Monday, January 01, 2018

Getting Lost in a Good Story

On December 30 I received a book in the mail from Delacorte Press; they had kindly sent me a copy of S.T.A.G.S, a new novel, perhaps in hopes that I would read and review it. I am lucky enough to receive books with regularity, but not all of the stories catch my fancy, and often I start one and put it aside again.

Who knows what sort of alchemy is involved when a reader and a book find that they are a good match? I only know that when I opened this book and read the first page, my brain said "Yes!"

December 30 happened to be my birthday, and I sat down in the afternoon to enjoy the unexpected gift. For the first time in a long time, I finished a book in one sitting because I just couldn't put it down.

Don't we all long for that very reading experience?

S.T.A.G.S had an interesting premise: a middle-class British girl is accepted into the school known by the title acronym. It stands for St. Aidan the Great School, a prestigious boarding academy that is the realm of the very rich. From the start the heroine, Greer (named after Greer Garson because of her father's love of movies) knows that she is an outcast, but she's determined to keep her head down, do her work, and just get through the semester. She doesn't need to be popular. And yet, like any teenager, she does sometimes crave approval, and like everyone on campus she dreams of being noticed by The Medievals, the beautiful, privileged six who dominate the campus with their wealth and breeding. The leader of this group is Henry: tall, blond, charming as a prince. Or so it would seem.

When Greer and two other misfits are invited to Henry's estate for a weekend of "huntin, shootin, fishin," the reader knows that The Medievals are up to no good, and deep down Greer knows it, too, but she can't resist the invitation and the chance to be popular.

One has to suspend some disbelief in order to enter into the St. Aidan's world, but the book was well-written, capturing the tone of The Other as Greer tries to negotiate the exclusionary behaviors on campus. Although this is meant on one level to be fun suspense, the novel does a good job of interrogating wealth, white privilege, and arbitrary class distinctions.

I'm sure it will be made into a movie, and I for one will go to see it.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Cozy Writer Kathy Krevat Chats about Sweet Treats, Ocean Views and Communities of Strong Women

First things first: you write about chocolate in your Chocolate Covered Mystery series, so you are the expert: what’s the best      chocolate treat in the world?

Dallmann Fine Chocolates – their Fleur de sel Caramels. They’re an amazing combination of sweet and salty chocolate goodness. I use them in the Chocolate Covered Mystery books – my main character, Michelle Serrano, gives away bite size pieces as a “gateway drug” to get customers in the store.

Speaking of best in the world, you wrote on your blog that you live near one of the most beautiful places in the world, The Torrey Pines State Park. Tell us about it!

Torrey Pines State Park is a gorgeous place with winding trails through the bluffs filled with Torrey Pine trees (imagine that!) where every time you go around a corner, you see a beautiful view of the Pacific Ocean. The park backs up onto the Torrey Pines Golf Course – home of many golf tournaments – that you’ve probably seen on TV.

I often walk when I’m trying to solve a problem in my book, and somehow walking on the beach – the sound of waves or the sea air – usually does the trick.

What made you decide to write mysteries?

I started writing mysteries when I read Janet Evanovich’s One for the Money and discovered that murder mysteries could be hilarious! I’d worked in public relations and marketing and assumed that because I read a lot and knew how to write ad copy, that I’d automatically know how to write a novel. Hah! I floundered for quite a while until I joined writing organizations like Sisters in Crime and Romance Writers of America.

What I love about writing mysteries is what people like about reading them – figuring out the clues, getting to know characters, learning something new, and seeing that justice is done.

I was delighted to finally meet Janet Evanovich last year. I let her know that she inspired me to write and that I have two series because of it.

 Who are your mystery heroes?

I’m assuming you mean authors and that’s easy. Terrie Moran, author of the Read ‘Em and Eat mystery series has been a wonderful friend and mentor. Jenn McKinlay, Kate Carlisle and Daryl Wood Gerber have answered tons of questions from me about the publishing industry. Harley Jane Kozak was very inspirational to me as well.

The writing industry is pretty unique in the level of support, knowledge and training most published authors offer new writers.

If you could choose a “personal trainer” in the publishing world, who would it be?

 Anyone? J.K. Rowling. She’s a master author and plotter. Hard working and committed to both her writing and to worthy causes. I admire her a great deal.

 Why did you choose to write a series about chocolate (not that I’m complaining)?

Chocolate is something that most people like! Also, I wanted to write cozies, but I’m not very crafty and I don’t cook. However, I can make chocolate. Isabella Knack, owner of Dallmann’s Fine Chocolates, provides the recipes in the books. The truffles I make are not the works of art she creates, but even my ugly lumps of chocolate are delicious. 

It’s also fun to describe chocolate – a lot of readers recommend having chocolate nearby when reading the books.  Chocolate has a long and rich history -- I use the history of chocolate by the Mayan people  in Truffled to Death.

Your website says you are obsessed with the Broadway Idiot documentary. What is that?

 It shows how the Broadway musical American Idiot was made with the initial approval and then enthusiastic input of Billy Joe Armstrong from Green Day. Watching it makes me want to write a musical. (Which would be impossible since I don’t play an instrument. Or write music. Or read music.) The documentary shows the sense of community and collaboration it takes to create theater, and I really admire that.

What books are now on your nightstand?

I just finished writing the second book in the series – The Trouble With Truth – so the To Be Read pile is even larger than normal. Being under deadline doesn’t stop me from buying books, just reading them. Kate Carlisle’s Eaves of Destruction and Jenn McKinlay’s Death in the Stacks are on the top of the pile.

I help to coordinate a writing conference for high school students which is my excuse for reading a lot of young adult books. I’m currently reading John Green’s Turtles All the Way Down at the same time as Maggie Stiefvater’s All the Crooked Saints. And there are about twenty more in the pile.

You live in San Diego; what’s the best thing about this place? Do you think you’ll live there forever?

The best thing about San Diego really is the weather. My husband and I walk most mornings, and we can do that at least 335 days of the year. (I might even be underestimating that number.) I love walking on the beach – it’s always changing. One of the surprising things about San Diego is the amazing theater community we have. Lots of Broadway shows get their start here and there’s so much quality work being done.

I’m not sure if we’ll live here forever, but even if we move somewhere else for a while, I’m sure we’ll come back.

You’ve lived on both the east and west coast. Which has made a bigger impact on your personality?

Since I’ve been in California longer, I’d have to say the west coast. But I also think that my personality and my views on life have always fit in here.  

What would you like readers to know about your books, and where can they find out more?

Both of my series feature strong women who run their own businesses and solve mysteries on the side. In The Trouble With Murder, single mom Colbie Summers is struggling to grow her Meowio Batali Gourmet Cat Food when she discovers the dead body of her friend and fellow entrepreneur.

In the Chocolate Covered Mystery series, chocolatier Michelle Serrano and book store manager Erica Russell manage their store – Chocolates and Chapters – while they solve mysteries in the small town of West Riverdale, Maryland.

Check out my website at or follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

Kathy Krevat is the author of the GOURMET CAT MYSTERY series featuring cat food chef Colbie Summers and her demanding cat Trouble, the culinary muse behind her recipes. Kathy also writes the bestselling CHOCOLATE COVERED MYSTERY series under the pen name, Kathy Aarons.

Kathy lives in San Diego with her husband of twenty-five years in the perfect location – close to Philz Coffee and the beach, and within visiting distance of her two grown daughters. When she’s not writing, she’s an advocate for youth arts education and president of Partners in Crime, the San Diego Chapter of Sisters in Crime. 

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Why I Can't Watch Horror Movies

Raquel Welch in THE LAST OF SHEILA. (Dusty Video Box)
My husband and sons love horror movies, and they plan to watch a whole bunch of them this month in anticipation of Halloween.

I will, as always, be in another room, reading or surfing the Net or watching a video more appropriate for me. I love wholesome oldies like The Sound of Music and That Darn Cat.  :)

To prove my low threshold for horror, I can share the movie that truly horrified me as a child: a campy 1973 production called THE LAST OF SHEILA. It starred James Coburn, Raquel Welch, Ian McShane, Dyan Cannon, James Mason, and Richard Benjamin. Truly an all-star cast for a cross between an Agatha Christie novel and a horror story.

In 1973 I was nine years old; I remember that my mom used to watch the afternoon movie (after she had spent the morning doing chores) and I would hang around watching it with her. She watched this one, and several of the scenes just scared the life out of me, particularly one gruesome one that took place in an old monastery. I had nightmares about it.

Decades later, I confided this in my horror-loving husband, who was eager to watch the movie for its horror elements. He watched it, laughing through most of it, and when we reached the scene that had made such a drastic impression on my young mind, he turned to me with a blank face. "That's it? That's not scary."

It was a little scary, but no, it wasn't the way I remembered it.

So I made it through a second showing of the movie, able as an adult to appreciate some of its finer points.

But it was a great reminder that people should not expose children to potentially frightening images until they are ready to handle them (as little Julia's experience demonstrates).

By the way, if you want to know more about TLOS, here's a blog that reviews it.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Weathering the Storm

I am amazed by the strength, courage and resilience of my friends in Florida in the wake of Irma. Many of them, for varying reasons, have stayed in their homes, ready to wait out the hurricane. They are already enduring a loss of electricity, empty stores, a lack of resources like gasoline, and an unrelenting forecast.

Yet they are finding ways to be positive, and this is inspiring. One of my friends just wrote that she has total peace of mind.
I can't claim that, and I don't have a hurricane barreling toward me!

Thank you to all of you for teaching me a lesson in courage, and I wish healthy and safety to you and your families.

(Art by my son Graham).

Saturday, September 02, 2017

How Long Before the Next Novel? Jess Lourey and Shannon Baker on Creativity, Bad Breakups, and the Restorative Power of Writing

Jess Lourey at a recent book signing.
A conversation with Jess and Shannon:

She was your everything. You woke up with her on your brain, scribbled notes to her throughout the day, fell asleep wondering how to make her happy. And now, after she consumed your life for an entire year, drove you crazy, and fulfilled you on levels you hadn’t known were possible, she’s left you. Just like that, she’s moved on to someone else.

Actually, if you’re lucky, she’s moved on to thousands of someone else's.

I’m talking books and readers, of course, and that day when your sweat and tears moves from your brain and computer to to bookshelves and e-readers all over the country. So, how long until you move on, too? When is it okay to start writing that next novel?

Today, the lovely Shannon Baker and I would like to share our experience on that front. Shannon and I have written over 20 books between us, and we’re on our second national blog tour, Double-booked Round Two. Shannon is promoting Dark Signal, the second in the fabulous Kate Fox series, and I’m shilling for March of Crime, the 11th (gasp!) in my Murder-by-Month mysteries. Pull up a chair, dip into your favorite ice cream flavor, and relax while Shannon and I share our book break-up, moving on stories.

Shannon Baker, you amazing soul, how are you?

Shannon Baker
Shannon: I’m stoked (does that term make me sound old?... or fat?) because I’m plotting a new series. To pick up on your analogy, it’s like the first blush of a romance. We’re flirting and kissing, I can barely think about anything else, and I’m waking up at night with a flutter in my heart.

Jessie: That’s fabulous. Also, “stoked” makes you sound “stoned,” so I’m cool with it. So, I’ve been churning out two books a year since May Day released in 2006. How about you?

Shannon: Slut. And I mean that in the best way possible! I mean, look at all the fun you’ve been having, while I stayed true to a novel that I should have left years earlier. I worked on that one book for over 10 years, finally had it published in 2010 with a nano-press, and then—only then—moved on. Since 2013, I’ve published one book a year, though I’ve had affairs with short stories and experimented with other unmentionable genres.

Jessie: Sweet naughtiness, that’s a lot of book break-ups. How long do you wait after sending one book off to your publisher before you start writing your second book or short story? Or do they overlap?

Shannon: I am at a writer’s retreat right now with a friend who is working on three books simultaneously. Unfathomably, she seems pretty normal. I don’t work on more than one book at a time. So it’s unusual for me to have an idea for a new series while I’m working on line edits from my editor for an ongoing series, AND, last week finished revisions on another book. 

I’m afraid of waiting too long to jump into another book because for me, writing is like exercise. If I let it go too long, it’s painful to get back into shape. It’s a habit and I don’t want to disrupt the routine I’ve established.

Jess's latest Murder-by-the-Month novel
Jessie: Makes sense. When I finished May Day back in 2003, I immediately began to shop it around. It hadn’t occurred to me to start another book until about rejection 376 (I received a total of 423), when an agent told me she liked what I was doing but couldn’t sell it unless it was a series. I began writing June Bug. That agent didn’t sign me, but someone else did. In a perfect world, I’d still have that kind of time (and blissful ignorance about the industry), enough so that I could dedicate complete brain time to one project. 

Now, with multiple series plus my author marketing commitments, I usually give myself 7 days after finishing one book to celebrate, make poor food choices, and relax before I start writing a new novel. Any less than that and I don’t feel like I’m honoring the work and energy I put into the manuscript. Any more than that and I start to go a little crazy. I need creative writing.

Shannon, do you carry around a notebook or something else to keep track of those random, buzzing story ideas for a future project that pop into your brain when you’re working on a current project?

Shannon: Gaa! I hate that I don’t a) carry around a notebook for ideas, and b) have so many ideas I need to. Maybe if carried a notebook I’d have ideas to write in it. But, maybe I’m turning over a new leaf, because as I write this, I remember being at a fun event last weekend and suddenly thinking how great it would be for a mystery series. *runs off to get that cool journal someone gave me*

Jessie: Yes! Write it down. I text myself notes and then transcribe them all at the end of the week. I also try to keep track of any writing hacks that I learn as I go, so I can remember to use them in the future but also so I can share them with others. A lot of those made it into my how-to book, Rewrite Your Life. (Yes, that was a shameless plug.) (Editor: View Jess's whole TED-x talk below).

Since today we’re talking about book break-ups, and specifically that moment when you move from writing one book to the next, it’s only fitting that we end by sharing our real-life break-up remedies. Back in the day when I was dumped by or did the dumping of boyfriends, my go-to was Ben & Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream and red wine out of a box. Those huge shards of dark chocolate from the ice cream would get stuck in my back teeth, and when the red wine would rush over them, it’d create an explosion of rich, bitter deliciousness. Who needs boys when you can make that sort of fun yourself? Shannon, what was your break-up go-to?

Shannon: It took me over a decade, but I got the best break-up remedy possible. My husband of 20 years had a long-lasting affair in our town of 300 people and I left him to start a new life. Took me a while to get my sense of humor back about the whole thing and my appreciation of the place, but when I did, I got a whole mystery series out of it, starting with Stripped Bare and now Dark Signal. They say living well is the best revenge, but I have to say, writing is pretty sweet, too!

Please join Shannon and Jessie as they continue their blog tour. They will each be giving away three books this tour, and every comment you leave at a blog stop gets you once chance to win.

Jess Lourey (rhymes with "dowry") is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, which have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing "a splendid mix of humor and suspense." She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology, a regular Psychology Today blogger, a sought-after workshop leader and keynote speaker who delivered the 2016 "Rewrite Your Life" TEDx Talk (below) and a leader of transformative writer's retreats.

Shannon Baker is the author of the Kate Fox mystery series (Tor/Forge). Set in the isolated cattle country of the Nebraska Sandhills, the series has earned great reviews. Kirkus says, “Baker serves up a ballsy heroine, a colorful backdrop, and a surprising ending.” She also writes the Nora Abbott mystery series (Midnight Ink), featuring Hopi Indian mysticism and environmental issues. Shannon makes her home in Tucson where she enjoys cocktails by the pool, breathtaking sunsets, a crazy Weimaraner, and killing people (in the pages of her books). She was voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2014 Writer of the Year. Visit Shannon at

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Feast on This

The final book in the Lilah Drake Undercover Dish mystery series hit shelves on September 5th. Have you pre-ordered your copy today?

Click here for the Amazon link.

Happy Eclipse!!

Monday, July 03, 2017

My First Foreign Cover

I am excited to unveil the cover of The Big Chili from my Japanese Publisher. The book is now available on the website, and I am thrilled with the whimsical artwork!

If you look closely you will see that the artist used not lines, but tiny dots, to create Lilah, Mick and all the dishes.

If you're a reader in Japan, look for it on bookshelves!