Thursday, August 18, 2022

What We're Writing (or not) @LucyBurdette #bookclub


 LUCY BURDETTE: Lots and lots and lots going on this month, including finishing Key West mystery #13, writing blogs to help launch A DISH TO DIE FOR, and strangest of all, going on vacation! If we've had any luck, I should be back in Scotland, perhaps even on the overnight ferry headed to Shetland. I have been reading Ann Cleeves's Black Raven to get ready for Jimmy Perez's home island. (You know I'm desperate to go because I'm willing to try to dodge the BA5 version of the coronavirus and a serious tendency to seasickness!)

What I decided to do ahead of time for today's post is show you the book discussion questions I came up with for A DISH TO DIE FOR. I know of a few book groups who've used the questions I developed for DEATH ON THE MENU and earlier books in the series, so I'm providing these hoping the same will happen for the new book...

the beach where Ziggy finds the body

1. There are a lot of real people, places, and food in this book and this series in general. Boca Chica Beach for example, where the body is found, is a real place, as is Geiger Key Marina where Hayley Snow eats and tracks down clues. How do you feel about bits of reality in your mysteries?

2. Hayley Snow meets her new father-in-law for the first time in this book, as Nathan and his father have been estranged for several years. Talk about your reactions to their relationship and their interactions over the course of this book.

3. Hayley Snow and her husband Nathan Bransford are feeling their way in their new marriage, and also in her role as amateur detective and his as professional. Does this seem believable to you?

4. The Key West woman’s club is a real place and the cookbook mentioned in the story is real as well. How did you feel about the use of the old cookbook as part of the plot? Can you think of other books that have used cookbooks as part of the story?

The Key West Woman's Club

5. The relationship between police and citizens has been fraught with difficulties and terrible events over the past several years. How did you feel about the way the police department is portrayed in this book? Does police work in Key West seem different from the work done in other cities and towns around the country?

Lucy with a few of her favorite police officers


6. One of the questions that always comes up for a mystery writer is how many books should there be in a series. A DISH TO DIE FOR is number 12. Discuss your thoughts about long running mystery series. What causes you to lose interest? What kinds of things make you want to beg the author to continue writing?

7. From Rex Stout’s famous foodie hero Nero Wolfe to Virginia Rich’s the Nantucket Diet Murders to Diane Mott Davidson’s Dying for Chocolate, and now the Key West Mysteries, what do you think explains our passion for combining cuisine and crime? Why do you choose to read culinary mysteries?

8. One of the biggest challenges when writing an amateur sleuth mystery is developing a reason for the sleuth to get involved. How did you feel about Hayley‘s stake in solving the mystery of the murdered man on the beach? How would you handle coming across such a scene?

If the discussion lags--or even if it doesn't--I recommend serving this, based on one in the Key West Woman's Club Cookbook:



Banana cream pie


One of the plot strands in this book has to do with the Woman’s Club in Key West, which is a gorgeous old home on Duval Street. I took a tour of the building this spring, and was the happy recipient of the 1988 version of their cookbook. I had also found an earlier edition of the book on eBay, that had been published in 1949. Oh my, the recipes and stories in those cookbooks had my mind racing with possibilities! This banana cream pie was served to Hayley and Martha Hubbard, while they are probing a suspect. I chose to make a graham cracker crust rather than, but any crust is fine. The recipe is based on the version in the 1988 cookbook.


Ingredients


For the crust


One package graham crackers (nine sheets)

2 tablespoons sugar

4 tablespoons butter


For the pie


2 ripe bananas

2 cups whole milk

3 eggs, room temperature, separated

4 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

pinch of salt

2 teaspoons water

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


For the meringue


3 egg whites (see above)

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

2 teaspoons sugar


Preheat the oven to 350. 


To make the crust, smash or whirl the crackers to crumbs. Melt the butter. Stir the butter and sugar into the crumbs and press this mixture into the bottom and sides of a 10-inch pie pan. Bake for ten minutes and let that cool.


For the pudding, separate the eggs and set the whites aside. Beat the yolks until thick and smooth with the sugar, cornstarch, salt, and cold water. Heat the milk until it's about to boil, then stir it slowly into the egg mixture. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the pudding thickens. (About five minutes.) Let that cool a bit and then mix in the vanilla and butter.


Slice the bananas into the pie crust. Spread the pudding on top of the bananas.


Beat the egg whites in a clean bowl with the cream of tartar until soft peaks appear. Continue beating while slowly adding the sugar until peaks are stiff and glossy--about 5 minutes. 


Mound the meringue onto the pudding, arranging it into peaks. 


Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes until the meringue begins to brown. Refrigerate the pie for three hours before serving.

Lucy again: Do you belong to a book group? How do you run the discussion? Any suggestions for tweaking the questions above? (I'll be back on Tuesday to properly launch this book!)

Meanwhile, A DISH TO DIE FOR is in bookstores everywhere right now!

41 comments:

  1. Lucy, I hope you have a WONDERFUL vacation!

    No, I don’t belong to a book group, but the questions are quite thoughtful and really make you think about what’s happening with the characters and the story. [And, no, I don’t think you can have too many books in the series as long as they keep the readers involved . . . there’s something about a series where you really feel as if you know the characters.]

    Now I’m going to try that delicious-sounding recipe . . . .

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  2. Those are good questions without giving away any spoilers. I don't belong to a book group...but I write about one. Hmm - the Cozy Capers might need to read one of your books next, so they can use the discussion questions!

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  3. Before the pandemic, I joined the mystery book club at my local library. But since the pandemic, it hasn't been active at all. However, the woman who essentially runs the group messaged me about a month ago to see if I'd be interested in meeting up at the library to talk about restarting the group. Not sure if it is something we're going to do just yet but at least it is on the table again.

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    1. I hope you get to start up again, Jay. This virus has ruined so much fun!

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  4. Those are great questions, Lucy. And pie is good anytime!

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    1. thanks Liz! And so pleased to see that your book is going well...

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  5. Lucy, I hope you have a wonderful time! Jealous! I spent a wonderful week in the Orkneys, but haven't made it to the Shetland Islands.

    I think the questions are very thoughtful. I'm currently in a book group with some pretty high power progressive women, one of whom is a published author. Due to their connections, we've had two authors join us, which is really fun! We only read books by women and try to read about many different cultures.It's been very educational for me. Our discussions tend to be fairly focused and deep. Our retired literature professor often comes prepared with pieces of the text that she wants to hold up for us. Anyway, it's only a little intimidating for me! My first book group was more loosey-goosey and entailed more wine than discussion.

    My church has had book groups over the years, including reading several books together during the pandemic. When Chris, our former rector, led it, she prepared a few questions and then would send us off to small groups (church book group was usually about 25 people). Last year during Lent, I was Zoom host for our first bilingual book group. We read DEAR AMERICA by Jose Antonio Vargas. Our planning group prepared the introduction for each meeting, the questions for the small groups, (several breakout rooms in English, one in Spanish) and the structure of the summation. It worked out really well.

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    1. Those islands are magical Gillian! Hope you'll get back to see Shetland, it's quite different, even though similar. (Jet lag brain:). Wow, your book group sounds intimidating and amazing. And a book group bilingually? I'm in awe...

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  6. Roberta, I have been seeing your photos on Facebook, and it looks as if you are having a fantastic trip in the British Isles! Can't wait to hear more. Steve and I have wanted to go to that part of the world for a long time.

    My book club, which I was invited to join about 15 years ago now, is unusual, I think. We have nearly as many men as women these days, with one guy joining last month and another one asking to join when he returns to Ohio next month. It makes for a completely different discussion when the men join in, because their perspectives are often really interesting.

    We take turns hosting, and whoever hosts gets to choose the next book. Very diplomatic, except for the choice itself. We are honor bound to read whatever the hosts chooses for us. Sometimes opinions are asked, but it's always their choice. Everyone brings a potluck dish or two, and wine, and while we're eating we discuss the book, and not during the social time beforehand. If they're particularly deep or complicated books someone might print off questions, but most of the time we just start talking about it, and the discussion is always lively.

    I invited a neighbor who reads a lot to join us. The day before the first meeting she texted me to say she had read the book, and had answered all the questions attached to the reminder email, and she was panicked about it. Poor kid. She didn't realize it was just a lagniappe, and not a test!

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    1. I hope you get to go--a challenge to get there, but so lovely. Your book group is different and so interesting Karen. I retired from my last group because I wanted to read what I wanted to read. I know it's limiting, but I usually read at night to unwind for pure pleasure.

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  7. I just read A Dish To Die For and loved it. I am looking forward to the next book - please don't make us wait another year for it's release!! Questions you asked of book club members: "What kinds of things make you want to beg the author to continue writing?" The more I read about Hayley, the more I want to know. The great thing about this series is that it is not formulaic. When I read the Key West series I feel like I'm on the Island visiting Hayley and her friends.

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    1. thank you so very much for those wonderful comments, especially your book club question LOL! I am finishing up the next one as soon as I recover from the traveling!

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  8. I particularly like the questions about amateurs getting involved and the nature of cops. They are the kind of questions that incite long conversations about very different things. Do you ever hear from people about their conversations started by these questions?

    I used to belong to a mystery book club. It was started by the owner of a local mystery book shop. We would pick an author rather than a book and meet once a month. The shop closed but the club continued. For awhile, the discussions were meaty but the members changed and discussions were less focused. I found that I was not so interested, so I took a break from the group. I do not know if the group survived the pandemic, though I think all the members have done. If I thought I could interest them in a discussion about cops, I might rejoin.

    I have to start this series from the beginning, Lucy. It might take a while to get to the new one!

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    1. I'm glad you are interested in the cop question. It's been such a difficult couple of years for police and citizen relationships. I think that the Key West PD does this better than most! I don't too often hear from bc about the questions, but if a few use them, I'm happy!

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  9. Lucy/Roberta, I'll be reading A Dish to Die For this weekend and I am eager to begin. I think your book group questions will be great conversation starters, they definitely had me thinking how I'd answer them as I read through them.

    I've been following your photos on Facebook and it looks like you are having a wonderful trip. Irwin and I traveled to Scotland the year before the pandemic and we had a fantastic time. We visited several islands as our trip was a wildlife/nature excursion. Your pics are bringing it back and now I think Irwin and I may have to return there;-)

    Enjoy the rest of your trip. I still hope to see you next week in Connecticut.

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    1. Hope you enjoy reading Judy, and I plan to see you this week!

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  10. Lucy, you could have done a whole blog teaching the rest of us how to write book group discussion questions. Those are hard to do! Getting into the themes and interesting aspects of the plot and setting without giving anything away... let me tell you, I'd rather write a book than a discussion guide to one.

    Also, banana cream pie is giving me serious nostalgia for my grandmother Spencer's pies. She was from Alabama, and she was all about those cream pies; banana, coconut - chess if you count that, and I do.

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    1. Thank you Julia, I'd certainly rather write questions than a whole book LOL. Your grandmother's pies sound amazing!

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  11. Hank Phillippi RyanAugust 18, 2022 at 10:09 AM

    Book club questions can be tricky—and these are perfect! Safe travels and we are all eager to hear! Xxxxxx

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  12. Lucy, I am very eager to hear about your trip to the Shetlands! I've read a lot about it, in Ann's books, of course, but also in a series by Janny Colgan. Both authors make me want to visit there, too. And I can't wait to read A Dish To Die For and I am so curious about the book you'll write about your trip now. Do you think Hayley and the gang will get there too?

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    1. I'm going to have to look for those Jenny Colgan books. I've read some of hers and enjoy them a lot! I can't picture Hayley going to Shetland, but who knows??

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  13. Lucy/Roberta, I'm reading A Dish to Die For right now and it's delicious! The reader's guide questions are perfect, and those are so hard to do! I've never belonged to a book club--I always have way too many thing I want to read to spend time reading something I didn't choose. Although I did really enjoy our Jungle Reds book club when we read Ann Patchett's Bel Canto. Maybe we could another book this winter?

    We've so enjoyed the glimpses of your time in Scotland--can't wait to get a full account!

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    1. Thanks Debs! That Bel Canto discussion led by Kristopher was great! Let's keep that in mind...

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  14. No book groups around here, so I settle for discussing with the couple people who like the same books I do.

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  15. Hope you are having a wonderful time - since we are FB friends, it looks as if you are, and are healthy, too. Well done on getting to the Shetlands and evading (so far) BA5 (which sounds like a British spy agency).

    No book groups for me, although once Covid wanes a bit further, I'm thinking I will get involved in one - I do want a banana cream pie though - does that count?

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  16. I hope you're enjoying your trip and not freezing! No book clubs for me so far.

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    1. We were freezing some of the time, but it was well worth it!

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  17. Great reading “A Dish to Die For”! Thanks, Lucy. As for a book group, the only one I’ve ever been tempted by is The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society thanks to Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. They transported me back to post-WWII on the island with an amazing collection of friends and readers. Elisabeth

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    1. Oh yes, I would have joined that book group in a heartbeat!

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  18. Lucy, I love A Dish to Die For! My review was posted on the book's birthday on my blog at https://www.readingroom-readmore.com/2022/08/a-dish-to-die-for-by-lucy-burdette.html I mention in the review how you manage to keep the series so fresh. I had to look up Boca Chica Beach because I hadn't heard of it and you made it sound so interesting. That's quite an elaborate structure of wood and rock in the "hut" there. And, I was delighted you had the Key West Women's Club building in the book, too. I admit that at first I was having trouble remembering where Hard Rock Cafe is on Duval, because it looks nothing like the Hard Rock Cafes elsewhere. Space is indeed precious in Key West. But, then I remembered and remembered the Women's Club building, too. Oh, and the mention of the Key Lime Cake at Firefly's made my day. Your questions are great for a book club, but, unfortunately, I don't belong to one.

    I hope you're having a wonderful time in Scotland. Judging from your FB posts, you are. I would love to visit Scotland, especially the Shetland Islands and the Outer Hebrides. Could there be another trip to Scotland for Hayley?

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    1. thanks so much Kathy! I thought of you when writing the bit about the Key Lime cake:)

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  19. Lucy, the above comments, which include the delight with the Key Lime Cake mention, are from me, Kathy Reel.

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  20. LUCY: Great post! I was confused about Nathan and his father. Does Nathan's father hate women? Or what was it exactly? I remember the divorce of Nathan's parents happened after a family tragedy.

    I was in a Jane Austen book club at the library before the pandemic. It was OK. Good news was that I finally got to read ALL of the Jane Austen books. However, the meetings were not really accessible for the disabled for many reasons.

    I prefer online book clubs in Facebook or YouTube.

    Diana

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    1. thanks, I've not tried an online book group Diana. I think of Nathan's father as just a bit limited and awkward, not that he hates women.

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  21. Lucy, I had to make a quick stop to say, "We all have to eat!" (and I love key lime anything) and "I love your pooch!" Is he or she a Havanese?

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