Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
Monday, August 29, 2011
Sunday, August 28, 2011
SUNDAY: The winner of a wonderful new mystery: find out tomorrow! And join in a very very unusual discussion where we pose a very difficult question.
To win: Just tell us your hurricane status... we hope you all are staying safe.
Saturday, August 27, 2011
“When the taste changes with every bite and the last bite is as good as the first, that's Cajun.”
'Quotable Feast' by Sarah E. Parvis (2001)
JUNE SHAW: If you like good food, come on down! But I should admit this right up front—I will not be the person who’ll prepare it. I live in south Louisiana and am accustomed to scrumptious Cajun food. Many of you probably know we have stews and gumbos and jambalayas and crayfish pies and boiled shrimp and crabs and crayfish (my absolute favorite—you have to slap me to get me to stop eating them, but darn, the season’s over and won’t start again until early spring—Can’t wait!)
HANK: Okay, I admit. I’ve never tried crayfish. There was a big scandal recently when someone said the lobster salad at Zabar’s in New York was selling was actually crayfish salad. Does it taste like lobster? And what’s the deal with the heads?
JUNE: Crayfish are much better than lobsters. They are much more flavorful, and the meat is more compact. I’ve never heard of anyone having crayfish in salad. Nobody wants to wait long enough; we eat it as soon as it’s boiled. I don’t suck the heads, but my squeeze Bob does. So do lots of others down here. They say there’s lots of flavor inside. I get enough flavor in the rest of the body.
HANK: Oh, sure. Oyster po-boys. Why are they called that? And why don’t you set your series down south near all that great food?
JUNE: Po-boys were originally sandwiches with various things thrown inside them for poor boys who needed a cheap meal.
I’ve considered setting my series down here. Sure, we have interesting characters, a unique culture, and fabulous meals. But my protagonist Cealie Gunther wants to travel—just like me! We like to visit various locations while we still eat great meals. That’s why her hunky lover Gil Thurman owns a chain of Cajun Delights restaurants.
HANK: Of course spunky widowed Cealie is trying to avoid him so she can rediscover herself. But he opens some of his restaurants wherever she travels—and she is horrible at avoiding tempting dishes and men, but—can you teach us a bit about Cajun cooking? Like—we need know how to make a roux, right?
JUNE: Many people joke and say every Cajun dish begins with a roux, which is a mixture of almost equal parts oil and flour stirred over a low fire until it turns golden brown. It’s what thickens and darkens our gumbos and stews and many other dishes. And a roux is not actually used for everything--not cake, anyway.
JUNE: You might start with a small roux, maybe 4 T. flour and 4 T oil, although some people make them much larger, maybe 1/4 C. of each. If you have any extra, roux can be saved in the fridge for quite a long time. You’d cook a roux in a heavy pot (keep stirring and watching so it doesn’t burn), and once it’s uniformly brown, add onions and other desired seasonings, stirring until transparent, and then add needed liquid.
HANK: So now that we’re armed with our lovely smooth (and unburned) roux, tell us a real Cajun recipe where we can use it!
JUNE: How about making Stuffed Crabs!
HANK: First get some crabs...
JUNE: I'm ignoring you! :-) Easy to get crabs in LA--and I'm sure crab meat is everywhere!
SO take: 1 C. crab meat, 1 large onion, 2 T. flour, 2 T. cooking oil, 1 C. stale bread broken into pieces, ¼ C. chopped bell pepper, ¼ C. chopped celery, 2 T. parsley, ½ C. water, salt and pepper to taste. Make a golden brown roux with oil and flour. Add bell pepper, celery, and onion; cook five minute. Add water and cook until thick. Add crab meat and cook about 15 minutes. Add bread and chopped parsley. This will stuff about four crab shells. Sprinkle them with bread crumbs and brown for a few minutes in the oven. Terrific!
HANK: That would work with shrimp too, I bet. I’m so hungry now.. what else is in your Cajun cook book?
JUNE: Hank, you do remember I write humorous mysteries, right?
HANK: Laughing. But they all have recipes!
JUNE: So here’s one for Chicken Stew: 1 large hen, 3 onions, 1 bell pepper, 1 large T. cooking oil, ½ cup flour, green onions and parsley, salt and red pepper to taste. Cut up the chicken, chop bell pepper and onions very fine. Brown the chicken in hot oil. Remove the chicken and add flour. Stir until the mixture is light brown. Add onions and pepper and cook about five minutes. Add the chicken and one quart or more of boiling water. Season with salt and pepper and when almost done, add green onions and parsley. Stir the stew as it thickens to prevent burning. If you like mushrooms, add a can toward the end. Serve dish over rice. Yummy!
HANK : But now you say...you don’t love to cook?
JUNE: Nope. I love to eat but keep busy and like faster dishes. That’s why I offer Oven Dressing, one of my family’s favorites, on my Web site, www.juneshaw.com. Many people down here spend half the day preparing dressing, but my recipe lets you throw everything raw in a casserole dish and stick it in the oven. I hope you’ll check it out.
My squeeze Bob is a terrific Cajun cook. When I want some of his best recipes to include in my books, I ask and he jots them down. That’s why he’s a great help for my books. Also, he stays out of my office. (If I mention problems with my mouse, he’s ready to kill it.)
You can find some of Bob’s recipes in the first two books in my series, RELATIVE DANGER and KILLER COUSINS, available now on Kindle and Smashwords. He’s given me more great dishes for DEADLY REUNION, just released in hardcover. This book has a class reunion taking place on a cruise ship in Alaska. Bob and I sure enjoyed doing the research.
HANK: Thanks, June! So, Reds: Have you ever eaten Cajun dishes? If so, what are your favorites? Have you tried to prepare any?
(And who has suggestions for MWA-U outings in New Orleans?)
And continuing Jungle Reds win-a-book-a -day week--one lucky commenter will win June's new book!
Here’s a link to DEADLY REUNION in case you’d like to take a look: http://tinyurl.com/3w8bezn
Friday, August 26, 2011
If you're flipping through the channels and see, say, Gene Kelly here dancing with the umbrella and the lightpost--you gonna click? No, of course not. You'll slowly lower yourself to the couch, saying..oh, I'll just watch this one little part. Right?
Or Fred and Ginger doing the Continental. Or Flying Down to Rio. You'd listen to Put the Blame on Mame. Louis Jourdan singing "She is Not Thinking of Me." Oh, how about Broadway Babies? Struttin' down the avenue, doing what they have to do, to be in a SHOW! And High Society? Forget it. I'm watching every second.
Anyway. What does this all have to do with the hard-driving, thrill-seeking, need-for-speed (and quite hilarious) debut author Tammy Kaehler?
We'll just let her tell you. (And see below for today's question..and today's FREE BOOK!)
From Singin’ in the Rain to Racing ‘Round the Track
by Tammy Kaehler
I grew up watching classic movie musicals from the golden age of Hollywood. My obsession started with Shirley Temple and moved on to Singin’ in the Rain, The Band Wagon, Top Hat, Summer Stock, you name it. Everything with Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly, Judy Garland, and other favorites. The movies were fun to sing and twitch my feet along with, but their worldview was often very traditional—doesn’t the plot description say it all? “Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, BOY wins girl.” With the benefit of age and time, I look back on them and wonder, what on Earth is the girl doing in all of that?
Fortunately, I didn’t internalize that male-female dynamic. I grew up and spent a couple years extolling the values of a women’s college education (I worked in college admissions).
Today, I write a mystery series with a female racecar driver protagonist—and if there’s ever a character in charge of her own destiny, particularly as she hurtles 2,500 lbs. of Corvette around a track at 150 m.p.h., it’s Kate Reilly. (ed. note: That's Tammy in the photo below!) Kate’s story would seem about as far removed from those classic films as it’s possible to get. And yet … not only do similarities exist, but watching those musicals just might have predisposed me to write what I do.
First, there’s the element of beating the odds, with a side dish of suspension-of-disbelief. How do Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney save the orphanage in Babes in Arms? How do Judy and Gene Kelly save the farm in Summer Stock? They put on a show! How does every amateur sleuth in contemporary mystery fiction deal with finding a dead body and being incriminated in the murder?
They solve the crimes while also being a success in their day jobs. In Dead Man’s Switch, Kate Reilly gets a chance at her dream job, shows her potential when it counts, and figures out whodunit. All of these characters—literary or cinematic—have something special. Judy can dance and sing, and Kate can drive. But they also have a touch of the average, everyday person about them, which means we still find them relatable.
Most importantly, what classic musicals and traditional mysteries share is the knowledge that everything will turn out all right in the end. I don’t mean every mystery ending is a happy one, but as SJ Rozan says in her excellent talk on genre, the basic arc of a crime novel is that the reader will get to the end and know what happened. There will be a reason for the tragedy or the crime—which is often better than we get in real life, where events and situations are often random and unexplainable.
In mysteries, as in movie musicals, the good guys usually win and the bad guys are typically caught and punished. The farm is saved, the race is completed, if not always won—and sometimes, the girl even gets the boy. Obviously characters in mysteries aren’t toe-tapping their way into the sunset in every final scene, as on screen … more’s the pity?
Much as I might like to attempt to stretch my point and argue that mysteries are as silly as movie musicals (some cozies are, perhaps), I won’t. I’ll simply admit to enjoying it immensely when the joy or despair in a character’s soul can only be expressed by a soft-shoe, a waltz, or a softly crooned ballad. I guess if Kate ever breaks into song in one of my novels, you’ll know why….
HANK: Well, I just read they are figuring out how to do ebooks with soundtracks! So sounds like you're a perfect candidate. (Do you think that's going to work?)
How about you all, Reds? Are you musical fans? What's your fave? One lucky commenter will win Tammy's DEAD MAN'S Switch!
Before trying her hand at fiction, Tammy Kaehler established a career writing marketing materials, feature articles, executive speeches, and technical documentation. A fateful stint in corporate marketing introduced her to the racing world, which inspired the first Kate Reilly Racing Mystery. Tammy works as a technical writer in the Los Angeles area, where she lives with her husband and many cars.
Ed note: ooh, lookit that cover blurb! Hot stuff!
Thursday, August 25, 2011
A crime-solving ghost and magical charms from the past make PLEATING FOR MERCY a sure winner! The Cassidy women are naturally drawn to mystery and mischief. You’ll love meeting them! —NYT Bestselling Author Maggie Sefton
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Remember the first time you ever sewed? I have such a clear memory of the first thing I ever made. It was back when Home Ec was called Home Ec--my sister told me it's now called Hum Ec, for Human Ecology, but I refuse to believe that.
Anyway, back in the day, girl took home ec and boys took shop. That's how it was. We learned to make baked bean burgers, and tuna pizza--I mean, can you imagine anything worse? THAT was supposed to inspire us to become good cooks and homemakers? But I, as usual, digress.
We also learned to SEW. With a pattern.
I must admit, I thought this was pretty cool. Being a kind of chubbette, at the time, for whom shopping was basically a hideous enterprise, the idea of making clothes that fit was genius.
Don't try anything too difficult, my mother warned. So did Mrs...oh, gee, I forget the teacher's name. Anyway, I decided on a pleated skirt.
I know, I know, dumb, but it was 1964 and I was enthusiastic.
So I got his fabric, and got a pattern, and cut it out and put in the zipper and did the pleats and it WORKED, by golly it did. EXCEPT, the pattern on the FRONT of the skirt went one way, and the pattern on the back of the skirt went the other way.
What I needed, I now know, was a little Harlow Cassidy magic. Via Melissa Bourbon's delightful new character!
(All the Cassidy women possess special gifts. Harlow Jane Cassidy’s is creating beautiful dresses. And in Melissa Bourbon's new book, she’s about to discover secrets in her own family, and another gift—one that can reach beyond the grave… When her great-grandmother passes away, Harlow Jane Cassidy leaves her job as a Manhattan fashion designer and moves back to Bliss, Texas.)
Shades of Tim and Heidi! This adorable mystery is Project Runway meets (a very hip and grown-up) Nancy Drew.Melissa--how did this all begin?
MELISSA BOURBON: I was in elementary school when my mother taught me to sew. The first big project I made completely on my own, a dress, was hard, definitely, but I am nothing if not dogged and focused when I put my mind to something.
The pattern had the option of using two coordinating fabrics which I decided to attempt. I made the whole thing from scrap pieces from my mother’s ample collection. I worked for hours and hours on that dress, even adding buttons up the straight skirt. I was so proud of myself, but what I remember most is how proud my mom was. That was the beginning of a lifelong love of sewing.
Sewing is, in some ways, a lost art. I’m teaching my daughter. She went to a fashion camp this summer. She doesn’t love sewing (it’s hard work, after all), but thanks to Project Runway, there seems to be a renewed interest in fashion, in general, and she has an interest in it.
I asked myself this question as I came up with and wrote Pleating for Mercy, the first Magical Dressmaking mystery (which was released on August 2nd). What is it about sewing and fashion that inspires my character, Harlow Jane Cassidy (a descendent of Butch Cassidy)? What is it about sewing and fashion that inspires anyone who has a love for this craft?
For Harlow, it’s about the creativity, the art, and the heritage of hand sewing in her family. I have that in my family, as well. Generation upon generation of women have sewn, quilted, embroidered, and knitted. It’s a legacy, and that’s something infused in Harlow’s fictional DNA.
One of the best parts of writing this series is that I get to research fabrics, fashion, style, and accessories. I bought Nina Garcia’s (from Project Runway) The One Hundred (tips for every fashionable woman). I bought a book on vintage 1800s dress design (book 2, A Fitting End has Harlow creating a period gown for a town historical pageant). I get to buy dress forms and trims and myriad other goodies to inspire me.
I may not have much time to actually sew, but I get to write about sewing machines, technique, and notions. And I get to peruse bridal magazines, and anything else that strikes my sewing fancy. It may not be the same as sitting down at my Pfaff® and creating a color-blocked dress or a quilted tote, but it works. For now.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Oh, I must say--most of the women who work with me could not--and I am not exaggerating--thread a needle. And, actually, might not even realize why they should! How about you?
And continuing our win-a-book-a-day at Jungle Red, a copy of PLEATING FOR MERCY will be sent to a lucky commenter!
Here’s what Hank Phillippi Ryan said about Pleating for Mercy. I have her quote hanging up to inspire me as I write book 3 in A Magical Dressmaking Mystery series. Love ya, Hank!
“Enchanting! Prepare to be spellbound from page one by this well-written and deftly-plotted cozy. It’s charming, clever and completely captivating! Fantasy, fashion and a foul play—all sewn together by a wise and witty heroine you’ll instantly want as a best friend. Loved it!”~ Hank Phillippi Ryan Agatha, Anthony and Macavity winning author
Visit Melissa at her website http://melissabourbon.com
Melissa on Twitter http://twitter.com/MelissaBourbon
Melissa on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/AuthorMelissaBourbon.MisaRamirez
And at Books on the House, a website bringing books and readers together! http://booksonthehouse.comAbout the Author:
Melissa Bourbon, who sometimes answers to her Latina-by-marriage name Misa Ramirez, is the marketing director with Entangled Publishing. She is the founder of Books on the House, the co-founder of The Naked Hero and is the author of the Lola Cruz Mystery Series and two upcoming romantic suspense novels (written as Misa Ramirez).
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
But if I had to finish the sentence: Not a day goes by that I do not have______"-- hmm. What would that be? I would certainly miss coffee. And my brain-alarm absolutely rings when it's time for the six o'clock news--it's actually kind of scary.
But the wonderful mystery author Kathleen George knows how she'd finish the sentence. And her answers might surprise you!
What would she miss?
Eighteen Thousand Eight Hundred and Fifty...Salads!
KATHLEEN GEORGE: I have addictions: Ice cream, chocolate, baseball, football, reading, writing, and salad. By this I mean that if a day goes by (sports in season) in which I do not do or have these fixes, I’ll feel restless, funny, unfinished. Also, let it be noted that there are a few weeks in autumn in which it is possible to get both baseball and football on the same day.
The salad thing started when I was a child. The elder, helpful child, I got a daily assignment (beyond practicing the piano and cleaning the upstairs). I was to make the family’s salad for dinner. I learned later than many Lebanese people are addicted to salad dressed in lemon and olive oil and that they have to have it daily. There was once a secretary in my department who was married to one of my countrymen and she exclaimed, “He says he needs a salad every day. He makes it.”
“Yes, I know,” I said. “Lemon and olive oil.”
In summer the salads are glorious with the lemon and tomato juices mingling. In winter, we eat the salad anyway. Lettuces, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, onions, sometimes mint, dressed in lemon, olive oil, lots of salt, coarse black pepper. Everything tastes better—steak, pork chops, salmon, chicken wings, lentils and rice, everything.
I read. I must read. Every day. No exceptions.
My husband taught me about writing every day whether I felt like it or not—whether I felt I was doing something good or not. “Ten years later,” he assured me, “you can’t tell the bad days from the good days.” After I started writing every day, that was it. And addiction for sure. If a doctor’s appointment can’t be rescheduled and I have to be out of the house in the morning, I am pretty growly for the day.
On the other hand, I think of the poor folks who need alcohol, heroin or crack. I write about them substituting one fix for another. Alcohol and Valium in combination are what keeps my character in FALLEN going, alcohol buffers the pain and guilt in AFTERIMAGE, heroin and booze mark two characters in THE ODDS, and I have a fellow who needs crack in HIDEOUT. My detective friend and mentor tells me that substance abuse us contributed to a huge amount of crimes. Might there almost be no crime without it? Wikipedia (we don't rely on it, of course!) says:
Kathleen George is the editor of PITTSBURGH NOIR and the author of TAKEN, FALLEN, AFTERIMAGE, THE ODDS (Edgar finalist, best novel), and HIDEOUT.
Her website is www.kathleengeorge.com
And let me ad
In Edgar-finalist George's stellar sequel to The Odds (2009), Cmdr. Richard Christie and Det. Colleen Greer of Pittsburgh Homicide look into a late-night hit-and-run, in which a young woman died. Meanwhile, brothers Jack and Ryan Rutter, the two young men in the truck that fatally struck the woman, skip town and break into an unoccupied house in Perrysville, a nearby summer community. Jack is a hapless, sweet-natured kid, but Ryan is an angry, drug-addled coward who's looking for an excuse to hurt someone. The suspense grows as the innocent people of Perrysville go about their business--and the owner of the brothers' hideout heads home for the season. An expert at handling investigative details and pacing, George makes readers care about the people who are about to confront each other. The inevitable violence hurts because it matters. Told in lean, efficient prose, this is a top-notch, emotionally satisfying police procedural. (Aug.)