JENNIFER J. CHOW – Cozies and Fortune Cookies

Jennifer J. Chow writes cozies filled with hope and heritage. She is an Agatha, Anthony, and Lefty Award-nominated author. Her newest series is the Magical Fortune Cookie mysteries; the first book is Ill-Fated Fortune (February 2024). Jennifer’s previous series is the L.A. Night Market Mysteries. Death by Bubble Tea was reviewed by the New York Times, featured in Woman’s World, and hit the SoCal Indie Bestseller List.

Jennifer currently serves as Immediate Past President on the board of Sisters in Crime and blogs at chicksonthecase.com. She is an active member of Crime Writers of Color and Mystery Writers of America

Felicity Jin and her mother run a magical bakery in the quaint town of Pixie, California. Their life is charmed—until a prediction from one of Felicity’s handmade fortune cookies comes true in an unlucky, murderous way.

Researching the Fortune Cookie  – Book research takes you down unexpected paths. When I first thought up my new series, I figured fortune cookies would be an excellent treat for my baker protagonist to make. I mean, what’s more Chinese American than a fortune cookie?

Turns out there’s a lot of interesting history (and some drama) behind the humble cookie. I’d grown up eating and serving a lot of fortune cookies. My family, after all, owned a Chinese restaurant. At the end of every meal, I’d be sure to bring a customer their check along with a free fortune cookie.

Little did I know then that in uncovering the convoluted history of the fortune cookie, I’d find Japanese roots. After online research and a thorough reading of Jennifer 8. Lee’s The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, I traced the cookie’s origin to tsujiura senbei. This wafer-like cookie from the Kyoto region of Japan also has an enclosed fortune, although it has a more savory flavor than the modern fortune cookie.

In America, California is definitely the birthplace of the fortune cookie, with entrepreneurs from San Francisco and Los Angeles claiming to be the original makers of the cookie. And around World War II, both Japanese and Chinese restaurants appeared to serve the treat. With the incarceration of Japanese Americans during that tumultuous period, though, the manufacturers of the cookies shifted. Chinese bakeries started making fortune cookies—and eventually developed a mechanized process to mass-produce them.

So, through my research, I learned that fortune cookies aren’t tied to my Chinese roots like I’d expected. I hint at this fact in Ill-Fated Fortune, the first in my Magical Fortune Cookie mysteries. However, they could be considered American—at least the sweet vanilla version. In the end, I guess that factoid accurately reflects my main character: Felicity Jin, the third generation in her family to live in the U.S.

Connect with Jennifer online and sign up for her newsletter at JenniferJChow.com

Ill-Fated Fortune released 2/20/24

Here’s a buy link: https://read.macmillan.com/lp/ill-fated-fortune/

FACEBOOK GROUPS (though I’m not really that active anymore):
https://www.facebook.com/groups/DialCforCozy
https://www.facebook.com/groups/726103940858234/

8 Comments

  1. Carl Vonderau

    I didn’t know that fascinating history about fortune cookies. Sounds like a great series.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Jennifer, I just broke open my fortune cookie and it says: Ms. Chow will have much good fortune and success. It sounds like you’re riding the crest of the wave. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Jennifer J. Chow

      Ha, Michael! That’d be an amazing fortune. Thank you!

      Reply
  3. Margaret Mizushima

    How cool, Jennifer! I’ll have to tell my husband about this. Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • Jennifer J. Chow

      Hurrah, Margaret! And, yes, let your husband know.

      Reply

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BARBARA HOWARD – Pentagon Veteran, Treasure Hunter, Author

 Barbara Howard is an author of mystery stories featuring a female amateur sleuth, diverse characters, and a dash of romance. Books include the Finding Home Mystery Series, Final Harvest, Charlotte’s Revenge, and Milo’s Journey. She is a first-generation tech geek turned master gardener. Ms. Howard returned to her Midwestern hometown after an extensive career as a Department of Defense Project Manager at the Pentagon and KPMG Finance and Accounting, Eastern Region. She spends most of her time treasure hunting, spoiling her fur babies, growing veggies, and plotting whodunits.

Please share your elevator pitch with us: The Taste of RainCollege student and part-time health aide Amira Connors wants nothing more than to graduate and successfully launch a non-profit with her latest crush, Attorney Darius Browne. But when a nursing home patient (Claire Stewart) shares shocking details surrounding her husband’s death, Amira pieces together the fractured memories and helps law enforcement identify the actual killer. But is he? Or have Claire’s ramblings entangled Amira into becoming the next target?

Has an association membership helped you with your writing? I belong to several associations, and each relationship is beneficial. I consider Sisters in Crime a shining star above them all. The networking, publishing, and educational resources are top-notch. I’ve built many friendships through my affiliation with SinC.

How do you come up with character names? If you’ve ever contacted me through a direct message (DM) with the classic line “Hello beautiful” or to interest me in cryptocurrency, chances are your name has been added to my list of character profiles. Most often, the murder victim.

What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? Making sure that they don’t sound like my ex-husband. Just kidding, sort of. I spent the majority of my career in the Pentagon, tech, and financial firms, all predominantly male environments. I have plenty of voices in my head (I’ve dubbed them the Ghosts of Briefings-Past) that feed my stories.

Do you base any of your characters on real people? Each character is my personal Frankenstein—a patchwork of several people I’ve known. I determine the character’s backstory, internal struggle, goals, and passions. Then, I go shopping for traits and behaviors that match the people I’ve met throughout my life. I’m a quilter, and piecing the fabric is my favorite part of that process. I suppose that has translated into my writing process and makes it fun for me.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I am a flexible plotter. I map out everything and try to stick to it. I  need a clear path and goal for each scene. However, I allow room for the characters to breathe and grow. If that causes the plot to take unexpected twists and turns, I go with the flow. PS: That always happens, and it’s another part of the fun.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations? Each setting has components from different places where I’ve lived, worked, or visited. Once I decide what the setting should look and feel like, I pull from my experiences in similar places to create it. That way, every time I walk through a scene with a character, it feels very real to me. And I hope that authenticity conveys over to the reader as well.

   

Do you have any advice for new writers? Try not to compare yourself to other authors. Find your own voice. Continue perfecting your craft. Learn something new every day. And trust the process.

Recent projects: Contributing author to the wedding-themed cozy mystery anthology Malice, Matrimony, and Murder.

Memberships:
Sisters in Crime,
Great Lakes Fiction Writers,
Crime Writers of Color,
Mystery Writers of America,
Gamma Xi Phi

Facebook groups:
Building Relationships Around Books,
Cozy Crime Collective,
World of Black Writers,
Gamma Xi Phi,
Women Reading Great Books,
Tattered Page Book Club

Links:
Contact – http://www.authorbarbarahoward.com
Buy – https://linktr.ee/BarbaraHoward

7 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Nice to meet you, Barbara. You really gave some excellent advice. I especially liked the term “flexible plotter.” I’m going to have to steal that one. 😉 Also, I’m going to have to stop saying, “Hello beautiful” so I don’t accidentally end up as one of your murder victims. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Barbara Howard

      Hi Michael, I certainly don’t want to discourage you from sharing those lovely greetings through DM. Perhaps I should frame it as I would honor the next person with the important role of murder victim in my next mystery. Because we all know that in crime fiction, the action doesn’t start until the body drops. 🙂

      Reply
  2. Marla Bradeen

    Love this interview, Barbara! I bet all of those spammers never expected to be featured in your books. Thanks for sharing Malice, Matrimony, and Murder, and congrats on your new series!

    Reply
    • Barbara Howard

      Thanks, Marla! The anthology is a wonderful collection and you get to meet new authors and fall in love with their books. What could be more fun than that?

      Reply
  3. Barbara Howard

    Thank you for welcoming me into your community and allowing me to share about my journey and anthology, Malice, Matrimony, and Murder.

    Reply
    • Kathleen Kalb

      Great interview — and I’m “borrowing” that idea for naming victims!

      Reply
      • Barbara Howard

        Hi Kathleen, you never know where inspiration comes from, right? Sometimes they “slide into your DMs” 🙂

        Reply

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MICHELLE CORBIER – Medical Doctor / Author / Publisher

Born in Illinois, as a military dependent, Michelle moved between San Diego, California, and Charleston, South Carolina. She enrolled at the University of California Santa Cruz before attending Michigan State University, where she completed a Pediatric residency program. After over twenty years in clinical medicine, Michelle now works as a medical consultant.

As a member of Crime Writers of Color, Sisters in Crime, and Capitol Crimes, her writing interests cover many genres—mystery, paranormal, and thrillers. If not writing, you can find her outside gardening or bicycling.

Murder in Gemini – When not practicing medicine, Dr. Myaisha Douglas writes mysteries. But murder intervenes when the sister of a friend suddenly dies. Myaisha suspects murder. Her writing group investigates the homicide, hoping to publish a true crime story. The investigation becomes deadly when Myaisha uncovers an important secret behind a necklace.

I write mystery, thrillers, suspense, and fantasy stories. The location varies, but I prefer to write at a desk. Long term, it protects my back. Anyone considering a long-term career in writing should use supportive equipment to protect their musculoskeletal health. Carpal tunnel syndrome, cubital tunnel syndrome, and back pain cause serious discomfort.

A window is necessary for my writing. It allows my mind to wander and stimulates creativity. I write piecemeal as ideas arise, primarily on weekends and evenings. Once I get in a groove, I can’t be distracted. It’s not uncommon for me to write for ten to twelve hours straight. My routine is unscheduled and directed by inspiration. Breaks never last over two weeks.

Editing is challenging—not because I don’t like it. I prefer editing to composing an original manuscript. The first step in my process is what I call free writing. Whatever comes to mind goes on the page. After I finish the WIP, I go back and construct a cohesive narrative. The critique group receives the manuscript. I’ll work on the WIP and send it to my developmental editor. Once the editor comments, I review the manuscript again and discuss it with my critique partners. I use ARCs to get feedback and complete another comprehensive review before sending it to the copyeditor. The proofreader is the final step before publishing. Currently, I am working on a standalone suspense thriller.

Before I decided to publish, I joined Capitol Crimes, a chapter of Sisters in Crimes. Serving on the educational committee for SIC gave me insight into the publishing business that otherwise would have required years of experience. I also found my critique group through Capitol Crimes. Crime Writers of Color brought me a support group and resources important to any author.

I write stories I want to read. Therefore, my protagonists are carefully designed—no matter how flawed. As a physician, I work with people. While I never base a character on a specific person, they provide ideas about how characters behave—mannerisms and colloquialisms.

The plan is to continue writing good stories with enduring characters. My characters could be your friend or neighbor. If the stories make you smile, cry, or laugh, I’m satisfied. Books should evoke emotions.

Last year, I started a publishing business and intend to invest time and effort into its success. Longevity is key for the writing career I desire. Publishing has taught me valuable skills and introduced me to inspiring people. I’m enjoying the journey.

I belong to Capitol Crimes, Sisters in Crime, and Crime Writers of Color.

https://www.MichelleCorbier.com
web@MichelleCorbier.com
https://books2read.com/u/bzVMrG

 

3 Comments

  1. Paty Jager

    Your book sounds interesting. I’m happy to know that my need to be at my desk so I’m treating my writing like a job is also good for my back. Sending you success vibes for your book and your publishing business.

    Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    Interesting blog, Michelle. i’m glad you’re taking care of your back by writing at a desk. I assume you use a computer, which is a good thing considering nobody can read a doctor’s handwriting. 😉 (Pardon the bad joke, but I couldn’t resist.) You’ve now joined the annals of other writer/physicians like Arthur Conan Doyle and Michael Crichton. I wish you much success. Good luck.

    Reply
    • Michelle

      Thank you, Michael. Pun appreciated. Happy writing, and reading.
      Michelle

      Reply

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GIGI PANDIAN – USA Today Bestselling and Award-winning Author

Gigi Pandian is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning mystery author, breast cancer survivor, and locked-room mystery enthusiast. The child of cultural anthropologists from New Mexico and the southern tip of India, she spent her childhood being dragged around the world on their research trips and now lives in northern California. She’s been awarded Agatha, Anthony, Lefty, and Derringer awards and has been a finalist for the Edgar. She writes the Secret Staircase mysteries, Accidental Alchemist mysteries, and Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt mysteries.

The Raven Thief: A locked-room mystery Publishers Weekly called a “brilliant homage to classic golden age authors” in a starred review.

One murder. Four impossibilities. A fake séance hides a very real crime. Secret Staircase Construction just finished their first project with Tempest Raj officially a part of the team―a classic mystery novel-themed home interior. Their client is now ready to celebrate her new life without her cheating ex-husband, famous mystery author Corbin Colt. First up, a party, and Tempest and Grandpa Ash are invited to the exclusive mock séance to remove any trace of Corbin from the property―for good. It’s all lighthearted fun until Corbin’s dead body crashes the party. The only possible suspects are the eight people around the séance table―a circle of clasped hands that wasn’t broken. Suspicion quickly falls on Grandpa Ash, the only one with actual blood on him. To prove her beloved grandfather’s innocence, Tempest must figure out what really happened―and how―or Ash will be cooking his delectable Indian and Scottish creations nevermore.

Do you write in more than one genre?  Everything I write is a lighthearted mystery (nothing dark or gritty), but I write in overlapping mystery subgenres. My Jaya Jones novels are adventure cozies, my Accidental Alchemist Mysteries are paranormal, and my new Secret Staircase Mysteries are locked-room mysteries.

Where do you write?  I used to be a café writer, but during the pandemic, I carved out a beautiful, yet tiny, space in my house, with bay windows next to my desk.

What, if any, distractions do you allow? I listen to rain sounds while writing, which is a wonderful vibe for ambient noise. My husband and I both work from home, so we set up our home offices at the far ends of the house so we wouldn’t distract each other! If our doors are closed, we send a text message to each other to see if we’re interruptible (my “door” is a curtain). If the door is open, we’re not doing deep work and can talk to each other.

What are you currently working on? I’m alternating between revisions for the third Secret Staircase Mystery and writing the next Accidental Alchemist Mystery.

How long did it take you to write your first book? I started writing as a hobby in 2001. It was only when I discovered National Novel Month five years later that I finally finished writing a whole draft. I was so excited that I sent it to the Malice Domestic grants competition for unpublished traditional mystery writers, and I was so surprised to win that year’s grant! That’s what got me to take my writing seriously. I joined Sisters in Crime, found a local writing community, and took workshops to learn how to make the book good. That took another two years.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? An outline is my security blanket! But as soon as I begin writing, my characters take over, and my outline goes out the window.

Where do you place your settings—real or fictional locations?

I always start with real places and real history, then branch off into fiction. My Secret Staircase Mysteries are set in the fictional small town of Hidden Creek, California, which is quite similar to my town on a hillside in the San Francisco Bay Area, but with lots more freedom to create whatever I need for the story to work.

What kind of research do you do? As much as the Internet can be helpful, the most inspiring bits of information usually comes from tangible experiences, such as visiting a location or finding an old book in the library. I have dozens of paper notebooks filled with notes.

What is your favorite novel? My favorite book is Borrower of the Night by Elizabeth Peters, a perfect mix of mystery, romance, humor, and adventure. I discovered it at the perfect time, as a teenager, and it’s the book that made me want to be a writer.

Favorite movie? Romancing the Stone.

Looking to the future, what’s in store for you? I have so many books and stories I want to write! The challenge is carving out time to write them.

Do you have any advice for new writers? Don’t compare your journey to anyone else’s.

How do our readers contact you?

My website, where you can send me a note or sign up for my email newsletter, which comes with my free Edgar-nominated short story “The Locked Room Library” — www.gigipandian.com
My books — www.gigipandian.com/books
Amazon — amazon.com/author/gigipandian

17 Comments

  1. Thonie Hevron

    I’ve seen Gigi’s name as an active member of the San Francisco Bay Area writers’ community. This is the first time I’ve taken to read an interview. Thank you, George, for introducing us all to this remarkable author. I will be buying and reading books by Gigi Pandian!

    Reply
  2. Donnell Ann Bell

    Gigi, such a delight to read about your process. Thanks, George for hosting her!

    Reply
  3. Pamela Meyer

    Thanks George and Gigi, for this deeper look. I’m reading and loving the Raven Thief right now. I must say, Gigi, I’d need to ‘close my door’ sometimes too if I were writing two series (or is it three?) at the same time. How do you keep it all straight?

    Reply
    • Gigi Pandian

      George, thank you again so much for hosting me! And thanks to everyone who stopped by!

      Reply
    • Gigi Pandian

      So happy to hear you’re enjoying the book, Pamela. I only work on one book at a time! Once I hand over a draft to my critique partners or editor, THEN I can switch.

      Reply
  4. Arthur Vidro

    This is an old-fashioned success story — Gigi has talent but also works super-hard on her stories and puts all the necessary blood, sweat, and tears into her writing and rewriting. She’s earned her success. She takes the time to make her writing as good as it can be. And the results speak for themselves.

    Reply
    • Gigi Pandian

      Thank you so much, Arthur. I’m lucky that my family is very understanding when I disappear behind my office curtain to write 🙂

      Reply
  5. Malena E.

    I’m a big fan of Gigi’s work and can’t wait to read The Raven Thief. Loved the first locked-room mystery novel so much. All of Gigi’s series are full of great plots, locations and characters. Can’t go wrong. Glad to hear there is another Tempest Raj book in the works.

    Reply
    • Gigi Pandian

      Thank you so much, Malena! Now that Book 3 was accepted by my editor, I’m working on Book 4 🙂

      Reply
  6. Heather Haven

    Gigi is a long-time favorite. She’s a lovely person and a wonderful writer. I love the Accidental Alchemist series.

    Reply
    • Gigi Pandian

      Thank you, Heather! Dorian refuses to stick to my outline for the next Accidental Alchemist novel, so he’s derailing my revisions–but I’m still having fun 🙂

      Reply
  7. Margaret Mizushima

    Congratulations on your success, Gigi! So glad you carved out a space of your own to write in. It’s important! Looking forward to reading The Raven Thief!

    Reply
    • Gigi Pandian

      Thank you, Margaret! My office is a MESS right now as I’m surrounded by research notes, so I’ll have to clean it as soon as I hand this off to my editor.

      Reply
  8. Alec Peche

    I’m listening to Under Lock and Skeleton Key (thanks to Chirp) at the moment. I’ve listened to 52% of the book and haven’t figured out who the murderer is. In fact, I don’t have a suspect yet, lol. Looking forward to the second book in this series.

    Reply
    • Gigi Pandian

      Oooh, I’m glad my misdirection is working. Glad you’re enjoying the audiobook!

      Reply
  9. Michael A. Black

    The story your writing is inspirational. You sound like you’re on the way to becoming a new Agatha Christie. Congratulations on your success and best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Gigi Pandian

      Thank you so much, Michael. I couldn’t dream of becoming Christie, but I’m having a lot of fun continuing to read books from the Golden Age of detective fiction and writing my own spin on the genre.

      Reply

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DAMYANTI BISWAS – Brings the Mysteries of India to the World

Damyanti’s short fiction has been published at Smokelong, Ambit, Litro, Puerto del Sol, and she helps edit The Forge literary magazine. Her Amazon-bestselling crime novel, You Beneath Your Skin, was optioned for screen. Her next crime novel, The Blue Bar, was published by Thomas & Mercer and was one of 2023’s Most Anticipated Mysteries & Thrillers on Goodreads. She’s an active member of Sisters in Crime and a member and volunteer at Crime Writers of Color.

THE BLUE BAR –  In gritty, glam Mumbai, a dynamic police officer and a bar girl in love are unaware that a serial predator is watching them both.

Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? – I’m not very fussy about where I write, but it turns out I write little at my desk. I can get words out at the library, at a food court, and on a park bench, but at home, it is mostly the sofa or the bed. At food courts and parks, I see a lot of color and movement, which helps me focus. I block out the sound with white noise on my headphones.

What is the most challenging part of your writing process? I’d say the copy-edits. By this time, I’m so familiar with the manuscript and have changed it so many times that it’s impossible to see it with any clarity, and they come to me with tight deadlines from my publisher. I need a lot of help to see what’s going wrong at the language level with the text.

Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? I definitely write subplots. In my crime novels, romance is often a subplot employed To provide an echo or a contrast to the theme that the protagonists illustrate with their lives.

Sometimes, they bring in a bit of relief from what can be some very dark and gruesome main storylines.

It can also heighten the conflict and tension in the dominant story: a romance subplot between the protagonists of a crime novel definitely heightens the stakes. It’s not about a victim and a rescuer anymore: it is about two people who love each other, and the reader feels more deeply invested in their fates.

How do you raise the stakes for your protagonist—for the antagonist? A powerful antagonist would often help raise stakes for the protagonist and vice versa. If the protagonist and antagonist are evenly matched, they can truly challenge each other, and the outcome of their conflict is in doubt till the end, keeping the reader turning the pages.

Time running out—like ticking clock, as well as inclement weather, can raise stakes. If the protagonist or antagonist’s family or love lives are involved, the stakes of a violent event will soar. When the beef is personal, reader engagement rises.

Do you outline, or are you a pantser? I began my writing life as a literary short story writer, so I thought I could be a pantser all my life. While writing crime novels, though, I realized I needed at least a cursory outline in order to work faster. These days I must write outlines because I need to flesh out the books I’m planning for my agent and editor. I veer off the story in the telling, so in a way, that’s pantsing, but I’m a pantser with an outline.

What is the best book you have ever read? The best book is always the last favorite book I read, but the one I keep going back to at times of personal turmoil is Old Man and the Sea, where an old man battles over days and miles with a fish bigger than his boat.

He wins, but sharks feed on the fish on the way to the shore, and he tows back an enormous skeleton.

It brings back to me the beauty of human endurance and the triumph and futility of all effort— a healthy reminder that nothing lasts. The biggest wins mean nothing against the sharks of mortality, and that’s part of life. We need to find our meaning elsewhere.

What are you currently working on? I’m finishing up the edits of THE BLUE MONSOON, the second in the Blue Mumbai Series contracted with Thomas & Mercer, and this crime novel is about religion, caste, and castration in the background of a hair factory in Mumbai.

It’s the sequel to THE BLUE BAR, which was published on January 1 this year, and was a number 1 International Release on Amazon.

Where can our followers buy your books? https://linktr.ee/damyantibiswas

List of Facebook groups:

The Savvy Writer’s Snug
Writers’ Group
Psychological Thriller Readers
ITW Debut Class Authors
Bitchy Bookworms
Women reading Great books

Literary Crime Novels

www.damyantiwrites.com

Curated Book Resources

4 Comments

  1. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Damyanti, so much of what you say here speaks to me. I absolutely adore romance with my mysteries. You’ve helped me to see why I do so quite clearly. Your deep analysis of what you took away from THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA landed poignantly as well. I enjoyed reading this blog. Good luck as your voyage continues.

    Reply
    • Damyanti Biswas

      Thanks so much for the kind words, Pamela. I do think a sub-plot of romance adds either relief or intensity to a crime novel, and also engages with the main themes. You seem to like them instinctively, so props to the storyteller within you. I started off instinctively as well, but with wonderful interviews like George’s over here, have analyzed my choices in retrospect. So much of writing is intuition.

      Old Man and the Sea has been a favorite since childhood, and we seem to have aged well together.

      Reply
  2. Michael A. Black

    You sound like a prolific and gifted storyteller. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Damyanti Biswas

      Thanks, Michael. I definitely aspire to be both.

      Reply

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