A few years ago, one of my friends mentioned that the foodie mystery series I’ve been writing since 2012 is really a love letter to Key West.
I hadn’t thought about it in exactly that way, but she was right of course. In all seven books, I’ve been excited to share the food and the setting and the people I’ve grown to love since John and I first visited the island ten years ago.
And since that conversation, we’ve had many wonderful moments. The Key West Island Bookstore (where I’ll hold a signing with some of my “characters,”) has a hard time keeping the books in stock.
This winter, the series was included in a feature in Key West magazine about the best Key West beach reads. (I had to giggle seeing the young beach beauty on the cover reading AN APPETITE FOR MURDER–in large print!)
Of course, most of all I love hearing from readers who’ve become fans, whether because of the characters, the island, or the food. Let me tell you a little bit about the new book…
KILLER TAKEOUT: #7 in the Key West food critic series
Killer Takeout takes place during Fantasy Fest, a zany ten-day festival beginning with the unofficial zombie bike ride, and ending with an enormous, creative parade winding from the Truman waterfront across the length of Duval Street.
As always, John was a super good sport, as we got our faces painted like zombies for the bike ride, trotted around town in tutus (no body paint costumes for us though), and served as Fantasy Fest parade ambassadors. We also ate every kind of takeout we could get our hands on–because what seasoned food critic tries to elbow her way into a restaurant with 90,000 visitors crammed onto the island? The only research we avoided was experiencing a hurricane, which to me would be much more scary than zombies or people wearing body paint only.
I’ll be doing some signings to celebrate the new book–and hope to see you at one of them! Any of these stores will be happy to send you a signed book, or two…
I’m so pleased because the third book in my advice column mystery series (written as Roberta Isleib) is finally out as an ebook! Dr. Butterman (AKA Dr. Aster), the main character in this series, including ASKING FOR MURDER, is an advice columnist. Even though I’m a psychologist and an advice column junkie, I found that writing her columns was not so easy. After cranking out three of her books, I figured out how she would describe her approach: “Most people have a pretty good idea of where they’re already headed when they ask for advice. A wise friend simply shines a flashlight on the path.”
But it didn’t come naturally to me, and I realize that other advice-giving professionals struggle too.
Dr. Phil, for example, is not one to stand by on the sidelines holding a flashlight. In 2006 while visiting Los Angeles for the “Sisters in Crime Goes to Hollywood” conference, I attended the filming of one of the shows in the doctor’s live studio audience. A pair of sisters who’d been estranged by boyfriend/husband issues fought like cats and dogs for the better part of their fifteen-minute segment. Even Dr. Phil, an expert on handling catfights, looked defeated by the end of the show. These women had come to Dr. Phil for help as a last resort, but darned if they were going to let him get a word in edgewise. After several attempts to expose the bones of the problem and redirect the sisters, he slumped on his barstool, chin in hand, and rolled his eyes at the audience—as if asking the question “where did I go wrong?” And Dr. Butterman (aka Dr. Aster) has a very young editor who always wants the columns a little more chipper than feels right to Rebecca. Here’s a little excerpt from ASKING FOR MURDER, showing how she sometimes struggled to hit the right note too:
I used the remaining minutes of my aborted lunch hour to choose a question for my advice column and rough out an answer. I’m a clinical psychologist by day, but in the off hours, I whisk on my advice columnist cloak and write the Ask Dr. Aster column for Bloom! ezine. Sometimes the column feels downright silly; other times, profound. I love it most when it evolves into a Greek chorus of my life, that I didn’t consciously intend.
This month, my twelve-year-old (a slight exaggeration) editor, Jillian, had asked for columns that fit the category “Bloom! In spring!” In other words, no downers, no freaking stages of grief, no miserable housewives in housecoats abandoned by their freshly-vital, chemically-driven husbands. The advice should be uplifting, encouraging, bursting with new life and new possibilities. Sigh again.
“Happy people don’t ask for advice,” I told her.
“You’ll come up with something!” she chirped back. “I’ll check in with you later in the week.” (Scroll all the way to the bottom to read the column she came up with.)
LUCY AGAIN: I read every advice column I come across, but my favorite is Philip Galanes, who writes “Social Q’s” for the New York Times Style section every Sunday. He’s funny and sensible and pulls no punches. Dr. Aster could definitely learn from him!
PS My favorite advice column fangirl moment? Our friend Pat Kennedy introduced me to Margo Howard, Ann Landers’s daughter, and a stellar columnist herself. She kept writing as she was reading DEADLY ADVICE, wondering if she’d sussed out the murderer: “I think it’s XXX. No it must be YYY.” And so on. And here was her blurb:
A really plummy mystery, flawlessly plotted, that I especially loved because the heroine is an advice columnist – and a good one! Margo Howard
“Dear Margo” on Yahoo! News and in 200 newspapers.
(Formerly “Dear Prudence”)
Dear Dr. Aster:
I volunteer at a local charity that fights mental illness. I got involved because I believe in the cause, but I also hoped it might be a way to meet a nice guy with similar interests. (Isn’t that what you always recommend to your readers?) The people on my committee are smart, caring, dedicated–and all married, except for one widower who’s slightly older than me though smart and attractive. Lately the married folks take every opportunity to push us together. There’s a lot of winking and elbowing going on, and it’s very embarrassing. He’s a nice guy, but there’s no chemistry between us—certainly not on my side! What can I do to stop the matchmaking? I’d hate to ditch the committee to escape the man.
Yenta’s Volunteer Victim in Vermont
Dear Yenta’s Victim:
Gold stars are in order—I do recommend exactly the path you’ve taken. But oh dear, I had not anticipated this particular roadblock. One question: does Mr. Wonderful seem to feel the same lack of chemistry that you do? If so, it might be easy enough to enlist his help in shrugging off the well-meaning nudges. However, if he appears to have feelings for you, you’ll need another tactic. How about dropping a few not-so-subtle hints about the recent social whirl your new BOYFRIEND has swept you up in?
And here’s one more thought: Since you signed your letter “Volunteer Victim,” don’t overlook your possible contribution to the drama that’s unfolded. Your fellow workers might be reacting to your subtly-sawing violin strings. Check to be sure you haven’t been moaning about your single status without being aware of it! If that’s the case, dost thou protest too much?
Keep up the good works and Happy Spring!
You’ve probably heard me say on Facebook that I was working on KILLER TAKEOUT, the seventh Key West food critic mystery, coming out April 5, 2016. This book takes place during Fantasy Fest, a giant, crazy costume party running over the week leading up to Halloween.
I’ve just turned the copyedits into my brand new editor, now comes the nail-biting wait for publication. (Here’s my other editor, Yoda. He says: You’re going to make this pile of notes into a book?)
Jennifer paints John’s base coat
While I was doing the research for this, John and I participated in one of my favorite Key West events, the zombie bike ride. And where I go, of course, Hayley goes. We went to get our faces painted by a professional face painter—Hayley does too.
This is a very crazy scene—10,000 people on bikes, most of them dressed up and made up like zombies. I made the decision early in the draft that the crime should occur during the bike ride. I had no problem setting this up. The questions came later, when I was trying to figure out what kind of murderer would attempt such a thing in an enormous crowd—and how! And why?
You might think it ridiculous that someone would begin writing without those answers, but I assure you that I do it every time. And interesting to me that Nathan Bransford (former literary agent, now novelist, and yes, the namesake for Hayley’s detective heartthrob) addressed this very question in his recent blog. His advice (which thank goodness I was already stumbling through) is first to identify what you’re trying to solve, and then create some structure around it. What needs to happen before you can reach that solution? Break it all down into manageable steps and it starts to feel possible.
zombies have brains too
And here’s a bit from that scene in KILLER TAKEOUT:
We got onto our bikes and began to pedal. The crowd pressed in on either side. I dodged a wobbly elder zombie on a three-wheel bike to my left and three tricycles loaded with the Andrews sisters zombies on my right. A radio in one of their baskets played a tinny version of Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy. I snapped photos to the left and the right, and held my phone up to take a short video of the crowd following behind me. Two very drunk zombie girls in black dresses whose hems fluttered dangerously close to their bike spokes approached from either side of me ringing their warning bells.
“Zombie on the left!” cried one.
“Zombie on the right!” said the other.
“Zombie down!” came another call from behind.
“These people are having too much fun. They have to learn to pace themselves over the week,” I muttered to Connie. “You go on ahead, I think it’s safer to ride single file.” Not that I hadn’t done my share of partying back in the day, but I’d learned my lesson. There was a good reason that one of the liquor stores in town was called The Lost Weekend.
I spurted ahead of the others, staying to the right of the pack, concentrating on not getting run into the curb.
“Zombie down!” echoed a call through the crowd.
This time, the “zombie down” was not a cry of wolf. I stopped riding and spun around to see what was wrong. A zombie was splayed out on the pavement. The two tipsy girls swerved past, barely missing the figure in the road.
“Zombie down!” the shouts grew louder and more shrill as the costumed revelers passed their call up the slow-moving bicycle cavalcade to the front of the parade, like a twisted version of telephone.
As none of the zombies around me were stopping to help, I got off my bike and crouched beside the person on the ground. Her face was painted mostly white, with patches of black and red almost the opposite of my pattern. She was dressed in a flowing white gown that made the most of her buxom figure, streaked with the requisite blood stains and red glitter. Her headdress, which looked like a Cinderella tiara, zombie-style, had been knocked off her head and scattered a foot away. I snatched up the crown so it wouldn’t get trampled and shouted over the noise around us.
“Are you all right?” I asked. “Can you get up, or should I call for help?”
She answered with a low groan. My gaze flicked over her body, her arms splayed out, her legs akimbo. So much fake blood had been painted on the costume that it was hard to tell if she was really in trouble. I took her hand, which was cool, bordering on icy. Her pulse was racing.
And then I noticed a froth of red in the corner of her mouth. This problem was no fake.
Every once in a great while, an idea for a short story pops into my head. I don’t find these easy to write, and of course the idea has to be a perfect jewel—something that can draw the readers in quickly, not overwhelm them with characters and backstory, and get wrapped up in a short time. Ha, nothing to it! But I do have one that came out in November in the Level Best Books’ anthology, RED DAWN.
Here’s a little about how it came to be…
A couple of years ago, a friend Jack Getze, had an idea about a cat in a story. He said I could have it, as it was cozy by nature, something he would never use. I filed this away. (I know, I’m being coy but I don’t want to spoil the ending.)
And then I saw a group of women in Key West playing mah-jongg by the pool. This was already an activity that Miss Gloria loved. I could imagine that in between hands, the women would gossip about unusual events on the island. I joined the real players one morning to watch them play, to learn a bit about the game, and to take notes on the exchanges between the ladies, and the setting. Into the file went those pages.
Next, John and I went to Utah for a wedding a year and a half ago, and returned via Las Vegas. The fellow sitting next to John on the plane turned out to be a professional gambler. It was so interesting to hear him describe how he studied his competition—what he noticed and then how he used these observations in his betting. I took furious notes. And then filed them away.
And then the wonderful editors of LEVEL BEST BOOKS, who publish an anthology of crime fiction by New England writers every year, announced that this November’s issue would be their swan song. I sure wanted to get a story in that collection!
I thought of a title that I’d pitched more than once for one of the Key West mysteries: LAST MANGO IN PARADISE. Neither my editor nor the rest of the staff liked it. So now I had motive, characters, action, setting, and a title. All I had to do was write and submit. Ha!
I’m thrilled that the story was accepted and published. It features Hayley Snow, my series protagonist, and her senior citizen roommate, Miss Gloria. And here’s how it begins:
Last Mango in Paradise by Lucy Burdette
Even after Mrs. Silpat was poisoned to death in her Key West conch cottage, the mah-jongg players would not eschew refreshments. Or so insisted my geriatric houseboat-mate, Miss Gloria. If anything, she added, the shock was likely to render the ladies ravenous.
The tragedy had unfolded the week before when Miss Gloria went to pick up her friend for their regular game. Mrs. Silpat had not been her favorite friend–she wasn’t loyal. She put herself first in any situation. And anything she baked ended up tasting like sawdust or old chicken fat. All that aside, years of clacking tiles together, chatting about families scattered to the winds, and exchanging recipes, meant something important in Miss Gloria’s book.
Miss Gloria had knocked loudly several times on Mrs. Silpat’s door and finally went in without an invitation. When she found the woman collapsed in her kitchen, by all appearances dead, her first call was to me–a food critic, not a cop.
“I’m too shook up to think,” she’d said.
“Hang up and call 911 right away. I’m not in the police department, remember?” I told her gently. “I’ll take a cab over ASAP so I can drive you home.”
By the time the pink cab dropped me off in the narrow one-way street in front of Mrs. Silpat’s eyebrow-style house with gingerbread trim, two police cars with their lights flashing flanked Miss Gloria’s old Buick. A fire department EMT van had nosed into her driveway. I hurried onto the porch but was instantly repelled by a cop in polyester blue.
“My roommate’s inside,” I said. “She found her friend–”
He held up a paw the size of an oven mitt. “You need to wait out here.”
As I settled into a wood rocker, an enormous fluffy cat the color of salted caramel leaped onto the porch and wound in figure eights around my legs. Miss Gloria burst out of the house; the screen door slammed behind her.
“I’m sprung, at least for the time being. Let’s scram before they change their minds.”
The words sounded tough from an old lady who’d just lost a friend, but I could see the tremble in her lower lip. The big cat approached Miss Gloria and meowed.
“Oh, Mango,” said Miss Gloria, tears filling her eyes. She leaned over to ruffle the tufts of fur behind his ears. “I’ll have to let Miriam know he’s here. She lives nearby and she loves cats and I bet she’ll want to take him in, poor guy. And oh lordy, the other girls will be wondering if I up and croaked. Anytime I’m a little late, they think I’ve been called to the great Beyond.” She whipped out her cell phone and began texting the news of the cancellation of the game and more importantly, Mrs. Silpat’s death.
I found this post in my draft folder–better late than never I suppose! A few weeks ago, I had lunch and went walking with a dear friend whom I hadn’t seen in a while. She remarked how much my life has changed since we first met–back when I was a psychologist and an avid tennis player. And well before writing fiction was even a glimmer in my eye…
And she’s right, my life has changed. It is rich with writing friends who console me on the agonies of the business and celebrate the ecstasies. And it’s rich with people I’ve never met who read my books and are kind enough to write about their reactions. And rich with my new friends in Key West, both real and imaginary. My neighbor describes this series as a love letter to the island. And she’s right, too!
So on the birthday of the sixth book in the Key West series, the most important thing I want to say is THANK YOU! From the bottom of my heart, thanks to every single friend, reader, librarian, writer, bookseller!
On to the events of the day: FATAL RESERVATIONS, the sixth book in the Key West series is in bookstores today. You heard during our last “What We’re Writing” week that Hayley Snow’s great friend Lorenzo has been accused of murder. Then he disappears, leaving his new kitten with Hayley and Miss Gloria. And that only makes him look more guilty. So Hayley plunges in, trying to discover the secret he’s hiding.
You know by now that I can’t seem to help weaving real details into my stories. I’ll tell you about a few…
While I was writing this book, I saw this tattooed on a young man’s arm in the Miami airport: I used to disregard regret, but there are some things I can’t forget. I was so taken by the words, I had to ask him about it. He said it was a line from a song.
Of course I Googled it when I got home, and learned it’s from a song called NO WORDS, written and performed by MAKE DO AND MEND, a band I’d never heard of. I wrote the songwriter for permission to use that line and it’s become one of my Favorite Clues Ever.
photo by Carol Tedesco
And there was the matter of the cemetery burglar in Key West. Over the period of a year or more, again while I was writing this book, a series of unsolved, nighttime burglaries plagued the town, scaring the residents who lived in homes around the cemetery and baffling the police. The cemetery is a beautiful, spooky, historic place—a perfect mystery setting. I decided that Hayley’s houseboat-mate, Miss Gloria, would take a job as a cemetery tour guide so that she and Hayley would have reason to visit more than once. And that way I was able to echo the real suspense of the cemetery burglar in my fictional mystery.
And the food…yellow cake with raspberry cream cheese frosting, blue cornmeal pancakes, walnut-spinach pesto, nocciolato fudge…it’s a good thing I don’t gain weight just by writing about these things. (Nor will you gain by reading!)
And finally, I can’t help leaving you with one of my favorite cameo characters, Snorkel the Pig. I love this guy–he’s one of the street performers at Mallory Square. Here he is, performing in his full glory! He doesn’t do much more than this in the story, but really, should he have to?
Lucy celebrates at RJ Julia Booksellers with a Fatal Reservations Cake
So happy to report that sales are going well with FATAL RESERVATIONS–and even more important, reviewers are delighted with the book.
With no further ado, here’s what they’re saying about FATAL RESERVATIONS:
Complete with a clever plot, a cast of familiar and amiable characters, a buffet of food and all the wackiness of Key West, “Fatal Reservations” displays Burdette at peak form and whets the appetite for Hayley’s next case.–Jay Stafford, Richmond Times-Dispatch
Final Thoughts: Reserve your time to read this series, it’s delightful. Fatal Reservations digs into the community to create an entertaining book full of characters that jump off the page and mouth-watering food. Jennifer Rummel, YA BookNerd
Fatal Reservations is a fast paced, well plotted mystery full of quirky characters and local color. Between the setting, the guilt-free pleasure of reading about amazing food, and the cats, this has become one of my favorite mystery series. Ingrid King, The Conscious Cat
Hayley’s knowledge of the psychology behind diners’ choices is just the final seasoning on this fun, smartly plotted mystery. Cynthia Chow, Kings River Life
Burdette is clearly on a roll here — like her most recent two books in the series, Death With All the Trimmings and Murder With Ganache, FATAL RESERVATIONS is tightly plotted, quick-paced, and full of unforgettable characters, dead and alive. Beth Kanell, Kingdom Books
LUCY BURDETTE: You wouldn’t believe the things I do in the name of research. Last fall, we arrived in Key West earlier than usual–October–so I could observe the wildest festival of the year–Fantasy Fest. Even after the week was over, I couldn’t pretend to understand the grand appeal of walking up and down Duval Street basically naked except for creative body paint. But hey, it makes for a fabulous backdrop–though sorting through what can go into a cozy mystery from this week of events was a bit challenging.
But John and I promptly signed up to train as Fantasy Fest parade ambassadors, and I ordered tutus in several colors (the men got camo tutus, including Tonka,) and made appointments for face-painting for the Zombie bike ride.
So that’s the book I’m writing now! Without further ado, here’s the opening for KILLER TAKEOUT, coming to bookshelves next April:
KILLER TAKEOUT: Chapter One
Resident islanders couldn’t remember a hotter Key West summer. Not only hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk, they agreed, but hot enough to crisp bacon, too. So far, the advent of fall was bringing no relief. Today’s temperature registered 93° and climbing–fierce-hot for October, with the humidity dense like steam from my grandmother’s kettle. And the local news anchor promised it would get hotter as the week continued, along with the party on Duval Street.
Me? I’d rather eat canned sardines from China then march down Key West’s Duval Street wearing not much more than body paint. But 100,000 out-of-town revelers didn’t agree. They were arriving on the island this week to do just that—or watch it happen—during Fantasy Fest, the celebration taking place during the ten days leading up to Halloween, including a slew of adult-themed costume parties culminating in a massive and rowdy parade.
Worse of all, the Weather Channel was tracking the path of a tropical storm in the Eastern Caribbean. They had already begun to mutter semi-hysterical recommendations: Visitors should prepare to head up the Keys to the mainland and take refuge in a safer area. But based on the crowds I’d seen, no one was listening. These hordes weren’t leaving until the event was over. Besides, with a four-hour drive to Miami on a good traffic day, getting all those people out would be like trying to squeeze ketchup back into a bottle. Might as well party.
Since no right-minded local resident would attempt to get near a restaurant this week, I had fewer food critic duties at my workplace, the style magazine, Key Zest. I was looking forward to covering some of the tamer Fantasy Fest events for the magazine, including the Zombie bike ride, the locals’ parade, and a pet masquerade contest. And since restaurants are my beat, I’d promised my bosses an article on reliable takeout food too. If that didn’t keep me busy enough, my own mother, Janet Snow, and Sam, her fiance, were arriving for the week to visit with my dear friend Connie’s new baby, and then get themselves hitched on the beach.
In a weak moment, I’d allowed Miss Gloria, my geriatric houseboat-mate, to talk me into being trained as a Fantasy Fest parade ambassador. Our job would be to help patrol the sidewalks, which would be lined with costumed and tipsy revelers scrambling for the colored glass bead necklaces thrown off the floats.
“If we aren’t going to go to the foam party, or the Adam and Eve bash, or the Tighty Whitey party, we should at least attend the parade,” Miss Gloria said.
I closed my eyes to ward off the image of my elderly friend at any of those events.
“And if we’re working as ambassadors, we’ll be stationed inside the crowd control barricades. We’ll have the best seat in the house. Get it? Seat.” She broke into helpless giggles.
Burdette infuses the mystery with Key West spirit and holiday fun along with delicious food references and recipes. This strong series continues a unique blend of island mayhem and sparkling characters surrounding a layered mystery. Fans of Julie Hyzy and Laura Childs may also enjoy.
— Amy Alessio, Booklist December 2114
From Fresh Fiction: DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS is just sheer fun. This is my first time reading the Lucy Burdette series, but I’ve already downloaded the first book to my Kindle as I want to visit more with the quirky and oh-so-likeable characters. The twists and turns keep the reader guessing until the very end as Lucy Burdette serves up a spectacular mystery.
A contemporary comedy of manners sprinkled with gastronomical glitter, delectable danger and good will, Death with All the Trimmings is delightful. Phil Jason, Florida Weekly
Burdette successfully blends murder with menus, furthers Hayley’s development and paints a loving portrait of Key West’s wackiness, including the town’s annual Dachshund Parade and the appearance of a Chihuahua flash mob. Her mix of food, felonies and fun is a tasty seasonal treat. Jay Strafford, The Richmond Times Dispatch
As the beleaguered chef in “Death with All the Trimmings” tells her staff: “Never forget the people who will be eating the dishes we prepare. They are what matters — they are eating the products of our care and love. If we cook with that in mind, our customers will feel it in their hearts.” Change this language to reflect novel-writing, and this is what Burdette does — she creates a product of care and love for her readers. JennyKales.wordpress.com
“Like a spiked glass of eggnog or s’mores over a cold night’s cozy fire, Death with All the Trimmings is a holiday treat that any book lover should be pleased to find stuffed in their stocking or neatly wrapped beneath the tree.” Florida Book Review
“Hayley may be a foodie, but she’s no snob: Burdette treats readers to mouthwatering descriptions of both elegant restaurant meals and take-out Cuban sandwiches. Burdette also includes recipes for six dishes featured in the story, including Scarlett O’Hara Cupcakes and spaghetti Bolognese. Juicy, entertaining and twisty without being gruesome, this is a perfect seasonal treat for readers who love both a turkey dinner and a good mystery.” —Katie Noah Gibson, Shelf Awareness, and blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams
I love when a book keeps me on edge and this one had me going right to the end. This fast paced and action-filled drama quickly became a page-turner, as I had to know what happens next. All the main characters had a role in this latest caper as Hayley’s search for the culprit hits a little bit closer to home. The author does a wonderful job in bringing Key West alive through her and Hayley’s eyes that puts me smack dab in the middle of all the action. This was a great read boasting great conversations, a lovable cast of characters, a feel-good atmosphere, and a warm and friendly place to visit and I can’t wait to see what Hayley and her friends next adventures are in this delightfully charming and entertaining series. Dru’s Book Musings
The pace of the book keeps readers moving from one event to the next without any lag time to get bored. It is a delightfully fulfilling read, although you might end it hungry. Story Circle Book Reviews
Although the series is technically a “cozy” — no foul language or explicit sex, killings that take place offstage — the Burdette books have a sophisticated tone that separate them from the pack. She includes subplots, such as editor Wally coping with his mother’s cancer, that never overshadow the mystery, but deepen our affection for the wonderful cast of characters who surround Hayley.” Joe Meyers, CT Post
LUCY BURDETTE: After I describe what I’ve been up to, you might wonder that I’ve written anything in the last two months.
As you know by now, DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS will be published on December 2. (Pre-order link right here!) The modern way to publicize a new book, especially a cozy mystery, seems to be the blog tour. So I’ve been writing blogs—lots of them—about Christmas in Key West, writing a foodie character, why I love cozy mysteries, and a day in the life of Hayley Snow, just to name a few.
Lucy Burdette and John Talbot
Three of us Reds also had a fantastic long weekend at the New England Crimebake, a conference founded to celebrate crime fiction, especially from New England. I had the honor of co-teaching a class with agent John Talbot on writing and selling the mystery series, doing manuscript critiques for aspiring writers, and attending many wonderful panels.
Angelos Pompano, Lucy, Craig Johnson, Chris Falcone
We all enjoyed the folksy humor and good nature of our guest of honor, Craig Johnson.
And then we wrung out our tension by learning line dances in our best Western garb! That’s me in the cow skirt, with Hank and her hub, the hanging judge. He’s such a good sport…
Lucy with Lorenzo, aka Ron
But woven around all these activities, I’ve been working on the sixth food critic mystery, called FATAL RESERVATIONS. I tried to take a little of my own writing advice, LOL, and think deep and long about Hayley’s stake in a sixth mystery. Why would it be her business to get involved in solving yet one more crime? Why does she care? And who would listen to a food critic’s suggestions about clues and suspects anyway? The answer came from finding one of her Key West friends in trouble—Lorenzo, who reads tarot cards at the sunset celebration every night on Mallory Square. Here’s a little snippet:
A noisy rustling burst out in the audience and the man with the palm frond hat staggered up toward the podium, shouting. “You people have been looking for any excuse to take over. Damn it, this is none of your business! The trouble with the Artistic Damn Preservation Society is right here in this room.” He spun around to point a shaky finger at a tall man several rows behind me: my friend, the tarot card reader. Lorenzo.
“You need to sit down or you’ll be removed from the premises,” said Commissioner Greenleigh. But the palm hat man darted down the center aisle, heading for Lorenzo. He flung himself across two startled women and circled his hands around my friend’s neck. Lieutenant Torrence and a uniformed cop yanked him off Lorenzo, whipped his hands behind his back, and cuffed them. He fought and cursed as they ushered him out of the room and down the stairs.
“Are you all right, sir?” the mayor asked Lorenzo.
“I think so.” Pulling a white handkerchief from his pants pocket, he patted his face and neck, now mottled red, and smoothed his hair.
“If you’re able to speak, sir, it’s your turn at the microphone,” said the mayor.
Lorenzo nodded, adjusted his collar, and came forward. By dress alone, he stood out from most everyone in attendance: long-sleeved white shirt, high-waisted black pants, black tie. All very proper and distinguished. But his face shone in the spotlight and large damp circles spread from his underarms to the body of his shirt. He looked very hot. And rattled.
And that’s only the beginning of his troubles…
Before I get back to working on the story, I can’t help sharing this advance review of DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS, from Booklist:
Burdette infuses the mystery with Key West spirit and holiday fun along with delicious food references and recipes. This strong series continues a unique blend of island mayhem and sparkling characters surrounding a layered mystery. Fans of Julie Hyzy and Laura Childs may also enjoy.
Blog by Dr. Rebecca Butterman from Roberta Isleib’s (aka Lucy Burdette’s) advice column mysteries
My name is Dr. Rebecca Butterman. I’m a psychologist and I also write an advice column for the brokenhearted readers of Bloom! magazine. Family dysfunction? I know about this both professionally and personally LOL.
And don’t you find that the holiday season sometimes makes problems feel worse? Hollywood movies and Norman Rockwell paintings twist us up by having us believe that everything should be perfect for Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s and Hanukkah. The holidaze, I like to call them. You pull together full-grown members of a family and put them in close contact for days—they are going to fall back into ugly, old patterns. I promise you that!
Even my friends at our picture-perfect church on the town green aren’t exempt from problems. I found that out recently when our minister called me at midnight to talk about the death and possible murder of another church member. Whoa! And naturally, he wants me to help figure things out.
Some people wonder how I—being a professional—handle my stress. One of my favorite distractions is cooking. It doesn’t have to be fancy, as long as it’s good old-fashioned comfort food.
Here’s my easy recipe for baked apples, which will make your house smell like you’ve scored the best of Christmas. And make your stomach happy and turn your heart in that direction, too.
This recipe serves two, but it’s easy to double or triple it up.
Two of your favorite apples (I like Mcintosh or Macoun)
2 tablespoons butter
2 to 3 tablespoons rolled oats
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Half a teaspoon cinnamon
Core the apples, making sure not to cut all the way through to the bottom. In a small bowl, mix the butter, oats, sugar, and cinnamon well. Divide the mixture into two parts and stuff into the apples. Bake for about 45 minutes in a 350 oven, until the filling is crispy and bubbling, and the apples soft. You can add ice cream or whipped cream if you wish, but I find these apples are perfect by themselves.