Monday, May 31, 2021

What we're writing: Watching strangers


HALLIE EPHRON: Every time I introduce a new character in a manuscript, I face the challenge of making the character memorable--so that when the reader meets that character again, they remember who I'm talking about. I hate it when the characters in a book blend together and the whole enterprise feels like a badly cast sitcom in which all the actors look alike.

Some authors are superbly deft at creating characters that imprint on the reader. Here’s how Jasper Fforde introduces a minor character in The Eyre Affair:
I worked under Area Chief Boswell, a small, puffy man who looked like a bag of flour with arms and legs. He lived and breathed the job; words were his life and his love – he never seemed happier than when he was on the trail of a counterfeit Coleridge or a fake Fielding.

Talk about terrific visual images—you can’t beat a bag of flour with arms and legs.

Here’s how Agatha Christie describes Jane Marple in the “The Tuesday Night Club,” the 1927 short story in which the character was first introduced:
Miss Marple wore a black brocade dress, very much pinched in around the waist. Mechlin lace was arranged in a cascade down the front of the bodice. She had on black lace mittens, and a black lace cap surmounted the piled-up masses of her snowy hair. She was knitting, something white and fleecy. Her pale blue eyes, benignant and kindly, surveyed her nephew and her nephew’s guests with gentle pleasure.
What makes the description work so well is the contrast between how Miss Marple appears – an oh-so-proper and somewhat ditzy old lady she seems to be at first blush – versus the very sharp observer and deducer that she turns out to be.

It's a challenge to put a memorable character on the page, and the devil's in the detail. I sometimes go to my people-watching file to find those details.

My people watching file is something I've been adding to for years. I carry a notebook and take down the details of the people I see on the subway or bus or airport, trying to capture what is it that makes one stranger stand out from another. Trying to imagine each person's story. Some real people have  inspired characters in my books.

Here’s my notes about a guy who was riding the Red Line into Boston:
I’m sitting on the subway beside a man - all I can see of him is a one bright blue sateen Reebok with a thick white rubber sole. He raises his arm, extends it so the sleeve slips away to reveal a watch. "Wednesday," he grunts.
Here’s another man on an Amtrak train to NY:
Bearded buddha, wire-rimmed glasses, swarthy, overflowing abdomen, black leather jacket, jeans. Scan down to his Teva-sandaled feet, scrupulously clean, toenails an even strip of white across the top of each. Back up and notice his shirt is white and unstained even if the buttons are straining. Back up to his hands - also clean, pudgy, silver ring embedded in the flesh of his pinky. Carrying a black backpack over his shoulder - he shifts it into his lap, unzips it and draws out a paperback. Star Trek.
This man was sitting opposite me on the subway:
Sneakers. kakhi pants, pink polo shirt – the clothing freshly laundered, not ironed. His body doesn't quite fill them and his clothes seem to cling to their own wrinkles. Skin so pale you can almost see through it, veins visible. Cheeks pink, nose reddish. Face clean shaven, eyes wide open, startled, watery blue. A raw bloody gash on the bridge of his nose. Comb-mark lines on his comb-over, as if he glued the hair down – a few strands have sprung loose and hang down in the back as if fallen from a pony tail. Fingernails long, clean. I want there to be a plastic hospital bracelet on his wrist.
Do you people watch? Do the people you watch surprise or intrigue you? Do they inspire you to tell a story?

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Breaking Up Is So Very Hard To Do by Jenn McKinlay

 Jenn McKinlay: This might be the most painful post I've ever written. I'm not even sure what happened. We've been together for years, constant companions, best friends, sharing every high and low and even the boring stuff in between. I thought we'd be together forever -- silly me -- but things change and life has a way of breaking down communication, and so I have come to the decision that we have no choice. It's time to part ways. 

I'm not sure how I'm going to move forward. The simple fact of the matter is my cell phone is on life support and I need to buy a new one...but which one? HELP ME!!!!!!

Jenn with the phone before the phone.

My current phone is an iPhone 6 Plus. I know, I might as well be chiseling messages on a stone tablet. Why have I not upgraded before now? Because I know where all of my apps are. I know how everything works. I heard they took away the home button on the new iPhones - what? why? I also heard there is a face recognition thing. Again, why? No one needs to be seeing my face when I wake up. No one. Not even my phone.

"If you love your old phone so much, why do you have to upgrade?" you ask. Well, the video camera jiggles like I'm filming the Blair Witch Project, the battery lasts about five minutes when unplugged, and the phone randomly shuts itself off just for giggles, I suspect. 

Obviously, I've had different phones before. I reluctantly let go of my LG with the Qwerty keyboard (still miss it). I mean is there anything cuter than those tiny little keys? I rolled to the Samsung smart phone, which was okay. Then I got the iPhone 6 which synced to my MacBookAir and everything was sunshine and buttercups until, well, it wasn't.

So, advise me, dearest friends. I want a phone with a great camera, lots of memory, and a solid battery life. What cell phone do you use? Do you like it? Do you love it? What's your dream phone? Go ahead, I'm listening!

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Books as Wish Fulfillment by Kate Carlisle, author of The Little Black Book

Jenn McKinlay: She's here! She's here! My amazing plot group buddy and partner in all manner of shenanigans is here to share the latest on her upcoming release The Little Black Book (which is FANTASTIC)!!! Yay! Everyone, please welcome the amazing Kate Carlisle!

Kate Carlisle is the New York Times bestselling author of two ongoing series: the Bibliophile Mysteries featuring San Francisco bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright, whose rare book restoration skills uncover old secrets, treachery and murder; and the Fixer-Upper Mysteries (as seen on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries), featuring Shannon Hammer, a home contractor who discovers not only skeletons in her neighbors' closets, but murder victims, too.

Kate: My husband and I love to travel. I’ll confess that the freedom to travel was a big part of why I wanted to be a writer. (And the tax write-off for research trips didn’t hurt!)

Right about the time the pandemic hit in March 2020, I was starting to work on the book that would become Little Black Book. Like so many other people, we’d had to cancel a trip, and planning future trips felt impossible with so many unknowns. I think that’s why I wanted this story to be an adventure, even more so than usual. I wanted to get away from COVID, to get out of my mind, out of my house, out of my life.


Writing Little Black Bookwas my escape, and I hope reading it will be an escape for you. As bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright and her British security expert Derek Stone follow the clues discovered in a first edition of Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca,the action takes them from San Francisco to the wine country commune where Brooklyn grew up and all the way to a castle on the shores of Loch Ness.


In essence, there are four settings in Little Black Book to take you out of your mind, house, and life: San Francisco, Dharma, a luxurious private jet, and Scotland. As a bonus, I’ve included one recipe from each of the four locales at the back of the book, plus a fifth recipe to tie them all together. I’ve included one of the recipes below to whet your appetite, but first. . . 



San Francisco book-restoration expert Brooklyn Wainwright is on the case when a rare edition of Rebecca leads to murder in this latest installment of the New York Times bestselling Bibliophile Mystery series.

Brooklyn and her hunky husband, security expert Derek Stone, have just returned from a delightful trip to Dharma, where the construction of their new home away from home is well underway, when a little black book arrives in the mail from Scotland. The book is a rare British first edition of Rebecca, and there’s no return address on the package. The day after the book arrives, Claire Quinn shows up at Brooklyn and Derek’s home. Brooklyn met Claire when the two women worked as expert appraisers on the television show This Old Attic. Brooklyn appraised books on the show and Claire’s expertise was in antique British weaponry, but they bonded over their shared love of gothic novels.

Claire reveals that during a recent trip to Scotland she discovered her beloved aunt was missing and that her home had been ransacked. Among her aunt’s belongings, Claire found the receipt for the package that wound up with Brooklyn and Derek. Claire believes both her own life and her aunt’s are in danger and worries that some complications from her past are coming back to haunt her.

But just as Brooklyn and Derek begin to investigate, a man who Claire thinks was following her is found murdered, stabbed with a priceless jeweled dagger. With a death on their doorstep, Brooklyn and Derek page through the little black book where they discover clues that will take them to the shadows of a medieval Scottish castle on the shores of Loch Ness. Under the watchful gaze of a mysterious laird and the irascible villagers who are suspicious of the strangers in their midst, Brooklyn and Derek must decode the secrets in Rebecca to keep their friend’s past from destroying their future....

Savory Cheese Scones


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 Tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp garlic salt

2 Tbsp sugar

8 Tbsp cold butter, cut into small pieces

1/2 cup Greek yogurt

1 egg

1-3 Tbsp cold milk, divided

2 oz sharp cheddar cheese, cut into 1/8-inch pieces

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese, divided

2 Tbsp fresh chives

Whisk or sift together the flour through sugar. In a separate bowl, whisk together the Greek yogurt and egg, then put in the fridge until you're ready for it.

Cut the butter pieces into the flour mixture until it resembled wet sand. Stir in the cold yogurt/egg mixture. The dough is meant to be crumbly, but if it won't come together at all, sprinkle with one tablespoon of cold milk and stir again. If it still won't come together, sprinkle with one more tablespoon of cold milk. Fold in half the grated Parmesan, all of the cheddar and all of the chives. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and form into a ball of dough, and then into a round disk, about 3/4-inch thick by 9 inches in diameter. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cut the disk into 12 wedges. Put 1 Tbsp cold milk in a small dish and brush top of each scone with milk. The sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake about two inches apart until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

Do you love to travel? What dream trip would you like to take, if money were no object? 

Friday, May 28, 2021

THE MEMORY OF SNOW by Julia Buckley

Jenn McKinlay: One of my very favorite traditional mystery writers, Julia Buckley, is here today and I am just delighted to host her. I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at her latest project Death at Castle Dark under the pen name Veronica Bond, and I have to say it's excellent! It was one of those books where I just couldn't wait to get back to it -- always the sign of an excellent mystery. But here she is to talk about her upcoming release in another of my favorite series. Take it away, Julia.

Julia Buckley

Julia Buckley: My latest Hungarian Tea House mystery  begins with snowfall. Not any snowfall, but one of those magical snows with big fat flakes that comes just once in a while and transports us to a fairy tale like setting. The mystery begins with a man Hana sees in the snow, and who seems somehow troubling in that context. Thus begins the tale . . .

But Hana’s experience got me thinking about the nature of memorable snows. I remember, of course, the giant snowfalls, starting with the big blizzards in Chicago, which stopped traffic on Lake Shore Drive and sealed people into their homes. My husband recalls dragging a sled to the grocery store with his mother, both of them straining through the drifts, only to lose a boot on the way home--a boot that was never retrieved from the massive mounds of snow. But there were other snow memories.

I went to college in Valparaiso Indiana, which is famous, my  meteorology professor assured us, for the most snowfall, the highest number of inches. He claimed that this made Valparaiso famous worldwide. I tended to believe him when I had to walk to class over a large field that we lovingly called “The Tundra,” the Midwestern Wind biting into every exposed bit of skin, the snow dragging at me with each step like some tenacious god of the underworld, bent on pulling me down.

Then there were the fun snows. I can recall many a snow battle in my own yard, with my brothers and sisters. I was the youngest, and my older brothers did not show mercy just because I was relatively small  and not as wily. I was routinely pummeled. When I took my high school entrance test on a snowy January day, my brother Chris (who was cute and popular, with his blond feathered hair) and his friends decided to attack me with snowballs on my way out of the building. They chased me down while I screamed with a combination of joy and terror, eventually collapsing into the snow drifts next to the parking lot, where a group of teenage boys scooped up snow and threw it on my prone body. I was yelling, and a big chunk of snow got into my mouth and choked me. For a few seconds i thought I would die of snow, there outside the high school I hoped to attend, but I was also conscious of the fact that four popular SENIOR guys had a acknowledged my presence enough to tease me mercilessly. The ice particles melted in my throat. I survived my hazing by snow, and they helped me to my feet. For some reason it is not a traumatic memory, but a funny one.

I met my husband in my junior year of college, on a BLIND DATE AT A FORMAL DANCE. That’s right--potentially the most awkward way to meet anyone, but we hit it off right away, and he would come to visit Valpo some weekends, including the snowy ones. Once we had a lengthy and invigorating snowball fight: my boyfriend, my roommate, and some of my dorm friends. There was strategy; there was running and hiding; there was a great deal of laughter, and a little bit of falling in love amidst bright white mounds of snow, glittering in the sun like diamonds.

I had a student once who had come to America from Africa sometime during grade school. When I asked students to write an essay about a  memorable thing, he wrote about the first time he saw snow--how magical it was to him, who had only heard of it but never seen it in person, never experienced the white, wet flakes that fell from the sky. He had never forgotten that moment that he went outside and saw that it was real--not a legend or a fantasy, but a real phenomenon; he had the joy of experiencing an American winter as a very excited child.

I try to imagine how it must have been for him, and I remember those snows of my own childhood--the truly special snows with the fat white flakes that took forever to fall and allowed that extra moment to appreciate their beauty, their shimmery whiteness, their symmetry and uniqueness. Those were snow-globe snows, and that’s the sort of snow Hana experiences in DEATH ON THE NIGHT OF LOST LIZARDS (available for pre-order now~).


Though we’re about to experience a hot summer, this might be the best time to read a book set in a snowy world--a way to cool down as you sunbathe on your patio or deck or tiny balcony.  The novel taps into Hungarian Christmas traditions, but it is the snow that takes center stage. I remember a quote from Tennessee Wiliams’ The Glass Menagerie, a background image that read "Mais où sont les neiges d'antan?"  (Where are the snows of yesteryear?) In this novel, Hana remembers her grandmother’s description of the snows in Békéscsaba, her hometown. Hana and the reader will understand that it is not the snows her grandmother remembers with such nostalgia, but the time in which those snows fell--her youth, her time with her family, her love of her homeland. I suppose our snow memories are a celebration of the same things.

How about you, Reds and Readers, what are your best snow memories?

More about Death on the Night of the Lost Lizard: Along with her mother and grandmother, Hana Keller has achieved renown serving tea and cakes with a European flair, but when a local professor is killed, she uncovers a serving of suspects instead…

Hana Keller is getting ready for a lovely holiday season. When she receives a rare tea set as a birthday gift, she decides to host a tea at her apartment for her closest friends. During the cozy get-together, one of Hana's friends gets word that a murderer is on the loose. Hana soon learns that the victim was Sandor Balog, a professor of Hungarian Studies at the local college.

With her growing psychic ability, Hana senses that she is going to be pulled into the investigation of  the professor's death somehow. With her sexy boyfriend Erik on the case, Hana finds the Tea House steeped in suspects. She studies the smiling faces celebrating the season, but the real killer is good at hiding the truth and putting Hana in the hot seat….

The entire Hungarian Tea House Series:

Thursday, May 27, 2021

A Special Sisterhood

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Susan Mallery, Susan Mallery! Can you believe it? Whoa. Here’s how this happened.  In one of those life serendipities, a local library was hosting a big multi-library event, and the organizer emailed me and said: Do you know Susan Mallery? Would you like to interview her for our event? 

And I  think I yelped. I said--well, YES!  I don't personally know her, but yow, everyone knows her! She’s a rockstar, a total writing rockstar, with a million bestselling novels beloved by bookclubs and legions of fans. That Susan Mallery? 

Yes, indeed. And we had an incredible event, and as a result, I discovered a lot about her. First you should know--she’s very funny, with lots of stories and a wonderful husband and a gorgeous life and pets and she’s an amazing cook and tells hilarious anecdotes and has adoring fans following her wherever she goes. And her books sell, like, billions each.  All that.

But here’s the scoop. This woman is a serious serious writer. She knows her craft, she knows her skills, and she works harder than anyone could ever imagine. She has an organizational  technique with notecards that made my brain fry. She is lovely, of course, and authentically wonderful and truly engaging--but she is also a true professional.  And a brilliant storyteller.

I was so impressed by our evening, and she is now my idol and writing goddess.  And her newest book THE STEPSISTERS came out Tuesday! YAAY! And I am so honored to introduce her to you!

What Makes a Family

by Susan Mallery

#1 New York Times bestselling author of The Stepsisters

A theme I return to again and again in my books is “Finding Family.” It’s endlessly fascinating to me because there are infinite variations on that theme. There are always new relationships to explore, new nuances and emotions to dig into. The idea of finding family, of making a family, resonates with me on a soul-deep level. I think we humans are hard-wired to feel connected, to be part of something bigger than ourselves.


I’ve written a lot of sisters in my books—probably a form of wish fulfillment, since I’m an only child. (Sisters by Choice, Daughters of the Bride, The Summer of Sunshine and Margot.) And I’ve written about lots of blended families. (When We Found Home.) But I was really interested in exploring a relationship I’d never tackled before: former stepsisters.


When this idea first came to me, it came as one scene that kept playing through my mind like a scene in a movie. Sage is at Daisy’s wedding reception, a little drunk, talking a little too loudly. And just as there’s a lull in the conversation, she tells a friend that she’s still in love with the groom.

(Fiction is so much fun when it’s messy!)

Daisy and Sage were stepsisters for six years, from about age seven to thirteen. They were strangers, then forced together as family, then . . . nothing. Except that their parents had a child together, so they shared a half-sister.


As the book starts, they haven’t seen each other in years. And that’s just fine with them—more than fine. They didn’t get along when they lived together, didn’t miss each other when they didn’t. But now their little sister needs them both, and their forced togetherness is going to make them look at each other through new eyes. And somehow, these three women who were thrown together and torn apart by forces beyond their control, will move from strangers to friends to family.


I think a lot of readers will relate to this, having lived through similar real-life family dramas. What happens to the relationship between kids of a blended family when the marriage doesn’t last? And what about the relationship of each kid to the stepparent who isn’t there anymore, and who doesn’t have any right to shared custody? How would the loss affect that person into adulthood?


I’m curious to hear about your family. Do you have siblings, stepsiblings, half-siblings? Were you close as kids, and are you close as adults?

HANK: Oh, yeah. I grew up with my mom, and my stepfather. At some point, when we finally got to be friends, he reminded me that my favorite taunt to him (at age 6) had been “You’re not my REAL father so you can’t tell me what to do.”  The poor guy. And my poor Mom. I apologized later. (I’m talking years later.)

Oh, and when my step-grandmother, his mother, told me, on an occasion separate from the above: “I love you just as much as if you were my real granddaughter.”

I’m sure this all had its roots on the day of their wedding, when my sister and I (ages 4 and 6) had been dressed up in our pink dresses with white pinafores, and my mother suddenly said--WHAT? WHAT? And turned out Nina and I both had chicken pox.

So what say you, Reds and readers? 

And I’ll give a copy of THE STEPSISTERS  to one lucky commenter!


SUSAN MALLERY is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of novels about the relationships that define women's lives—family, friendship, romance. Library Journal says, “Mallery is the master of blending emotionally believable characters in realistic situations," and readers seem to agree—40 million copies of her books have sold worldwide. Her warm, humorous stories make the world a happier place to live.

Susan grew up in California and now lives in Seattle with her husband. She's passionate about animal welfare, especially that of the two ragdoll cats and adorable poodle who think of her as mom.


#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery pens a love story of a different sort...a heartfelt tale of friendship between two women who used to be sisters.


Once upon a time, when her dad married Sage's mom, Daisy was thrilled to get a bright and shiny new sister. But Sage was beautiful and popular, everything Daisy was not, and she made sure Daisy knew it.


Sage didn't have Daisy's smarts--she had to go back a grade to enroll in the fancy rich-kid school. So she used her popularity as a weapon, putting Daisy down to elevate herself. After the divorce, the stepsisters' rivalry continued until the final, improbable straw: Daisy married Sage's first love, and Sage fled California.


Eighteen years, two kids and one troubled marriage later, Daisy never expects--or wants--to see Sage again. But when the little sister they have in common needs them both, they put aside their differences to care for Cassidy. As long-buried truths are revealed, no one is more surprised than they when friendship blossoms.


Their fragile truce is threatened by one careless act that could have devastating consequences. They could turn their backs on each other again...or they could learn to forgive once and for all and finally become true sisters of the heart.



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Wednesday, May 26, 2021

What's in Your Beach Bag? by Jenn McKinlay

 Jenn McKinlay: As the school year comes to a close,  I am anticipating tasty waves on a beach somewhere...I hope. 

                      Jenn and Hub -- Surf's Up!

To that end, I dug out the old beach bag and started thinking about what I need for a perfect day at the beach. Here's my short list:

1. Sunscreen. SPF 50 and waterproof -- consider this a PSA. Having had skin cancer blasted off my face a few years ago, I'd like to avoid that experience again forever and ever. Amen.

2. Frisbee. This is a must. One can not merely sit all day. You have to get up and chase something. It's the beach, for Annette Funicello's sake!


3. A beverage, preferably water and kept cold. You have to stay hydrated out there on the hot sand!

4. Snacks! These are tricky because the sun will melt candy (darn it)  and if you leave your blanket for even a second (see item number two), miscreants, also known as seagulls will make away with your sandwich -- true story. Whatever salty, sweet, or healthy (bleck) item you pack, make sure to keep it on lock down.

5. And last but not least, I need to have a book or two -- obvy. But what book should I bring? I'm open to pretty much anything except scary water stuff. Yes, JAWS scarred me as a child and I can not read any underwater horror/disaster type stuff because I'll never swim again. 

This leaves a women's fiction? Excellent choice - very beachy. But which one? Perusing the titles I've read most recently and enjoyed, I can honestly say I'd pack anything by the Queen of the Beach Read -- Mary Kay Andrews, but I really enjoyed Hello, Summer recently and think it's perfect for the beach. 

If not in the mood for women's fiction then definitely a mystery, but not a rain soaked streets type of suspense. There's too much sun at the beach for that, so I'd probably skew traditional/cozy and my fave read of late was Jesse Q. Sutanto's Dial A for Aunties. Sooo fun!

Okay, Reds and Readers, tell me what's in YOUR beach bag?

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Mocha, She Wrote by Ellie Alexander

JENN McKINLAY: Anyone who knows me at all knows that my breakfast of choice is dessert. Well, one of my fave cozy mystery series which includes plenty of dessert is Ellie Alexander's Bakeshop Mysteries. Her thirteenth is coming in June, so I had to invite her to visit and tell us all about it. Take it away, Ellie!

Ellie Alexander

Ellie AlexanderFirst off, thanks so much for having me on as a guest today. The thirteenth book in my Bakeshop Mysteries, Mocha, She Wrote comes out in June, and what better subject to cover with mystery writers and readers than coffee?

Nothing pairs better with word count or a good book than coffee in my humble opinion. I’m a Pacific Northwest native and I have to tell you that we take our coffee seriously here on the west coast, as in deadly serious. It’s almost impossible to go more than a half of a block without running into an artisan coffeehouse. I love the vibe of a cozy bakeshop where customers savor a creamy latte while plotting out a new mystery or escaping with their favorite read. 


However, there is a dark underbelly in the world of coffee that I’ve discovered in many hours of “research” AKA spending way too much time sampling custom drinks at my local coffee shops. I’m talking about absolutely murderous new coffee trends. I must warn you that the following crimes against those heavenly beans we brew up each morning just may have you running to your kitchen for a plain old fashioned cup of Joe. 


Here are some of the current crimes against coffee: 

1.    CBD Lattes. CBD is all the rage right now. From curing minor aches and ailments to calming anxiety, the compound’s many benefits have been highly touted. The jury is still out on whether CBD has lasting power or will become just another fading fad. There’s one thing I know for sure—don’t put it in my latte. I don’t want my latte infused with anything other than a strong shot of espresso. I certainly don’t want my morning buzz to taste like hemp. Ewww. 


2.    Edible Glitter. Yep. It’s a thing. Glitter isn’t just for clubbing anymore. Now your favorite coffeehouse drink can match your lipgloss. Edible glitter dust on top of a mocha might make for an Instagram worthy picture, but I don’t need special shimmer in my mouth. Save the sparkle for a Friday night, and please give me a classic, glitter-free latte. 


3.    Mushroom Coffee. The hype is off the charts for this one. Shroom coffee is being hailed as a healthy alternative to those caffeinated beans. It could be true. It’s an interesting concept to blend beans with foraged wild mushrooms. Okay, technically it’s ground mushrooms mixed with organic beans. But still, I can’t get past the thought of a fungus in my cup or the image of chunky mushrooms floating in my morning java. Hard pass.

What about you? Have you braved any of these trends, or can we all agree that every suspect on this list should be permanently banned from coffeehouses everywhere?

Coming June 29th!!! 

MOCHA, SHE WROTEWhen a barista competition comes to town, Torte's favorite pastry chef finds herself sleuthing once again―in the next installment of Ellie Alexander's beloved Bakeshop Mystery Series, Mocha, She Wrote!

Summer has ushered in a new season in the charming hamlet of Ashland, Oregon. Torte is bustling with tourists taking in star-drenched shows at the Elizabethan, setting out to hike in the surrounding Siskiyou Mountains, and sampling the bakeshop’s summer lineup of raspberry lemon tarts and mint mojito cold brews. Jules and the team are buzzing with excitement when they learn that Andy, Torte’s head barista, has been selected to compete in the West Coast Barista Cup.

The prestigious competition draws coffee aficionados from up and down the coast to Ashland. The winner will not only claim to be best-in-brew, but also be awarded a hefty cash prize. Andy’s nervous about his chances, but Jules is confident that her star barista will shine. However, things take a grim turn when head judge Benson Vargas spits out Andy’s first offering, claiming it to be the worst thing to ever touch his lips―and hours later, is found dead clutching Andy’s creamy latte. Suddenly Torte’s favorite barista becomes the number one suspect. There’s no roast for the weary. Jules will have to sleuth out whodunit to clear Andy’s name and catch a killer before she ends up with one foot in the grounds.

ELLIE ALEXANDER is a Pacific Northwest native who spends ample time testing pastry recipes in her home kitchen or at one of the many famed coffeehouses and breweries nearby. When she's not coated in flour, you'll find her outside exploring hiking trails of Southern Oregon and trying to burn off calories consumed in the name of research. She is the author of the Bakeshop Mystery Series and the Sloan Krause Mysteries. Follow her on social media to learn more about her books, see her recipe videos, and participate in fun giveaways!

Find out more about Ellie and her books by visiting her here: