This short novella came from the Babet & Prosper collection II. I kept these stories short (trying for around 40 pages each) so that a person could read them over a lunch hour or a commute. When I was writing urban fantasy, I really enjoyed creating these short pieces. I hope you enjoy them, too.
My friend and fellow Kensington author, Mae Clair, guested on Esme Salon recently. She wrote a fun post about the ingredients needed to write a good book and her recipe for a dynamite tortellini salad. (Well, sort of a recipe…maybe…I copied and pasted it in case you want to give it a try:) You can find the entire post here: https://esmesalon.com/guest-post-cooks-books-and-suspense/ And just in case you can’t wait to get in the kitchen, here’s the recipe:
Mae Clair’s No-Fail Tortellini Salad
- Mix a healthy dose of delusions with 1 cup of vigorous pep-talk.
- Remind yourself you’ve created complex characters and plots. How difficult can an oven/stove thingie be?
- Ignore spouse who reminds you about the “infamous cake fiasco” that resulted in one overly large, hockey puck-like biscotti. Apparently, there is a legitimate reason a box cake mix calls for water. Who knew?
- Settle for making a simple appetizer and breathe a sigh of relief.
- Ignore husband when he comments the last appetizer you made should have been killed before it multiplied.
- Blow the dust off cookbooks and search for an appetizer recipe.
- Turn deaf ear to the husband who suggests you have yet to outgrow the adult supervision stage.
- Decide you’d rather spend your time writing than crushing tortilla chips and slicing up fat black olives. Celebrate with a glass of wine.
- Head for your nearest gourmet deli and clean them out of tortellini salad.
- For the highly skilled (I wouldn’t suggest something this complex on the first try): place tortellini salad in a festive bowl and pass off as your own. Blank expressions and stammering rarely work when someone asks for the recipe. The best you can hope for is a diversion. Fainting usually does the trick
Now Mae’s recipe was obviously tongue-in-cheek, but for my new mystery series, my editor asked me to include two recipes for the first book. I have more recipes than any file folder can hold, but I always worry about how much I have to tinker with them to make them mine. I love puttering in the kitchen, but my two sisters have never met a stove/thingie they like. Even if I do the cooking, they don’t like it when I get too “chefy.” So, I was curious how other authors who write “food” mysteries handled the cooking and recipes. To find out, I’ve been reading a lot of them.
I just finished The Diva Runs Out of Thyme by Krista Davis. Clever, huh? Davis combines cooking, characters, the mystery, and more twists and turns than San Francisco’s Lombard Street. It was the first book in her Diva series, and I plan to buy more. I was relieved to see that she included only two recipes at the back of the book, but she DID include lots of Martha Stewart type entertaining and decorating tips. I got hooked on food mysteries when I first discovered Diane Mott Davidson’s Goldy Bear’s catering novels. When Goldy catered an event, Davidson included most or all of the recipes. Shirley Jump–who used to live in my city and was a gracious hostess for writing get-togethers–wrote a series of Sweet and Savory romances, starting with The Bride Wore Chocolate, where she shared a witty recipe at the end of every chapter. (She said she gained weight testing them all).
Anyway, this is my question. When a writer includes recipes in a novel, have any of you tried them out? How many recipes do you expect at the end of a book? Can a writer include too many? Do you prefer simple recipes to complicated ones?
For now, I’ve moved on to reading No Cats Allowed, a Cat in the Stacks mystery by Miranda James. Cats and librarians. How can you beat that?
Whatever you’re reading now, I hope you enjoy it. And happy writing!
Today, I’d like to welcome Mae Clair as my guest. I read Mae’s blog every week and enjoy it. I’ve read a good share of her writing, too. She writes paranormal suspense with a mix of eerie happenings and strong characters. Her novel, CUSP OF NIGHT, came out June 12th. I bought it and, for me, it was a five-star read. I’ll let her tell you about it:
Thanks so much for having me as a guest on your blog today! I’ve been making the rounds with my newest release Cusp of Night. This is a book that blends past and present in a mystery/suspense theme, laced with paranormal elements. I’ve set the story in a fictional river town called Hode’s Hill. In the latter part of the nineteenth century, a devil-like creature terrorized the town and committed several horrific murders. The beast was never caught, but the legend remained.
Each June, Hode’s Hill holds an annual Fiend Fest to commemorate the legend. Filled with music, food vendors, arts and crafts, there is even a “Fiend” costume contest for anyone who wishes to compete.
My main character, Maya Sinclair, has recently moved to the town to accept a job as a reference librarian. She attends the Fiend Fest with her friend Ivy, then on the walk home witnesses an assault on Leland Hode—one of the town’s leading citizens—by someone (or some “thing”) that resembles the Fiend.
I brought along a short excerpt that takes place the day after the attack. In this scene, Maya shares what she saw with Ivy:
Once situated at the table in the breakfast area, Maya relayed what happened on her walk home.
Ivy’s eyes grew rounder with each detail. “Wow,” she said once Maya had finished. “Maybe Leland has a mistress. What else would he be doing in an alley?”
Maya hadn’t considered that. “I’m worried about him. He passed out before the ambulance got there. And you didn’t see the creature. It was huge.”
“Probably a leftover from the festival.”
“That’s what Detective Gregg thought.” Maya still wasn’t certain. “Either that, or someone taking advantage of the festival as cover.”
“You don’t sound convinced.”
How could she explain without sounding like an idiot? “It’s just that…” Dropping her gaze, she cupped her glass between her hands and conjured a mental image of the previous night. The nest of shadows in the alley, Leland slumped against the building like a discarded ragdoll, the dark form beside him swelling in size. “It seemed too big to be human.”
Ivy blew out a breath. “What are you saying? That you saw the Fiend?” A look of incredulity crossed her face. “We’re not going to see you on one of those Bigfoot reality shows, are we?”
Maya laughed. “I’m not that crazy.” She swiped her thumb over the glass, collecting condensation. “But something attacked Leland.”
“You mean someone.” Ivy leaned forward and rested her forearms on the table, her expression a blend of common sense and concern. “Leland has a lot of enemies. I’m more worried about you. Whoever was in the alley…did they get a good look at you?”
“Oh.” Maya flinched, sensing where Ivy was headed. “I…I don’t know. But why should that matter? I couldn’t ID the person. They were in a costume, if I’m to believe you and Detective Gregg.” The thought of someone wanting to silence her made her uneasy, but the alternative was worse—that the thing she’d seen truly was a nightmarish creature of lore. For her own sanity, she needed to learn more about the Fiend of Hode’s Hill. Not just rumors and myth, or even the oft-repeated urban legend, but actual accounts. Something had attacked Charlotte Hode and several others at the turn of the century. There had to be newspaper reports.
I hope that little snippet sparks some interest! The story switches back and forth with Maya’s story in the present, and that of a 19th Century spiritualist named Lucinda Glass in the past. Eventually, both converge at the end. Perhaps the blurb explains better:
Recently settled in Hode’s Hill, Pennsylvania, Maya Sinclair is enthralled by the town’s folklore, especially the legend about a centuries-old monster. A devil-like creature with uncanny abilities responsible for several horrific murders, the Fiend has evolved into the stuff of urban myth. But the past lives again when Maya witnesses an assault during the annual “Fiend Fest.” The victim is developer Leland Hode, patriarch of the town’s most powerful family, and he was attacked by someone dressed like the Fiend.
Compelled to discover who is behind the attack and why, Maya uncovers a shortlist of enemies of the Hode clan. The mystery deepens when she finds the journal of a late nineteenth-century spiritualist who once lived in Maya’s house–a woman whose ghost may still linger.
Known as the Blue Lady of Hode’s Hill due to a genetic condition, Lucinda Glass vanished without a trace and was believed to be one of the Fiend’s tragic victims. The disappearance of a young couple, combined with more sightings of the monster, trigger Maya to join forces with Leland’s son Collin. But the closer she gets to unearthing the truth, the closer she comes to a hidden world of twisted secrets, insanity, and evil that refuses to die . . .
You can find Mae Clair at the following haunts:
This novella is longer than Babet & Prosper’s, so I decided to divide it into three parts. Hope you like it!
I’m halfway through writing my third cozy mystery. I read two chapters of it to my writers’ group and got great feedback. Another member of our group is writing a mystery, too–more of a thriller, a gritty page-turner. My story feels slow compared to his mix of drug dealers, political powerhouses, and the people caught up with them. I love his book and plan to buy it when it’s available, but my story would be too slow for him. Cozies aren’t for everyone. Yet I’ve been drawn to them since I first discovered Agatha Christie.
It made me wonder why I love them so much. I read and enjoy a variety of genres, but cozies are my favorite. Why? I think cozies, Agatha Christie’s in particular, can be great character studies. They dig around in peoples’ psyches, trying to find what drives them. They’re more subtle. What secrets do ordinary people hide? What would drive them to commit murder? And is Agatha Christie right, that any man, if the circumstances are right, would kill someone?
Here’s a quote by Poirot from THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD: “Let us take a man – a very ordinary man. A man with no idea of murder in his heart. There is in him somewhere a strain of weakness – deep down. It has so far never been called into play. Perhaps it never will be – and if so he will go to his grave honored and respected by everyone. But let us suppose that something occurs.” Interesting, isn’t it, the question of what a person would kill for? To protect his reputation? His wealth? Jealousy? What is his weakness? What would it take for him to commit murder? The question of WHY is just as important as the question of WhoDunnIt.
In a cozy, every suspect has a secret. As the story progresses, that secret’s exposed, and we understand that character better. Good people might lie for reasons they feel worthy. Poirot says,
“Every one of you in this room is concealing something from me. Yes, yes, I know what I am saying. It may be something unimportant – trivial – which is supposed to have no bearing on the case, but there it is. Each one of you has something to hide. Come now, am I right?” That digging a little deeper chapter by chapter moves the story forward. When a cozy’s characters walk on stage, they make a first impression. That first impression might be all wrong. But scene by scene, page by page, we learn more and the impression deepens. That’s what I like about cozies. I get to add things up to decide who the killer is. And if the author tricks me–as long as it’s fair–all the better.
(I found Poirot’s quotes at https://www.gradesaver.com/the-murder-of-roger-ackroyd/study-guide/quotes)
My friend and fellow writer, Kathy Palm, shared one of her short stories on Watt Pad. I love her writing–so immediate, so emotional. You might want to check it out: https://www.wattpad.com/587854995-perfection
I posted the end of One Less Warlock. It was my stab at writing a paranormal locked room mystery. I hope you liked it. Next week, I’ll post another novella–part 1 on Monday and part 2 on Wednesday, (hopefully). I hope you stop by my webpage to check them out.