Aah, mysteries with food:)

First, before I start my blog, I want to mention that I put up chapter 6 on my webpage:

https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/.  Enjoy.


That said,  it’s time to admit how much I love food in mysteries.  I mean, no surprise, really, since I love food in general.  I’m not one of those people who eat to survive or because I’m hungry.  I eat because I love cooking food, I love paging through cookbooks, and I love the nuances of food.  But the balance of food and cozy mysteries strikes a perfect ying/yang for me.  I think it started for me with The Cooking School Murders, a Eugenia Potter mystery, by Virginia Rich.  When Virginia Rich died, Nancy Pickard–one of my favorite writers–took over the series for a while.  Those books led to my love of Diane Mott Davidson with her Goldy Bear catering service, recipes, and dead bodies.

There are a LOT of food mysteries on the shelves these days.  Every cozy these days is married to a niche of some sort–sewing, knitting, gardening, or herbs.  That’s fine with me.  A niche adds another layer to a good who-dunnit.  I recently finished The State of the Onion, a White House chef mystery, by Julie Hyzy.  It was a good, solid mystery with lots of recipes included at the back of the book.  Sadly, Hyzy finished the series and  moved on to writing the Manor House mysteries–which she finished, too–and now she has a darker novel on pre-sale for October 23.

Joanne Fluke’s amateur sleuth, Hannah Swenson,  who owns The Cookie Jar, is so popular, the Hallmark channel made movie versions of some of her earlier books.  She has over twenty books in the series now and includes recipes in every book.

Which leads me to the fact that my editor asked me to include two original recipes at the end of my first mystery, THE BODY IN THE ATTIC, which will come out early in November.  I had Jazzi cook BBQ ribs in that book, along with bruschetta with a white bean puree.  I’m ardently in love with bread, and my husband is passionate about ribs, so I’d made both recipes and tinkered with them a lot.  For the book, I tried to blend a few BBQ sauce recipes into one, so I hope that works.  John loved it, but if I spread horseradish on ribs, he’d wolf them down.

For book two, THE BODY IN THE WETLAND, out in April 2019, Jazzi made cabbage rolls for Ansel–since they’re one of his favorite foods–and she served chicken salad for her family’s Sunday get-together.  I have an abundance of chicken salad recipes, too–I like to invite my sisters and cousin for a “tea party” once a year, and I always serve some kind of chicken salad, along with egg salad, ham salad, and cucumber sandwiches…and lots of finger desserts…oh, and tea:)  But my fellow writer, M. L. Rigdon/Julia Donner, offered to give me her “famous” recipe, a family secret, so what can I say?  I jumped at the chance.  The cabbage rolls are something I made for my mom’s birthday in January, year after year, until she died  After that, I couldn’t make them, but I think I’ll be ready again this coming January.  There’s nothing like steaming up the kitchen, peeling leaves off a head of cabbage so that you can stuff them.

I don’t know if you like cozy mysteries, or if you love to cook, but I think the two are a match made in genre heaven.  (Our very first tea.  I got better with time.)P1030059

I hope whatever you’re working on now is “delicious.”  And happy writing!

My webpage:  https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My Author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/

Twitter:  @judypost


Writing & Distractions

I have a writing office, of sorts. It used to be a small bedroom in the back of our bungalow that we lined with bookshelves on two walls. The carpenter built a shelf large enough in the center of one wall to hold my keyboard and the mountain of papers that I can’t seem to ever organize. Above it, there are cubbyholes to hold paper clips, my stapler, and a lot of junk I should sort through. The bookshelves hold the novels I read that I can’t seem to part with–the ones I think someday I’ll reread, but rarely do. But I still can’t get rid of them. Looking at the titles and covers bring back too many good memories, sort of like looking at photograph albums.

I had to give away some of the books that got jammed in here to make way for the overload of Temptation bowls and casserole dishes I ordered from QVC that won’t fit in our kitchen. (An addiction for the moment, but now that the kids have grown up, I can justify matching sets. They might survive without chips). At first, I thought I’d mind having dishes and platters mingled with books, but somehow, it fits my writing style. Cookbooks nestle with mysteries and my favorite urban fantasy authors. A soup tureen sits below the “Scribes” shelf that holds books and articles by friends in my writers’ club.

A parakeet cage hangs in one corner of the room, near the long, narrow window that lets in light. Hermes, our blue parakeet, chirps to me while I write. A dog bed is close to my office chair where my daughter’s rat terrier, that couldn’t move to Indy with her because she’s a nurse who works too many hours, stretches out and sleeps. Our little chihuahua comes and goes, pestering me when he wants something. And the stray cat we made our own leaps on my keyboard when he’s tired of being ignored.

I’ve gone to houses that have serious offices with doors that close. My office has a door, too, but it’s almost always open. For one thing, I’m naturally nosey. If something’s going on, I want to know. Mostly, it’s habit. For over thirty years, kids popped in and out to tell me something or to ask a question while I fussed over stories. Some people complain about distractions, but I enjoy them. If I have to sit too long in too much quiet, my ideas dry up. If I hit a snag in a scene, that justifies a trip to the coffee maker.

“Play some music,” one of my friends told me. But I end up listening to that instead of writing. My story juices flow better when I live inside my head. But if left to myself too long, those ideas just bounce around like tiny ping pong balls, never landing anywhere. That’s when a distraction’s welcome. It gives me time away and lets my subconscious do its thing.

I’ve read a few blog posts about authors who can write 10,000 words in a single day. To me, that’s like Superman, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. If I stayed in my chair and closed my office door, I know I’d get more words done each day, too. But I’d get sick of them. And a large part of why I write is to entertain myself, because I LIKE it. Hopefully, readers will like it, too, but I’m not too into drudgery, and it would show. My brain’s not fast enough to process words and scenes that fast, even if I chained myself to my desk. So for me, I write a scene, then I look for a distraction before I write the next one. And if I can describe that as a method, it works out pretty well.

Writing: 7 things about myself

I think I got lucky this time. I’ve spent so much time worrying about getting the elements right in a romance, I finally just sat down and wrote the first chapter. Then I played with it more the next day. I printed it out so that I could scribble in the margins, and my daughter came over for a visit. She picked it up and read it and liked it. That never happens. My first chapters are always a struggle for me. Then I took it to my writers’ club, Scribes, and read it, and THEY liked it, too. Miracles do happen:) Anyway, this is a perfect way to lead into 7 things about myself.

Number 1, my first chapters usually stink. I rewrite them, off and on, the entire time I write my books. The farther I get in my stories and the more I know my characters, the better handle I have on them. My opening hooks usually stay the same–they’re what made me excited about writing the stories in the first place, but the dance of introducing the main characters, the settings, and the books’ big questions get tweaked endlessly while I trudge through plot points.

Number 2, I make tons and tons of goals, and life never agrees with them. But I still cling to making my lists and crossing things off when I finish them. It gives an illusion of control that brings me comfort.

Number 3, I love to cook. I own more cookbooks than any person should have, and I get two cooking magazines delivered to our house each month. I get bored making the same things, so the magazines keep me inspired with fresh recipes and takes on ingredients. My daughter and grandsons lived with us for years, and the boys went through a Chinese phase. I have so many Chinese oils and flavorings on the top shelf of my cupboard, I’m lucky I didn’t need a new kitchen.

Number 4, I have a thing for British period pieces and stories. On our honeymoon, John and I had to stop whatever we were doing to watch The Wives of Henry VIII. John said he should have taken that as a sign. He was right.

Number 5, I take in strays. I only chose the first kitten we ever got. The rest have all found their way to our house. Our chihuahua is a stray. I have a gray kitten in my living room right now. The mother cat ditched him, and he’s looking pretty darned cute.

Number 6, I love bungalows. We live in one. There’s something about that period–the early 1900’s– that I like. The woodwork. The arches. The one-and-a-half storied ones. Cozy. I like cozy.

Number 7, I love people, but I need my alone time. I’m only social to a point. And I like small groups better than big groups. I get uptight and grumpy when I’m overwhelmed with too many people. But that might be typical of most writers. That’s why I like my keyboard time. It’s me, myself, and whatever characters I create:)

Happy holidays!

This isn’t my usual writing blog.  I’m in holiday mode.  December 20th was Nate and Tyler’s last day of school.  Ty’s coming home from Bloomington for the holidays, and Nate’s dropping in to visit more often.  Our “second” daughter, Heidi, (she grew up across the street and spent a lot of time at our house with our older daughter) came to town on Saturday to see her family, so we got a quick visit with her and her husband and kids.

My thoughts are full of family and get togethers.  For me, that means I’m stocked up with lots of food.  I made a pot of Tyler’s favorite vegetable soup and Nate’s favorite chicken and dumplings for easy lunches.  I bought steaks and ribs for special meals.  I have everything ready to make chicken marsala tonight.  There’s a ham for Christmas day.  And more, lots more.

Anyone who’s read my blog knows how much I love to cook.  I’ve managed to accumulate more cookbooks and files full of recipes than I’ll probably ever use.  Cooking and food sneak into the stories I write.  To me, food is the thing that brings people together, that cements a social gathering.  My writing friend Mary Lou has warned me she’s going to put a big, red X on “food” scenes in my stories that don’t advance the plot.  She says she can gain weight just beta reading one of my manuscripts:)  But what can I say?  I love cooking for people.

I don’t make as many big meals as I used to since it’s just John and me, so when I get a chance to feed the masses, I’m a happy woman.  This year, I didn’t just stop at the food for the holidays, though.  I wanted the table to look festive, too.  For years, more kids crowded around my table than adults, and kids could care less what food is served in.  They don’t care how their hot dogs, spaghetti, or Korean beef is plated, just as long as there’s lots of it.  But now that the kids are grown, I decided to give away my old, beat-up cookware.  I decided to upgrade.

I’m not a fussy person.  I have no desire to have anything fragile that requires much care, so fine china and crystal were out.  That’s when I discovered stoneware.  Worse, my sister, Patty, told me about the joys of In the Kitchen with David on QVC, and a monster was born–me.  My husband encouraged me.  He was happy when I bought a new bakeware set, cheered when I ordered new pots and pans and casserole dishes.  I’m not usually much of a shopper…But things for the kitchen?  When I was actively looking for them?  Watch out, world!

I was actually slowing down on my love of loaf pans, pie plates, and 9 x 13 bakeware when my second sister, Mary, gave me all of her Christmas dishes, coffee cups, and stemware.  Her love of entertaining had reached the designer, paper plate level.  Her Christmas tree plates didn’t match  any of the stuff I had, but there was a holly painted cook set that would go perfectly with them.  So guess what?  I had to store my new stuff away to make way for the even newer, Christmas things.  Now I have more stoneware of different shapes and colors than I ever dreamed possible.

It’s a good thing I only binge on cookware a few times a decade.  It’s even better that I write five days  a week, because it keeps me out of trouble.  Who knows what I’d find if I devoted more time to it?

I’m ready to enjoy the holidays.  And I hope yours are full of food and friends and merriment!

Is Being a Goddess a Good Gig?

I watch Nigella Lawson on the cooking channel.  Have lots of her cookbooks, and would love to make being a Domestic Goddess look as easy as she does.  She whips up wondrous meals for half a dozen friends or so, who drop by without warning, and makes it all look effortless and fun.  Me, just getting supper on the table every night for six people (more if the boys have friends over) makes my hair frizzy, my temper short, and my shirt splattered.  I swear, I can’t cook a meal without a grease stain.  But the point is, even trying for mortal goddess status is more work than I might be up to.

One of my other loves is Greek mythology with a little Norse thrown in.  My favorite goddess is Artemis (Diana to Romans), the goddess of the hunt, mistress of the moon, and Hecate at the crossroads.  She can be demure when she’s left to her own devices, but fearsome if crossed.  I kind of like that combination–a nature girl you should never tick off with some magic up her sleeve.  That’s why she’s my protagonist in EMPTY ALTARS.  But to the Greeks and Romans, there was a god or goddess you could call on for any occasion.  And each god had his groupies.  Made me wonder what kind of person would pick which one?  And why would that particular god appeal to him?  Even more, if you could be a god or goddess, would you want to be?  Or would it end up not as glamorous and carefree as it seems.  What strings come attached to the gig?

So….if you had your choice, would you or wouldn’t you?  And who would you pick?  Zeus/Jupiter–the head honcho who dallies around, gets in trouble with his wife, and can throw lightning bolts?   Aphrodite/Venus–goddess of love and beauty?  Or Hermes/Mercury–the clever, naughty god?  Maybe brainy Athena/Minerva?  There’s a dozen to choose from, and if none of them trip your trigger, there are Celt and Norse gods too.  Who’s your favorite?


Writing and Food

I love to write.  I really do.  I need to sit at my computer and hit keys every day.

I also love to read.  I think most writers do.  There’s little better than entering an unknown world and living in it for a while until you turn the last page.

I also really, really love food.  My friends tease me that I’m hooked on the foodnetwork.  All those luscious ingredients, those picture perfect meals.  I can easily lose myself flipping through cookbooks and cooking magazines.  I can live in glossy pages filled with recipes as easily as I spend an evening with Mercy Thompson or Thomas Lynley.  I love Diane Mott Davidson’s culinary mysteries and Shirley Jump’s The Bachelor Preferred Pastry.  I can get hooked on a list of ingredients as quickly as I get hooked on a cliffhanger.

Bookshelves line two walls of my writing room.  Most shelves are filled with novels.  Four are crammed with cookbooks.  Just as when I meet someone who loves the same author I do, I get giddy when someone likes the same cookbooks.  I went to a chocolate party at Shirley Jump’s house once, and my heart beat faster when she raved about The Barefoot Contessa’s cake recipe.   My friend, Paula, not only shares my obsession with mysteries written by Elizabeth George, but she shares my passion for recipes by Pam Anderson.  Whereas I’m a sucker for French and Italian, my friend Joyce excels at flavors from Spain.  When we get together, there’s always a recipe exchange.

My husband and I remember vacations by the places we ate and the food that we tried.  My trip to New Orleans with Dawn will always be highlighted by a trip to Mother’s for its shrimp po’ boys.  Trips to Hilton Head will conjure images of buying steamed shrimp at a Piggly Wiggly to share with Joyce and Abe.  San Francisco is Crab Louis, a lunch with my brother-in-law by a window overlooking the bay.  Food, for me, is an impression of a city.

I enjoy cooking as much as eating.  I’m no fly by the seat of your pants type person.  Just as with my writing, I tend to like structure.  When I start a novel, I don’t just wade in and see where it takes me.  I need character wheels.  I need plot points.  To cook, I need recipes.  I follow directions.  I might tweak here and there, but I want a solid foundation.  I like cooking in mass.  I like filling a huge skillet, putting a meal on the table, and watching the food disappear.  I like soup pots and crockpots.  I like casual, informal, a table scattered with side dishes and a big salad.  Sometimes, plates match.  Sometimes silverware doesn’t.

When my grandson was little, we watched the cartoon Little Bear every day.  In one episode, the family has a feast for the winter solstice, and Tyler thought that a table, laden from one end to the other with all sorts of food was the most wonderful thing he’d ever seen.  I wanted that for him, so my daughter and I worked together and invited people over and filled our table with Tyler and Nathan’s favorite foods.  Nate–Ty’s younger brother–was really little then, but he still enjoyed the feeling of abundance.  I like that feeling to a lesser extent.  But I know, someday, my table won’t be as crowded as it is now, most nights.  Eventually, it will be just John and I who share a meal.  And I’ll have to adjust.  And I’ll learn to like that, too.

One rule I hope to keep permanent, though.  I don’t cook on Friday nights.  That’s for enjoying other peoples’ talents.  And donuts from the bakery on Saturday mornings while I watch new segments on the Cooking Channel is nothing to sneeze at either.