Friday, July 30, 2010

Say it isn't so!

After reading Christine's post of yesterday, I'm hoping cupcakes haven't gone out of favor. But, as Lisa said, if they do, I'll just have to be "so yesterday." I begin teaching a high school creative writing class at a Christian co-op in September, and I was thinking of taking a batch of cupcakes to kick off the start of the school year.

My thoughts went from first-day-of-school cupcakes to Halloween cupcakes where I could have cupcakes with "tombstones." Cupcakes that look like the ones to the right would be great for November or December, don't you think?

Besides, who wouldn't love the teacher who brings them cupcakes? Do you know a better bribe? ;-)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cupcakes & Searching for a Starry Night tour continues

** So pundits say the end of the cupcake is near?

What? Who can't resist those tiny, portable sweets? (And in miniature they're pretty and fun to make! Check out this miniature cupcake creation!

Bah, humbug!

Speaking of sweet - check out the next stop on the Searching for a Starry Night tour - today I'm talking to Helen at Straight for Hel about Kindle. (And ignore the doppelganger that was standing in for my pic. ha!)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How Hot is It?

There are many responses that can be given to this question. I like to think of the Saturday Night Live skit when Eddie Murphy imitated James Brown and sang Too Hot for Sittin' in the Hot Tub. Last week I drove by a church sign that told how hot it isn't. The sign said "Actually, it is not hot as Hell." Very clever, I thought. Speaking of church, I've also heard people say "I'm sweatin' like a hooker in a church pew."

The hot, dry weather we have been experiencing has made me think of an excerpt from Blue Willow by Doris Gates. Our librarian read from this book when I was in elementary school. The main character in the story is suffering through some intolerable heat. She reads the story of Noah's Ark to make herself think about the rain. The young girl also enjoys looking at the lush scene on her treasured blue willow plate, and wishes that her surroundings resembled those on the plate.I do not think I ever got to hear the rest of this story, but recalling it makes me want to get a copy and read it with my girls.

A review that I read of this books explains that it was quite innovative. At the time it was written, there was debate as to whether children's literature should contain negative topics. Turns out the young girl was poor, it was the Great Depression; and she faced the possibility of having to part with her most treasured possession. The review made it seem as if this book might have lots of relevance now, when so many people are facing tough economic issues.

Thank goodness Doris Gates had the courage to challenge children with tough themes. I feel that books which cover difficult subjects have helped many young people get through bad times in their lives. Maybe Doris Gates paved the way for Judy Blume. What girl could have ever gotten through puberty without Are you There God? it's me, Margaret ? That book's still hot with young girls. How hot is it? It is hot as a firecracker and hotter than a two-dollar pistol!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Bar Jokes

I love bar jokes. It probably stems from the first joke I can remember, which was a bar joke:

The toothless termite walked into a bar and asked, "Where's the bar tender?"

I didn't say it was a good joke, I said it was a bar joke.

And it brings me to the subject of bar food.

Back in the day, bars gave away free food--pickled eggs, pretzels, peanuts, crackers, even rolled oysters. They all had at least two of three things in common: they were cheap, they were salty, they were dry.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see the logic in that. Imagine, if you will, the delight of learning that, not only will these foods make one's customers more thirsty--the customers are willing to pay to be made thirsty! They will pay for what you've been giving away for free!

Now, since this is Fatal Foodies and I am me, let us suppose we have a character who dislikes another character. We want him good and drunk. So we take him to a bar and ply him with dry and salty foods. Before he knows it, he's pie-eyed. We can do whatever we want with him! Bwa-ha-ha-ha-haaaaa!

And, if that doesn't work, we can kill him with bad bar jokes, like:

The three-legged dog walked into a bar and said, "I'm a-lookin' fer the man that shot my paw."


Monday, July 26, 2010

Call for Submissions

I got this from Jay Hartman, ed-in-chief of Untreed Reads, with a suggestion it be posted at Fatal Foodies.

Hello, everyone!

We are in the process of creating an anthology of short stories to be released on November 1st as a Thanksgiving release.

Working Title: The Killer Wore Cranberry

This anthology is designed to be a humorous mystery anthology. Only mysteries with a definite humor angle to them will be accepted or considered. What we're looking for are stories geared around the most popular Thanksgiving dishes: turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, etc.. As long as it's a regularly-featured food at Thanksgiving, we're open to how you work it in. Please note that it is unlikely we will publish multiple stories of the same food (i.e.: no two stories where pumpkin pie is featured).

As this is a short story anthology, submissions need to be between 3500-5000 words in length. We may be willing to accept longer works depending on the content. Previously published material is ok for submission providing that all electronic rights have reverted to the author. Stories that have been published previously need to be notated as such, along with the information as to where it first appeared.

The intention is to release each short story as its own release under our existing /Fingerprints /short story line, but there will also be an all-in-one edition at a lower price than purchasing the stories individually to encourage readers to pick up the entire anthology.

Editor-In-Chief Jay Hartman will serve as Editor for this anthology.

Deadline for submissions is September 30th, 2010. Email submissions ONLY, and they MUST be in DOC format, Times New Roman, 12pt. Submissions received that are not in this format will be deleted. Please include the word "Thanksgiving" in your subject line. All stories should be sent to Submissions at Untreedreads. Submissions sent to other email addresses will not be recognized. If an insufficient amount of usable entries are received, this anthology may be withdrawn, and such withdrawal will be announced no later than September 15th.

Payment--It's a 50/50 split on titles sold individually, shared percentage with other authors on the all-in-one.

Please repost/cross-promote this Call with fellow authors/blogs/lists, etc..

Questions regarding this Call should be directed to Editor-In-Chief Jay Hartman

Jay Hartman
Untreed Reads Publishing

Contact Me Facebook or Twitter

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Too Hot to Cook – Even up here in the Great White North

I am always somewhat taken aback when Americans make comments such as “I didn’t think it got hot enough in Canada to swim” or “In August I like to read a book set in Canada to cool down.” (Both comments I have heard in the last couple of weeks)

It gets beyond hot, believe me. In Southern Ontario it also gets very very humid. Temperatures of 30 – 35 Celsius are not uncommon in mid-summer, and the humidex can get into the mid-40s. (Maybe that is part of the problem. When we complain of how hot it is – oh, my gosh, it’s 35 degrees!!) Thirty-five Celsius is 95 Fahrenheit, 40C is 104F. In my book Valley of the Lost, cops are fainting in the 42 degree heat (that’s temperature, not humdiex), and in the Gold Rush books, Fiona suffers under her corset and petticoats.

All of which is rather beside the point. I was brought up by a mom who definitely believed that when it was hot it was too hot to cook. Fruit plates, cold meats and cheeses, salads were the order of the day in our house in July and August. Even now, with air conditioning and ceiling fans, I divide meals into summer foods and winter foods. Here is one of my favourite recipes for a cold yet hearty summer dinner.

Vicki’s Summer Chicken and Pasta Salad

(No quantifies given as it really doesn’t matter. Use enough to feed all present)

Cooked Pasta, such as Rigatoni or Macaroni (this is the only cooking part)
While pasta is still warm, toss with dressing.
Dressing: Equal quantities of store-bottled peanut sauce (I use Our Compliments Peanut Satay cooking sauce) and Mayonnaise. Salt and Pepper.
Put in fridge until dinner time.
Then add:
Store-bought rotisserie chicken, cut into slices
Baby carrots or carrot slices
Other vegetables as desired


Saturday, July 24, 2010

Let Food Be Your Medicine

I've been reading a fascinating book lately, Women Food and God by Geneen Roth. Her premise is that the way you eat is inseparable from your core beliefs about being alive. This is from the fly leaf : Your relationship with food is an exact mirror of your feelings about love, fear, anger, meaning, transformation and, yes, even God.

Do you believe that, Dear Reader?

I admit that I have food issues. It’s not that I’m an obsessive eater or starver. Okay, yes, I’m a little weak and have some trouble stopping when I’m really enjoying myself. But my ‘issue’ is that I think that I can use food to cure whatever ails me.

Let your food be medicine, and your medicine be food, Hippocrates says. So it must be true, right? Right?

I can’t get over the belief that somehow the powers that be have created a world in which everything we need has been provided, if only we are wise enough to recognize it. When I have a tummy ache I make myself some fresh ginger tea rather than reach for an aspirin. I believe that a good diet with lots of fish and olive oil and greens will keep me from having to take Lipitor. I've mentioned before that I buy the idea that fresh cherries are good for inflammation. I swear that cayenne pepper is good for excessive bleeding (drink it in milk or juice. Don't pour it in the wound!) Garlic for staving off infection. Onion for fevers.

I can't swear that it all really works every time, or even most of the time. But I need for it to be true, because then I have some control over my world. Maybe Geneen Roth is on to something.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Did you know about this?

I'm so excited! In preparing for my virtual book launch on Facebook on August 3 (just 11 days), I found that I can make customized Visa gift cards. So, I'm making these...........................................................................>

Visa gift cards with my book's cover!!! How cool is that?!
Other prizes for the virtual launch will include Mrs. Fields' cookies, tote bags, copies of the audio version of Between a Clutch and a Hard Place, keyrings and copies of The Quick and The Thread.

I'm also starting my blog tour with WOW! Women on Writing next week. First stop - The Muffin on Monday, July 26.

Join me for the launch and the blog tour. We'll have a blast!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Searching for a Starry Night Blog Tour

Today launches a blog tour for Searching for a Starry Night - now on Kindle and coming out in a new print version.

Be sure to visit the different blog stops (see schedule at bottom) to comment and enter the contest!!

About the Book:

In Searching for a Starry Night, A Miniature Art Mystery, Sam, her Bff Lita, and a mischievous Dachshund named Petey, face a cranky housekeeper, a dog-hating gardener, and an ancient family curse as they search for a missing miniature replica of Van Gogh's famous painting, "Starry Night."

Samantha Ann Carlton would rather spend her summer vacation anywhere but a spooky old house in Wisconsin… like Lake Geneva! Somehow Sam knows it's going to take more than a couple days to find a missing painting no bigger than her hand.

Maybe things won't be so bad, she thinks, since she gets to take a friend's lovable but mischievous Dachshund, Petey, and her best friend Lita. If they're lucky, the three of them can find the miniature replica of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" and help Sam's mother get it to the museum where it belongs.

It's not going to be easy, Sam realizes, when she meets the crabby housekeeper, a dog-hating gardener, and discovers her own family has some spooky secrets. Then Petey digs up an ancient curse, and Sam fears her friendship with Lita is doomed...

Will they find the miniature masterpiece in time? Will Sam and Lita go home friends -- or enemies? - a fun mystery for ages 9 and up.

**CONTEST: Anyone commenting on any of the blog stops on the tour can win:

* One person who comments on any of the blog tour stops will win a free Kindle copy of Searching for a Starry Night. (You can download Kindle for PC free here.)

* One person will also win a miniaturized dollhouse collector's edition of the first chapter from the first print edition, made by miniaturist LeeAnn Borgia. See myblog for links and photo.

** To celebrate the revised Searching for a Starry Night, one person will win a copy of the new print version when it is available.

** Be sure to leave a blog link or email in your post so I can contact you if you win!! **

Blog Tour Schedule:

Thurs, 7/22: Acme Authors Link - Real vs. Fictional Friends

Mon, 7/26: Morgan Mandel's Double M blog - Dogs and Such

Tues, 7/27: Killer Hobbies with Camille Minichino - Crafts and Writing, what comes first?

Weds, 7/28: Marian Allen's blog - Talking about Writing

Thurs, 7/29: Helen Ginger, Straight from Hel - Getting Kindleized

Fri, 7/30: J.E. Taylor's blog – Writer's Quiz and Other Stuff

Mon, 8/2: Killer Crafts & Crafty Killers - craft how to with Anastasia Pollack – Writing and Crafts: Make Easy Miniature Cloth Decorations

Tues, 8/3: L. Diane Wolfe, "Spunk on a Stick" – Making the Switch from Nonfiction to Fiction

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

You're Gonna Have Fun with This!

A couple of days ago I heard about the coolest site. You simply give a writing sample and very quickly get an analysis of your writing. The site will tell you which famous author your style most resembles.

I cut and pasted a sample from upcoming book for the Cutie Pies Chronicles. The site deemed that sample similar to Stephen King's style of writing. A sample from one of my short stories was determined to be like Stephanie Meyer's writing (of Twilight fame). If I share a writing style with these two uber-sucessful writers does that mean that I have book sales in the millions and motion picture deals in the future? Id better not start shopping for the dream vacation home on the beach just yet!

See what famous writer your style most resembles:

DEATH in the Garden

"Dear G_d, Holmes!" I cried, viewing the skeletal remains with horror and--let me confess it--a certain superstitious dread. "What could have done this?"

Holmes drew a magnifying glass from a pocket of his houndstooth coat and examined the evidence. He showed no overt emotion, but did his hand tremble ever so slightly? No one could be human and not be moved by the ghastly site before us.

"Stripped of all fleshy parts," he murmured. "Too high off the ground to be the work of The Tortoise or a lagomorph."

He parted the stems.

"Aha!" he exclaimed. "Look, Watson, look! What do you see?"

I peered through his glass at a scattering of black pellets on the leaves below the ravished branches.

"Good Lord! What are those?"

"You've neglected your study of common garden pests," he said. "Perhaps I should suggest you visit Audrey."

"Yes, yes," I said, with (I believe) understandable impatience. "But what ARE they?"

Almost absently, he said, as he carefully parted the victim's stems, searching beneath the scant foliage that was left, "They are the droppings of the larva of the hawkmoth, that is--Ah!"

He stepped back, turning up a stem and revealing a most revolting creature--a tomato hornworm! These hideous beasts begin as tiny eggs but, unchecked, they grow to the size of a double-decker bus.

"Kill it, Holmes!" My revulsion burst instinctively from me. "Or stand back and let me do it!"

"Your stout British heart does you credit, Watson," he said, with a rare show of approval. "But Nature herself has beaten you to it. Observe."

True enough, the monster was covered with white ovals. A wasp had discovered the fiend and, in the midst of the hornworm's depredations, had laid its own eggs upon the beast. The young wasps would feed upon the ravenous worm, even as the worm had fed upon the innocent plant.

"Justice," Holmes intoned, "is served."


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Way Too Hot to Cook

I promised myself that as soon as I finished my latest book, I was going to stop living on take-out and/or sandwiches and start cooking like a normal person again.

The book is done, and I'm raring to make supper. But it's too darn hot to cook. When it's so hot that the AC runs all day and all night, the last thing you want to do is turn on the range, not to mention the oven. That's why God invented outdoor cooking.

Sadly, we don't own a barbie, and [Luddite alert] neither do we own a microwave oven. So I am very inventive with my cold suppers.

Try this for a summer supper salad: drain and rinse a 15 oz. can of black beans, combine it with a 12 oz. package of frozen corn kernels that have been thawed - either briefly zapped or boiled in a little water for two or three minutes (I like Trader Joe's roasted kernel corn. It has a nice smokey flavor). Add a couple of tablespoons of chopped red onion, two cups of halved grape tomatoes (heirlooms are best), a half-cup of ranch dressing. Toss it all up and serve it with corn chips, and there you go. A small side dish of cubed watermelon sprinkled with mint that you just snipped from your herb bed goes with it very nicely. If you've never had fresh mint with your watermelon, you don't know what you're missing.

We also like to warm up a couple pieces of store-bought garlic naan in the toaster oven and eat it with whatever's handy. Don likes to melt cheese on top of his, maybe a little garlic, raw tomato, basil leaves. I like a smear of cream cheese and some thinly sliced cucumber.

I asked my mom once how her mother managed cooking for the family when it was very hot, for after all, Grandma cooked on a wood stove and nobody ever heard of air conditioning. My mom told me that sometimes they would just open up a jar of one of Grandma's home-canned vegetables and eat a bowl of it cold along with a piece of buttered bread. If you're talking about a bowlful of garden tomatoes that were canned in my grandmother's kitchen fifteen minutes after leaving the vine, I'll have some of that.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Cooper Chronicles

You'll recall a few weeks ago I wrote about the newest member of the Trent family. I hadn't planned on writing much more about Cooper. I didn't want to bore you with how cute he is, or how much he's growing, or etcetera ad nauseum.

However.... I'm beginning to realize what a great dog John Grogan had in Marley. You remember Marley? The worst dog ever?

Things we have recently discovered about Cooper:

He's something of a Fatal Foodie himself. We came home from Home Depot the other day to find a cereal box half hidden under a shelf. Granted, I'd been giving him the treats for "sitting" and "staying;" and my husband suggested he was rewarding himself for doing those things while we were gone.

That does not, however, explain the cookies. I'd taken freshly baked cookies out of the oven and pushed them to the back of the counter where I thought they'd be out of Cooper's reach. When I returned from taking a shower, I learned that Cooper had knocked down the pan of cookies and had eaten them. "It's not that bad, Mom," my son said. "I'd already eaten most of them."

The phone cord is a tasty snack and a way to get someone's attention if he or she is focused on talking to someone over the phone rather than playing with you.

We have learned that if Cooper does not get to go play in the park late every afternoon, he will likely have a big "accident" on the floor while my husband is in the shower the next morning. This makes me think he holds my husband personally responsible for not taking him to the park, because the rest of us are still sleeping at that time.

Most recently, Cooper has learned he does not fit in the window sill with the cat. He found that out himself last night when he jumped onto the couch and tried to squeeze into the window. My husband and son had to extricate him.

The worst part? When you get frustrated with him, he gives you the look; and you hug him and think, "It's been so long since I've baby-proofed a house. What am I forgetting?"

What am I forgetting? Any thoughts?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Renaissance Faire Food - Not what you think!

One of our summer must-do's is going to the annual Renaissance Faire in Wisconsin.

I love the costumes (er, "clothing" as one of the Queen's cabinet mentioned in a most-interesting talk on Courtly Life. The best part, I felt.)

And I love looking around, and seeing the shows. The woodland characters - fairies and such sitting in the middle of the green areas, also are great attention-getters.

As for the food, well, some swear by the turkey legs. Nope, I eat white meat only. The fish and chips are great, although probably not very Tudoresque. My choices are the Tempura and the ice cream crepes. Yeah, I know; fattening and far from authentic.

Well... if we're talking authentic, then it wouldn't be much of a faire, right? The use of spices came into vogue then for good reason - to cover up the often rancid meat hanging in the marketplace. Yum.

Some possible 1500s period dishes:

According to the food timeline:

* Shakespeare probably ate apples and nuts at the theater. (yes, we had roasted cinnamon pecans. Very tasty.)

* How about a recipe for Sheeps Feet? (Ewww. No modern day substitute, thank goodness.)

* Other recipes on the Tudor site above: Chicken with lemons (chicken on a stick at the fair). (You'll need to read Olde English for the above recipe; and you'll need "verjuyce" - juice from crab apples or sour fruit.)

Okay, enough of that. The real key to the Faire: have fun and eat what you like.

For a kick, enjoy reading the "olde" recipes. It makes you so thankful for refrigeration and microwaves.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Recalling the Pie Riots

"Let them eat pie!"

Recently, I did my first Sweet Read and Pie Tasting. I had the event at a local library, where I read from my Cutie Pies Chronicles, offered samples of pies from recipes in the back of my books and had books for sale. Much to my relief, the event was fun and sucessful.
It is with some fear and trepidation that I planned to do this event. You see, a few years ago I did a big pie and coffee event. A local newspaper gave me tons of advertising for an afternoon of free pie and coffee for 100 people.
The plan was that I would sell books as a vendor at a day-long event, break for an hour to make coffee and slice pies; then do an hour of free pie and coffee, author questions and answers, give away a sneek peek of an upcoming book and take pre-orders for that book.
The original plan included me closing shop for an hour at my vendor table. I was then to go to another room in the venue to set up the pie and coffee. Through no fault of the event sponsor, all of the rooms in the venue were being used for a wrestling tournament that was going on at the same time; which meant I would have to prepare for the pie and coffee for 100 right in the middle of the convention floor.
First problem was that the pies were still warm when I picked them up. This foiled my plan to stow them under the table until serving time. I had to loosen the lids and leave them out so that the steam could escape. Otherwise, I would be serving soggy pie. The sight of pies on the table had people asking when the free pie would be served. Many came back several times over a few hours to ask that question. The free pie and coffee were set for 2:00. My silent mantra became "I will serve no pie before it's time!"
Normally, I would never complain about selling lots of books, but business picked up right when I was supposed to be brewing coffee and slicing pies. Thank God my publisher was helping me! I also recruited a friend who happened to show up during the chaos.
Free food does draw a crowd. By 2:00, we were serving slices of pie at break-neck speed and the coffee was flowing like the Mississippi. I feel that more than 100 probably showed up. Having to set up in our confined space did not allow for the greatest flow of traffic for the pie and coffee line. You'd think that if something is free, people would not complain: but oh, they did!
Some were upset when my sugar-free pie was gone. Others complained about the way the line was proceeding. When at first, one coffee urn dispensed only hot water I thought I would have to exit the room for my own safety. Within a couple of minutes the coffee in that urn began brewing. By that time a meeting from down the hall had sent someone up to get free coffee for them.
What did I learn? Well, I've never had another event for that many people since. If I had to do it again I would have someone else pick up the pies and deliver them right before serving time. I also should have paid for a coffee service. For about $80 I could have had coffee, cups, cream and sweatener delivered to the sight. Still, I sold lots of books, had some positive feedback sandwiched between those negative pie rioters, and would you believe; that there was one unsliced pie left and I sold it right off the table.

Author be warned; free food does strange things to people!

Check out this site for an innovative pie company. Their logo was so perfect for this post that I just had to use it.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Olives are Food, Aren't They?

My guest tomorrow on my web site is Victor Banis, who will share his thoughts on the perfect Martini.

That made me think of Ogden Nash's poem A DRINK WITH SOMETHING IN IT. Here is the pertinent verse:

There is something about a Martini,
A tingle remarkably pleasant;
A yellow, a mellow Martini;
I wish I had one at present.
There is something about a Martini,
Ere the dining and dancing begin,
And to tell you the truth,
It is not the vermouth--
I think that perhaps it's the gin.

Ogden Nash

Now, I'm asking you, honestly, would that not be a perfect title for a murder mystery?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Scene of the Crime Festival on Wolfe Island

For those of you living in or visiting the east next month, I wanted to drop a mention of the Wolfe Island Scene of the Crime Festival.

The Festival is an annual affair, this will be the tenth year, held on Wolfe Island, the largest of the Thousand Islands (just off Kingston Ontario). The Festival is small and I think unique, held in honour of one Grant Allan, Canada’s first crime writer. Allan was born on Wolfe Island and became a friend and contemporary of the writers of his age including Sir Arthur Conon Doyle.

Registration is limited to 100 attendees so everyone gets a chance to talk in a casual setting with the authors. The day is full of readings, interviews, panel discussion, a lecture, book sales and signings, and good-old-fashioned meeting and schmoozing. This year the Grant Allan Award recipient for her contributions to Canadian crime writing is Gail Bowen. The other authors are Michael Blair, Susanna Kearsley, James Nichol and ahem... Vicki Delany.

The setting on Wolfe Island is perfect. It’s a very small island, only accessible by ferry from Kingston Ontario or St. Vincent New York. If you take the Kingston ferry everything is easily walkable (from St Vincent you would need a car). The morning’s events are held in the beautiful United Church and in the afternoon we move to the historic Anglican Church where Grant Allan’s father preached.

Did I mention the meals? Your registration gets you a coffee and muffin breakfast, lunch put on by the congregation of the United Church, and a traditional church supper from the Anglican Church women. Like pie? They make pie like you would expect Church ladies living on an Island to make!

For an additional small fee, a morning workshop is also being offered. This year the topic is Point of View and the workshop is being conducted by Barbara Fradkin.

This year’s date is Saturday August 14. . Note that in order to guarantee your meals, registration must be received by July 31st.

Information and registration is at

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Eugenia Potter

A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to meet Nancy Pickard at a bookstore event. I had gone to see her specifically to meet her and to buy a copy of The Virgin of Small Plains, which has one of the most interesting openings of any book I have ever read. Probably why the book won the Agatha for best novel in 2006, and was a finalist for the Anthony and the Edgar, and a won a bunch of other awards, as well. Nancy is one of those prolific writers who labored for many years as a critically acclaimed midlister before she hit it really big with Virgin. In the past year, I've gone way back in her resume and begun reading some of her early works.

One of my favorite discoveries is the Eugenia Potter series. How Nancy came to write three installments in a series that was started by an author by the name of Virginia Rich is a fascinating story. In 1983, Nancy read and loved Virginia's first mystery novel, The Cooking School Murders, featuring the warm and wonderful Eugenia Potter, gourmet cook and crime solver. Virginia followed up with two more Eugenia books, The Baked Bean Supper Murders, and The Nantucket Diet Murders. Nancy's wrote a fan letter to Mrs. Rich--because she loved the books, and not least because they were both mystery writers married to cattle ranchers!

When Virginia replied, she mentioned that she was already working on the fourth book in her series, a mystery to be called The 27-Ingredient Chili Con Carne Murders. But when Nancy wrote back, she was told that Mrs. Rich was too ill to correspond. Soon after that, Virginia Rich died.

After Virginia's death, her husband came across boxes full of her notes for future novels. There were even a few drafts of chapters. He approached his late wife’s editor at Delacorte Press, asking if the series might be continued by other writers. That editor approached Nancy's agent, who asked her if she would like to complete The 27-Ingredient Chili Con Carne Murders.
And she did.
In the end, Nancy wrote three Eugenia Potter books, The 27-Ingredient Chili Con Carne Murders, The Blue Corn Murders, and The Secret Ingredient Murders.

The books are full of food and cooking, as well as atmosphere and great characters. If you like a good murder and good eats, this is the series for you. I haven't read them all, yet. But I will.

On her web site, Nancy writes that Virginia Rich created the culinary mystery genre. And for anyone who thinks it's too late for them to be an author, Nancy points out that Virginia started writing her mysteries when she was in her early sixties and was first published when she was almost seventy.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Plots everywhere I look

I'm sorry for the delay in posting today, but I was having computer problems until a few minutes ago. I have a question for you other mystery writers on the list. Do you see potential plots everywhere you go? I'm pretty sure Marian does because she's posted about it before.

As some of you may know, the idea for Killer Sweet Tooth came to me because I had to take my son to the orthodontist after hours. It was about 10 p.m. on a Saturday night. He'd broken a wire earlier in the evening, and we'd called and learned that Dr. Bassham was on her way back to town after visiting relatives in another state. She said she'd call us when she returned.

While we waited for her call, the family sat around the kitchen table playing Texas Hold 'Em. I asked, "Wouldn't it be awful if we went to meet Dr. Bassham and she was dead? You know, if someone got there before we did and knocked her in the head. We could be considered suspects because we'd lured her to her office."

Does my family think this kind of talk is strange? Not from me. When we got to the orthodontist's office, my son said, "Hey, Mom, tell her what you said."

I then had to tell her what I'd said and explain that I was a mystery writer. She seemed to understand, but I took her a copy of Murder Takes the Cake at the next visit! She did say that she'd bought and remodeled the office and that when they'd first began business there, homeless men kept wandering in. Apparently, they'd stayed there or slept on the porch or something before the building was sold.

Today I was in a doctor's office where a strange man was loitering in the waiting area. The practice is staffed by only the doctor and his wife. Before I left today I asked if she was okay with me leaving. She said she was and that the man said he was waiting for someone.

Still, I had to wonder if I should watch the evening news today...just in case.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Their Aching Stomachs!

Growing up in Chicago, one of the best events to attend was the annual Taste of Chicago.

Now that the event's over, it's interesting to take a look at the amount of food that's consumed during the event's 10 days.

Holy cow!

With more than 50 restaurants and 200+ offerings on the menus, there was something for everyone.

Some of the food by the numbers:

* The famous Billy Goat Tavern sold an incredible 45,000 "cheezebugahs"

* Dominick's Food Store sold 100,000 watermelon slices.

* Home Run Inn sold 31,000, 6" pizzas

* Vienna hot dogs sold: 32,000

That's not all, either.

Alka-Seltzer anyone?

** See more food stats

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Plum Funny

I have what I like to call my grab bag of books. It is a bunch of paperbacks that I have gotten from friends, garage sales, library sales, etc. Sometimes when I want a good read, I go to my grab bag.
A couple of weeks ago, I did that before I left for vacation and grabbed a winner. The bright cover of Janet Evanovich's Eleven on Top caught my eye. This book is in her Stephanie Plum series, which I bet many of you are familiar with.
Stephanie Plum is New Jersey bounty hunter who is at a crossroads in her life. After quitting her job as a fugitive apprehension agent, Stephanie tries a few "safer occupations" which do not work out so well. When if becomes obvious that someone is trying to kill her, Stephanie re-enters the world of bounty hunting.
Evanovich surrounds Stephanie Plum with a hilarious cast of characters. Staphanie's family is barely functional, her best friend is a former prostitute turned incompetent bounty hunter and there are two very interesting men who vie for Stephanie's affection. If one of the MTV Jersey Shore stars became a bounty hunter, you'd have Stephanie Plum in real life.
This book has had me laughing out loud several times! One caveat, do not give it to your ten-year-old. Stephanie Plum ain't Nancy Drew. At times, the language is a bit salty.
Warning to Fatal Foodies: Stephanie's eating habits will make you want to run out for the nastiest, most unhealthy things; Fried chicken, donuts, day-old birthday cake, and meatball subs, just to mention a few.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Spreading It Around

I posted this on my own blog the other day, but thought the Fatal Foodies readership might find it interesting.

Our #2 daughter has been a vegetarian for years and, after having read EATING ANIMALS by Jonathan Safran Foer, has decided to go vegan, as well. She'll eat eggs, because she keeps her own chickens, but she's trying to avoid products made with slave eggs (my term, not hers). So I've been trying to make mayonnaise with no success. Until the other day....

Yes, I did it, I really did it! I'm posting the secret, which no recipe I found anywhere told, so take notes.

This recipe was at the Hellman's site and is listed elsewhere as the Fanny Farmer recipe. I did it a leetle bit differently, and I'll do it a little bit more differently the next time I make it--or maybe I won't: Charlie has commented twice that it's really good.

As we all know, emulsions are colloids, heterogeneous mixtures composed of tiny particles suspended in another immiscible (unmixable) material.

Easy Blender Mayonnaise

  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice (can use white vinegar)
  • 1 cup salad oil (some say 1 1/4 cup--I used 1 1/4 cup)

Break egg into blender container. Add mustard, salt and vinegar. Add 1/4 cup of the oil. Cover and blend on low speed. Immediately uncover and add remaining oil in a steady stream. Makes 1 1/4 cup.


So many other recipes said to add the first of the oil drop by drop, I didn't put the oil into the food processor (I don't have a blender) with the eggs; I added 1/4 cup of it drop by drop, by taking a spoonful and feeding it drop by drop through the hole in the top of the food processor (yes, it spit on me and I had to wash my glasses twice during the process). When the 1/4 cup of oil was nearly gone, I started drizzling in the rest of the oil. All this time, the motor has to be going.

Here's the secret: Keep adding the oil, slowly, even though the mixture keeps looking like cake batter. All of a sudden--POOF!--it gets thick. It's amazing. The more oil you add, the thicker it gets. That's--what's the word?--counter-intuitive.

When I make it again, I'll try it the way they say to do it, and I'll add less oil, because it's thicker than I'd like. I could thin it with more lemon juice or a bit of water, but I'll try less oil.
This mayonnaise has a personality of its own--not just something to keep the bologna from sticking to the roof of your mouth. I'm told one can flavor it with herbs, and I'm like, "Really? Ya think?" Okay, that was snotty, but that's like saying you can actually BOIL stuff in WATER and make SOUP!!!!

If you prefer "salad dressing" (ICK), you may add powdered sugar until the resulting mess is as sweet as you like (YUCK). Just sayin'.

Anyway, I'm singing the Mr. Rogers Proud Of You song. :)


Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy 4th

I can't think of a better celebration of Independence Day than to reproduce the following poem from my husband Don Koozer's new book The Road, from Bellowing Ark Press. This particular poem is a celebration of Americana and a remembrance of an American boyhood. And nothing says U.S.A. like lots of eats. Enjoy the holiday, and have some watermelon and corn on the cob.

It was a thistledown time for a boy,
A time of white frame houses
With porch swings,
And bells ringing out
From steepled churches;
A strawberry and shortcake time,
A time of watermelons
Cooling in tubs of water,
Of buttered corn on the cob,
Of eggs fresh from the chicken nest
And milk bottles waiting on the porch;
Of the silence of mornings
Broken by daybreak and the rooster's crow,
Of family gathered around the dinner table,
Of short pants and stubbed toes,
Of fishing poles and bobbing corks
On quiet lakes,
Of fried okra, corn bread, and butter beans,
Of mute imposing oaks
Climbed by chattering squirrels;
Of dandelions, four leaf clovers,
Grasshoppers, and hound dogs;
Gardens of tall corn stalks,
Climbing pea plants, pumpkins,
Hollyhocks, morning glories,
Petunias, and honeysuckle.
And the plains,
Beyond, like the great soul
Of earth and sky,
Was always the plains.

The land was a sacred realm--
Grasslands reaching beyond the horizon,
Towering cottonwood trees
Lining banks of winding creeks,
Red dirt country roads
And windmills beside tanks of cool water,
Skies filled with
Ten thousand stars,
Moonlight shining off
Fields of green wheat,
The spirit possessed
Howl of coyotes,
Catfish and cooing doves,
Soaring hawks and hooting owls.
The quiet days seemed endless,
And the nights,
A bewildering star-filled mystery
That filled the heart.

In the evenings my mother
Would call me from the fields
Where I played
To the brightly lighted house.
There was always food
And family and safety
In the aura of the glowing chandelier.
But I knew that a part
Of myself was elsewhere,
Beyond the circle of light
From shaded lamps,
And the boundary of homes
With neatly mowed yards.

For a few hours I belonged
To the sphere of light and family,
To the ticking clock
And singing radio.
But later, lying alone,
Beneath the blankets
In the unlighted bedroom,
I felt the sacred darkness
In my heart and all around
For a thousand miles.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Exciting news!

First of all, I'd like to congratulate Linda Weaver, winner of the $50 Amazon gift card for pre-ordering The Quick and The Thread.’s random number generator picked Number 16 from the number of contestants entered, and that number belonged to Linda.
Thank you so much to everyone who pre-ordered The Quick and The Thread and entered the contest. I truly appreciate your support and encouragement. Please keep in mind there will be plenty of other opportunities to win at The Quick and The Thread's virtual book launch on August 3. The launch will be held at the Gayle Trent and Amanda Lee page on Facebook.

By the way, The Quick and The Thread has been designated a Romantic Times Top Pick and given a 4 1/2-star review! Happy dance! Happy dance!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Favorite July 4th Cookout Foods

The upcoming July 4th holiday has everyone thinking about one thing: fireworks. No! Independence? Well that's good, but no. You guessed it - food!

After all, isn't the 4th the best time for family, food and cookouts?

As a result, a number of bloggers seem to be sharing their food favorites, so I decided to gather up the links and share them here. Here's to an assortment sure to make your mouth water!

* All week the crafty writers at Killer Hobbies are sharing their favorite picnic recipes. Check out Monday's recipe for Watermelon Salad. Sounds yummy.

* The Cozy Chicks Blog suggested a meatloaf recipe exchange. l know it's not exactly July 4th fare, but who can resist a good meatloaf? (Or make burgers instead!) Kate Collins shared her unique Picadillo Mealoaf/Burgers recipe that uses chili powder and olives. Sounds intriguing.

* On a slightly different note, if you prefer ethnic food, like spaghetti, (hey some like cold Spaghetti Salad), Courtney over at Haunt Jaunts wonders why ghosts like spaghetti so much? (Who knew?) Actually she talks about several supposedly haunted places dealing with yes, spaghetti.

For a more "traditional" July 4th cookout, nothing beats fresh grilled brats, hot dogs, chicken, plus homemade cole slaw and potato salad, right?

I love cole slaw, so here's a simple recipe (we don't use lemon juice though.) You can get more cole slaw recipes from All

Helllman's Mayonnaise 5 Minute Cole Slaw

1 cup Hellmann's® or Best Foods® Light Mayonnaise
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (16 ounce) package shredded coleslaw mix

In large bowl, combine Hellmann's® or Best Foods® Light Mayonnaise, lemon juice, sugar and salt.

Add coleslaw mix; toss well. Serve chilled or at room temperature.