Cozy Wednesday with Jim Lavene (1/2 of J.J. Cook) author of Playing With Fire (Giveaway too!)

cozy wednesday 2013 640Welcome to Cozy Wednesday!

I am especially excited today to Welcome Jim Lavene.

Joyce has dropped by before but this is his first visit.

I hope it won’t be his last 🙂

A Guy’s Guide to Writing Cozy Mysteries (with his wife)

By Jim Lavene

Jim Lavene biopicOkay. People ask a lot about Joyce and me working together every day. Let’s go ahead and get that one out of the way.

I can’t tell you how many women are just plain glad that they don’t have to work with their husbands. Ladies: Men feel the same way.

Joyce and I have a weird kind of symbiotic relationship. You all knew that already, right? We both grew up with our heads in books, living on other planets and meeting incredible people.

Now we can create those interesting places and people. I can’t start to tell you how much fun that is. And when you can do it with your best friend – that makes it all the better!

I never knew what they were called when I was a kid – but I loved reading Agatha Christie novels. Now I know they’re cozy mysteries.  I also have a thing for the old Gothic novels. But I admit that my favorite books are fantasy and/or science fiction.

When Joyce and I aren’t writing, we have some individual hobbies we like to do. I like to fix computers. All of our friends and family know where to bring their computers when they aren’t working. It took me a year once to find the right program to recover my daughter’s hard drive (it had all her pictures on it) but eventually, I got them all back for her. That was satisfying!

playing with fireWhen I was a kid, I wanted to go into space. That was really the only thing I wanted to do. We all grow up and find other things, but that was always my dream. I’m hoping I can still accomplish that.

As far as escaping somewhere to write, I can’t imagine doing that by myself. I’m happy doing what I’m doing, with the person I’m doing it with, in the place we are.

I’m a Virgo, so we don’t think of escaping much. We dig our feet into the earth, and build on what we know, and what we have.

Oh, and I really like how many letters we get from women saying they are in love with Eric, our ghost in the Sweet Pepper series. Eric is totally patterned after me (except for the cooking part and the dead part). So keep those letters coming, ladies. I enjoy reading them!

Thanks for having me here, Lori!


Jim you are welcome to drop by anytime!!!

About J.J. Cook

J.J. Cook’s first mystery, That Old Flame of Mine, became an instant bestseller in 2013. Playing with Fire is the second book in that series. They write award-winning, bestselling mystery fiction as Joyce and Jim Lavene, and Ellie Grant. They have written and published more than 70 novels for Harlequin, Berkley, Amazon, and Gallery Books along with hundreds of non-fiction articles for national and regional publications. They live in rural North Carolina with their family.



playing with fire
Playing with Fire(A Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade)
2nd in Series
Cozy Mystery
A Berkley Prime Crime Mystery
The Berkley Publishing Group (January 7, 2014)
Published by The Penguin Group
Cover Illustration by Mary Ann Lasher
Cover Design by George Long
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
ISBN-13: 978-0425252451
E-Book File Size: 2197 KB


Welcome to Sweet Pepper, Tennessee. Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, it’s home to the hottest and sweetest peppers in the world—as well as at least one ghost and a hotbed of secrets…


Fire Chief Stella Griffin is working to solve the mysterious death of her predecessor, Eric Gamlyn—who also haunts her cabin. Yet the more she learns, the more burning questions she must answer. Just as Stella thinks she has a lead from Deputy Chum, someone snuffs her hopes—and the lawman.

Adding fuel to the fire, Stella’s parents soon arrive—with her ex-boyfriend—hoping to persuade her to return to Chicago. Now Stella is torn between the life she left behind and uncovering what happened to her ghostly friend. But she’d better think fast or more than her investigation could go up in flames…

Dollycas’s Thoughts

Another excellent story from these authors. They continue to top themselves and exceed my expectations. They are amazing storytellers.

This series always touches my heart because Eric Gamlyn makes me think of my dad who was also a fire chief who left this earth too soon. The words that come out of Eric’s mouth, his thoughts, everything he does reminds me of my dad. I wouldn’t doubt my dad still haunts his station as well since firefighting and training firefighters were his life.

Eric is just one of the wonderful characters in this series. Stella is a strong woman in a profession many people still believe only a man can do. It is awesome to read about a woman fire chief. There are more women entering this field every day so it makes me so happy to see her as a main character in this series. The relationship between Stella and Eric is what makes this story soar.

Stella’s  parents and her ex play a major part in this installment. They are ready for her to come home and Stella faces a huge decision. Can she leave Sweet Pepper and the life she is making for herself there?

The mystery started in the first book continues and we learn a bit more Stella’s grandfather, Ben Carson. There is a lot of smoke and a bit of fire as we start to untangle the clues to Eric’s death. The reader quickly becomes engaged in trying to solve the mystery right along with Stella and while some questions are answered others remain and the author leaves us with a cliffhanger to boot. I reached the last page and screamed NO!! I need the next book as quick as possible, with red lights and sirens!!!

Great Job Joyce and Jim!!!

a perfect escape


Your Escape With A Good Book Travel Agent

Be sure to check out Hero’s Journey (Novella) (A Sweet Pepper Fire Brigade). A wonderful short story about the fabulous HERO!! The dalmatian that has found a home with Eric and Stella. You can read my review here.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

  I will also choose one commenter to receive my review copy!!!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


29 thoughts on “Cozy Wednesday with Jim Lavene (1/2 of J.J. Cook) author of Playing With Fire (Giveaway too!)

  1. Your blog makes me want to check the two in the series out. I like all the elements; my beloved is a retired wildland fire fighter, I work with wildland fire fighters and my brother is a retired structure fire fighter. More books to be added to my TBR pile.

  2. I love the Levene’s books! I’ve read the first three of the Renaissance series (and have #’s 4 and 5). I’ve also read two of the Missing Pieces series and have 3 of the Peggy Lee Garden series in my bookshelf to be read. This looks like a great series, so I really must get the first one.

  3. I love that you are enjoying working with your best friend. Two heads are better than one sometimes!

  4. This sounds like a great series, it’s on my tbr list, I love the sound of a cooking ghost, that has got to be fun to read. Thanks for the chance to win.

  5. Looking forward to starting this series. I love the Ren Fair series and the Missing Pieces series.

  6. How have I missed this series? It sounds marvelous. It has everything I like. Mystery, a ghost, a small town and interesting characters. Definitely on my TBR list now. Thank you this amazing introduction to what sounds like a great read.

  7. That Old Flame of Mine has been on my TBR list, and this one, Playing With Fire, is joining it. Some of the other series are also on my TBR list as well. Not sure which series I would call my ‘favorite’ — don’t think I could choose.
    I actually worked with my hubby for about 3 years — he’s a pastor, and I served as the church secretary. But he was in his office, and I was in mine — didn’t really have to collaborate on much except the Sunday bulletins. 🙂

  8. I enjoy Jim and Joyce’s books, and have been meaning to start this series. Thanks for the chance to get to know Jim a little, Lori!

    Jim, when I was young, I shared that dream of getting into space someday, though I had to give it up long ago (for health reasons.) I still read SF occasionally, though, and read and watch what I can about astrophysics and the universe. Fascinating!

    I admire the two of you for being able to work together. My husband and I get along wonderfully, but we’ve never tried collaborating on anything creative. OTOH, I love having an in-house computer guru! 😉

  9. Great interview! I just love reading about the authors behind my favorite books. This series is definitely off to a great start and I can’t wait to read the next installment.

  10. Please don’t enter me in the giveaway. I read the book as a PDF last month. I loved it. I love this series, and love the characters.

  11. I enjoyed the interview and will be sure to have the pleasure of reading this lovely series.

  12. I loved the first book and thrilled that there is a novella about Hero the firehouse puppy. I have added Playing with Fire to my tbr list. Thank you for the blog and giveaway.

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