Thursday, November 21, 2013

What I'm Writing by Lucy Burdette

LUCY BURDETTE: We're confessing this week, right? Panic is a familiar feeling when I'm writing a book--right now with the fifth Key West food critic mystery my panic takes the form of wishing I knew what was happening. How can I possibly make something decent out of my sketchy ideas? This is usually the point where my husband suggests I review my synopsis.  And I do. As usual, it's got more holes than substance. 

Why the heck is Hayley Snow doing what she's doing? Where's the conflict? What are her stakes? Why would anyone care? Here's what I know: It's Christmas time, a magical season in Key West. There will be scenes at the holiday parade. And the lighted boat parade. And holiday parties, lots of parties. 

There's a new chef in town, fresh from New York City, and she's opening a restaurant on the harbor. But she's pretty sure someone is out to ruin her business before it gets off the ground…and she needs Hayley's help. But why Hayley??


The good news is, I've been here before. With every book. Even MURDER WITH GANACHE, which is coming in February. Ganache and I are in a honeymoon phase--We think this could be the best one yet! 


There are cupcakes and Hemingway cats and a wedding and way too much family, including Hayley's grumpy fifteen-year old stepbrother.


And I've just received a few galleys and I'm dying to give one away. Here's how you enter your name in the drawing:

I need a title for number five. It should have some of these elements: food, cooking, Key West, holidays (without coming right out and saying "Christmas".) So how's that? A chance at a galley for a title. Don't be afraid to sound silly. Your attempts can't be worse than what I've come up with!

And while you're thinking, here's the opening for MURDER WITH GANACHE (which can, of course, be pre-ordered):

Chapter One

       I’m in an open relationship with salt and butter.  Michele Catalano

    Faster than a speeding Kitchenaid mixer, I scraped the freshly-squeezed lime juice and zested lime peel into the bowl and beat the batter to a creamy pale green. Inside the oven, the first set of cupcakes rose gracefully, releasing their sweet and sour citrus fragrance into the tiny galley of our houseboat.
    Then my cell phone bleated: Jim Snow. AKA Dad.
    My father isn’t big on phone conversations. My father isn’t big on conversations, period. Clients, he has to butter up because he needs something from them. But I could count on the fingers of one hand the times we’d chatted since my near-arrest for murder last fall.
    So when his name flashed on the screen, I set down the whisk, abandoning the “do not answer” policy I’d adopted in order to survive the week leading up to my best friend Connie’s wedding. Something had to be wrong.
    “Hi Dad, what’s up?” I asked, trying to sound cheerful, when wary was what I felt.
    “Good news, Hayley Catherine Snow!” he said, with the faux heartiness he reserved for business associates. And using my full name, which he reserved for times I’d gotten into trouble. “The whole family’s coming to the wedding.”
    I whooshed out a breath of relief--he was just lagging a beat and a half behind his wife. “I know. Allison RSVP’d weeks ago. You’re all set with a corner suite at the Casa Marina. You’ll love everything but the bill.” My stepmother Allison was organized to a fault. She had to be, as a chemist. Though why that didn’t translate into an ability to follow a simple recipe was beyond me. Hopeless in the kitchen, my mom always said, when she couldn’t restrain herself from an edgy comment.
    The oven timer began to ding. I donned a red silicone mitten, pulled the cupcakes out, and slid them onto the stovetop.
    “The whole family,” my father repeated. “Rory’s coming too.”
     “Rory’s coming?”
    My fifteen-year-old  stepbrother. To be honest, I was already stressed about the upcoming week, visualizing how I might handle the family dynamics between my mother and her new boyfriend, whom I hadn’t met except on Skype, and my father and stepmother. Not to mention juggling a high-strung bride while baking two hundred cupcakes for her wedding reception. Not to mention her husband-to-be’s first-ever art reception.
    Rory had been adorable as a toddler. As a teen? Not so much.
    A surly, pimply adolescent boy would not, no way, be an asset.
    “I was hoping you could find him a place to sleep,” my dad continued. “Otherwise he’ll end up on the couch in our sitting room.” His voice rolled out ominously like the music from Jaws. I was pretty certain he didn’t care much for Rory in his current iteration either--only he didn’t have the luxury of saying so.
    “I don’t think I can, Dad. You guys are arriving today. It’s spring break. The hotels in Key West have been sold out for months. I might be able to get a bead on a bunk in a youth hostel. But between us, I think that’s asking for trouble. You don’t know what kind of roommates he’d get or what they might be in to.”
    He cleared his throat. “Might there be room on your houseboat? I know he’d love to have some special time with you.”
    “No can do,” I said briskly. Rory and I hadn’t lived together enough to bond quite like sister and brother. After my parents’ divorce, I spent only alternate weekends and Wednesdays with Dad. And the weekends dwindled further once he remarried and moved two towns away. We’d never shared a room, or a tent, or for that matter, a mother.
    “Think Airstream trailer on the high seas. The smallest model. Between me, Miss Gloria, two cats, wedding favors, and hundreds of cupcakes, we don’t have room to spit.” Was I being uncharitable? I looked around at the common spaces of our tiny houseboat, the counters in the galley covered with cupcakes, cupcake batter, zested limes, dirty pots and pans, and Evinrude, my gray tiger cat, eying it all from a stool beside the stove.
    My father fell silent, which made me feel awful.
    “What about Eric Altman? Didn’t your mother stay in his guest room in January?”
    I groaned. How did he even know this? When I moved down to Key West from New Jersey last fall, I’d assured my old friend Eric I would only ask this kind of favor in case of emergency. He’d insisted on hosting mom, because she’d been so kind to him when he was a troubled teen. It wasn’t fair to foist Rory on him.
    But then I pictured messy, grumpy Rory camped out on our single couch not five feet from the room where I’d be desperate to sleep. This was definitely an emergency.


  1. Okay, I laughed out loud at “You’ll love everything but the bill” and promptly added “Murder With Ganache” to my towering mountain of to-be-read books. [Can’t wait to see what mayhem grumpy stepbrother Rory manages to inflict on poor Hayley’s already jam-packed week . . . .]

    Having wracked my befuddled brain for a title suggestion for book five, the best I can manage at the moment is “Stollen Slaughter” [stollen being a traditional Christmas food] . . . .

  2. Lucy! This is too hard! I've been thinking about this for a couple of hours now and all I come up with is Key Lime Spy, but that leaves out half the elements you ask for… No lighted boat parade. No holiday hints at all. But the book sounds a lot of fun! Thanks for the preview.

  3. This is hard work.
    Here's my first blast:

    Calling All Cupcakes
    A Cupcake of Corpses
    A Corpse in the Cupcake
    Cupcakes, Casseroles, and Corpses

  4. Oh, Dear, What's This in the Casserole?

  5. Ok, I promise to take a break.

    ‘Twas The Night Before Cupcakes
    A Tale of Two Cupcakes
    Phantom of the Casserole
    To Kill a Cupcake

  6. Harboring Murder
    Parading for Death
    The Tinseled Corpse
    The Corpse Wore Tinsel
    The Body on the Float

    I love Stollen Slaughter! And can't wait to read Ganache.

  7. This really is a tough one Lucy. Lots of elements to convey in just a few words.

    This one doesn't do much for the holiday theme, but I like it:

    Key Lime Homicide

  8. Oh you guys are wonderful! I'll be laughing all day...

    Jack, maybe you should switch over to writing cozies:)

    xoxo to all

  9. I like that one Kristopher!

    I know, it's impossible to squeeze all those concepts in one title, so a couple is fine...

  10. Lucy, ordering it now! Faster than a speeding Kitchen Aid... perfect opening.

    I'm awful at titles. Hank??

  11. How about "Key Lime Yuletide?"

  12. Pre-ordered. I don't suppose begging will get me anywhere, so some title ideas (by the way, I love THE TINSELED CORPSE):

    Decorating for Death
    A Gift for Murder
    Twelve Ways to Kill
    Jingle Bells, Funeral Knells
    The Fruit Cake Baker's Wake

  13. I'm terrible at titles but would love to win a copy of the book. How about

    Candy Cane Killed
    Key to Death
    Murder of a Key Lime Chef

  14. I am ready for more. As for a title, I'll have to don my thinking cap! suggestions to follow :)

  15. I love Hayley!
    Thanks for the sneak peek, now I'm ready for more!
    As far as titles - I am hopeless, just hopeless.

  16. I 've been thinking and thinking! And this is tough..The Last Noel?
    Wit, I'm still thinking...

    LOVE Haley! And I know what you mean about he honeymoon funny.. And then, at some pint ,the first quarrel. Then you make up. Right?

    Still thinking....

    Is there something about Frost or Frosting? Or Icing?

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  18. Oh, Oh, family drama! The worst kind. I've got 7 siblings, so I was already there at the first mention of teen Rory!

    Great selection to offer us, Lucy. I want to know more! ;-)

    Title Suggestions for Book 5:
    Holiday Hit (or Hits if there's more than one)
    'Tis the Season, for Murder
    A Murderous Party Favori
    Tinsel a la Murder

  19. The Gifted Fruitcake of Applerouth Lane(or, more likely, The RE-GIFTED Fruitcake!)

  20. Just desserts.
    Diced and spiced
    mauled wine
    Spice of life
    festive fatalities

    Ohh it was hard to think of these.

  21. You guys are trying so hard--thank you! I know we're going to get the perfect title by the end of the day.

    Yes, Hank, I think maybe the first quarrel comes with the first review. (Never mind all the stuff that comes while we're grappling with the story.)

  22. Lucy, I love the KitchenAid opener—forgot to say!

    I'm still away behind in writing reviews, so I shouldn't be in anymore drawings until I catch up. I always preorder anyway!

  23. p.s.--Applerouth Lane has long been a favorite Key West street name of mine. Billy Applerouth was a dry goods store owner who sold his wares on Duval Street. He was a well-known person in this town and died a respected member of our community. He's also buried in the Key West Cemetery :)

  24. Lucy, such great opening line! Can't wait!

    Joan and Edith, I love Stollen Slaughter!

    I like Just Desserts, too.

    I'm thinking, I'm thinking, I'm thinking...


  25. Cupcakes and Chaos

    (which I can't take credit for. it's cone of my "go to" Facebook pages).

  26. Killer Kringle
    My aunt in Wisconsin used to send us a kringle every Christmas. Good stuff. Then when we lived in Minnesota I could acquire my own kringle, and did. Yummy.
    I like the opening of your book. There are all sorts of possibilities of chaos and mayhem.

  27. I think there's already a book by this name, but here goes: Slay Bells (or Slay Belle if a woman is killed-:)
    No Creature Left Stirring
    Spritzed Cookie

    My lunch break is just about over. I can hear Lucy/Roberta sighing with relief!

  28. I spent a wonderful Christmas in Key West about six years ago. It is indeed a magical place to be during the holidays. My daughter and her fiance (now husband) lived there at the time, and my family and his family both celebrated Christmas there. Christmas Eve we ate at a restaurant in a square on Duvall St.. Christmas Day the guys and my daughter went out fishing that morning, and we had delicious cobia that evening, still my favorite fish. Here are some suggestions for a titel, Lucy. I love Haley Snow!

    Southernmost Holiday Disaster

    Bells Will Be Ringing, Murder Will Follow

    Seasons Greetings from the Dearly Departed

    Death Takes Its Holiday in Key West

    Tis the Season to Be Dead

    Death with All the Trimmings

    Caroling Capers

    Seasonings to Pass On

    Southernmost Seasonings of Cheer

    Humbug Frosting Takes the Cake

  29. Pat, what is a kringle??

    Deb, no I'm not sighing--keep'em coming!

    Kathy, cobia for Christmas dinner--sounds like a wonderful day! and thanks much for all the suggestions:)

  30. Island Hopping Holiday
    Deserted Island Desserts
    Tis the Season to be Dead

  31. Mistletoe, margaritas, and murder

  32. Yule love the Cupcakes
    Mistletoe and Mangroves
    Twinkle Lights and Lebkuchen
    Conch Republic Christmas

  33. I love these titles! I'm thinking too, but I can't thinking of anything...Riffing off Hank's suggestion about "icing" -- "iced" is a slang synonym for "killed"...

    But I'm not coming up with anything.

    Cozy mystery titles always amaze me. They're just witty, punny, funny...

    Can't wait to read MURDER WITH GANACHE!

  34. My suggested title is...."Wishing You a Very Monte Cristo". Sort of hints at Christmas with the alliteration of the M and the C. Sorry, I didn't know how to get Key West in there. :(

  35. A Kringle is a Danish pastry, very yummy!

  36. Cookie shares can be murder.
    A murderous family feast at sunset.

  37. Key Lime cookie exchange can be murderous.
    A lethal family feast at sunset.

  38. Death at the Key Lime cookie Exchange.
    Lethal Family feast at Sunset.

  39. Lucy, I love the pics!

    And Pat D's Killer Kringle. I seem to being going for the pastry titles:-)

  40. Kringle is a large, flat, ring-shaped pastry. It usually has icing on it and a filling of fruit or nuts. Scandinavian in origin. Sizewise it is big like Mardi Gras king cake. The pastry is flaky.

  41. Still LOLing over Jack's THE PIE AND THE PENDULUM. :) Ditto on loving the Kitchenaid reference (they should pay you, IMO ; ). Also agreeing that something ICED would hit the food/murder/seasonal trifecta for the title. But what? What and who could we ice?

    On another note, my own Hemingway-like cat here at home (he has thumbs on his front paws) has been a bit full of himself tonight. I keep thinking of something to do with SANDY PAWS, but that would be better for a mashup of Hayley meeting Liz Mugavero's Stan. (Wouldn't that be a fun stunt? Like Marvel's Avengers but with cozy sleuths!)

    Then again, if it's a holiday book and there are beaucoup holiday parties in Key West, there's bound to be an ice sculpture somewhere. Too bad the ice sculptor can't be a victim. You could call it ICED SCULPTOR.

    Uh, can you tell I had some chocolate earlier? :) :(

  42. Key Lime Crime At Christmas time

  43. *I'm Dreaming of a Conch Christmas (just for the alliteration, I know you said no overt Christmas)
    *Jingle Bell Conch
    *Carol of the Keys
    *It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Death
    *Are Chestnuts Roasting in the Keys?
    *A Dead Key West Fruitcake

    maybe i need a big glass of spiked eggnog! These are dreadful, but fun.

  44. *Marzipan, Mistletoe & Murder

    *A Bite Before Christmas (Yeah yeah, I know you said ixnay on the Istmaschray but it plays along with Key West's 'A Bight Before Christmas' celebration.) :)

    *(As Libby Dodd said, though not as a title..) Spiked Eggnog (If the weapon were a knife of sorts.)

    *A Killer Fruitcake

  45. "Seasoned Greetings"? You absolutely KNOW I'm drooling just waiting for MURDER WITH GANACHE! Now you're dangling No. 5?! Guess I'll have to bide my time with a couple more trips to Key West! Have a great, 'warm' Thanksgiving!!

  46. Thanks to all of you for participating! I will keep you posted on what the folks in the publisher cover conference come up with...

    I put your name in the hat for each title suggested. Yoda the Cat drew Jack Getze's name (He must not have read those truly dreadful suggestions Jack!)

  47. I win with a Groan Factor Rating of over 99%