News and Updates

Making Peace With Summer

Reading the subject line of this post might make you wonder, ‘what’s to make peace with? Summer’s awesome!’

And it is! So much to do outside – tennis games, golf lessons, bike riding, swimming, spending time at the beach, a lake house, a national park or just a park in your neighborhood. Open-air bars, outdoor concerts, picnics, camping – truly, the list is endless.

But, summer, with all of its amazing activities, makes me uncomfortable.

Not the activities themselves, mind you. I am an absolute tennis nut, and I’m as happy as the next gal to sit in a beach chair and read. But my hard-won writing routine goes straight out the window once the temps hit 70, and suddenly, I’m adrift. I have no schedule to keep me at my desk, so I ricochet around my day like a wayward pinball. It’s a privileged problem, to be sure, but one I struggle with every year.

Summer is spontaneity. Sunny out? Time to head to the beach. Or plant those flowers. Or get a drink at that cute place on the lakefront. Even WFH peeps manage to squeeze in a walk or at least work on their tan while tapping away on their laptops. With so many healthy, fun, positive activities to pursue, guarding my special writing time seems downright Scrooge-ish.

Also, summer allows me to procrastinate doing the very thing I love to do, which is a very screwed up way to operate. If I had a therapist, he or she would be able to concur. Fredrik Bachman, author of A Man Called Ove and Anxious People explains this habit in this hilarious monologue:

This summer, even though I will get nowhere near Mr. Backman’s eight hours of writing, I’ve started to make a detailed plan each day, working my writing time around my summer activities instead of the other way around. This way I can enjoy the summer activities guilt-free, and hopefully get a little fulfilling work done in between. We’ll see how this goes…

How about you? Is there a season that stresses you out? Which is it, and why? I’d love to hear your stories.

How To Host An In-Person Book Club – Deep Discussion Style

Okay! So, you’ve got your group, you’ve selected your host/space, and you’re choosing your book. (If you haven’t read my intro post to hosting a book club, read here first).

So! What type of book? I think one mistake most beginning book clubbers make is to just randomly choose one that’s on the on the end cap at Target. Now, let me be clear – there is NOTHING wrong with those books. Many times, they are well-written, best-selling, fast-paced who-dunnits or light, beach read rom-coms, which are fun and addicting. However, sometimes these genre-type books are not necessarily the best picks for Book Clubs, because, after discussing how hot the main guy/girl is, or how you didn’t see the ending coming, with the nanny actually being the killer, your discussion is basically over.

If you want a book you can discuss at a deeper level, you need to look at books that make you, as a reader, think, “what would I do in this situation?” There are no right and wrong answers and your group members will enjoy sharing their own opinions and feelings, and maybe find themselves challenged by points brought up by the story or their fellow book-clubbers. For those who read to expand their minds and their horizons, these thinking-type books provide fertile ground for in-depth discussions.

A few examples of books that made me think:

The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig – A story about a young woman who feels her life is meaningless and decides to commit suicide. However, she ends up in The Midnight Library, where her old junior high librarian explains all the books on the shelves are her Books of Regrets, which she has the option of opening and experiencing how her life would have been different. Each one of us has those niggling thoughts about, ‘what if I had taken that job/said yes to that guy/moved in with that woman/told my boss to stuff it?’ Great fodder for conversation and self-reflection.

The Measure by Nikki Erlick – In this novel, every person in the world receives a length of string, which indicates how long their life will be. We see how different characters live or change their lives according to their string’s length. If you had a short string, how would you live your life differently? What about if you had a long string and the person you were about to marry had a short string? Talk about a conversation starter! You may have to kick people out of your house at the end of the night, or cut off the wine!

Pretty much any WWII book in which people are hiding those sought by the German SS make wonderful Book Club books. I think about these people a lot – would I, could I, have put my children at risk in order to save others? What a difficult, heartbreaking decision. Books like Sophie’s Choice, The Zookeeper’s Wife, The Whispering Town, The Pianist, Sarah’s Key, The Light in Hidden Places, and, of course, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, will keep you thinking long after your meeting is over.

All The Ugly and Wonderful Things, by Bryn Greenwood is fraught with questions about love and family, and bound to spark a very lively discussion among group members. This one made me uncomfortable in all the right ways, forcing me to question my belief in people and their motivations. Lots of gray area to debate!

I hope this list has helped you discover a book your club will enjoy getting into the weeds with, if that is their cuppa.

If not, stay tuned for a post on a different type of Book Club – including one of my favorite subjects – foooooooooood.


Origin Story of More Than A Thief

Hello dear reader!

Thank you so much for your interest in More Than A Thief. It truly means the world to me. It’s like I’ve just made the most delicious meal I am capable of making and you have just sat down at my table and picked up your fork. Now I am holding my breath, hoping you will enjoy it!

So how did a nice lady like me (?) end up writing a story about a kleptomaniac and an alleged killer? I’m so glad you asked.

After my middle grade book, Best Friends Forever: A WWII Scrapbook came out, my editor asked for another historical topic I could possibly put into scrapbook format. I tried to think of what subject or person a middle schooler might find fascinating. Looking back to my own schooling, every year in social studies, we had to write a report on a famous person, and I remember scanning the list, eagerly searching for someone interesting. Or mysterious.  Or even slightly creepy. Every year I was disappointed, and ended up writing about Abe Lincoln, because he grew up in a log cabin and I loved log cabins. 

So, in considering my next book, I thought about who or what I would have wanted to see on that list. The Salem witch hunt came to mind, but that subject was overdone at the time. Then one name came to mind: Lizzie Borden. I began researching and was both shocked and thrilled by all that I found. Thus began a 10 year journey in crafting many different versions, finally ending up with the book you see here:

Ok, reader, time to grab a copy and dig in. And if you enjoy More Than A Thief, I’d be forever grateful if you’d pop a review onto Amazon, Indiebound, Goodreads, or share on any of your socials. And tell your friends! Word of mouth is still the number one form of advertising. Enjoy!

What About The Boys?

In case you missed it, singer Shakira shocked the world by admitting her sons, aged 9 and 11, hated the Barbie movie, finding it emasculating. She further knocked the public for a loop by saying she agreed with them – “I’m raising two boys. I want ’em to feel powerful too [while] respecting women. I like pop culture when it attempts to empower women without robbing men of their possibility to be men, to protect and provide.”

We are in an all-or-nothing era. Women are great. Men are evil. Democrats are X. Republicans are Y. At least that’s what the loudest voices are telling us. Some of those voices are the movie producers. Some are “journalists.” Others are book publishers. Five minutes strolling through a bookstore or through a publisher’s upcoming list, you will be inundated with books for all ages featuring strong, female characters. Great! I’m all for strong females.

But what about the boys? Yes, they can read these books about the strong, spunky girls, and many do. But with the emphasis today on readers wanting to “see themselves on the page” shouldn’t a decent portion of new books also feature male protagonists? Or will today’s young boys have to be satisfied reading books from a past decade? As an author, this concerns me. As a mother, this makes me angry. I would never want my sons or my daughters to feel ‘less than.’ To uphold one, must we tromp on the other?

Though my most recent book featured a ‘strong female protagonist,’ my next work features a 12 year old boy as the main character. I’ve been querying agents for many months and hearing next to nothing. Is it because my book is about a boy, and right now, the push is for girl books? Possibly. Of course, it could be my writing or the plot or the voice. But I can’t help wonder if the minute an agent sees the word, ‘boy’, she or he presses the reject button.

I admire Shakira for voicing her opinion, as unpopular (or “shocking!”) as the media would have us believe it to be. Her words may be the first to put a tiny crack in the all-or-nothing, strong-or-stupid bubble in which we’ve been encased these last few years. Respect and admiration for all – is that so much to ask?

How To Host an In-Person Book Club – Part I

So, you want to start an in-person book club. Good for you! And I mean that literally. It is GOOD for you to hang with people who share your love of literature. Research shows feeling connected can help people with everything from maintaining a healthy body mass to improving cancer survival. Plus, it’s fun!

Ok, first things first – choosing your members. Maybe you start with just you and your best pal. Maybe you and your best pal each pick one or two more people. Or maybe you start one with your tennis friends or people from your choir or gym. The one requirement is an interest in books. And don’t worry about getting the exact right combo of people. A book club will add and lose members over its lifetime, and that is just fine.

Once you’ve got your group, you need to pick a meeting place. Your house? (Every time?) Or group members take turns hosting? Maybe nobody is keen on hosting so you pick a nearby coffee shop or wine bar:) Most book clubs meet after work hours, but the time can vary depending on the groups’ schedules.

Next: the book! For the first meeting, you choose the book. Give everyone a good month’s heads up on the title so they can buy the book or grab it from the library. *Many libraries have special Book Club services where you can reserve a book for all of your members, so check that out!*

At the first meeting, members can discuss the parameters of future book choices. Do you want to read all fiction? Some non-fiction? Any genres to be avoided or encouraged? Some groups assign a theme for each month – Non-fiction, WWII, Poetry, Cookbook/foodie, Classics, Mystery, Autobiography/Biography, Books set in foreign countries, Thrillers – the possibilities are endless! Many times, members are surprised to find they enjoyed a book they wouldn’t have picked themselves, so try not to be overly narrow in your focus.

When it’s your turn to choose or suggest a book, do me (and yourself) a favor – don’t default to the “Best Sellers” as a rule. Don’t get me wrong, some Best Sellers are best sellers for their incredible plot and prose. Others, not so much. The way publishing works is, each season publishers decide which will be their “lead” books, the books they will heavily promote, submitting them to NYT, sending out 300 copies to industry professionals, pushing for them to be featured in book store end caps and tables, etc.( I cannot tell you how many times I saw the cover of “Lessons in Chemistry” in my feed, on my kindle, on end caps at Target.)

Instead, if you have the time, talk to a librarian or book seller. Ask them what THEY are reading. Many bookstores have a shelf with Staff Recommendations, with little index cards stating why they enjoyed a book. Online, Goodreads is a great place to learn about wonderful books that might be flying under the advertising radar. There are also book-tokkers and instagrammers who post their reviews on books they’re reading, and most do not get paid for their reviews so you can count on them being more honest than publishers trying to earn big bucks.

The last thing you may want to look for is books that have discussion guides either included in the back matter or on the author’s website. Good questions are vital for promoting interesting discussions. Otherwise, it devolves into two minutes of “I liked it,” and “I hated it” and the rest of the meeting spent on jibber jabber.

Penny’s view on Jibber Jabber (press the replay arrow button on left if it doesn’t show)

Some authors include related material besides discussion questions that can add to your Book Club experience. For MORE THAN A THIEF, I include a recipe for Penelope’s Peach Pie on my Book Clubs page. Which brings me to next week’s post: How to Host an In-Person Book Club, part deux!

Book Club Thoughts

One of the biggest and most delightful surprises so far in this crazy publishing journey of mine is the number of adult Book Clubs who have invited me to be their guest. Club members read my book and then I come to their meeting where they then pepper me with amazing and thought-provoking questions. It’s been a blast!

But Book Clubs aren’t for everyone. There are usually adult beverages involved, and lots of snacks, so if you’re trying to cut down on either of those, you might decide just to avoid the temptation. The meetings tend to be held in the evenings, which can be tough, schedule-wise, travel-wise and childcare-wise. And, as much as you want to talk crap about the main character’s best friend, or how you correctly guessed the mermaid was actually a werewolf, book clubs are full of PEOPLE, and after a hard day of whatever you do, you might prefer the company of your bathtub, the TV or your goldfish.

Enter On-line Book clubs! Read a book with others, share your thoughts and opinions, all without having to do your make up or leave the comfort of your favorite spot on the couch. (And they’re free, too!) Goodreads boasts groups for every genre, every age group, practically every hair color. Amazon offers public and private (just you and your pals) book clubs. Reddit has a book club too – with 166K members! Comment when you want, make new reading friends, learn about new (and old) books, and keep the convo going. If you can’t find an online group you like, you can always start your own!

Can’t think of a better way to sign off than with this link to “The 7 People You’ll Find in Every Book Club” starring the wonderful cast of Schitt’s Creek. Enjoy!

$100 Amazon Gift Card Thank You Giveaway

Hello and thanks for stopping by!

For entrance into the giveaway, you must:

#1 Subscribe to my newsletter (either using the pop up or via the box at the verrrrry bottom of this page) If you are already a subscriber, thank you. You do not need to subscribe again. If you are new, you will also need to verify your free subscription in the welcome email sent to the address you’ve provided. Also, welcome!

#2 Fill out THIS form, which is your official entry

That’s it! You’re done. UNLESS you want to DOUBLE your chances of winning. Sound good? Then you can:

#3 Purchase a copy of More Than A Thief between March 22 and March 31, 2024 (either Kindle or Paperback version) and email verification of purchase to I will add your name a second time to the list.

And now the small print:

This contest runs between March 22, 2024 and March 31, 2024.
Entrance open to all ages. Members of Beverly Patt’s nuclear family excluded.
Winners will be chosen from among proper entrants using an online randomizer and will be contacted via email. (Make sure you add my email to your ‘safe list.’) Winners will have 48 hours to claim their prize before forfeiting it to the next randomly selected entrant.
The first entrant selected will win the $100 amazon gift card, which will be delivered via email. The second entrant selected will win the Elegant Farmer Peach Pie (or one similar depending on availability.) A physical address must be given for the pie’s delivery.
This promotion isn’t sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Instagram or any other social media used throughout the contest.

And in the heartfelt words of Taylor Swift,


Beverly Patt

JA Internment Camp Manzanar

Many of you who have just started following me because of my recent book, More Than A Thief, might not know I wrote another historical fiction book several years back. Best Friends Forever: A WWII Scrapbook sprouted from a childhood connection my mother had with Japanese American friends, shipped off to live in an internment camp. As a child, hearing the story of Mother’s friends who, one day, just ‘vanished,’ I mistakenly took the story as a fascinating mystery. It was only later, as an adult, I recalled Mother’s story and realized the truth. Having never been taught about the internment of our Japanese American citizens, I set out to educate myself. Being appalled at what I learned, I then set out to educate our youth, and began writing a book aimed at middle grade readers.

By this time, unfortunately, my mother was far down the Alzheimer’s road, so I reached out to others to help with the story she’d originally inspired. First-hand knowledge is best, so I interviewed those who had lived in the camps. Not only did they provide invaluable insights and information, they were also able to vet my finished story. Among loads of other research, I also visited the site of Camp Manzanar, now declared a National Historic Site in California. It was a very moving experience and really brought home the desolation and isolation of life in these camps.

Pictured are graves of those who died in the camp, paper cranes left by visitors, and the last remaining guard tower. The barbed wire and barracks are gone, though some of building foundations are still visible. I would urge any and all to pay a visit to this historic site.

German-American Louise Kessler, fourteen, starts a scrapbook when her best friend, Dottie Masuoka, leaves for the Japanese internment camps. Louise’s scrapbook includes items from her life “on the home front” as well as Dottie’s letters and drawings from the internment camp. Together, their intertwined stories tell of a friendship that even war cannot tear apart.

Teaching History through Fiction

When I was in school, history meant maps, dates, wars, and old dead people, none of which interested me. Then my teacher had us read To Kill A Mockingbird. I became so engrossed in the story, I had no idea I was learning about the Great Depression and the South’s attitudes towards race, class, gender, and the law. Sneaky? Maybe. Effective? Absolutely. Humans learn and teach through story. We forget a list of dates almost immediately after memorizing them. But we will never forget how it feels to be fighting for one’s life aboard the Titanic (Iceberg, by Jennifer Nielsen) or trying to survive the plague (Fever, by Laurie Halse Anderson).

Here are a few books that teach various aspects of history (but, shhhh! Don’t tell the kids!)

As disaster looms on the horizon, a young stowaway onboard the Titanic will need all her courage and wits to stay alive. “Distinct supporting characters… demonstrate the harrowing choices people made to survive, encouraging readers to consider what they would have done if fate and history had cast them into the story.” SLJ

Topics: Titanic, class system, Industrialization, women’s rights

Disease sweeps the streets, destroying everything in its path and turning Mattie’s world upside down. At her feverish mother’s insistence, Mattie flees the city with her grandfather. But she soon discovers that the sickness is everywhere, and Mattie must learn quickly how to survive in a city turned frantic with disease.

Topics: epidemics, medicine, slavery, women’s rights

19th century YA tale of social status, mystery and murder in which 16-year-old Victoria Robbins goes to extraordinary lengths to give up her kleptomania, a penchant she shares with neighbor and accused murderess, Lizzie Borden. In her quest to not become Lizzie Borden, Victoria loses old friends, makes questionable new ones and finds her fiercest enemy resides within her own skin. Sprinkled throughout the text are actual newspaper clippings of the infamous Borden case and trial.

Topics: Women’s rights, mental health, crime investigation, society and class differences.

A Long Walk to Water begins as two stories, told in alternating sections, about two eleven-year-olds in Sudan, a girl in 2008 and a boy in 1985. The girl, Nya, is fetching water from a pond that is two hours’ walk from her home: she makes two trips to the pond every day. The boy, Salva, becomes one of the “lost boys” of Sudan, refugees who cover the African continent on foot as they search for their families and for a safe place to stay.

Topics: Sudanese Conflict, Global Water Access, refugees, immigration, and social activism

When Alex rescues a stray dog as a birthday gift to himself, he doesn’t think his life can get much better. Radar, his new dog, pretty much feels the same way. But this day has bigger things in store for both of them. This is Eleven: the journey of a boy turning eleven on 9/11

Topics: Twin towers, 9/11, Heroes, American Symbols, Terrorism, Antiterrorism

True Crime + Historical Fiction = Great Reads

True crime lover, please meet my friend, Historical Fiction Fan. Historical Fiction Fan, let me introduce True Crime Lover. You two have a lot in common! You both like facts. You both enjoy learning something when you read. You both seek to understand, whether it’s an individual, a motivation, an event, or a certain time period in history. Here are a sampling of excellent books you could read together, and both enjoy!

Around the true story of one of the most enigmatic and notorious women of the 1840s, Margaret Atwood has created an extraordinarily potent tale of sexuality, cruelty and mystery. At age 15/16, Grace Marks was convicted of killing her employer and his mistress with a fellow member of “the help”, James McDermott. Grace’s trial was highly publicized across Canada, the US, and Europe – “the Amanda Knox of her time.”

A dazzling work of historical fiction, based on true events, about two women who seem the most unlikely to ever meet: Alice, a Korean war survivor and translator for the American forces in Seoul and Marilyn Monroe, who is visiting Korea on a four-day USO tour. Moving and mesmerizing, The Starlet and the Spy is a beautiful portrayal of unexpected kinship between two very different women, and of the surprising connections that can change, or even save, a life.

A 19th century tale of social status, mystery and murder in which 16-year-old Victoria Robbins goes to extraordinary lengths to give up her kleptomania, a penchant she shares with neighbor and accused murderess, Lizzie Borden. In her quest to prove Lizzie Borden innocent, Victoria loses old friends, makes questionable new ones and finds her fiercest enemy resides within her own skin. Sprinkled throughout the text are actual newspaper clippings of the infamous Borden case and trial.

When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her back to her own sheltered world. The story’s shocking twists and turns, augmented with real, sinister period photos, will make this dazzling, #1 New York Times bestselling debut from author Kerri Maniscalco impossible to forget.

A thrilling novel of love, loyalty, and espionage, based on the incredible true story of Elizabeth Bentley, a Cold War double agent spying for the Russians and the United States.

1963: Reeling from the death of her mother and President Kennedy’s assassination, Catherine Gray shows up on Elizabeth Bentley’s doorstep demanding answers to the shocking mystery she just uncovered about her family. What she doesn’t expect is for Bentley to ensnare her in her own story of becoming a controversial World War II spy and Cold War informer…


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