VICTORIA KAZARIAN – How I Went from Baking in Real Life to Baking in Books

Victoria Kazarian writes The Laughing Loaf Bakery Mysteries, a culinary cozy mystery series set in the redwoods of the Santa Cruz Mountains in Northern California. For two years, she owned a bakery of her own called The Laughing Loaf, baking homestyle, artisanal, and French levain breads. Based in Silicon Valley, she also writes a police procedural series, Silicon Valley Murder.

What got you into baking? For years, I wrote for the high tech world—first as a tech writer, producing user manuals for a software company, then I moved on to writing marketing and advertising for software and high-tech companies. What eventually drove me crazy was the fact that I was writing about something that was not tangible. You can tap away on a computer and see what software does on a screen, but you can’t hold, touch, taste, or smell software.

When I was growing up, my father baked bread for fun. I loved watching him–seeing the bread go from a lump of dough to the beautifully domed browned loaf you pull out of the oven. Bread smells like happiness. After I left high tech, I started baking at home. I dreamed of doing it as a job.

Why did you quit your bakery business? Before I first started The Laughing Loaf in 2013, I went to a great organization in Santa Clara County called SCORE, which advises new business owners. I was assigned a couple of retired businessmen who asked me detailed questions and wanted to see my business plan. They quickly pinpointed my downfall—distribution. I had no cost-effective way to get bread into people’s hands. I delivered most of my orders myself. This personal delivery fed my soul but not my bank account. I loved connecting with people. Some of my regular customers became friends. But I ended up working a grueling schedule for no profit. Eventually, I closed down the business. As if I needed another reason to stop, my husband was diagnosed with gluten intolerance around the same time.

How did you end up writing your bakery cozy series? In 2021, I published my first book, Swift Horses Racing, in my Silicon Valley Murder police procedural series. Even as I continued writing police procedurals, I wanted to use my bakery experience to write a culinary cozy mystery.

The character of Gracie Markley began to form in my head. Gracie works in tech in Seattle, but when she finds out her husband is selling defense tech secrets to foreign governments, she turns him in. Witness Protection relocates Gracie, her professor father, and her little dog Biga to a small town in the Northern California redwoods.

Burnt out by her life in tech, Gracie opens a bakery, using bread recipes she baked with her father growing up. The Laughing Loaf Bakery becomes a gathering place in the small town of River Grove, bringing people together over bread, baked goods, and coffee. She uses her tech problem-solving skills as she investigates murders that pop up in town.

I published Drop Dead Bread, the first in The Laughing Loaf Bakery Mysteries, in 2022. Each of the books includes recipes from the original Laughing Loaf Bakery. I’ve just released Sourdough and Cyanide, which includes instructions for making your own sourdough starter and sourdough loaf and recipes for using all that discard you end up with.

Will you continue with cozies? My cozy series is doing better than my police procedurals, so I’m sticking with them. I read a lot of cozies to prepare for writing this series, and I let go of some misconceptions. Cozies can have humor, but they don’t have to be silly. And the people in them don’t have to be caricatures; they can be real human beings. One value I love in cozies is community—a safe place where people support and accept each other. That, and freshly baked bread, is something everybody wants.

To contact Victoria, drop her a line at TheLaughingLoaf@gmail.com
To buy The Laughing Loaf Mysteries go to: https://a.co/d/cdSskRg
You can find out more about The Laughing Loaf Mysteries at https://a.co/d/cdSskRg and see what Victoria is up to at https://victoriakazarian.com/ She’s on Instagram at vkazarian1 and on Facebook at Victoria Kazarian, Author

3 Comments

  1. Robin Somers

    That’s hilarious, in a sad way—your husband’s gluten intolerance. One door closes, another opens. In your case, the oven to the book cover. Terrific interview and I love the image of your dad and your discussion of what a cozy can be.

    Reply
  2. Victoria Kazarian

    Thank you, Michael. I like that—offing someone with a baguette. Then slice it and make brushetta to get rid of the evidence…

    Reply
  3. Michael A. Black

    Nicely done, Victoria. Good luck with your writing. While I don’t bake myself, I always thought that a long loaf of French bread might make an interesting weapon in a story.

    Reply

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M.E. PROCTOR – With Busy Background–She Prefers Writing Fiction

M.E. Proctor was a freelance journalist for a music magazine and an advertising account executive before becoming a corporate communications advisor. She prefers writing fiction.

She is the author of four dystopian science fiction novels, The Savage Crown Series, and a short story collection, Family and Other Ailments – Crime Stories Close to Home (2023, Wordwooze Publishing).

The first book in her Declan Shaw detective series, Love You Till Tuesday, comes out in August 2024 from Shotgun Honey.

Proctor is a Derringer nominee. Her fiction has appeared in various anthologies and magazines: Vautrin, Stone’s Throw, Mystery Tribune, Black Cat Weekly, Thriller Magazine, and Bristol Noir, among others. Born in Brussels and a long-time Houston resident, she now lives in Livingston, Texas, with her husband, James Lee Proctor, who is also a writer.

Elevator Pitch for Family and Other Ailments: Blood ties, the family we’ve been given, the friends we make, the loves we keep, and those we lose. The twenty-six stories in this collection vacillate on the brink, hovering at the periphery of the possibility of crime. Under a certain light, at an angle, they’re all love stories.

About writing in multiple genres: One of the joys of writing short fiction is genre-hopping. I mostly write crime these days, but I occasionally dip a toe in horror. “Quiet” horror—Stories where everyday life turns into something else and reality starts slipping. A few of these are included in the Family and Other Ailments collection. The dividing line between crime and horror is often blurry. I’m still interested in science fiction and even if I don’t plan to add books to the Savage Crown series, I write short stories when I feel the urge to leave the planet. I think it’s healthy to mix things up. Switching between working on a book and writing short stories keeps things fresh. It’s like varying your workout to exercise different muscles.

The writing process: I’m a short fiction improviser. A story can start with an image, a sentence, or a line of dialogue. I don’t have it all mapped in my head. For example, a girl sits at a window and watches a wasp walk the length of the barrel of the rifle she’s holding. I don’t know who she is or what she’s planning to do. Or what she’s done already. The answers come as the story is being written. No Recoil is one of the pieces in the collection. It starts with the girl and the wasp.

The process is different for a book. I don’t do a real outline, but I have enough of a story idea to start writing a few chapters and get momentum going. Not all the characters are lined up, and the ending is up in the air. After a hundred pages or so, I write a rough storyline: A happens, then B, C, this is character X’s arc, etc. I know where the book is going. The big bullet points are nailed down. Things will still change, especially the finale, and secondary characters might get a bigger role, but I have a handrail I can rely on to avoid getting stuck.

Current projects: A retro-noir novella with a fellow crime writer. I’ve never written in collaboration. It’s an interesting experience. We started with a short story idea, and the manuscript grew bigger. It’s a double POV plot, and we go back and forth between his character and mine. I enjoyed the ping-pong. What if we do this? What happens next, throwing ideas against the wall? We completed a first draft a few weeks ago and are now in the polishing phase. I’ve been obsessing about this project for the past two months, so everything else has been put on the back burner.

Now, I have to work on the very last edits and the preparation for the launch of Love You Till Tuesday, the first book in my Declan Shaw detective series. It comes out in August from publisher Shotgun Honey. There’s more in store for Declan, including a project I started last fall that I feel a strong pull to get back into. The more I write about the guy, the better I know him, and the more time I want to spend with him; a good sign when you plan a series with a recurrent character!

Apart from that, I have short stories in upcoming anthologies and a free Substack newsletter I release every other Thursday – The Roll Top Desk—conversations about books and writing. I’ve been doing it for a year and a half. It’s a nice change of pace from writing fiction.

About writing from the perspective of the opposite sex: A few months ago, I was preparing for a reading, and I expected questions about writing from a female or male point of view. I went through the 26 stories in the collection and counted how many I had on each side. The tally came to thirteen girls/women and twelve boys/guys. One story doesn’t count; it’s a news report.

For me, choosing a main character falls in the same category as deciding to tell the story in first person or third, present or past tense. It’s what feels right for what I want to say. One of the stories in the book Hour of the Bat is inspired by an Edward Hopper painting, Summer Evening. It shows a young couple having a conversation. Looking at it, I knew the story had to be about the girl because of the expression on her face. And it would have to be in first person. It felt natural. I heard her voice.

The main protagonist of my detective books is male. His name popped into my head before I knew what he was doing for a living and what nettles I would drag him through. Declan Shaw was born on my back porch one Labor Day weekend out of the blue. Where the name came from is a mystery (the only Declan I know is Elvis Costello/Declan MacManus). When I stepped in his shoes, I gave him some of my personality traits and added a scoop of attitude and restlessness. To make sure I get the masculine vibe right, all my beta readers are guys. The first and toughest reviewer is my husband. A couple of times, he told me: A man would never say that. I think I got it now.

Favorite author: More than one, as my bookshelves and the library on my e-reader will confirm. It’s a hard choice, but I’ll pick Georges Simenon. I grew up with his books all over the house. Lots of books, the man was insanely prolific. I’ve always been a fast reader, consuming the novels by the pound. My admiration for his work has only increased with time. His writing is deceptively simple. It looks effortless, basic almost, but he catches characters with one line, sometimes with a single word. He’s so good at finding the fault line in mundane situations, the unease behind the appearances. A family at a dinner table, a couple that’s been married a long time, the simmering resentment, the weight of silence, all the things that are not said between lines of dialogue. It’s brilliant.

How do our readers contact you:
I’m on Facebook – Martine Elise Proctor – https://www.facebook.com/martine.proctor
Substack is a good option, too, at The Roll Top Desk – https://meproctor.substack.com
And there’s a contact button on my website: https://www.shawmystery.com
All the format options for the short story collection, Family and Other Ailments, are here:
https://books2read.com/u/3Lx0v5
The science fiction series and all the anthologies are on my Author page on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/stores/M.E.-Proctor/author/B009JE9JWI/allbooks

Groups:
Facebook:
Short Mystery Fiction Society: https://www.facebook.com/groups/608752359277585
Crime Fiction Writers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1307945053456724
Criminally Good Reads: https://www.facebook.com/groups/5356552667708259
Thriller, Mystery and Suspense Writers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/290472645391267
Sisters In Crime: https://sistersincrime.tradewing.com/community
On LinkedIn:
Fiction Writers Group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/12178764/
Writers and Illustrators Circle: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/3723330/
Detective Fiction Writer’s Group: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/4911106/

15 Comments

  1. John Schembra

    Quite a diverse writing style, and background! Interesting point about writing from the prospective of the opposite sex. I’ve found that challenging, to put it simply!

    Reply
    • Martine Proctor

      I often have that conversation with male writers. Some are a bit nervous about it. I believe in finding the empathy and then asking beta readers to comment. If it sounds wrong, they’ll tell you!

      Reply
  2. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Martine, I was interested in your discussion of writing from the perspective of one’s opposite sex. I have less access to beta readers who are male.
    I wonder, though, if the majority of one’s readers are female, maybe those female readers would enjoy a male character’s perspective that FEELS like what THEY (as women) envision or hope for. What do you and George think?

    Reply
    • Martine Proctor

      I’m guilty of putting in some of my male protagonists attitudes or behaviors that appeal to me (even if I don’t write romance!). I have to be careful about being “too cuddly”, but once the guys start acting and speaking in the stories, they pretty much do their own thing. My male beta readers find very little to criticize, so I guess I channeled them properly. After all we live and work together. It isn’t another species 🙂

      Reply
    • George Cramer

      My debut novel, The Mona Lisa Sisters, was primarily from a woman’s POV. Once I got into the swing of it, it was a hoot. I was lucky to have four or five lady friends read as I went along. With only a few suggestions and much support, I was off to the races.

      Once published, not one woman reader complained about the POV.

      So, those sitting on the fence, give it a try.

      Reply
  3. Rhonda Blackhurst

    Like Michael, I like the visual of the wasp on the rifle barrel. Even she did fire the gun before the stroll–the visual was enjoyable. As a mystery novelist, I’ve just recently (the past couple of years) tried my hand at shorter fiction. It’s far more difficult than I thought it would be but helps tighten up my novels. I look forward to reading yours.

    Reply
    • Martine Proctor

      Thank you, Rhonda. Yes, short fiction teaches you to go for the essential. It’s a different rhythm though. There’s a lot of intensity in short fiction, in a book, relaxation is needed. That tightness cannot be sustained without fatigue over 85,000 words.

      Reply
  4. Donna

    Although some already congratulate you i just want to do the same thing congrats I am also a staving writer lol

    Reply
  5. Michael A. Black

    Excellent interview and cogent writing advice, Ms. Proctor. I loved he image of the wasp walking on the rifle barrel. Now that would be a true test of a sniper’s moxie. Best of luck to you on your new one.

    Reply
    • Martine Proctor

      Thank you, Michael. I don’t like wasps 🙂 – if you read the story, you’ll know that the girl fired the gun before the wasp took a stroll…. does it make a difference?

      Reply
  6. Jim Guigli

    I love Martine’s writing. And, she was kind enough to grant me a blurb about one of my short stories.

    Reply
  7. Jacqueline Seewald

    Congratulations on your new novel! Wishing you much success.

    Reply

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LAURIE STEVENS – Battles AI in Her Latest Novel

Laurie Stevens is the author of the Gabriel McRay thriller series. Her books have won twelve awards, including Kirkus Review’s “Best of” and a Random House Editors’ Book of the Month. International Thriller Writers says she’s “cracked the code” regarding writing psychological suspense, while Suspense Magazine claims she’s the “leader of the pack.”

Laurie’s short stories have appeared in many anthologies and magazines, and she co-edited the Sisters in Crime anthology Fatally Haunted. Laurie’s newest novel, THE RETURN (just released in January), pits human consciousness against artificial intelligence.

ELEVATOR PITCH: Completely reliant on automation and artificial intelligence to run their lives, human beings struggle to survive when a war destroys all the power grids across the globe. Pitting human consciousness against AI, The Return is a timely, suspenseful story of human survival, coming-of-age love, and the true power unleashed when our human hearts connect.

Do you write in more than one genre? When I completed the Gabriel McRay psychological suspense series, I thought I was strictly a crime fiction writer. Then, I began researching the tech that’s upcoming (yikes!) and got the idea for The Return, which is not only a sci-fi/fantasy but a Young Adult crossover. Quite a change!

Was it difficult to change genres? Changing genres blew me out of my comfort zone, for sure. I’m working on a psychological suspense stand-alone novel right now, and writing it feels like a visit with an old friend. That said, I really enjoyed exploring the sci-fi and fantasy elements of the new book. I never intended The Return to be YA, but my editor was once a middle-grade English teacher and said, ‘Do you realize you’ve hit all the hallmarks of a YA novel? I would recommend this to my students!”

Your Gabriel McRay novels featured a male detective, and The Return also features a young male protagonist. What’s the most challenging thing about writing characters from the opposite sex? When I first wrote the character of Gabriel McRay, I asked my husband if he hated shaving every day and other things like that, but then Gabriel sort of took over and began writing himself. A creative writing class at UCLA dissected my second book, Deep into Dusk, and most of the students enjoyed the “role reversals,” where Gabriel has a feminine side and his medical examiner girlfriend, Dr. Ming Li, has a masculine side. I swear I didn’t try to switch them up. Aiden Baylor, the protagonist from The Return, is a young man facing the challenges many young men face. Having a son made my job easier, but placing this young man in a future world created its own set of challenges. Teen crushes may never change, but how a kid 75 years from now pursues his interests is another story.

What kind of research did you do? To build a world dependent entirely on automation and tech, I spoke with tech professionals, got my subscription to Wired and other tech magazines, and read fiction books like Blake Crouch’s Upgrade and non-fiction such as The Fourth Age by Byran Reese. In the book The Digital World “Unplugs,” I had to research how people once lived off the land. I don’t mind. I am a research junkie. It’s my favorite part of the writing process.

Tell us a little about your new book. Well, you might have gathered a little info from the previous paragraph. Here’s the logline: Completely reliant on automation and artificial intelligence to manage their lives, human beings learn to survive, bond, and unlock the power of their minds when a war destroys all the power grids across the globe.

Believe it or not, I based the story on a question inspired by the biblical story of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Why would God kick Adam and Eve out of Eden because they gained wisdom and awareness? What’s so bad about knowledge? I explore a possible answer in this book.

Do you have any advice for new writers? An acquisitions editor from a publishing house once asked me if I had any vampire manuscripts lying around or perhaps a story about wizards at a boarding school (you can imagine about what year this took place). I said, “No, I have a manuscript about a traumatized Los Angeles male detective, and every case he works triggers a key point in his psychological recovery.” That went over like a lead balloon with this editor. My advice is, you have to make a choice. If being published means the world to you, and an editor asks if you have a vampire manuscript, go home and write one.

If the message in your heart is of utmost importance to you, write it and hope it resonates with the gatekeepers or better yet – the readers.

How do our readers contact you?
You can always see my books at https://lauriestevensbooks.com
To get in touch with me, laurie@lauriestevensbooks.com

THE RETURN is available at:
Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/The-Return-Amazon
Barnes and Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-return-laurie-stevens/1144524026?ean=9798223883234
Kobo https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/the-return-250
Apple Books: https://books.apple.com/us/book/the-return/id6474872190
Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1497892

Thanks for having me as a guest blogger. It’s been fun!
Laurie

2 Comments

  1. Michael A. Black

    Congratulations on your success, Laurie. You sound like you’ve got some great ideas and books. Your interview was an inspiration. Now I’m going to bow the dust off that unhappy vampire masquerading as a wizard at that boarding school for exceptional youths. 😉 Best of luck to you.

    Reply
  2. Marie Sutro

    Wow!! Sounds like a fantastic story!

    Reply

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PATY JAGER – Brings Westerns and Native American Stories

Paty Jager is an award-winning author of 55 novels, eight novellas, and numerous anthologies of murder mystery and western romance. All her work has Western or Native American elements, hints of humor, and engaging characters.Paty and her husband raise alfalfa hay in rural eastern Oregon. Riding horses and battling rattlesnakes, she not only writes about the Western lifestyle, but she also lives it.

Thank you, George, for inviting me to your blog. The Pinch, book 5 in my Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series, was published on February 22nd. It is available for pre-order.

Dela Alvaro, a disabled veteran and head of security for the Spotted Pony Casino, is doing a security check for a casino on the Oregon Coast when a child is kidnapped and Dela’s friend is murdered.

The idea for this story has been in my head for many years. I usually plan two writing retreats a year at the Oregon Coast. I stay a week and get a lot of writing done because I’m not catering to the animals or my husband. There aren’t any chores, and I write, walk on the beach, and write more.

On one such trip, I was walking along the beach, enjoying the briny salt air and the mist of the fog and waves. I noticed an older man with a boy about four or five out at the water’s edge. The boy was splashing and digging with a plastic shovel. I continued walking and noticed a boat close to the shore, or closer than any I’d witnessed before. My gaze gravitated to rocks sticking up out of the waves a good thirty or more feet from where the water lapped at the beach. Watching the splashing waves and enjoying the moment, I thought I saw the head of a seal bobbing by the rocks. That seemed dangerous, but they are good swimmers. I continued on and eventually turned around, heading back to where I’d entered the beach.

The boat was gone, and the older man walked up to the hotel without the boy. I looked around and didn’t see him anywhere. That was where my imagination kicked in. By the time I was back at the place I was staying, I’d come up with a kidnapping, a premise, and how it would play out. My only problem is that I was writing romance books at the time, and I didn’t see how to use this in western romance.

However, the idea stayed with me, and when I started writing mysteries, I kept coming back to the idea, trying first to make it fit with my character in the Shandra Higheagle mysteries, but I didn’t see how I could make it work. Then, when I started writing the Gabriel Hawke novels, I thought, now, I can use that story. But even though I took Hawke to Iceland for a book, I couldn’t find a plausible reason for him to be on the Oregon Coast.

Then came the Spotted Pony Casino mystery series and Dela Alvaro, my disabled veteran who is head of security for the Spotted Pony Casino on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation. After four books where she has helped the FBI and Tribal Police track down killers, she has a reputation for running a tight security staff. She is invited to a Tribal casino on the Oregon Coast to help them tighten up security, and now I could finally see how my story and premise would play out.

When I decided now was the time to write the book, a friend and I went on a road trip to visit a casino on the Oregon Coast. I had planned to use that casino in the book. Still, when I started making fictional employees at the casino accomplices in the crime, I decided I needed a fictional casino. Then, my mind wasn’t tied to logistics anymore, either.

Even though I had visited the casino and talked to security staff, I kept running into things I hadn’t realized I’d need to know to write the story, and the emails I’d sent to the casino asking questions went unanswered. Having the epiphany to use a fictional casino as I do in the Spotted Pony Casino books freed up my mind to work on the kidnapping and murder rather than logistics.

This series points out the widespread danger that Indigenous people- mostly women, face. My main character lives with the fact that in high school, she left her best friend in a small town not far from the reservation because she didn’t want to leave when my character had to get back for basketball practice. She is found the next day murdered and sexually assaulted. In the first book where this character comes to life, Stolen Butterfly in my Gabriel Hawke novels, she helps find two women missing from the reservation and last seen at the casino.

In this book, she not only has to deal with a missing child but she is reunited with a best friend from her time in the military, only to have her murdered. One more slash to my character’s heart and one more spark to make her always find justice.

This book took a long time to come to fruition, but I believe it was worth it.

Recent Projects

I published Christmas Chaos in October to give readers of my Shandra Higheagle Mystery series some closure. A short story with Dela and Heath characters in my Spotted Pony Casino Mystery series is available in the Windtree Press Whispers anthology.

Blurb / Long- Dela Alvaro, head of security for the Spotted Pony Casino, is asked to do a security check of a casino on the Oregon Coast. She no sooner starts her rounds at the casino than a child is kidnapped. The parents are a dubious couple. Special Agent Quinn Pierce of the FBI has been out to get the father for some time.

One of Dela’s best friends from the Army appears, and they catch up, only to find her friend strangled the next morning after having divulged to Dela she may have photos of the kidnapping.

As Dela struggles with the violent death of yet another best friend, her lover, Tribal Officer Heath Seaver, arrives, and the two begin untangling the lies, bribes, and murders.

In the end, as Heath carries the child to safety, Dela must face a cunning killer alone.

Blurb / Short – Dela Alvaro, a disabled veteran and head of security for the Spotted Pony Casino, is doing a security check for a casino on the Oregon Coast when a child is kidnapped and Dela’s friend is murdered.

Groups I belong to:
Crimescene writers loop
Sisters in Crime
Niwa
Alli
Author’s Guild
20 Books 50
Links
Book link for The Pinch – Universal book link- https://books2read.com/u/38Y787
Social Media Links
TikTok – @authorpatyjager
Instagram – @patymjager
YouTube – @PatyJager
Facebook – Author Paty Jager
Twitter – @patyjag
website – https://www.patyjager.net
blogs – https://ladiesofmystery.com and https://writingintothesunset.net

10 Comments

  1. Pamela Ruth Meyer

    Wow, George and Paty, this was a great post. It’s reassuring to know that the spark of an idea can last that long. It’s inspirational, really. Thanks, and best of luck with your launch of THE PINCH, Paty.

    Reply
    • Paty Jager

      Pamela, thank you! Yes, it was an idea that hung in there until the right book came along. Thank you for stopping by and commenting!

      Reply
  2. Carl Vonderau

    It’s amazing where the stories come from. Your fiction writing mind is always at work. The books sounds great.

    Reply
    • Paty Jager

      Carl, Thank you. Yes, I have an active imagination and it keeps stories coming at me faster than I can write them.

      Reply
  3. Peg Roche

    Looking forward to reading “The Pinch”. I can picture the setting and am interested in your lead character. Those twice a year retreats sound like a great idea! Good luck with this new book. Thanks for the introduction, George!

    Reply
    • Paty Jager

      Peg, Thank you for stopping in and commenting. I do enjoy my retreats and get a lot accomplished when I’m there.

      Reply
  4. Kathleen Kaska

    I enjoyed reading about your latest mystery. You are such a prolific writer!

    Reply
    • Paty Jager

      Hi Kathleen, Thank you! I have fun coming up with the premises and hopefully enlightening people as well as entertaining them.

      Reply
  5. Michael A. Black

    Sounds like you use your powers of observation to come up with new plots, which is really neat. Your series sounds fascinating, but I have to ask…. did you ever find out what happened to the little boy? Best of luck to you.

    Reply
    • Paty Jager

      Hi Michael, No. I never knew what happened to the little boy. I never saw the older man again either. It is one of those mysteries that will rattle around in head and help me to come up with other scenarios for books.

      Reply

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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/

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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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