realized she had read my entire novel, I felt satisfied and I felt like an author, though at that point I had never been published.

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

Reading. I read a lot in the genre, and also a wide spectrum of fiction and non-fiction. I always have three or four books going at the same time. I’m inspired by other authors.

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

Sue Grafton is a favorite. I love her style and Kinsey Millhone is a wonder to watch in action. She’s relatable. A few years ago I discovered BRIGHT LIGHTS BIG CITY by Jay McInerney. I was drawn in by the second person present tense style. Mesmerized by it. I’ve written three short stories in the style, as a result, with the same characters in a sort of love story. I’m now turning it into the novel, and of course interjecting a serial killer.

Hmm intriguing, Christian. Can’t wait to read it! And dear friends, be sure to check out his Ken Knoll Mysteries on Kindle (his latest being THE CIVIC CENTER CORPSE) and check out his great blog, website and Goodreads page by clicking through to the word links. Thanks for sharing your time with us.


Barbara Jean

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A NATE TO REMEMBER is now on Kindle!

Hi there, guys and dolls! Well, well, well! Poppy Cove Mystery Series Book Three is being released! Get your Kindles ready, friends! As I type this, the files are being up loaded, the links set up, and A NATE TO REMEMBER is on its way! By the time you read this, hopefully the Kindle links will be ready. If not, they will be shortly.

Here’s the cover:A_Nate_To_RememberHandsome devil, isn’t he? Well, don’t get too attached, he’s a goner, shot through the heart by, gasp! Why, you’ll have to read to find out! The day starts out pleasant enough:

You are cordially invited
to the Inaugural
Santa Lucia
Fine Art Exhibition

Waterfront Beach
Santa Lucia, California

Sunday, April 20, 1958
10 am to 4 pm
All are Welcome

But then things go terribly, terribly wrong. Here’s the back cover blurb:

“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.”

So there you have it, folks! And if you are reading this before 5:00 pm Pacific time, May 20th, be sure to sign into Facebook and join our Make it A NATE TO REMEMBER Kindle Release Party! Swell fun and great prizes.


Barbara Jean

Posted in 1950's California, 50's Fashions, 50's Novels, books, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, ebooks, kindle, new release, Newly Published, Nostalgia, Readers, Reading, romantic suspense, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fire Up the Edsel – Barbara Jean’s Going On Tour!

Hi there, guys and dolls! Well, I’m just tickled pink to share tlogo-newhis news with you! Yours truly, well Andrea and Heather on my behalf, are pleased to announce that they will be making a grand tour of their fine OkanagaCover Hi Resn Regional Libraries in British Columbia . It’s all part of the library’s “Year of the Wise” campaign and the girls feel extremely honored to be taking part.
It will be sucDeath_of_a_Beauty_Queen_1600x2400_(Ebook)h fun! They will be all decked in their fifties finery and ready to meet and greet new friends. old acquaintances and readers from Keremeos to Revelstoke and places in between. They’ll be talking about cozy mysteries and reading from STRANGLED BY SILK and DEATH OF A BEAUTY QUEEN in the various locations, as listed below, as scheduled at the time of this blog posting.
May 27 – Peachland, 5:30 pm

June 3 – Okanagan Falls, 2 pm

June 9 – Lake Country, 2 pm10648843_1711924055701192_8491450508231055784_o

June 11 – Lumby, 2 pm

June 16 – Revelstoke, 3 pm

June 19 – Keremeos, 2 pm

June 23 – Oyama, 2pm

June 25 – Westbank, 2pm

July 11 – Mission, 10:30 am

July 17 – Kaleden, 10:30 am

July 25 – Vernon, 1:30 pm

There may be more to come, and my girls would love that. Both of the Poppy Cove Mysteries will be available as signed copies after the readings and Heather and Andrea also really look forward to traveling and getting to know their local communities even better. Throughout their adventure, watch this blog for photos of the places and people they will meet. What a swell time to be had by all!

Barbara Jean

PS – Kudos to the talented and clever author and radio host Amy Beth Arkawy, who in her inimitable style gave us the “Fire Up the Edsel” phrase, which then my girls shamelessly ran with.

Posted in 1950's, 50's Novels, Authors, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, Libraries, okanagan, Readers, Reading, road trip, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Miss Tree by Name, Miss Tree by Nature…

Hi there, guys and dolls! I’ve got some big news coming soon, all the stars are aligned, but just waiting for the t’s to be crossed and i’s to be dotted to inform you all of what is happening in the world of yours truly.

In the meantime, I can share a little with you, dear friends and readers! A NATE TO REMEMBER, the third in the Poppy Cove Mystery Series will be available shortly. It’s a doozy, if I must say so myself. The past of a major character catches up with her, while another wants to create something that makes her feel a little bit dangerous.

While I’m waiting and planning, it got me thinking about our current day ‘selfie’ world. There seems to be no intrigue and privacy left in today’s modern woman. The title of this week’s blog comes from Colin Dexter’s THE LAST ENEMY, and is such a clever little hoot. And ladies of today, maybe we should take note.

Now I’m not saying we should do anything immoral or illegal, or harmful to anyone else, but a little private adventure, a daring do or surprising action that we keep to ourselves can put a little umph and spring to your step. Do we have to tell all, all the time? And does anyone really need to know you’ve changed a light bulb or had tuna for lunch?

Keeping some things to yourself gives you that Mona Lisa smile, that curl of the lip, that twinkle in the eye. It makes others wonder what you’ve been up to, and what you could do next. I for one, also understand that in my day of the 50’s, women most certainly did (and that means all kinds of things), but were confident enough to not tell, knowing that it was enough for her to know and for you to try and find out! Isn’t that half the fun, really?


Barbara Jean

Posted in 1950's, 1950's California, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, Etiquette, Readers, Reading, Self Esteem, Social Mores, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dream a Little Dream with Me

Hi there, guys and dolls!  Golly, a writer’s life (like all others) has many facets. There’s practicalities and logistics, taxes and finances and various other sundries I’d rather not deal with or think about. Lovely, well meaning but nosy people asking questions about quantifying your time, “So how many books are you selling, little lady?” and “How much do you make per hour doing this?” and the like can make you want to throw your precious martini right back in their faces as you smile and nod, all the while politely ignoring them and wanting to either give them a hotfoot or ask them when are they going to have that growth removed from between their shoulders.

Sometimes boiling down the details can be defeating and can kill creative projects.  But realize you are already doing what you are doing, regardless of how it looks.  Life has a funny way of working out when you don’t analyze it to death. So when it looks too much like everything you’ve left behind or walked away from, why don’t you dream a little dream with me?

bfef1-barbarajeancoast27sbookMy girls have some things in the works, waiting to hear word. They’ve got A NATE TO REMEMBER, book three in the Poppy Cove Mystery Series (following up STRANGLED BY SILK and DEATH OF A BEAUTY QUEEN), coming soon, as well as branching out to other personal appearances lining up. More in the series will be written, as well as a new series being plotted out, with connections to the Santa Lucians.

It all starts with a dream, a plan, thinking big, if you like. Yes, mundane and responsible tasks must be attended to, e058f-barbarajeancoast27sbookjpgbut all in the name of creating and living the dream. Sometimes we humans forget that, and get caught up in the details, living the paperwork and numbers first, clawing for more, and forgetting why we such things. Get them done on time, with accuracy and necessity, but no further focus. And get back to your dream.

Do think big, do write in your journal, laugh, write and talk it out, make notes, follow your inspiration and let it lead you. It may take time, it may not all come to full fruition, but it will help you achieve and create, opening up doors and windows that can remain shut in a closed and frightened mind. Life is lived in a series of focus and choices, and how do you want to do it?  Where do you want your head and heart to dwell? Obsessing over numbers, shortcomings and insecurities, or do want to find ways to reach new readers, appreciating those who already support you and repeating your strengths of successes to new places of a wider audience?

Fussing and worrying takes up time, just like dreaming and planning. I know which I prefer and encourage.


Barbara Jean

Posted in Alter Ego, Authors, Blogs, books, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, Creativity, e-publishing, ebooks, Fiction, Inspiration, Mysteries, Perspective, Publishing, Readers, Reading, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Week That Was…

Hi there, guys and dolls!  Whew, well the girls have given me quite the week.  Sit back and I’ll tell you all about it.  Oh, and for those of you who didn’t hear10455655_10200454759328162_3764048650690013935_n the news, the blog posts have changed from Sundays to Mondays, as yours truly needs to recoup and regroup at least once a week.  Otherwise, I’ll end up like this, even without the dutch courage….

Anyhoo, onto my week!  The girls, Andrea and Heather, that is — were very busy.  They had their first (of many) Author Event/Book Signing at the Chapters Kelowna location an it went swell.  They saw some old friends and made some new, and looked just darling.  The girls had spent some time over the last few weeks scouring their local stores to get fabric to make some lovely 50’s fashions, and have Fabricland West Kelowna, Poppin’s in Pentiction and Cherry Tree Quilts in Summerland to thank. Everyone was so delightful.  Here’s a picture of what they picked up.  Also, they’ll be adding accessories, so no doubt a lovely visit with Angie at Georgie Girl will be happening shortly :-).WIN_20150320_163604

So while Heather was busy making two dresses and a jacket on a brand new machine, Andrea was busy preparing to send the manuscript of book number three to my publisher, Cozy Cat Press.  I am happy to announce that this is what Patricia Rockwell, editor and owner of the press had to say. “Far and away, you best work to date!  The writing is concise, the plot is riveting, and the characters become far more real in this one than before.” A NATE TO REMEMBER is coming to life shortly!  I’ll share more news as I have it.  In the meantime, here are the Kindle links to STRANGLED BY SILK (Book One) and DEATH OF A BEAUTY QUEEN (Book Two) to get caught up.  Among other places, signed trade paperback copies are also still available at the Chapters Kelowna, Pulp Fiction Coffee House, Georgie Girl, Wine Kitz on Pandosy and Hooked on Books, in the Okanagan.

Also, the ladies are very busy lining up other events, including two public appearances at Hooked on Books in Penticton and very big news coming from the Okanagan Regional Library, as well as some other ideas that are just to dreamy to nail down quiteDSCN2693 (3) yet.  Suffice it to say, life’s very spiffy right now… I’ll leave you with this, a picture of Heather (left) and Andrea (right) at their event, in their new spring dresses.


Barbara Jean


Posted in 1950's California, 50's Fashions, 50's Novels, Alter Ego, Authors, books, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, Creativity, ebooks, Etiquette, fashion, Fiction, First Novel, Indie Presses, Libraries, Mysteries, New Authors, Pen Names, Public Libraries, Publicity, Readers, Reading, Socializing, Uncategorized, Unpublished, Vintage, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Emma Takes 5 with Barbara Jean

Hi there, guys and dolls! Can you believe another month… now wait a minute, of course you can’t, because it hasn’t! Yours truly has just decided it would be nice to 91eSaD4E-KL._SL1500_change things up a bit and feature another Cozy Cat Press author pal in my favorite type of blog post. For those of you who haven’t met, let me introduce to you my good friend, Emma Pivato. She’s written three books in her Claire Burke Mystery Series and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed them all.  The latest is ROSCOE’S REVENGE and it’s a real humdinger. All of the books have a great sense of travel and adventure, as well as some interesting characters who we should all get to know better. By the way, I was tickled when I came across a lovely surprise in the newest tale. Now you know I won’t say, you’ll just have to get the book and find out what it is. In the meantime, have a seat and find out about my dear chum!

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

The Claire Burke Mystery Series was conceived as a way to satisfy several passions of mine simultaneously:

1. I love puzzles and mysteries and bending one’s brain to figure out a solution. I enjoy crossword puzzles and have read hundreds (and maybe thousands) of mystery stories in my life.

2. I enjoy humor and seeing the light side of life and figuring out ways to turn difficulties into challenges and, ultimately, into mildly amusing road bumps on the road of life (and forgetting about the hard part)..

3. But the really big reason is my need to show people with a variety of cognitive and physical challenges as real and worthwhile and interesting people who form part of the fabric of society just like you and me.

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

I am no good with routine. The ideas build up inside me until I can’t stand it any longer, everything else that MUST BE DONE has more or less been done and then I run away and write where nobody knows me and I don’t owe anything to anybody.

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

Sometimes I reread some of my stuff and I just know it is good and I feel a little thrill down my back – and at those moments I know I am really an author and I actually have something to say that is worth saying.

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

Rest and escape from the daily grind of preoccupations and duties.

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

Agatha Christie, Elizabeth George, Dorothy Sayers, M.C. Beaton, – and, unfortunately, the rest I forget. I read them, enjoy them, forget to write down the author’s names and then can never find the series again. Pathetic! I have been influenced by these and may others – L.M. Montgomery, A. J. Cronin, Tolkien just to name three – by the way they bring characters to life and make you think about life. I wanted to do that.

Thanks again for taking the time for a spring social tea with me, Emma.  It’s always such a pleasure to be in your fine company.  And friends, be sure to check out ROSCOE’S REVENGE and her other Claire Burke Mysteries.  Also, do visit her bio on the Cozy Cat Press site and her brand new website


Barbara Jean

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Diane Takes 5 with Barbara Jean

Hi there, guys and dolls!  Well, the month is marching out.  My goodness!  It’s time for my favorite blog posts, the Take 5 interview.  This month, we have a very special guest, Diane Weiner, who has just published her third book in her Susan Wiles Schoolhouse Mysteries, MURDER IN THE MIDDLE.  We invite you to join our celebratory chinwag and bubbly 81OSQhTabeL._SL1500_toasting.  Please enjoy getting acquainted such a lovely and talented lady!

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

My series is the Susan Wiles Schoolhouse Mysteries. The main character is a newly retired music teacher, Susan Wiles, who finds herself searching for a meaningful hobby and a way to still feel like a productive member of society. She tries knitting, scrapbooking, vegan cooking….nothing sparks her interest. Then one day, she goes back to her school to hear her former students perform at the holiday concert. During the intermission, the principal is called upon to give a little speech, but no one can find her. Susan, trying to be helpful, runs to the principal’s office and discovers her former boss dead on the floor. A half-eaten Funfetti cupcake sits on the desk. Now this was an interesting way to pass the time. Solving murders. She’d found her calling.

Susan is happily married to Mike, an all-around good guy. She has a detective daughter, Lynette, who is married to Jason, a college professor. Her son Evan is away at medical school, but appears briefly in book three and has a bigger role in book four. Access to a detective and a medical student are valuable tools in solving murders.

Lynette and Mike are not in favor of Susan’s crime solving escapades. Mike worries about her safety, while Lynette doesn’t appreciate the interference in police business. Throughout the series, the theme of the mother/daughter relationship is explored, both with Susan and Lynette, constantly in conflict, and Susan and her mother. I don’t want to give too much away here as there are some interesting turns regarding this issue.

Each book in the series involves a crime related to a school. In MURDER IS SECONDARY, Susan helps her husband’s friend, a chemistry teacher, clear his name. In MURDER IN THE MIDDLE, Susan’s former colleague has become principal of a middle school. He calls on her help when the bookkeeper disappears from her ransacked office. I am currently writing MURDER IS PRIVATE, where Susan goes to Florida to solve a murder at a private performing arts school to help out a family member.

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

While raising four kids and working full time as a teacher (and earning both masters and doctorate degrees while working), I wouldn’t have survived if I didn’t stick to a schedule. I thrive on routine. I plot out the arc of my books before I begin writing, and decide what big event I want to occur one third of the way, and then two thirds of the way through the book. It helps keep the story from sagging. Before I write each chapter, I write out the events that need to occur to plant clues, develop characters, and move the story along. Then I sit at the computer, get into Susan’s head, and the dialogue takes care of itself. I make a list of suspects, but sometimes change my mind as to who the murderer is as I write the story. I try to throw in enough red herrings to make it interesting.

During the summer and on breaks from school, I can write all day long and love it. During the school year, I try to write most days after dinner, stopping when Jeopardy comes on. Watching Jeopardy with my husband is almost a ritual in our house.

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

When Patricia Rockwell at Cozy Cat Press sent me an acceptance letter, I felt like a real author. Seeing the book covers and holding the actual books in my hand also makes me feel like an author. When I got the proof copy of MURDER IS ELEMENTARY, I actually took pictures of it from different angles and with different backgrounds like I did when each of my kids was born.

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

I get my best writing ideas while running. Something about nature and the rhythmic pace of running spurs my creativity. Of course, sometimes I come up with what I think is brilliant, then I go home and write it down or explain it to my husband only to find I was being a little delusional.

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

I’ve always loved mysteries. Nancy Drew books had me hooked at hello. I love Mary Higgins Clark because she is so suspenseful and you really worry about the damsel she has put in distress. Jodi Picoult is one of my very favorite writers. I’ve read just about everything she has written. Her words are so beautifully put together and she explores real and controversial issues faced by society.

Thanks for sharing your world with me, Diane.  It was a pleasure!  And folks, be sure to check out MURDER IN THE MIDDLE (and the rest of the Susan Wiles Schoolhouse Mysteries) on Kindle.  Also visit her website at and follow her on Twitter.  She also has a fab and fun book trailer for her latest on Youtube. And again, congratulations, Diane!


Barbara Jean

Posted in Authors, books, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, ebooks, Fiction, Indie Presses, Interviews, Readers, Reading, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why so Glum, Chum?

Hi there, guys and dolls!  Andrea and Heather are taking over the post once again.  We’re in the final round of edits of book number three in our Poppy Cove Mystery Series.  It’s been a pleasure to write it, and it’s a story we knew we wanted to tell right from the early planning days of the Santa Lucia social set.  We are so looking forward to bringing it to you.  We’ll share more about it in upcoming posts, we promise.

It’s been an exciting time for us.  We’re getting ready to do some personal appearances and putting plans in motion, which for us includes planning out our outfits, and we’ve also been very happy to get our story out in a readable fashion.  But a funny thing happened.  We were sitting, writing conversing as we do, and all of a sudden a strange anxious, restless mood took over both of us, and we could not explain it.  Then we realized what had happened.  We were writing a scene in the new book where one of the main characters was at loose ends and we had taken on her emotions, her ennui and frustrations.  We had to laugh and dove into her feelings, describing further what she did and her thoughts. It certainly had happened before — a writer can’t help but feel, imagine, empathize with their characters, but this was the first time it had been that intense, that contradictory to how we were feeling in our own moods that day.

We became more aware of it as we moved through various scenes and situations over the next few days.  Happy, intense, sad, scary.  It was truly an amazing experience of viewing life through someone else’s eyes.  Fictional characters may be made up, conglomerates of character traits or impressions of others, but to us, the writers, (and at times, as readers) the characters feel real.  Their emotions, plights, gaffes, misadventures and joys feel real.  They cause us to react, think, and develop care and concern for their ‘lives.’ This adventure of writing is turning out to be the ride of our lives, both imagined and unexpected.  Thank you so much for being along for the journey.

Warm Regards,

Andrea and Heather

aka Barbara Jean

Posted in Authors, Blogs, books, Characters, Cozy Mysteries, Cozy Mystery Series, Creativity, e-publishing, ebooks, Perspective, Readers, Reading, Writers, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments