Award-winning author Judy Keeslar Santamaria has a Bachelor of Arts (music) and a Master’s in Education (Creative Arts in Learning). She’s enjoyed being a classroom teacher, music specialist, private piano teacher, and accompanist.

You Can’t Fool a Mermaid  is Judy’s second novel. Themes include being true to yourself, learning from and having compassion for others, and that love transcends time, place, and form.

Her debut novel, Jetty Cat Palace Café, showcases her penchant for family secrets and legacies, and eccentric heroines who outsmart their villains and thrive.

Judy lives near San Francisco with her husband who shares her passion for travel.

Titles by Judy Keeslar Santamaria

You Can’t Fool a Mermaid  is a First Place Winner for Magical Realism and Grand Prize Winner for Literary and Contemporary Fiction in the 2023 Chanticleer International Book Awards, Somerset Division.

Jetty Cat Palace Café is a First Place Winner for Women’s Fiction in the 2021 Chanticleer International Book Awards, Somerset Division.

  • You Can't Fool a Mermaid by Judy Keeslar Santamaria

    by Judy Keeslar Santamaria

    • Released: March 2024
    • Genre: Fantasy

    In You Can’t Fool a Mermaid, college student and pianist Violet Bacon must save her highly anticipated concert from sabotage. With time running out, Violet rips into a flaw in the musical score and is blindsided by what she finds trapped behind the notes. As theater seats fill and the house lights dim, Violet enlists three unlikely allies—a quirky busker, a Russian Blue cat, and an anchovy-sized mermaid—to help her set the score right. Together they must perform a little magic on a most bewitching evening or her performance will be doomed.

  • by Judy Keeslar Santamaria

    • Released: December 2019
    • Genre: Novels

    Welcome to the Jetty Cat Palace Café where synchronicity and wonder abound!

    Morgen, a quirky music teacher and pianist, is devastated when she learns that her mother, also a concert pianist, became pregnant with her after a sexual assault and abandoned her life as a performer.

    Startled when a steel string explodes inside her piano, Morgen sees secrets long buried inside the music she and her late mother had cherished. Risking her career and heartbreak to rectify her mother’s lost dreams, Morgen vows to find her mother’s stolen cremation urn and track down her mystery father.

    Following an irresistible melody that resonates from her family’s obscure past, she arrives at the Jetty Cat Palace Café where she finds offbeat locals, feral cats, and even a ghost. But a secret lies in wait for Morgen beneath the café’s scarred wood floor, and though she hopes that a bittersweet spiritual connection will resolve her shared history with her mother, she must first reconcile her past and present.


  • Chanticleer Reviews

    “You Can’t Fool a Mermaid… is a glorious dance of well-intentioned ghosts. Highly recommended!”

    …Santamaria’s expert handling of magical realism will leave you wondering what is real as she convinces you to just “go with the flow but be mindful…” Readers will come away understanding that no one can escape their ancestry, but the way people respond determines whether the past is a prison cell or a key…

  • Kirkus Reviews

    An involving, intricate mix of music, art, and interpersonal drama.

    …The writing style, the art and music, and the hints of magic… give this novel an ethereal, charming quality… Violet’s trajectory and hard-won musicianship will entrance readers.

  • Chanticleer Reviews

    A stolen urn sparks a daring adventure for one autistic young woman, and winds up delivering a masterpiece debut novel by a very promising rising star. Highly recommended!”

    …Jetty Cat Palace Café takes the reader from the sophisticated urban areas of Washington state to its remote cranberry coast, accompanying professor Morgen Marín on a life-altering quest…The cast of characters she meets are society’s flotsam and jetsam who drifted in on random currents and found safe harbor in this isolated place…How these random people, in this unlikely place, are melded into parts of Morgen’s past and future creates a story that stretches readers’ credulity and imagination… Judy Keeslar Santamarias often lyrical, meticulous writing, engaging characters, vivid imagery, and intricate plot work together to create a winner.

  • Kirkus Reviews

    A concert pianist searches for the truth of her mother’s death and learns her own self-worth in Santamaria’s debut novel.”…Santamaria offers readers characters that are vivid and memorable, and her prose carries itself with an easy, quick-reading cadence, as when Morgen recalls her mother’s sage wisdom: “Sometimes we don’t understand certain things, and all we can do is give life our best and keep moving forward. Maybe someday we’ll look back, and it’ll all make sense.” Morgen’s happiness at the end of the story also feels well earned—the recompense of a character who has learned to love herself, but only through long, hard struggle. An encouraging later-life drama that offers its protagonist a “penny of hope.”