Category Archives: Cozy Mystery

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Return to Downton

Hey, folks, Suze here. I’m deep in the writer’s cave working on book 2 of my mystery series coming next year from Berkley Prime Crime. I hear that the talented folks at Berkley are working on the cover of book 1 (which has a new name that I like a lot!), so I’m super-excited to see what the art department comes up with. Of course I’ll share when I can.

downtonLEGO2_610x519[1]In the meantime, how ’bout that Downton? The season has gotten off to a bit of a slow start, in my opinion. But we’ll see what transpires. Here are my predictions:

Robert and Cora. The Earl seems bound and determined to lose Downton, whether through mismanagement, gambling, or stick-in-the-mud-ism. Is it just me, or do both of these characters seem to be getting dumber? I predict more conflict between Robert and his daughter Lady Mary (see below), and I see Cora siding with Mary on most issues. But I certainly wish they’d give him and Cora a more interesting storyline. Send them off on a trip to the Continent to rekindle the spark in their marriage or, even better, to America to visit Cora’s mother.

Lady Mary. Thank goodness she’s stopped moping around the Abbey, pale and wraithlike. Now she can get down to the business of wresting control from her increasingly dotty father. Now, I’m no expert in British succession laws, but I thought Downton was entailed. So how is it that Matthew could leave his half of the estate to Mary? She will become a savvy businesswoman and somehow figure out how to pay the death duties–perhaps by organizing a Downton bachelor auction! Tom and Thomas (really, couldn’t we have given somebody a different name?) should bring in some nice money, depending on the bidder’s orientation.

Lady Edith. Here’s a character who’s become a lot more interesting to me. Not just because she’s become a writer, but because she seems to be leaving Downton behind for the modern world. I liked her better when she was scheming, honestly. But with her beau trying to get German citizenship (uh, might want to rethink that) so he can get a divorce from his insane wife, she’d be better off just shacking up with the guy until she gets preggers (thanks, Casey Wyatt, for that prediction!). Then she’ll be in a real mess, especially when Michael gets arrested for treason. But no matter. There are plenty of unsuitable men out there, ripe for Edith’s plucking.

Bates and Anna. Angry. Can’t talk about this.

Daisy, Ivy, Alfred, Jimmie. Snoresville. Daisy, you can do a lot better than that big clod, Alfred. Let Ivy have him. Once your dead husband’s father dies, you’re going to come into a cute little farm and you’ll be able to make a nice living on your own terms–and there will be a studly neighboring farmer out there for you. Seriously, I’d much rather get a valentine from Mrs. Patmore than either one of those footmen. Count yourself lucky. Or maybe they’ll be in the aforementioned bachelor auction, and you can take your pick!

Isobel Crawley. She needs to quit whining, play with her grandson (in a dignified way, of course), and find a cause or two or three to support. Or find fault with the way little Georgie’s being raised. Or go visit Cora’s mother in America. That should light a fire under her.

Violet, the Dowager Countess. Still my favorite character. Would love to see a little romance in her life. And she could drop a few quid on that bachelor auction!

If you love this era, you’ll love a couple of book series I read religiously: the Maisie Dobbs series by Jacqueline Winspear, about a maid who goes off to become a nurse in the Great War, obtains a college education, and opens her own private investigation company.

And in a more humorous vein, try Her Royal Spyness and the rest of the series by Rhys Bowen. Thirty-fourth in line to the throne of England, the penniless Lady Georgiana secretly cleans houses to make a living and is summoned quite regularly to Buckingham Palace, where Queen Mary assigns her various tasks, including keeping an eye on the Queen’s son David and the dreadful American, Wallis Simpson. Part Downton Abbey and part Jeeves and Wooster, these cozy mysteries are just delightful.

What are your predictions for Downton this season? No spoilers, please!

Dancin’ With the Scribes

 

Hi, loves, Suze here, keeping it brief so I can keep working on my Everest-like to-do list.

Do you have times like that? When everything is piling up and you’re feeling overwhelmed? I know I do. I’m finishing up two big projects (including turning in Book 1 to my editor early next week!), starting a new thang (Project Suze, which I will tell you about soon), researching so I can make a decision about a new car, and preparing to go away for the weekend. Add to that getting The Crown Prince ready for a new school year as well as a very heavy workload at the day job, and you can see why I’m burning the candle at both ends for the next couple of weeks. It’s okay, really. Sleep, clean laundry, and vacuuming are highly overrated.

Seriously, though, one of my favorite stress-busters is to put on some music and dance (usually while the menfolk are away–it’s too embarrassing for them).

So today, let’s just take a break at some point and dance! Get up from your computer, move around, and shake your tail feather. I promise you’ll feel better. Here are three of my all-time favorite dance songs (and yes, I’m aware that I’m dating myself here!). Just click on the titles!

What I Like About You – The Romantics

Should I Stay or Should I Go – The Clash

Rock Lobster – The B52′s

Party on, Scribelings. What are your favorite dance tune(s)?

 

 

Powerball to the People–The Lottery Fantasy

Hey, peeps. Suze here.  medium_NE_bizarro[1]Guess what? I’m under a deadline! It’s scary and exhilarating at the same time, like riding the giant roller coaster at Six Flags. My first book is due to my editor just after Labor Day. It’s essentially finished, but I need to make another pass through and write up some recipes before I let it go. I’ll keep you updated about Rest In Greece, Book 1 of the Greek to Me Mysteries (at least that’s what they’re called now).

So yesterday I stopped at a local convenience store and bought a Powerball ticket. I know, I know. Waste of money, some of you will say. But I only buy a ticket when the pot gets to be huge. Actually, I could probably increase my chances of winning if I bought a ticket when the jackpot is lower–but I don’t really know because I barely passed statistics with Professor Singh back in my St. Lawrence University days. I only remember to get a ticket when the good people at NBC Nightly News remind me.

Notice I’ve been saying “a ticket.” Just one. I never buy multiples because I figure if the Universe wants me to win, one is all I need.

Now, most everybody probably has a lottery fantasy, and I’m no exception. I’ve already got that money spent in my head (for the most part responsibly!). But I like to use these few times a year when the lottery possibility presents itself to do a Dream Check. Here’s what I mean:

If I won, I’d buy a house on the beach (and yes, invite all my nearest and dearest friends!).

But if I don’t win, I could make a date with myself or a friend/loved one, pack a picnic lunch, and spend the day at the beach at a state park near my home.

If I won, I’d contribute to a squillion charities and non-profits.

If I don’t win, I could still give a few bucks here and there to the ones that truly speak to me. And if times were lean, I could volunteer my time or services. Because every little bit truly helps.

If I won, I’d fund my retirement so I could travel and pursue my real passion full-time: writing!

If I don’t win, I could forego a Starbuck’s coffee once a week or buy one less pair of shoes a month, and take that money and put it into my actual retirement account so it would grow faster. Notice I didn’t say “stop buying books.” That would just be unrealistic, LOL! And as for the travel, I could get my passport in order, and make sure I have decent luggage, just in case the opportunity to go some place exotic presents itself. You never know!

May you find your pot of gold!
May you find your pot of gold!

See what I mean? The Lottery Fantasy can actually be a pretty healthy exercise. It forces you to think about what is truly important to you. If money were no object, how would you spend your life? Are there small steps you can take now to get yourself closer to your dreams?

Why not set your wishes free by writing them down? On one side of a sheet of paper, make a list of what you’d do with unlimited money. On the other side, brainstorm some ways you could get there, steps you could take to prepare yourself, or actions you could perform that would give you the same satisfaction in your life as it is now.

If you won the lottery, what would you do? Go ahead and spill your deepest, darkest lottery fantasies here.  I’ll be sure to let you know if I win, darlings. And if you bought a ticket, good luck!

Go Fourth!

Happy Fourth of July, my lovelies! Suze here, wishing you a wonderful day full of family, friends, food, and fireworks.

You can ring my be-e-e-e-ll, ring my bell. Just not this one!
You can ring my be-e-e-e-ll, ring my bell. Just not this one!

Here’s a link to some interesting factoids about Independence Day (click here). Did you know that three presidents died on July 4? (John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe–Adams and Jefferson died within hours of each other in 1826) How about that President Coolidge and first daughter Malia Obama are both Yankee Doodle Dandies, born on the Fourth of July? Or that the Liberty Bell, which cannot be rung for fear of cracking it further, is tapped thirteen times on July 4 to signal that other bells across the country can be rung?

So what will I be doing today? I didn’t get invited to any barbeques, and I’ve been way too busy to plan my own, so the family and I are staying home. I’ll probably work on my manuscript, read a little, throw some burgers and dogs on the grill, and go to the fireworks display in a nearby city tonight. Or I may crash my neighbor’s party (pretty sure they won’t mind, they have a pool, and the food is a lot better than it would be at my house!)

Tomorrow, we’re headed up to Vermont to spend a couple of days. Can I make a travel suggestion? The Fairlee Motel in Fairlee, VT is a roadside motel with a bonus–behind the motel is a drive-in movie theater. Each of the motel rooms has a large picture window facing the screen, as well as speakers. So you can watch the double feature from the bugless comfort of your room, or bring lawn chairs and sit outside. They have a superior snack bar too! This mom-and-pop shop has a problem, though. Beginning next year, they will unable to get films on 35mm and so their current projector will be obsolete. A new digital projector costs $70,000, so fundraising efforts are underway. You can help by visiting the drive-in, buying a cool poster or tee shirt, or just sending a few bucks. (Click here)

Some other exciting news: This weekend, I’ll be doing my first ever public author event! The Enfield, Connecticut July 4th celebration takes place this weekend. More than twenty local authors will be represented on Saturday and Sunday, July 6 and 7. I’ll be there most of the day on Sunday, so please stop by and say hello!  I won’t have a book to sign for you, unfortunately, but I’d love to see some friendly faces. Here’s a link to the event. Hope to see you there!

What are you doing to celebrate Independence Day?

 

The Sugar Crush

Hi, Scribe Friends. Suze here. Glad you could stop by.

I’m working on the second novel in my mystery series (details of which I hope to be able to release soon!), and while I’m excited about it and making progress, I’m also finding myself not making my 1,000 word goal most days. And that’s a problem, because I want this puppy done by August 15.

I’ve also found myself procrastinating on other items on my to-do list, simple things that can and should be accomplished in ten or fifteen minutes (or less) but are nonetheless piling up and stressing me out.

thCABE2757But do I blame myself for all this? No! It’s not my fault! I blame …

Candy Crush Saga. This stupid, insanely addictive game is the world’s biggest time suck! There’s a sister game, by the way, called Farm Heroes Saga, but I just can’t warm up to those overly cute vegetables.

Anyway, the first step to conquering a problem is admitting you have one. Over the last few weeks the game has dragged me deeper and deeper into sweet, sticky oblivion. I’m at the hard-crack-ho stage on the candy thermometer. Just one more game. No, just one more game until I win. What? I’m out of lives? Sure, I’ll gladly wait twenty-eight minutes until I get another one, and in the meantime I’ll just surf the web and ogle Joe Manganiello and Channing Tatum, or google recent archaeological/anthropological finds (did you see the one about the Siberian female tattooed mummy? Click here, but only if you trust yourself to come back!). Wash, rinse, repeat until hours have gone by.

When my son gives me attitude, he loses privileges. It only seems right to give myself consequences, too, when I’m misbehaving. Therefore, daily, until further notice, no Candy Crush until I’ve completed the following:

  • Write 1,000 words on my manuscript
  • Get at least 30 minutes of exercise
  • Complete the most-pressing thing on my to-do list (the ones that take 15 minutes or less)

I’ve already been detoxing for a couple of days. So any of you Facebook friends out there, don’t expect me to be sending you lives or extra moves for a while until I get this under control. Or until I make my daily goals, above.

And come August 15, when this book is done, there will be one giant Sugar Crush. Tasty!

How about you? What’s your biggest time suck and how do you handle it? What are your personal addictions?

Recipe Repost

Happy Thursday, Scribe peeps. Suze here. I’m working on the second book in my mystery series (more about that coming soon!) and I’m a bit short on time, so I thought I’d bring back a classic post from a while back. Like a fine leftover, I hope you enjoy it even more the second time around!

When is a fiction book not just a fiction book?  How about when it contains recipes, or knitting patterns, or the directions for some other craft project mentioned somewhere within the story?

There are lots of  fiction books out there that do this.  It’s very prevalent in cozy mysteries, many of which feature a sleuth who has some special skill or occupation that assists her in solving the crime.  There are mysteries based on/in catering, knitting, embroidery, gardening, a coffee house, a cookie store, an apple orchard, and even a cheese shop.

And it isn’t just mysteries.  Debbie Macomber, who is an avid knitter, sometimes includes patterns at the end of her romances.

Bonus material like this can be a lot of fun, and might help an author sell more books.  But these things must be done . . . delicately . . . as the Wicked Witch might say.   I’m reading a mystery right now where there are numerous references to a particular dish.  It’s clearly a clue, but that recipe is inexplicably not included with other recipes at the end of the book.  (I admit it.  I peeked.)   There’s another series where it seems the author really wants to write a cookbook — it’s long on recipes (some of which are quite yummy), but the story is a bit thin.

Lots of authors do manage to make the process seamless.  Personally, I’m waiting for some bonus material to appear in a police procedural (“How to Tap a Phone Line”), or paranormal (“Summoning Entities for Fun and Profit”) or steamy romance (Instructions for  . . . use your imagination!).

What about you?  Do you love or hate the extras?  Do you ever actually make the food or craft?  Here’s a little takeaway for you — the recipe for Tomato Cocktail, via my mother-in-law’s recipe box:

fresh-tomatoes[1]King Family Tomato Cocktail – makes about 1 quart

1 heaping quart of ripe, juicy tomatoes, roughly chopped (support your local farmstand, please!)

2 stalks of celery, roughly chopped

1 small onion (or half a large onion), roughly chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

3 whole cloves

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Place everything into a pot and simmer 40 minutes. Let cool, then run it through a food mill to extract the skins, seeds and cloves. If you don’t have a food mill (mine is straight out of the 1950s, inherited from my mom-in-law), you can strain the whole mixture into a bowl through a colander, pushing the juice through with the back of a spoon, or just fish out the cloves and run everything through a blender or food processor (you’ll get more texture this way). Chill, stir, and enjoy. You might enjoy it more if you add some vodka, Worcestershire, and hot sauce! I like to make a double or triple batch in the summer and freeze in zippie bags for the winter. This also makes a delicious hot tomato soup to go with your grilled cheese.

Candy Crush–Cereal Killer Cookies

Hey, all, Suze here. As some of you may know, I write mysteries. Culinary cozy mysteries. I can’t talk much about my own current project just yet, but I can talk about other writers in the genre. So I’ve decided to start a new feature here at the Scribes.  Once a month or so I will introduce you to a cozy mystery author and prepare a recipe (or craft project) from one of her books. Sound like fun?

Book 17, coming in August
Book 17, coming in August

I’m starting off with one of my all-time faves, the Queen of the Culinary Cozies, Diane Mott Davidson. (Click here for a Wiki link) Diane’s series stars an espresso-swilling Colorado caterer named Gertrude “Goldy” Bear Schultz. Like her fairy tale namesake Goldilocks, she just can’t seem to keep her nose out of the business of the inhabitants of the upscale mountain town of Aspen Meadow. In each book she is called upon to cater an affair for the town’s snooty rich contingent, somebody gets killed, and Goldy finds a reason to get involved–even though her husband, Tom, a big yummy hunk of a local cop, repeatedly tells her to stay out of it. With the help of her zaftig moneybags BFF, Marla, and her assistant, aspiring chef Julian, Goldy always solves the mystery and delivers some of the most luscious recipes out there. Here’s one, from The Cereal Murders, book 3 in this long-running series:

IMGP8496Cereal Killer Cookies

2¼ cups old fashioned rolled oats
2 6-ounce packages almond brickle chips (Bits O’ Brickle or Heath Toffee chips)
1 2/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
¾ cup sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a small bowl, mix the oats with the brickle chips. Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. In a food processor mix the sugars until blended, then gradually add butter. Continue to process until creamy and smooth. Add eggs and vanilla and process until blended. Add the flour mixture and process just until combined. Pour this mixture over the oats and brickle chips and stir until well combined. Using a 2-tablespoon measure, measure out scoops of dough and place at least 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on racks.
Makes 4 to 5 dozen

Suze’s Notes: The one tablespoon of vanilla is not a mistake. For me, this recipe made four dozen chewy cookies, plus one, not counting the raw cookie dough I ate. I used a silicone baking mat and left the cookies in for about 9 minutes because I was using the convection feature on my oven. I took them out when they were browned around the edges but still slightly gooey in the center, then left them on the cookie tray to set up before removing them to a wire rack to finish cooling.

This recipe is a delicious twist on the classic oatmeal scotchie. Even the non-oatmeal-cookie-loving Crown Prince of Hardydom conceded that they were “pretty good,” as he grabbed another off the plate. Consensus around the Hardy house is that this recipe is a keeper!

Have you tried any new recipes lately? Do you have a series you’d like to see me feature?