Let’s Celebrate National Pie Day

I found out two days late, that Jan­u­ary 23rd was Nation­al Pie Day. Who knew? But that bit of infor­ma­tion segues right into a sub­ject I want to vis­it. Well, two subjects—pies and moth­ers. Make that four sub­jects. Add books and movies.

Last Sun­day Parade Mag­a­zine includ­ed with our news­pa­per had an arti­cle about an upcom­ing movie called Labor Day. Both the pic­ture (see below) and the sub­ject and title of the arti­cle (Life of Pie) caught my atten­tion. Of course, it’s about pie. Many years ago Joyce May­nard, author of the book of the same name, had spent the sum­mer with her moth­er who was dying of can­cer bak­ing a pie near­ly every day, while her mother’s friends vis­it­ed. She’d rolled out the crust on wax paper, just as she’d learned from her moth­er. That sum­mer inspired her to teach many oth­ers how to make pie. And bak­ing pies inspired her to include a pie-mak­ing scene in her lat­est nov­el, Labor Day.

Pie and a pie-bak­ing moth­er struck a cord with me. My moth­er loved to bake. We always had dessert of some sort, always home­made, usu­al­ly cake or pie more often than cook­ies. We lived on a farm, so we had our own fruit and berries. I espe­cial­ly remem­ber apple pies. After we chil­dren left home, my moth­er con­tin­ued to bake pies. Since she had become dia­bet­ic, she’d bake a small sug­ar-free one for her­self and anoth­er for my dad. Often she’d bake two and give one away. After my father died, Mom still baked. She couldn’t eat all the pies, so she gave them away. A neigh­bor stopped by? Have a pie. Any fam­i­ly activ­i­ty? Bring two pies. A doc­tor appoint­ment? Take a pie for the entire staff to share.

Although I don’t make many pies myself, I learned from my moth­er. She used a board instead of wax paper to roll out the dough. I use a cloth for my rolling sur­face. The author uses wax paper. But we all did one thing the same—use the absolute min­i­mum of cold water when mix­ing the dough. Those mem­o­ries inspire me to see the movie, and def­i­nite­ly to read the book, Labor Day, by Joyce May­nard. (In fact, due to the mar­vels of the inter­net and Kin­dle, I have it already, when a week ago I didn’t even know the book exist­ed.)

Life of Pie-from Parade Magazine

Life of Pie-from Parade Mag­a­zine

The illus­tra­tion with the arti­cle shows the author demon­strat­ing her pie exper­tise to the movie’s stars, Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet. Josh plays an escaped con­vict who hides out in Kate’s house. He makes the pie in the movie. (Kate came to the demon­stra­tion as she want­ed to learn how to bake pies too.) While they baked and ate three pies, author Joyce May­nard found a pie con­nec­tion with actor Josh. His moth­er, who had died young, had also been a bak­er. I too found a con­nec­tion with both of them—a moth­er who baked pies.

On Amazon’s page for Labor Day, I learned more about the book. It is told from the thir­teen-year-old son’s point of view. More infor­ma­tion about Joyce Maynard’s book can be found here. You can read the entire Parade arti­cle here, see a clear­er pic­ture, and even watch a video of Joyce May­nard mak­ing an apple pie. Inci­dent­ly, the movie will open Jan­u­ary 31. And, for a local humor col­umn on the sub­ject, click on Nation­al Pie Day.

Old News That’s Still New

I’ve been busy which is real­ly not a good excuse. Every­one is busy this time of year—the hol­i­days, vis­its, cook­ing, clean­ing, bad colds—and I’ve had them all. Plus, I’ve been pour­ing over the proof of my new book and dis­cov­er­ing lots of things that need to be changed. But I must take time out to write in my blog. And—I’ve found a good subject—the con­tin­u­ing real­iza­tion that the more things change, the more they stay the same!

Every Mon­day our local news­pa­per has a col­umn of old news tak­en from papers 25, 50, 75, and 100 years ago. Yes, our news­pa­per has been in busi­ness that long! (Well, the paper’s name has under­gone a few name changes. It’s now a com­bi­na­tion of the two pre­vi­ous ones put out by the same com­pa­ny.) Would you believe the local news 25 years ago was sim­i­lar to one a fel­low mys­tery writer based her first mys­tery on, and inci­dent­ly, start­ed my habit of clip­ping these columns? The author is Sta­cy Juba, and her book is Twen­ty-Five Years Ago Today. Her book cen­tered around an unsolved mur­der. My local arti­cle tells of an unsolved dis­ap­pear­ance of a 15-year old girl who left with a man “well known to her.” Foul play and her death were feared and she is still miss­ing. Sta­cy, are you up for anoth­er plot? Or, since Sta­cy has sev­er­al oth­er books com­plete­ly plot­ted and pub­lished, am I?

Not only was the 50-year-ago news of a huge snow storm with ultra-low tem­per­a­tures one that I remem­ber well, those ultra-low tem­per­a­tures were repeat­ed this year. For­tu­nate­ly, the twelve-foot drifts weren’t. Of course, that affect­ed the annu­al Penn­syl­va­nia Farm Show—both times. In fact, that hap­pens so often, the fre­quent bad, cold weath­er for the same week is referred to as Farm Show Weath­er.

Now, 75 years ago the weath­er wasn’t real­ly men­tioned. That news was from 1939, a year still in the depres­sion that start­ed ten years ear­li­er and wasn’t com­plete­ly erased until the arms build-up to win World War II began after Pearl Har­bor Day on Decem­ber 7, 1941. Local­ly, 21 “relief chislers” had defraud­ed the gov­ern­ment for a total of $1,408. One woman thought the gov­ern­ment knew she had a job. Her hus­band was in jail and she had to walk ten miles to and from her job. Per­son­al­ly, I think I’d have let her keep the $100.10 she was over­paid. (There are cer­tain facts in this sto­ry that remind me of today as well. Can you say “hard times for many?”)

For­tu­nate­ly, the 100-years ago today sto­ry doesn’t remind me of cur­rent events. A man who owned the local store and ran the enclosed post office came down with “the dread­ed” dis­ease of small pox. Not only was his busi­ness estab­lish­ment quar­an­tined and closed, but his entire fam­i­ly was quar­an­tined and two near­by schools were closed for two weeks.

Have you heard any old news late­ly that could have been said about yes­ter­day as well? If my com­ments sec­tion is work­ing, I’d love to hear it.

Cover Reveal

Some­thing new is com­ing. My first young adult book, Cher­ish, is about to come on the scene.

From the back cov­er:

Cher­ish can’t be my name. It doesn’t sound right. But who am I? I should have lis­tened bet­ter to that mini-psych course in mid­dle school. I’ve heard of bi-polar and mul­ti­ple per­son­al­i­ties. I think. Is this the way peo­ple go crazy?

Kay­la shouldn’t have tak­en that strange girl’s hand, because that’s when every­thing changed.

And, wasn’t it the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry? What’s with the date, Octo­ber, 1946? That can’t be right. It’s the same school, sort of. The same town, but dif­fer­ent.

But, if she is Cher­ish, how about the date on that tomb­stone? If she doesn’t find a way back to her own body, in her own time…,

Kay­la will die in a few days.

Seasonal Thoughts

Sea­son­al? Not as in salt and pep­per or onion flakes. Oh, no. As in, it must be fall because kids went back to school, despite the fact that fall does not offi­cial­ly arrive until lat­er in Sep­tem­ber. So, since it IS fall, Hal­loween must be close behind. How do I know? My local gro­cery store has a full dis­play of Hal­loween Tastykakes. Yum!

Def­i­nite­ly time for spooky thoughts. Ghosts, mag­ic, and spooky para­nor­mal mys­tery books. Yes!

One series of choice for the sea­son is L. L. Bartlett’s Jeff Resnick series. Bartlett (under two oth­er names) writes two of my favorite cozy mys­tery series, but this is more of a psy­cho­log­i­cal thriller. Jeff has dreams, or visions, of mur­der. How spooky is that? The first in the series is Mur­der on the Mind. The newest one, Dark Waters, comes out on Octo­ber 1, 2013.

Anoth­er favorite series is Sofie Kelly’s Mag­i­cal Cats mys­tery series. Are those cats real, ghosts, or what? One that I read is Curios­i­ty Thrilled The Cat. The newest one, Final Cat­call, also comes out Octo­ber 1, 2013.

Soon I hope to announce my newest mys­tery, a spooky young adult titled Cher­ish. There are ghosts, time trav­el, and Hal­loween involved in this one.

I keep try­ing to get com­ments active on this post. Maybe this time? Don’t know yet. How­ev­er, com­ments will be open on my Goodreads blog tomor­row.

New Reads — Cozy Mystery and More

I love new books. Scan­ning the cov­er, turn­ing the pages, fol­low­ing line after line of… Okay, I also love new e-books. Let me say, I love the plot, the mys­tery, the char­ac­ters, the whole expe­ri­ence of let­ting myself live anoth­er life for a few min­utes, or a few hours. So, when I hear about a new book writ­ten by one of my favorite authors, I’m ready to eaves­drop on a life that I’ve lived before. And, when I open a book by an author new to me, I’m ready to escape into a new real­i­ty. All this is pre­lude to intro­duc­ing a short list of books new­ly pub­lished, or about to be pub­lished next month. Per­haps some of these will intro­duce you to a delight­ful new read.

The first book on my list is an anthol­o­gy of short sto­ries — The Least He Could Do and eleven oth­er sto­ries. When I asked for titles of new books from my Sis­ters in Crime Gup­py chap­ter, I heard about this from the author of the title sto­ry, “The Least He Could Do,” Lynn Mann. Lynn’s sto­ry is sus­pense (and a good one). The oth­ers are a mix of genre’s, all a bit edgy. Avail­able as e-book.  Ama­zon site here.  Smashword’s site here.

The next three books are all cozy mys­ter­ies from authors with series I know and love. The first is Low­coun­try Bomb­shell by Susan Boy­er. Her first book, Low­coun­try Boil, won the Agatha this year for best new mys­tery, so you know this one will be good. Short intro — Liz Tal­bot thinks she’s seen anoth­er ghost when she meets Cal­ista McQueen. She’s the spit­ting image of Mar­i­lyn Mon­roe. Born pre­cise­ly fifty years after the ill-fat­ed star, Calista’s life has eeri­ly mir­rored the late starlet’s–and she fears the loom­ing anniver­sary of Marilyn’s death will also be hers. With the heat index approach­ing triple dig­its, Liz races to uncov­er a dia­bol­i­cal mur­der plot in time to save not only Calista’s life, but also her own.  Ama­zon site here. Pub­lish­er page here.

Lit­tle Black Book of Mur­der by Nan­cy Mar­tin is the newest from The Black­bird Sis­ters series, one of my favorites. It stars Nora Black­bird who may have been to the manor borne, but these days mon­ey is so tight, she can’t afford to lose her job as a soci­ety colum­nist. Short Intro — If any­thing can bring the blue-blood­ed Black­bird sis­ters togeth­er, it’s a mur­der inves­ti­ga­tion involv­ing high-soci­ety events, glam­orous peo­ple, and the dis­ap­pear­ance of a genet­i­cal­ly per­fect pig that may or may not be bask­ing in the sun at Black­bird Farm. They’ll all have to pull togeth­er this time, because if Nora can’t bring home the bacon, she might have to exchange her bucol­ic estate for a cramped walk-up. Avail­able in hard­cov­er, e-book, and audio­book.  Ama­zon page here. Author page here.

Rhys Bowen, the author of Heirs and Graces, writes three series that I adore. This title is the lat­est in the Roy­al Spy­ness mys­ter­ies that take place in 1930s Eng­land. Georgie’s posh edu­ca­tion didn’t land her a job, or a hus­band, but it does con­vince Her Majesty the Queen and the Dowa­ger Duchess to enlist her help. Short intro for this his­toric mys­tery — As thir­ty-fifth in line for the throne, Lady Geor­giana Ran­noch may not be the most sophis­ti­cat­ed young woman, but she knows her table man­ners. It’s forks on the left, knives on the right–not in His Majesty’s back… Avail­able in hard­cov­er, e-book, and audio­book. Ama­zon page here. Author page here.

I also have two mys­ter­ies from authors who are new to me. I’m look­ing for­ward to enjoy­ing their new series. Auld Lang Syne is by Judith Ivie. Short intro — This is num­ber six in The Kate Lawrence Mys­ter­ies. It’s almost New Year’s Eve, and Kate finds her­self at her 35th high school reunion, where she is con­front­ed by The Mean Girls, cir­ca 1978. Worse yet, she’s put on a lit­tle weight, and her high school steady is expect­ed to show. Should auld acquain­tance be for­got? If only that were pos­si­ble. Avail­able in paper­back and e-book. Ama­zon site here. Pub­lish­er page here.

The sec­ond of the new-to-me mys­ter­ies is Armed  by Elaine Macko From the cov­er pho­to of a young woman’s arm, I sus­pect this Alex Har­ris series is ‘armed’ with more humor than gun play. Short intro — When Alex Har­ris, own­er of the Always Pre­pared staffing agency, stum­bles over the body of Mrs. Scott, noth­ing will ever be the same. Along with her sis­ter and part­ner, Saman­tha Daniels, and their assis­tant, Mil­lie Chap­man, the Win­ston Churchill-quot­ing, M&M pop­ping Alex probes and plods through clue after clue try­ing to unrav­el secrets before the mur­der­er strikes again and real­ly ruins Christ­mas. Avail­able in paper­back and e-book. Ama­zon site here. Author page here.

What are your favorite cozy mys­tery series? Leave a com­ment and tell me. I’d love to hear about new ones.

Look for my new YA mys­tery soon — pub­li­ca­tion date ten­ta­tive­ly sched­uled for Octo­ber 2013. In the mean­time, the links to my two mys­ter­ies and one true adven­ture non-fic­tion are on my Books page here.

Remembering Mom

Yes­ter­day I read about a woman who just turned 100. It was a love­ly arti­cle in my news­pa­per with a head­line of, “This healthy 100-year-old runs on cof­fee.” She sounds like a humdinger. She likes to sing at home and with the group Sweet Ade­lines. She helps her niece with cross­word puz­zles. She likes to keep busy. “I don’t sit and rock half the day, oh no,” she said.

The lady reminds me of my mom, who lived until May 31st of this year. She was 103. She, too, liked to keep busy. At eigh­teen, Mom was a city girl who mar­ried a rail­road man who turned into a farmer. She fol­lowed her man from Wash­ing­ton to Mis­souri and back to Wash­ing­ton. Dad want­ed home-made bread, so she baked bread. She cooked din­ner for hay­ing crews. And pies. Oh, the pies she baked. In lat­er years a trip to the doc­tor or den­tist was an occa­sion to bake as she always took a pie along.

I remem­ber Mom as the farm wife. One time some ani­mal was killing our free-range chick­ens. Mom sat in the field with a rifle, wait­ing. A fer­al dog arrived and she dropped him with a chick­en in its mouth that ran away. But Mom had an inde­pen­dent streak. One year she decid­ed that, just because Dad was a very active Grange mem­ber, she didn’t have to be. How­ev­er, she missed it and returned. She actu­al­ly lat­er end­ed up as Mas­ter (that’s club pres­i­dent). But that inde­pen­dent streak went one step far­ther. When Dad retired, she did too. No more home-baked bread!

Mom loved to read. I remem­ber when she had a copy of For­ev­er Amber hid­den in her room. (It was the scan­dalous nov­el of the time.) And she wrote. She was my inspi­ra­tion. But while I write mys­ter­ies, she wrote poet­ry. I remem­ber a long saga she could recite and some­times amend­ed. More often she wrote poems as gifts to friends on spe­cial occa­sions. She played the piano. Once she accom­pa­nied the soloist at a wed­ding. She often played piano at Grange meet­ings and when­ev­er any­one want­ed to sing at home.

Mom's 100th Birthday

Mom’s 100th Birth­day

There was a par­ty for Mom’s 100th birth­day where she lived. Since I lived across the con­ti­nent from her, I wasn’t there that day, but my sis­ter-in-law was. Mom received cards and ate cake (hers was sug­ar-free). Mom believed in walk­ing for health. At the farm she mea­sured with a tape mea­sure, then walked that route until her goal was reached. At her assist­ed liv­ing home she walked the length of the hall twice a day. I remem­ber Mom drink­ing cof­fee like the woman in the arti­cle, but her dai­ly reg­i­men includ­ed walk­ing and drink­ing milk. It served her well.

Good bye Mom. We loved you.

I like to include book rec­om­men­da­tions in each post. Two from my library are Miss­ing Mom by Joyce Car­ol Oates and there was an old woman by Hal­lie Ephron. Nei­ther one is a cozy mys­tery. The arti­cle ref­er­enced above can be seen here.

 

Wow! Chefs to World Leaders Eat Here?

Can you believe that chefs to world lead­ers dined in a barn, sit­ting on bench­es at long wood­en tables dec­o­rat­ed with flow­ers in can­ning jars? They ate, and even raved over sim­ple dish­es like sal­ad with red beet eggs, chick­en cro­quettes, pot roast, mashed pota­toes with brown but­ter, suc­co­tash, and fresh rasp­ber­ries. They will take ideas back to their own coun­tries to serve in palaces in Eng­land, Thai­land, Swe­den, and Mona­co. The back-to-nature foods pre­pared in Lan­cast­er Coun­try, Penn­syl­va­nia, and served by Amish women and chil­dren may appear on tables in the White House, and in the homes of world lead­ers from Ger­many, Gabon, Chi­na, France, and many oth­er nations.

It was a meet­ing of the Club des Chefs des Chefs, an exclu­sive group of chefs to world lead­ers. Each year they meet in a dif­fer­ent host coun­try. This year they came to Amer­i­ca and first dined in Wash­ing­ton, Mary­land, and New York before vis­it­ing the barn in East Lam­peter, Penn­syl­va­nia.

My words can’t tell you all there is to this sto­ry. I’ve attached a link of a video and a slide show of the meal in progress, plus the news­pa­per write-up. (It’s here.)

Does this sto­ry that includes the chef to our pres­i­dent make you think of mys­tery books? It does me—but then prac­ti­cal­ly every­thing makes me think of a good mys­tery read. In fact, this arti­cle makes me think of two series, and I just hap­pen to have a few of those books in my library.

You have to know that one series is the White House Chef Mys­ter­ies by Julie Hyzy. When Buf­fa­lo West Wing  was pub­lished in 2011, Olivia Paras is billed was the first female head White House chef. Of course the plot involved a sup­ply of the pres­i­den­tial children’s favorite—spicy Buf­fa­lo wings. And Olivia gets in Dutch because she won’t let the kids touch the wings.

Speak­ing of Dutch, the Amish peo­ple men­tioned in the arti­cle reminds me of more mys­ter­ies. They are the books includ­ed in the Penn­syl­va­nia Dutch series by Tamar Myers. One of her titles is The Crepes of Wrath. Mag­dale­na Yoder dis­cov­ers that a bad batch of crepes can lead to mur­der. There are sev­er­al crepes recipes includ­ed, not one of them is fatal. Mag­dale­na is not Amish, but of anoth­er plain sect. (“Plain” is the term some use, and to the “Eng­lish” as the Amish call oth­ers, “plain” can refer to Amish, Men­non­ite, and oth­ers.)

I page through recipes in mys­tery books and get ideas (I’m often an inno­v­a­tive cook). Both series include recipes. My own mys­ter­ies include peo­ple who love food, love to talk about it, love to pre­pare and eat it, but I haven’t added recipes in the pages of my books. I’ve tried anoth­er approach. I place recipes and pic­tures on my web­site along with an excerpt from the scene that pre­sent­ed the dish. (Those recipes are here.)

Do you like mys­ter­ies that include recipes? I’d love to see your com­ments about food in mys­ter­ies, or your favorite series. (I love to find series new to me!)

The Irish Cop Connection

I like to make con­nec­tions. Some­times the con­nec­tion is between a news­pa­per arti­cle and a sto­ry I’ve read. Some­times it’s between a whis­pered con­fi­dence and a past event. Some­times, such as this time, the con­nec­tion is between two mys­tery series by two dif­fer­ent authors.

Besides the Irish cop con­nec­tion, these series are cozy, his­toric, and by authors I’ve actu­al­ly met! Both series are set in New York at the turn of the century—that’s the ear­ly 1900s, Both have a young woman who helps an Irish cop solve mur­ders. Both include a good bit of accu­rate his­toric detail.

I met Vic­to­ria Thomp­son a few years ago at a con­fer­ence where I bought one of her Gaslight Mys­tery books. I’ve been buy­ing, and read­ing them ever since. How­ev­er, I began read­ing the Mol­ly Mur­phy Mys­ter­ies before I met Rhys Bowen. Okay, I must admit, it was a brief encounter. We rode the same ele­va­tor at the Mal­ice Domes­tic Con­fer­ence this May. I did tell her how much I enjoyed her mys­ter­ies.

Now that I’ve men­tioned the sim­i­lar­i­ties between the two series, let me tell you the dif­fer­ences.

Sarah Brandt, star of the Gaslight Mys­ter­ies, was born to wealth then turned against that lifestyle by becom­ing a mid­wife. She mar­ried and was a young wid­ow when the series begins. Among the real his­toric issues involved in the mys­ter­ies are med­ical prob­lems, includ­ing those of the Irish cop’s deaf son as well as social issues and the pover­ty of so many of New York’s cit­i­zens of the time. One among the con­tin­u­ing char­ac­ters is Sarah’s neigh­bor, an extreme­ly super­sti­tions woman who sees signs of dan­ger if a crow flies by, or almost any­thing else. Sarah has the advan­tage of know­ing the wealthy peo­ple, old friends from her for­mer life, and espe­cial­ly her moth­er to help in learn­ing things that might be clues. The Irish cop, Frank Mal­loy, wel­comes any help Sarah can pro­vide. The two are attract­ed to each oth­er, but so far, have too many oth­er things going on to do much about it.

Mol­ly Mur­phy, the hero­ine of the Mol­ly Mur­phy Mys­ter­ies, arrived in New York from Ire­land, one step ahead of the law that would arrest her for pro­tect­ing her­self. She takes a job at a detec­tive agency. When the detec­tive is killed, she takes over the role of detec­tive. Through­out the series, Mol­ly meets his­toric peo­ple such as Har­ry Hou­di­ni and Nel­lie Bly. Her neigh­bors are two flam­boy­ant women who intro­duce Mol­ly to their well-known friends, so many his­toric events con­tribute to the mys­ter­ies. Daniel Sul­li­van, the Irish cop, does not wel­come help from Mol­ly on his cas­es, nor does he want to hear about her detec­tive work that may be con­nect­ed to his. How­ev­er, their per­son­al rela­tion­ship advances from romance, to dis­tance, to rejec­tion, then back, and to mar­riage.

Do you like to make con­nec­tions such as this? Do you know of any oth­er mys­ter­ies that could be con­nect­ed in some ten­u­ous fash­ion? Let me know below in the com­ments. And, before I leave you, I’d like to give you a cou­ple of links for these two authors and their sites.

Vic­to­ria Thompson’s Ama­zon author page is here. A recent Face­book entry is here. 

Rhys Bowen’s Ama­zon author page is here. Her Twit­ter account is here.