Author Chat Talking All Things Callie’s Kitchen, Plus My New Facebook Group!

jenny and tillieHave you been wanting to know more about the Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries? Maybe you want some details about the author behind the stories (me). 🙂 Well, here you go! Earlier this week, I was part of an author chat with Jerri Cachero, one of the administrators of a cozy mystery Facebook group. Jerri asked me about SECRETS AND PIES, my latest Callie’s Kitchen Mystery, as well as general series questions and some questions about me and my writing/personal life. Jerri’s excellent questions and my answers are below. And speaking of Facebook groups, I have a new one to share with you: Cozy Mystery Crew! Click here to join the group. I’ll have more news on that fabulous new group as the month unfolds. Mark your calendars for our Facebook launch party on May 4th. More info on that to come!cozy mystery crew collage

Now, on to the interview:

Q. It’s always interesting to learn what our favorite authors do when they’re not writing.  Tell us a little about yourself.

A. I live in Illinois, just outside of Chicago and have been married to my wonderful husband, Jim, for almost 21 years. We have two beautiful daughters – the oldest is headed to college next fall. A lot of my time is devoted to them and their activities – they are both into theater and music and are great students.. I love antique stores, reading, finding new restaurants, British mystery shows (and The Great British Bake-Off. You’ll also find me in baking supply stores looking for the latest in Nordic Ware pans – I have a collection.

Q. Calliope “Callie” Costas is a confident, hard-working restaurateur who owns a Mediterranean-Midwestern restaurant, is a loving single mom to 10 year old Olivia and an amateur sleuth.  Who was your inspiration for Callie?

A. The Greek-American aspect of Callie was definitely inspired by my husband, who, like Callie, is half-Greek. I learned so much about the Greek culture from him and I thought it would be fun to create a heroine from the same ethnicity. But, since my husband’s family is rooted in the Midwest, I was fascinated by the way that people take their culture and express it in a certain locale. Callie has a strong affinity to her Greek heritage, but she is a Midwesterner, through and through. She deals with the bad weather, makes the best of things and is down to earth.

Q. Callie has a decent, but sometimes strained, relationship with her ex-husband, Hugh.  I like the way the characters interact – it’s very realistic.  Why did you decide to have Hugh and his new wife, Raine, involved in this mystery and the series?

A. I really wanted to create real characters with real problems. I come from a divorced family and the question of dealing with break ups and loss is one that many people deal with. I didn’t want her to have a fully adversarial relationship with either her ex-husband or his new wife, because I didn’t want cartoonish “villains” that are easy to hate. Callie accepts the situation with her ex, even if she doesn’t always like it. I thought that exploring the real-world tensions and issues between these flawed but basically decent people would create realistic and relatable issues for them to confront, as well as intriguing plot points. Also, I think Raine’s personality creates a lot of potential for humor, even though she doesn’t always intend to.

Q. The characters come alive in your books!  Where did you get the inspiration for Callie’s father George, Sweetie a beloved Aunt that has been in previous books but is now back in Greece and Callie’s maternal grandmother – the lovely Viv?  I loved the scenes where George is “helping” in the restaurant!

A. George is kind of the father that I think everyone wants. I was partly inspired by my father in law, who by the way was not in the restaurant business – he’s a retired psychiatrist (along with my mother in law!)  But he’s a strong family guy with a great sense of humor and lots of love for his family. Sweetie is a combination of many people, but my husband’s grandmother, or yiayia, gave me a lot of inspiration for her. YiaYia was strong, smart lady who said exactly what she thought. And she was a legendary cook! Also his Aunt Beth (who is not from Greece, she was born here). Grandma Viv is another character I love to write about. She is inspired by my own maternal grandmother who helped to raise me. We lost her many years ago, but I think she’d love Viv. Like Viv, she was a straight talker, loving and funny with a great gift of gab.

Q. Okay, I have to ask – will we see wedding bells in the future for Ian Sands, the local police detective, and Callie?

A. LOL! Guess what: may see wedding bells for several people. Let’s just say Callie and Sands have both been hurt in the past, so while they have a strong relationship, they are not jumping into anything. That said, I think they are headed in a good direction. Let’s leave it that, at least for now. 🙂lake geneva boat tour summer mansions

Q. The book takes place in the town of Crystal Bay, Wisconsin during the annual Greek-American Festival and at a murder mystery dinner theater performance.  What type of research did you do for this book and is there a “real” Crystal Bay?

A. The research for this book was a blast. I’ve been to many Greek Festivals and my husband has worked them. I also had family members chime in on Greek fest “drama.” There is a “real” Crystal Bay, or at least, a very similar place: Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. This waterfront town is not too far from Chicago and it gets a lot of tourism. I love it for the history and natural beauty – there is a lot to work with in terms of a mystery. The murder mystery night is taken straight from an event in Lake Geneva that is often held at one of the historical homes that’s been turned into a hotel.

Q. Max, Callie’s right hand person in running the restaurant, has a hard choice to make – working in his family’s farming business or staying at the restaurant.  Why did you decide to include the struggle and resolution in the book?Secrets and Pies giveaway

A. Max is a character that I get a lot of positive feedback about. I posed the following question to readers while I was writing SECRETS AND PIES – who do you want to see more of/learn about?

The resounding answer was Max. Which was great, because he is one of my favorites, too. I wanted to give Max the very real problem of being faced with family obligation vs. what is right for him at this point in his life. The thought of him leaving ratchets up the stakes for Callie. It also gave me the opportunity to introduce a new character, Josh.

Now for a few personal questions…

Q. What is your favorite thing about being an author?

A. Losing myself in creating the story is so rewarding.When I feel like I’ve really nailed it, it’s such a great feeling of accomplishment! Also, interacting with readers and hearing that they love the books is just the best thing ever! Least favorite? The last-minute editing right before a release is super-stressful because that’s when the doubts come at exactly the time I want everything to be perfect.pexels-photo-407294.jpeg

Q. How long have you been writing?

A. I can honestly say I’ve been writing stories since I could write. I’ve always loved it. I worked in various writing capacities before turning to fiction, such as a catalog copywriter, advertising/Web content writer and professional blogger.  What influenced you to write mysteries? I absolutely love mysteries and always have, beginning with Encyclopedia Brown and The Bobbsey Twins. Cozy mysteries are so much fun, I had to try and write one and I’m so glad that I did.

Q. What type of books do you enjoy reading?

A. I do love mysteries, but I read everything from thrillers to contemporary fiction, to non-fiction. The Tudor times and the 1920s are two of my favorite eras to read about. Favorite authors?  I have too many favorite authors to count but here are a few: Ruth Rendell/Barbara Vine, Caroline Graham (author of Midsomer Murders books), F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie, Leslie Meier and Dianne Mott Davidson. Newer cozy authors I love are Linda Reilly and Lorraine Barrett. But literally, the list could be several pages long.

Back to the book…

Q. Do you have a favorite character in the series? Who and Why? OK, besides Callie, I’d have to say George. I just love writing scenes with him. Things always flow when George is talking.

A. What’s your favorite Greek dish to make? I love to make spanakopita (spinach-feta pie) and paxemathia, which are basically a Greek biscotti. spanakopita

Q. Reading the series always makes me hungry!  You have delicious recipes in the back of your books.  Do you enjoy cooking?  Are the recipes, in the books, family recipes? I’m so happy you enjoy the recipes.

A. I have to say that when I hear that readers have made my recipes in their own kitchens, it just makes my day! I love to cook and bake and several of the recipes in the books originate from family recipes, either ones I’ve created or from my husband’s family. I have a 1950s Greek church cookbook that my husband’s grandmother contributed to, and it an endless source of inspiration. I appropriated a recipe from my husband’s Aunt Beth that showed up as Sweetie’s Spinach Squares in SPICED AND ICED. (P.S. I did give her credit in the book! 😊)

Q. Can you give us a hint as to what’s in store for Callie?

A. In my next book, A STEW TO A KILL, it’s a beautiful Midwest October in Crystal Bay and Callie is involved in a Halloween Walk for the downtown business association, and a food pantry benefit that culminates at a Costume Ball. Of course, there are obstacles! We will get to meet or become reacquainted with several of her fellow business owners, (like Christi, from Tea for Two), plus someone from Callie’s past shows up. Will we be seeing the delightful Sweetie again? Oh yes, I am bringing her back eventually. I have something in mind that will require her presence physically in a future book. In the meantime, she just may show up in a Skype session with Callie and George! I’m so thrilled that people enjoy Sweetie – I’ve had several requests for her to return.

Q. Do you plan on writing another series?

A. After I finish up with my latest Callie mystery, I’m settling in to complete the first in a new series idea that I have. I’m about 6 chapters in to this one, but I’m putting it aside until I complete Callie Book 4. My new book features a retired school teacher/librarian with a sharp wit and tongue to match, who finds herself at the center of a crisis when a mystery TV show fan convention she’s helping to organize goes awry. The characters are colorful, and the mystery is a lot of fun. Working title is The Middleton Murder Society.

As always, I love hearing from readers! Have you made one of my recipes? Take a picture of it! Or, have you brought my Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries on vacation, to the park or just around town? Capture it in a photo. I have a fun giveaway idea planned, and your photo (posted on social media) is your entry! Callie's Kitchen Mysteries Logo 1

Are you following me on Facebook and Instagram? Please do so by clicking here and here, and be sure you’re signed up for my newsletter. You’ll get the latest news, plus subscriber only exclusives, like giveaways and recipes!

Until next time,

Jenny

Interview with Cozy Mystery Author Linda Reilly, creator of the new Cat Lady Mystery Series!

Linda author photo 1I’m so happy to feature friend and fellow author Linda Reilly on my blog today! I have not yet met Linda in person (though I hope to someday), but she has been a wonderful mentor to me in my writing career. Whenever I post anything about Linda on my Facebook author page, the response is very enthusiastic, so I thought you’d enjoy learning more about this talented author.

I first got to know Linda through the Sisters in Crime Guppies group. She had a chance to look at my first book, ON THE CHOPPING BLOCK, and she was very warm in her praise and very helpful on some important points in that story. Since then, we have corresponded regularly, worked on Facebook parties together and she is always someone whose input I seek on any new writing project. I’ve been lucky enough that she sends me her work to read, too.  Many of you already know her through her Deep Fried Mystery Series, but now she has a brand new series: The Cat Lady Mysteries.  They are just delightful! The first is called ESCAPE CLAWS and it’s out now. Plus, you can pre-order the second in the series, CLAWS OF DEATH. (Are these great titles or what?) Without further ado, here’s our interview! Please scroll to the end of the post to get buying links for Linda’s wonderful books.

Jenny: I love your writing style. Elegant, descriptive and warm with real characters that you want to know! What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?

Linda: Like so many female mystery writers, I grew up with Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie as my role models. Then sometime in the late 1970s, I became aware of a newcomer named Mary Higgins Clark. Her suspense novels were heart-stopping, and the endings fantastically unpredictable. That led me to seek out other suspense writers–Judith Kelman, Joy Fielding, Wendy Corsi Staub, and Carlene Thompson, to name only a few. Then around the time I joined the Sister in Crime Guppies—2008, I think–I realized that there were some terrific cozy mysteries out there. Reading Krista Davis’s charming Domestic Diva series was a turning point for me. It made me wonder…could I write a cozy mystery? With that I started to devour cozies, and I knew I wanted to write one!

EscapeClawsJenny: Can you tell us a little bit about the current book, Escape Claws, and your new Cat Lady Mystery series?

Linda: Escape Claws was really a departure for me—mainly because of the paranormal element, which I’d never before included in my fiction. In Escape Claws, I not only wanted to highlight the way in which I believe every cat should be loved and cared for, but I also wanted to explore the importance of family connections. When my main character, Lara, reconnects with an aunt she hasn’t seen in sixteen years, her life takes a wholly unexpected turn—ultimately in a good way, but only after overcoming a series of emotional challenges. Future Cat Lady Mysteries will explore this theme, and others.

Jenny: What is your favorite aspect of writing a series? The most challenging?

Linda: My favorite aspect of writing a series is creating characters memorable enough that I hope readers will want to visit them again and again. The ones who play a major role need to be substantial and well-developed enough that you can predict their reactions–and yet surprise readers in ways that are fully believable. Speech patterns fascinate me, and I enjoy making each character’s speech and mannerisms different from the others. The most challenging? For me it’s always the plotting, the shifting around of the puzzle pieces so that they all fit together in the end—and make perfect sense. I agonize over it!

Claws of Death ebook cover (1)Jenny: What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

Linda: I’m not much of an outdoor person, so my favorite activities, in addition to reading, are doing crafts with my apartment community’s crafts club and trying out new recipes.

Jenny: Tell us about your love for cats. How did this influence your current series?

Linda: Oddly enough, I didn’t grow up with cats; I learned to love them in my adulthood. Right now, because of health concerns in my household, I’m not able to have a cat. I think that’s one of the primary reasons I indulge myself by writing about them and casting them as my furry little heroes!

Jenny: What’s next for you?

Linda: I’m nearly done writing the third Cat Lady mystery, CLAWS FOR CELEBRATION, but it’s too soon to know if there will be any more in the series. My next project, which I’m excited about, will be writing the bones of a culinary cozy set in Vermont. I’ve also been toying with an idea for a gothic-style suspense novel, which I hope to tackle one day.

Jenny: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Linda: Only that I feel incredibly fortunate to have been welcomed into the cozy mystery community. Connecting with both the readers and the authors has added so much joy and fulfillment to my life!

Buy Linda’s books online at in-store at Barnes & Noble. She’s also a Goodreads author so be sure to visit her on Goodreads, put your books on her “shelf” and of course, write a review!

Here are some of Linda’s important links:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Linda-Reilly/e/B00AGOH382/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

Barnes & Noble: https://tinyurl.com/y89wyafc

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6588314.Linda_Reilly

Linda’s author website: http://www.lindasreilly.com/

Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/Lindasreillyauthor/

Thanks so much to Linda for this interview, plus her friendship!

Until next time,

Jenny

I Love My Readers Month, plus Friday Giveaways in February

I LOVE MY READERS MONTH design twoI’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: one of the best things about writing is connecting with readers. Writing is a solitary process, so when you put your story out into the world, it ceases to become “yours” in many ways and belongs to the readers.

And that’s a great thing! I absolutely love to hear that people enjoy my characters and settings. One of the best compliments I can receive is that the characters feel like friends and that the reader wishes to visit Crystal Bay, Wisconsin, the setting of the Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries (despite the relatively high murder rate, lol.)

As a way of saying thank you, I’ve designated February I Love My Readers Month and I’m hosting giveaways each Friday in February to say thanks for the readership and reviews, and for spreading the word about my books to family and friends. Winners are chosen at random on my Facebook author page. Be sure to visit the page often to see what’s going on!

And check this out: I will be offering a multi-author grand prize giveaway featuring Linda Reilly, Karoline Barrett, Kim Davis and emerging author Debra Sennefelder. Oh, and me, of course! Thanks to these generous and talented authors for agreeing to contribute to my February month of giveaways!

In addition to all of that, I’m part of a Beyond the Bookmarks online event: Cupids Cozies Week. I’m appearing on Tuesday, February 13th at 11 am PST (that’s 9 am CST) , so head on over for author chat and giveaways. So many wonderful cozy mystery authors are participating: see the graphic below.  The festivities begin today! Click here to visit this online Facebook event.

Cupid Cozies Week

One more thing: I’m hosting an interview right here on this blog with author Linda Reilly, so be sure to check back soon!

Until next time,

Jenny

 

Facebook Party Time — Join Me Tonight, January 26th!

I party on Facebook

I’m so pleased to have been asked to join an amazing author lineup to help celebrate the launch of Lena Gregory’s new book, SCONE COLD KILLER. Starting at 6 pm EST and wrapping up at 11 pm EST, several of your favorite cozy mystery authors will be on hand to chat with readers and offer fabulous giveaway opportunities! The best part: you can join us from the comfort of your own home. So grab a snack (a lot of us are culinary cozy mystery authors, so you might get hungry, lol) and fire up your computer for some cozy mystery good fun. Here is the link to paste into your browser: https://www.facebook.com/events/527648197597920/?notif_t=plan_admin_added&notif_id=1517006530620362

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Here’s the lineup. Note: I appear at 9:45 pm EST.

Host Schedule- All Times EASTERN
6:30 PM- Lena Gregory
6:45 PM- Sharon Pape
7:00 PM- Lynn Cahoon
7:15 PM- Mollie Bryan
7:30 PM- Lena Gregory
7:45 PM- Marilyn Levison
8:00 PM- V. M. Burns
8:15 PM- Sandra Bretting
8:30 PM- Linda Reilly
8:45 PM- Sherry Harris
9:00 PM- J.C. Eaton
9:15 PM- Diane Bator
9:30 PM- Debra Sennefelder
9:45 PM- Jenny Kales
10:00 PM- Nicole Leiren
10:15 PM- Catherine Bruns (30 mins)
10:45 PM- Ellen Byron
11:00 PM- Lena Gregory (Closing and Thank You)

 

I hope you’ll be there, but if not, no worries. I’m going to be part of another event in February, hosted by Beyond the Bookmarks. Plus, February is I LOVE MY READERS month, so more giveaways and surprises to come! Check back here, my Facebook author page AND my newsletter for all of the latest news.

 

Thanks so much to all of you for your amazing support!
Until next time,

Jenny

Happy 2018!! Lots more Callie’s Kitchen to come, plus Facebook parties and reader/author events!

pexels-photo-64775.jpegHappy New Year! Or Kali Chronia as Callie Costas would say!

I know — it’s been a very long time since I posted ANYTHING on this blog and I apologize. After my release of SECRETS AND PIES, my third Callie’s Kitchen Mystery, I had a blast promoting it on an extensive blog tour and doing what seemed like a Facebook party event every other day. Then of course, there were the holidays. I guess time got away from me! I’m happy that so many of you follow me via my Facebook author page, though, and have joined my email list. There was a lot going on last year!

It’s been a super-busy time, and it’s been a lot of fun interacting with readers, talking about my series and thinking up the next adventure for Callie. I took a little break during the holidays, but now I’m back at it, plotting my next Callie adventure — Book 4! I will keep you updated, of course, both here and on my Facebook author page.

I also have some exciting news to share! I had the honor of being named a “Top Favorite” author by book reviewer Kathleen Costa of “Kings River Life Magazine.” Here’s the link if you’d like to read the article. I’m in some absolutely fantastic company on that list. I want to say THANK YOU to all of you for your incredible enthusiasm and wonderful reviews of all three of my books. I’m so glad that so many of you enjoy reading my series as much as I enjoy writing it.

Secrets & Pies-eBook

I have some fun new ideas for 2018 — including a second series that I’ve already begun — as well as many more author and reader events. I’ve got two coming up on my calendar already. I’ll be part of another Cozy Mystery Pajama Party created by author Lena Gregory in January and Karen Owen is hosting me in February as part of a Valentine’s Day event. Since my “Very Cozy Holiday Party” in December with Linda Reilly, Debra Sennefelder and Karoline Barrett was such a big success, I will be doing more those types of events. I’ll let you know the exact dates and times when I have them.

I plan to expand from selling my books on more platforms, so I will keep you posted as to that timeline as well.

pexels-photo-407294.jpegBut the most important thing I’ll be doing in the coming months is WRITING! I can’t wait to share more of my work with you. It does take some time to get it exactly right, so I hope you’ll be patient. :)

In the meantime, follow me on Facebook, sign up for my newsletter and be sure keep reading, reviewing and recommending my Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries. It’s wonderful to know that so many of you have done that already. I’ve gained so many readers last year and I look forward to meeting many more in 2018! I love to hear from you, so be sure to stop by and comment, both here and on Facebook.

I wish all of you happiness, health, peace and prosperity in the coming year. Thanks for joining me!

Until next time,

Jenny

 

 

 

Pre-Order my 3rd Callie’s Kitchen Cozy Mystery, SECRETS AND PIES, today! Plus, Blog Tour News!

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I’m excited to announce that you can now pre-order SECRETS AND PIES on Amazon! Please visit the book’s Amazon page to get a complete synopsis of my latest Callie’s Kitchen Mystery! Of course, Callie has a lot on her plate — and the books includes mystery, mayhem and delicious recipes!

If you visit my Facebook page and let me know that you pre-ordered, you will be entered in a random drawing to win author swag and a $25 Amazon gift card! Please let me know that you pre-ordered by commenting on the pinned post at the top of my Facebook author page. Newsletter subscribers who pre-order will be eligible for even more prizes. So don’t wait — pre-order now! And sign up for my newsletter: I’ll have more details on my special subscriber giveaway very soon.

For all of my paperback readers (I love paperbacks, too!), I will have a paperback version up soon.

The official launch date for SECRETS AND PIES is October 19th. I’m happy to tell you that lots of book launch events will be taking place throughout October and beyond!

Here are just a few things: I will be on a blog tour (see below), I’ll be co-hosting a Facebook launch party with Karen of A Cup of Tea and a Cozy Mystery blog and I’ll be participating in several online cozy mystery events. These include Halloween cozy mystery parties and a cozy mystery “pajama” party. The one thing all of these events have in common is that we will have games, prizes, book giveaways and lots of fun!

escape with dollycas secrets and pies book tour image

Check this link for a list of blogs participating in my “Great Escapes Blog Tour,” hosted by the Escape with Dollycas cozy mystery blog. Mark your calendars and check my Facebook author page often for updates!

I also hope you will RSVP to my Facebook Book Launch party. Facebook parties are fast-paced and fun. This is a great opportunity to connect with readers — I can’t wait! We’ll have lots of games, giveaways and prizes, too, of course! I hope to see you there! Here’s the link to find out more and to RSVP to the party. No pressure — stop in whenever you have time during the two-hour event.

secrets and pies beyond the bookmarks

As always, stay up to date via my newsletter and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram!

This is a busy and exciting time and I will share updates as I have them. Thanks to all of you for your enthusiasm about The Callie’s Kitchen Mystery Series!

Until next time,

Jenny

 

 

 

 

COVER REVEAL: SECRETS AND PIES: A Callie’s Kitchen Mystery Book 3!!

Secrets & Pies-eBookI can’t believe I’m already showing you the cover for BOOK 3!! Here it is: SECRETS AND PIES. What do you all think?

The book is still in the editing process and I expect it to be available for pre-order sometime in September. In the meantime, here’s a description of SECRETS AND PIES:

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of Callie’s Kitchen!
It’s summer in Crystal Bay and that means tourist season for Calliope “Callie” Costas, owner of Callie’s Kitchen, a Greek-meets-Midwest from-scratch food business. Business is booming but so is the stress: besides agreeing to bake dozens of “pitas” or savory Greek pies for the annual Greek Fest, Callie is taxed by her regular workload, including an abundance of orders for her famous summer fruit pies.

It doesn’t take long for things to get as juicy as the succulent berries strewn all over Callie’s Kitchen. When Callie agrees to contribute the cast party treats for a murder mystery night at the elegant but slightly spooky “Harris House,” she finds herself an unwilling player in yet another murder! Worse yet, the dead body just happens to be a family friend.

Add personnel problems at work, family mayhem, a long suspect list, a deepening romance with a local detective and a constant stream of outdoor festivals requiring her Greek and Midwestern delicacies and Callie could be in for a long, hot summer!

Keep up to date with all of my author news by joining my mailing list and visiting me on my Facebook author page.

Back at you soon!

Jenny