Books


Posted on January 4, 2020 - by

Miss Gloria’s Happiness Boosts

LUCY BURDETTE: I want to chat today about little life tweaks that can give us a lift in an increasingly grim world. (I feel a little bit like Maria in the Sound of Music singing “My Favorite Things” during the thunderstorm, but that’s okay.) My best ideas come from Miss Gloria, Hayley’s roommate in the Key West mysteries. (I know, she’s not a real person—go figure.) Here’s something she says in THE KEY LIME CRIME as they’re learning to make pie:

Miss Gloria clapped her plastic-covered hands together. “I feel like we’re Lucy and Ethel in the chocolate shop, remember that episode in I love Lucy? I watch it once a week, along with the video about the cat who sings Twinkle Twinkle Little Star with his owner. With the world such a mess, it pays to find things that make you laugh.”

Naturally those two videos are ones I adore too. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched the singing cat. I’m pretty sure I’m in love with both the cat Sammy, and his owner: 

Of course, reading a great book gets me out of present world for a while too—I’m leaning toward not too dark these days. Yoga. I committed to myself to do more of this and I’ve found a teacher I love. 

Noticing little amazing things in nature and feeling full of awe can give me a boost too. Here’s one example. T-bone was helping me look at my email the other morning while I had coffee. The sun was streaming in the window, and highlighted his ear. Holy cow, look at the gorgeous, intricate pattern of veins!

Going to the movies more often helps too—we’ve seen WHERE’D YOU GO BERNADETTE, DOWNTON ABBEY,  PAVAROTTI, ROCKETMAN, and YESTERDAY. 

Another thing that helps is doing something to boost someone else’s spirits, like taking buttery corn muffins to a friend who’s undergoing chemotherapy.

What would you add to the list?


Posted on January 1, 2020 - by

Christmas in Key West

Key West at Christmastime is wonderfully festive–which is probably why I’ve set THE KEY LIME CRIME (coming July 7 from Crooked Lane Books) between Christmas and New Year’s. One of our favorite events is taking a Conch Train tour around the island to look at the best of the lighted displays. There is a contest that our mayor’s home won last year. Here’s what it looks like:

And here’s the house two doors down:

And this is the home of our friends Kathy and Michael, whom I think are giving the mayor a run for her money:

Blow-up figurines are always popular too:

Last year, I was searching for plot ideas for what has become THE KEY LIME CRIME. Now that I’m working on the final edits, of course I know what’s going to happen and how. Here’s the smallest snippet to show you how I used the lights:

We drove by small concrete block houses decked out with lights of all colors, blow-up Christmas figures from The Grinch, Charlie Brown, The Polar Express. We saw fake-snow machines, homeowners having cocktails in lawn chairs and enjoying our enjoyment, and finally the first-place home, which we’d heard through the grapevine belonged to our brand-new mayor. She and her wife had decorated the front of the house as the North Pole, with enough lights to power every home on the Keys all the way up to Miami.


And one more snippet:
“Only in Key West,” the driver sang out as he navigated down a small one-way street near the cemetery. “Santa may be a little late this year,” he announced, pointing to a blow-up Santa Claus splayed out on the front porch of a small home. Santa had an empty bottle of booze clutched in his right hand. “I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus” thrumming in the background completed the tacky picture.

In the new book, you may see a body buried in one of these photos…you can probably guess which one it is…

THE KEY LIME CRIME (July 2020) is available for pre-order!

You can order it at an independent bookstoreBarnes and Noble, Amazon, and anywhere books are sold!


Posted on May 10, 2019 - by

Book Discussion Questions: A DEADLY FEAST

Book Discussion Questions: A DEADLY FEAST

There are lots of high points in a writer’s life (selling a book, finishing a book, seeing the book in the world for the first time), but nothing better than talking about the book with a book group or club or library or bookstore. 

In my newest Key West food critic mystery, A  DEADLY FEAST, food critic Hayley Snow is set to be married to her heartthrob detective Nathan Bransford. But she has a lot of worries because Nathan’s been married before and both sets of parents were married and then divorced. So she canvasses her friends and family about their experiences with marriage.

Hayley’s mother says: “Being married takes work,” my mom said, glancing at my father. “Life gets stressful and hectic and you stop paying attention. And then trouble comes calling.”

Whereas Steve Torrence who conducts lots of weddings says:  “I’ll tell you my theory about what makes a marriage work— people who know how to talk to each other through thick and thin and assume only the best motives from their partner have the best chance of surviving. As you know, we can’t predict what kind of life changes and challenges you’ll face together. We can only work on how graciously you’ll handle them.”

Hayley thinks this about her own parents: “Staying married took commitment and a little luck and family support and lots and lots of tending, which they had been too young and too overwhelmed to manage back then.”

What’s your theory about what makes for a good marriage? 

Does it seem to you that Nathan and Hayley are a good match? Why or why not?

When you’re reading about a fictional wedding, how much do you like to hear about wedding plans and details?

What are your favorite examples of fictional weddings, either books or movies? Explain why you chose them.

And for some non-wedding questions:

Have you ever gone on a food tour? If so where? If not yet, where would you love to eat your way around?

Martha Hubbard talks about chefs feeling possessive about the recipes they make and serve—they don’t want diners making substitutions. How do you feel about that?

How do you feel about Hayley’s relationship with her mother? And compare this to her relationship with Miss Gloria and Allison, her stepmother. 

Hayle’s boss Palamina says she never understood why Hayley was living with a senior citizen, until she met Miss Gloria. How do you feel about this character? Does she accurately reflect seniors?

IF YOU’D LIKE TO INVITE LUCY TO SPEAK TO YOUR GROUP, CONTACT HER RAISLEIB AT GMAIL DOT COM


Posted on November 26, 2018 - by

A Fictional Key West Thanksgiving and Cover Reveal: A DEADLY FEAST

LUCY BURDETTE: The day before Thanksgiving, when many of us were up to our ears in menu planning or pie crust rolling or sitting in traffic on the way to grandma’s house or (lord help us) the grocery store, I wondered what I could post that might be entertaining without being demanding. And it occurred to me that you might enjoy a few snippets from A DEADLY FEAST, the 9th Key West mystery, coming next May–because it’s set at Thanksgiving. On Monday we chatted about our menus and guest lists, today you’ll hear about Hayley’s!

Here’s the final artwork–isn’t it pretty? And I love that Jenn’s quote is on the cover…In this story, Hayley is helping to investigate the death of one of the customers from a food tour. Chef Martha Hubbard worries that someone sabotaged her key lime pie.

Here’s a little snippet describing the meal she’s making to teach a class on Thanksgiving sides:

Bill opened the door to the cooler and gestured at the shelves, overflowing with turkeys, sacks of Brussels sprouts, slabs of bacon, onions in net bags, and more.
“She’s teaching a class on Thanksgiving side dishes,” he said. “My favorite is the brown-butter rosemary yeast rolls.”
My stomach let out a loud rumble and they both laughed.
“You’re welcome to join this class, on the house. She’s including a tutorial on gravy from scratch,” said Eden. “And her side dishes are like nothing you’ve ever seen on dinner tables. She likes to put a Thai spin on old classics, like sweet potatoes with charred poblanos or Brussels sprouts with Thai chilies and caramelized shallots. I can’t wait for the habanero candy!”
I’d begun to salivate at the sound of those recipes, almost drooling like one of Pavlov’s dogs. 

Hayley visits Martha’s kitchen again the next day (or is it two days later?) to follow up on some new information:

She dumped a blue ceramic bowl of dough onto her floured counter. Then she began to knead it, stopping at every turn to sprinkle fresh rosemary leaves on top and knead those into the mixture.
“What are you making?” I asked.
“Rosemary garlic brown-butter rolls,” she said. “I let them take the second rise in the fridge. Then I bake them before dinner and slather them with more garlic butter right before bringing them to the table. Guests go mad for them.”
“Sounds fabulous,” I said. “What else is on your menu?”
“Smoked turkey with a honey vinegar glaze and red-eye gravy, confetti succotash, mashed potatoes with cream cheese, sour cream, and scallions, the usual,” she said, finally cracking a smile.
“I’m practically drooling,” I said. “You take Thanksgiving to a new level.”

And this is what Hayley’s family is serving, after grace is said by Miss Gloria, with an emphasis on her gratitude for friends and family:

I helped them ferry all the dishes out to the sideboard in the dining room—the turkey, gravy, Sam’s cornbread stuffing, pumpkin biscuits, pasta with sage and roasted squash, green beans almandine, and an enormous salad topped with walnuts, dried cherries, mango, and goat cheese. Then my mother invited everyone to grab a plate and fill it.

A DEADLY FEAST blurb: Before Key Zest food critic Hayley Snow’s family descends on the island for Thanksgiving, she has one last assignment–a review of a seafood tasting tour conducted by her friend Analise Smith. But when one of the tourists collapses on the last stop, Analise begs her to investigate before the police destroy her business and shut down the local Key West eateries on her tour. Pressure mounts when Analise calls a second time to request that Hayley meet with Chef Martha Hubbard, who prepared key lime pies for the tasting tour and is terrified that someone poisoned her pies to ruin her reputation. Chefs all around town are preparing their versions of a Thanksgiving feast, but with a murderer on the loose, will Hayley and her friends have anything left to be thankful for?

Available for pre-order from Indiebound, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or wherever you buy your books.


Posted on September 3, 2018 - by

Channeling my Inner Hemingway

LUCY BURDETTE: Death on the Menu is in bookstores! Finally! One of the things I had to do while writing this book was to channel Hemingway

What does that mean? I’ll tell you…but a little background first. Sometimes I go in directions I never imagine when I’m writing, and end up adding a subplot that I certainly didn’t plan. For example, in DEATH ON THE MENU, food critic Hayley Snow is checking out a suspect and discovers that he is a Hemingway wannabe.

And then while googling and studying up on Hemingway, I learned that there actually was a contest for “Really Bad Hemingway” in which contestants submitted a page of bad Hemingway-esque writing and prizes were awarded. So then of course I had to write a page that this character had supposedly written.

Here’s how it went, starting with Hayley chatting with her suspect:

“Fun fact: did you know there is a contest for bad imitations of Hemingway’s writing?”

I shook my head.

“You should Google it—there are some snippets posted online and they’re a hoot. I entered a couple of years ago and got an honorable mention.”

“You entered a bad Hemingway contest? Do tell!”

He laughed. “Of course I have it memorized for moments like this. I called it ‘A Farewell to Harm,’ and it went like so:

He had hired the guide again after one too many women gone wrong. ‘You drink too much,’ the woman said. ‘You stink of beer and fish.’
The man and the guide had been at sea for hours, and reeled in two marlin. Both of them were big as Spanish bulls and that strong too; heaving silver bodies, that glinted in the sunlight and left the man and the guide breathless.
‘Let’s have a drink,’ the fishing guide said, though he knew the man’s history. ‘One drink won’t hurt you.’
‘OK, but only if it’s rum and beer. And only if you pour the rum slowly so the foam resembles the beach at low tide.’
‘Not until five. The tide won’t run out until five PM,’ the fishing guide said. ‘That’s when you see the foam.’”

By the end of Rusty’s recitation, I was laughing too hard to speak.

Lucy again: Are you a fan of Hemingway’s writing? why or why not?

About the book: Lucy Burdette, Death on the Menu from Crooked Lane Books
Food critic Hayley Snow is thrilled to be working at a three-day international conference at the Harry S. Truman Little White House. But things get off to a bad start when Hemingway’s Nobel prize gold medal (which belongs to Cuba and is on display for this weekend only) disappears. And they only get worse when a body is discovered in the storeroom.Hayley must spring into action before the killer adds another victim to his menu.

Posted on July 5, 2018 - by

FOR BOOK CLUBS: Death on the Menu

Food critic Hayley Snow is attending a three-day international conference at the Harry S. Truman Little White House. Things get off to a bad start when Hemingway’s Nobel prize gold medal (which belongs to Cuba and is on display for this weekend only) disappears. And they only get worse when a body is discovered in the storeroom. Hayley must spring into action before the killer adds another victim to his menu.

The book features some history, especially that of Harry Truman’s Little White House, and the conundrum of Cuba/US relations, and Hemingway, and lots of food, but in the end it’s always about families. Hayley Snow’s family is front and center, of course, but also the Cuban families that have been torn apart by acrid relations between Cuba and the US. Lots to talk about in this book, and here are some questions to get you started…

Book Club questions for DEATH ON THE MENU by Lucy Burdette

1. Much of the action in this eighth Key West mystery is set at the Harry S. Truman Little White House. In the course of the book, some of the history of this structure is woven into the story. How do you feel about the presence of history in your mystery fiction, especially if it isn’t billed as historical mystery? What did you learn about Harry Truman as you read?

2. Hayley says: “In my mother’s family, lovingly prepared food meant comfort and care and even hope. A warm snickerdoodle cookie, for instance—maybe with a little chai spice added in for mystery—was a declaration of heartfelt affection. Great meals couldn’t save my mother’s marriage to my father because he didn’t speak her language. For him, food was fuel—the dinner table merely a quick stop at the human gas station.” If you had to sum it up, what would you say food meant to your family?

3. Hayley compares the work of her Tarot-card-reading friend Lorenzo to that of a therapist, or even a cop: So many problems are presented to him over the course of a work day, that he can’t help but absorb some negative energy along the way. And even Hayley turns to him as a kind of therapist. Have you ever had your cards read, or perhaps your palm? How do you feel about the work of fortune-tellers in general, and Lorenzo in particular?

4. One of the serious issues raised in this mystery involves the immigration of Cuban citizens to the US, and the former US policy called “wet-foot, dry-foot.” What was your reaction to this part of the story—particularly hearing about the Cuban chugs, and Gabriel’s family story?

5. Hemingway plays a small but significant part in this book, though Hayley admits she is hardly a student of his writing. And Dana Sebek has a view of the writer that is quite different from that of his adoring fans—in a nutshell, she says people admire the lore that has grown up around the man, more than his actual prose. Have you read Hemingway’s work? Are you a fan? Why or why not?


Posted on June 3, 2018 - by

Booked for Lunch! at the South Windsor Library

Please join me and the staff of the South Windsor Public Library in Windsor CT on October 2 at 12:30 for lunch and book chatter!


Posted on June 2, 2018 - by

Death on the Menu: Coming soon!

66 days to be exact! While I’ve been tapping my fingers and toes waiting, some pretty thrilling feedback has been rolling in:

I love this series! You’ve revitalized my love of cozy mysteries.” Laurell K. Hamilton, New York Times bestselling author

Burdette’s loving descriptions of food and the appended recipes are an added fillip for readers who enjoy some history and romance with their mysteries.”—Kirkus Reviews

Hayley Snow is one of my favorite amateur sleuths… This was a fabulous peril in paradise read that I simply could not put down.”—Jenn McKinlay, New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Cupcake Bakery mysteries

A travel guide woven through a page-turner of a mystery, Death on the Menu is a love letter to Key West.” —Barbara Ross, author of the Maine Clambake mysteries

In her latest Key West Food Critic Mystery, Death on the Menu, Lucy Burdette skillfully balances a well-crafted plot with a vivid portrayal of Key West.”—Sheila Connolly, New York Times bestselling author of the County Cork mysteries

You can pre-order the book wherever books are sold–it will be out as an ebook, hardcover, and audio book!


Posted on September 9, 2016 - by

Character Assassination

 

Killer Takeout Cover SmallLUCY BURDETTE: You may well have read on Facebook that Penguin Random House is not renewing the Key West foodie mystery series. Though I’m sad about this, I’m not taking the news personally. Here’s why:

  1. I don’t think it has much to do with either the quality of the books or the sales. Lots of mass-market cozy folks are ending up in the refugee boat with me—it’s a mysterious corporate decision over which we have no control.
  1. It’s happened before and I’ve survived and thrived.
  1. I will most likely continue the series in another form in the future.
  1. The support and enthusiasm of readers has been a huge comfort!
  2. This is not official yet, but I am working on book #8 and hope you will see it in the summer 2018–yay!

But I thought it might be interesting to look back on my reaction to the news that the golf lovers’ mystery series was not getting renewed. (Hint: devastated.) I called this essay “Character Assassination.”

Losing a special friend hurts, even if you’re mourning a figment of your own imagination.

I’ve been getting to know my protagonist, professional golfer Cassie Burdette, since scratching out the opening paragraphs of my first mystery in January 1998. As with most fictional detectives, Cassie wrestled with skeletons in her closet: her father’s desertion, a melancholy, alcoholic mother, a fog of self-doubt. Ambivalence infused her relationships with men and she tended to defer soul-searching in favor of the anesthetic effects of Budweiser. Notwithstanding these conflicts, I imagined Cassie eventually thriving on the professional golf circuit through a combination of talent, spunk, and the right friends.

With five golf mysteries in print by March 2006, Cassie and I have spent the better part of eight years together. I finally talked her into starting psychotherapy (with the help of a couple of other characters) to address her low self-esteem and self-destructive tendencies. She began to play better golf, choose kinder men, drink less, and reconnect with her dad.

Meanwhile, researching Cassie’s world took me on some amazing adventures. I spent most of my first (modest) advance paying to compete in a real professional-amateur LPGA tournament so I could absorb the correct ambience for book two.

And I played golf at Pinehurst, Palm Springs, and in the Dominican Republic—all tax-deductible without stretching the IRS code. I met and corresponded with professional golfers, and many fans—mystery fans, golf fans, and best of all, fans of both. These people worried about Cassie: how can she drink that much before a tournament? How can she eat like that and stay in shape? Lose the boyfriend—he’s a bum! Over coffee, my friends were more likely to ask what was new with Cassie, than with me. And reviewers hailed Cassie as “a character readers can root for.”

I’d begun plotting the skeleton for the sixth installment, involving a golf reality show, a hunky cop, and murder, of course.

Then the word came from my editor: “We’d rather see a new idea—the numbers just haven’t been that good…”

Surprised or not, I was flooded with sadness and disappointment. No more Cassie Burdette mysteries? Like the end of a souring romance, I wished I’d been the one to call it quits.

Days later, waiting to sign books at the Malice Domestic mystery convention, I sat next to an older man with a soft voice and a full beard. He introduced himself as H.R.F. Keating—the Malice honoree for lifetime achievement, including twenty-five novels in his Inspector Ghote series. In response to his kind interest, I spilled the news that Cassie’s series was being killed. I’m quite certain that I cried. He assured me that he’d often thought his series went on too long, that perhaps years ago he’d said all he really had to say, and that seven books might be the optimum length for a series. Then the doors opened and a crush of fans queued up to have him sign books that spanned forty years.

Twenty-five novels, each one nudging back a little further the curtain obscuring Inspector Ghote’s personality: I realized there are many things I’ll never know about Cassie. Will she win a tournament? Have a relationship with golf psychologist Joe Lancaster? Get married? Overcome her fear of kids? Hey, I’ll never know if I’m a grandmother.

But life in the publishing business lumbers on: I’ve signed a contract for my next writing adventure. The new series will feature psychologist and advice columnist, Dr. Rebecca Butterman, a woman who made cameo appearances in several of the golf mysteries. 

Cassie wasn’t crazy about her—I can hear her voice now: “You’re writing about a psychologist? Rebecca Butterman? Bor-ing.”

And PS, back to me in the present, wasn’t I so lucky to be seated next to that sweet man at the exact moment I needed his calm? And ps, Cassie did make a brief appearance in ASKING FOR MURDER and DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS. I am a fictional grandmother.

Meanwhile, I am working madly on several projects, but I’m feeling very superstitious. So I decided not to say much about them…I’m not being a tease, I swear, just nauseously nervously anxiously cautious.

And meanwhile, all 7 books in this series can be found wherever books are sold!

Killer Takeout Cover Small


Posted on August 21, 2016 - by

Fresh Cherry Cobbler with whipped cream #recipe

LUCY BURDETTE: My hub and I are mad for cherries when they are in season, and trust me we’ve eaten pounds and pounds of them this summer. But we’ve never done anything except eat them from the bowl. I couldn’t imagine pitting all those little guys. But then I got the image of a cherry cobbler in my head, and it would not be denied. (Sadly, I went to the grocery store yesterday and the cherries were GONE FOR THE SEASON! I’m quite certain you can use this same recipe for blueberries or peaches. Back to the story…)

So I went in search of a cherry pitter and found this one on Amazon, which handles 6 pieces at a time. So it still takes a while (maybe half an hour) to pit enough for the cobbler, but this time it’s worth it. Be careful because one diner did find a pit in her portion. You don’t want your guests cracking their molars on your dessert! (Recipe has been adapted for low-sodium diets.)

For the cherry filling:

Six cups pitted cherries
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
Half a lemon, squeezed

Place the cherries in an 8 by 8 Pyrex pan, ungreased. Mix in the cornstarch and sugar, and squeeze the lemon over the top.

For the crust:

6 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon no sodium baking powder
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cream or milk
1/2 cup sugar

Combine the dry ingredients and then cut in the chilled butter, using a pastry cutter. When the lumps are pea-sized, stir in the cream or milk. Do not over mix. With a large spoon place blobs of the crust over the prepared cherries. Do not worry about smoothing the crust or covering every square inch.

Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes. The cherries should be bubbling and the crust a light brown. Let the cobbler cool a bit and serve with almond-scented whipped cream.

For the cream:
1 cup organic whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring
1 tablespoon sugar

Whip the cream with the almond flavoring until thick. And the sugar and stir that in. Serve with the cobbler and swoon. (This is very rich–serves 6-8.)

It’s perfect for celebrations, like the publication of a new book! Or simply reading a great book.



Previous
Next