Monday, December 25, 2017

Happy Holidays and Why I Say It


I write this greeting because I have friends from so many traditions that Merry Christmas isn’t appropriate for all, and how I am to know what holidays they celebrate unless they tell me?

Since there are 29 holiday celebrations between November 1st and January 15th, it makes perfect sense to be more inclusive with the “Happy Holidays” saying. How that is taking away from Christmas escapes me!

Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, the Winter Solstice, Kwanzaa, Saturnalia, Festivus, or any of the other seasonal holidays, I wish you a safe and joyous one!

See you next year!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Book Review: Smugglers and Scones


Morgan C. Talbot began her delightful Moorehaven Mysteries culinary mystery series as a USA Today Best Seller with Smugglers and Scones. Great way to start, eh? Red Adept Publishing released this book almost a year ago.

The setting is Moorehaven, a B&B located in the home of now-deceased classic mystery writer, A. Raymond Moore. Per the dead author’s instructions, Pippa operates Moorehaven as a retreat dedicated to mystery writers. No one else can book a room, so don’t get your hopes up. Darn!

Moorehaven’s beautiful seaside community in Oregon offers a perfect blend of serenity and stimulation for the mystery writers working on their manuscripts.

A. Raymond Moore author quotes open each chapter and reveal this mysterious man and set up each chapter’s focus. Talbot chose a delightful device to enrich her story.

Put together a local tale that is almost a hundred years old, add in a boat crash and handsome murder suspect with amnesia, flavor with a speakeasy museum and a documentary being filmed, and, well, there’s more! This mystery provides many avenues of exploration.

The plot twists and turns in Smugglers and Scones keep the reader guessing right up to the end. The book features a panoply of potential villains.

As a writer of culinary mysteries, I am appreciative of the skill Talbot displayed in laying out the clues and taking unexpected paths toward the solution. The conclusion, after providing a good range of potential killers, is satisfying and appropriate to explain the murders. Murders? Oh, yes. There’s more than one in this cozy.

Seacrest, Oregon is peopled with the usual assortment of delightful, quirky, or just plain weird folk. When you add in the documentary film crew, an itinerant worker, and the authors who use Moorehaven for their writers’ retreats, you throw even more fun into the mix. And the mystery authors want to be part of the action. A real life murder to solve? They’re loving it!

Check out Morgan C. Talbot’s website, “Mysteriouser and Mysteriouser” at morganctalbot.blogspot.com to find information on her books and access to recipes and more!

Since I love blueberries, I picked this recipe to share with you. Thanks, Morgan, for allowing me to reprint this. Readers, trust me, you’re going to love these scones! My family did.

Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze

Scone ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup granulated sugar
2½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
zest of 1 large lemon
½ cup unsalted butter, cold
½ cup Greek yogurt, plain
4 tablespoons milk (for thinning yogurt)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

Egg wash ingredients
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon milk

Glaze ingredients
1¼ cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
Extra zest

Tips:
 - If you're using frozen berries, rinse them until the water runs mostly clear and pat them dry, then add them to the dough. - If you like a thicker, whiter glaze, add another 1/4 cup of confectioners' sugar.

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 400 F / 205 C.
2. In a bowl combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest.
3. Chop cold butter into small pieces and add to flour mixture. Combine with pastry cutter or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse meal.
4. In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt and milk until smooth.
5. Add egg and vanilla to yogurt blend and whisk together. Drizzle over flour mixture and stir until moistened. Fold in blueberries. Dough will be sticky.
6. Using a 2/3 cup measuring scoop, add dough to scone pan sections and press into corners with spatula. If you don’t want to use a scone pan, flatten dough into a 1” high circle on floured surface and cut into wedges with very sharp knife. Place parchment paper or silicone baking mat on a baking sheet and transfer dough to it with spatula.
7. Brush tops with egg wash.
8. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
9. Let cool 2 minutes in the pan and then transfer to a cooling rack.
10. To make glaze, whisk confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice, unsalted butter, and zest together until smooth and drizzle over cool scones.

Additional Notes
Mr. Moore made his scones with heavy cream, but I found that substituting Greek yogurt, thinned with a little milk, cuts the fat content in half while preserving the luscious flavor. Plus, Greek yogurt instead of regular plain yogurt adds a sweet tanginess.
Gluten Free Version
For GF Blueberry Scones, simply substitute a 1-for-1 GF flour for the all-purpose wheat flour. The GF flour will be a little stiffer and reluctant to fully mix, so I set aside my spoon and worked the dough with my hands until fully blended. I also measured the dough into my scone pan with my hands, but that's entirely optional. These scones are so delicious, people won't know they're GF!

Bloggers rely on people spreading the word. Thanks for sharing this post.

Facebook: Looking for a new voice in culinary mysteries? Morgan C. Talbot has a tightly plotted mystery laced with mention of and recipes for delectable scones. Check out the review of SMUGGLERS AND SCONES and try one of the book’s recipes. http://bit.ly/2oC57fk

Twitter: Blueberry Scones w/ Lemon Glaze #Recipe and review of new book by culinary mystery writer @MorganCTalbot’s SMUGGLERS AND SCONES http://bit.ly/2oC57fk

Monday, December 11, 2017

Making a Holiday Happening Happen


The holidays are in full swing. From Halloween on it seems there is some food centered gathering or happening. Don’t get stressed if you are hosting. Instead, using careful planning and in-advance preparations, you can be the Perle Mesta of your neighborhood. (And if you know who I’m referring to, welcome to my generation!)

And as an added benefit, as a writer, I can collect dialogue bits, imagine someone face-planting into the punch, or a dead body on the kitchen floor. Parties like this are fodder for authors! But I digress!

To plan how much food to make, my rule of thumb is to assume each guest will eat one or two of each dish offered and will sample the sweets so I make a lot of mini dessert options. This column focuses on a Happy Hour menu.

For ideas beyond these check the archives of this blog for my Month-of Recipes I produce each February. In 2014, I did at least one appetizer recipe each day of February. In 2015, I shared at least one mini-dessert recipe each day. Add to your repertoire by reading those.

But let’s face it, they’re coming to be with you and not to evaluate the food. Much of this can be done a day or two in advance and reheated if necessary. But keep it plentiful, colorful, and easy on you and they’ll be impressed and you won’t be stressed.

Throw in a couple of prepared items like the taquitos and/or egg rolls from frozen section of the store. There also are other items you might like. Start in the frozen section first then fill in with some of these:

Shrimp with Cocktail Sauce
Thaw shrimp
Mix 1 cup catsup with the juice of half a lemon and 2-4 tablespoons horseradish (adjust to your taste). Stir. Let sit for a couple of hours before dipping in the shrimp.

Meatballs
Bag of frozen meatballs and jar of red pepper jelly
Coat meatballs in zipper bag. Cook on low in microwave for four hours.

Mushrooms with Stuffing
Buy the boxed stuffing mix and prepare as directed but put in another two tablespoons butter. Take the stem out of mushrooms and fill with stuffing. Bake for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees.

Sharon’s Bruschetta
3 Roma tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
10 basil leaves cut in ribbons
2 T olive oil
Asiago cheese
1 loaf refrigerator French bread baked then cut into 18 (or so) slices.

In small bowl mix everything but oil, cheese, and bread.
Brush bread slices with olive oil and sprinkle on some cheese.
Bake in 350 degree oven for a few minutes until cheese begins to melt.
Remove from oven and spoon on tomato mixture. Sprinkle top with more cheese.

Kielbasa
Cut into rounds about 1/2” thick and brown on both sides. Have a dish of toothpicks for serving.

Cheese Platter
Buy the box of crackers with different kinds of crackers. Slice up a variety of  interesting cheeses paired with a bowl of grapes.

Veggies and Dip
Put a bowl in the middle of a platter and fill with dressing (ranch or something else).
Cover the platter with a broccoli base cut into bite size pieces.
On top of the broccoli, dot the surface with cherry tomatoes and a few cauliflower pieces. At the bottom, make a bow from red bell pepper. It will look like a wreath!

Puff Pastry Desserts
Get a box of puff pastry sheets and one of 24 puff pastry cups.

Bake the puff pastry cups and when cool put a teaspoon of fig jam (or other favorite) into the cup. Top with blue cheese crumbles.

Thaw one (or both) puff pastry sheets. Open up on pastry mat and roll thinner.
Spread a layer of Nutella over the top but not all the way to the edges. Sprinkle with finely chopped walnuts.
Roll up each pastry sheet tightly and place seam side down on a baking sheet. Bake for about 15-20 minutes until nicely browned.
When cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar and cut into 1” slices for serving.

Fruit and Cake
Bowl of kiwi and strawberries to spoon over bought pound/angelfood cake crumbles in a shot or liqueur glass

Candy Pretzel Rods
24 rod pretzels, 1 c choc chips, 1 cup white choc chips, 2T oil (divided), sprinkles or other toppings
Melt each chocolate in its own bowl and add oil. Stir to blend.
Dip one end of pretzel rods into chocolate. Roll in sprinkles (or crushed candy cane or other topping). Chill.

Holiday appropriate drinks.
Make one seasonal drink option, like eggnog (both naughty and nice) or peppermint martini, and offer wine, beer, and soft drinks rather than a full bar. Everyone serves him or herself.

Here’s an interesting sounding peppermint martini, if you’re into alcohol. http://allrecipes.com/recipe/230306/peppermint-martini/

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season filled with family, friends, food, and fun!

If you liked this post, I’d be appreciative if you’d share! Thanks!

Facebook: Are you throwing a holiday shindig? Need help with quick and easy foods to serve? Try these ideas for a simple affair. http://bit.ly/2jiHO8n

Twitter: Throwing a #holiday party is easy with these #recipes from @Good2Tweat http://bit.ly/2jiHO8n

Monday, December 4, 2017

The After


As I worked on Tequila Mockingbird, book five in my current culinary mystery series, for National Novel Writing Month, I knew the series was nearing an end. Book six, Cooks in the Can, will conclude the adventures of personal chefs Alli and Gina in Glendale, Arizona.

So what’s in The After?

I still want to write culinary mysteries, but I am switching it up by moving Alli and Evan to Alaska and having Alli work for a couple of small businesses there. A common joke in Alaska is that Alaska is home to both the wanted and the unwanted. Perfect spot for the cop Evan, right?

Their small Alaska town will be populated with a variety of quirky folk, some of whom run small businesses in the town. In this series, the first book will feature Alli, but other books will have her as a supporting character with other small business owners being the focus. I’m not sure how to avoid the Cabot Cove Syndrome yet, but I’ll figure it out.

I already have some titles for these “murders with taste”, but for me, that’s no big deal. Punny titles pop into my head all the time. What do you think about these to pick from: Baked Alaska, Go with the Floe, Chocolate Moose, Dead and Breakfast, Mint to Be, Arsenic and Old Mace, Thyme to Die, Duds and Suds, and Iced? More are occurring to me all the time, so who knows which ones will be in this series.

My plan, at this point, is to create a small town in Alaska with a variety of quirky characters, each of whom runs a small business in town. Each book in the series will have Alli helping to solve the mystery created around the small business and its owner.

The titles above may have tipped you that one small business owner, Maeve, runs an herb shop. She supplies residents and area restaurants with spices and herbs, but a more lucrative component is her salves and infusions made with marijuana. That keeps her bottom line healthy.

Riley is the owner of the local bed and breakfast, Riley’s Roost—Where you rise and shine! She’s the self-appointed mayor and knows everything about everybody in the town. But she’s a busybody with a heart.

Another resident is Bud, the owner of Bud’s Duds ‘n’ Suds, the local bar that has the only laundromat for 50 miles. He sees the good, the bad, and the ugly in the town, and is privy to secrets told by inebriated customers.

I need a bakery, a diner, and a local newspaper still. And, of course, there is the realtor who gets into lots of spaces. Populating a town is a challenge and great fun!

As to recipes—this is a culinary mystery series, of course—rhubarb is very big in Alaska, so there will be several recipes using the ubiquitous plant, like this recipe from the University of Alaska:

Easy Rhubarb Jam    Yields 2 pints
5 cups rhubarb
3 cups sugar
3 ounce package strawberry-flavored gelatin

Combine rhubarb and sugar and let stand one hour.

Boil until tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the strawberry flavored gelatin and stir until dissolved.

Let cool. Pour into freezer containers for storing in freezer or jars
for storing in refrigerator.

Jam should not be stored in the refrigerator for more than 2 weeks. Leave ½ inch
headspace.

Also, salmon is the lifeblood of Alaska, so several salmon recipes will be featured, including this salmon caviar one from an Alaskan friend of mine, Sandy Peacock that she received from her Alaskan friend, Chi Dragich. Thanks to them for sharing this absolutely delicious recipe. I ate it like a grizzly bear!

Salmon Caviar     Yields 2 quarts
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon saki
1-3 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon Dashi seasoning
Salmon roe from one salmon

Open the skein, flatten on wire rack, rubbing back and forth to separate eggs.

Flush with cold water, in rectangular plastic tubs, multiple times until water is clear.

Pick out bits of egg, veins, etc. Set in strainer to dry. Color of eggs will return and appear uniform.

In large bowl, mix well all ingredients except salmon roe.

Fold in eggs to seasoning mixture.

Place in sterile jars and refrigerate for up to 3-4 weeks.

Serve on crackers with cream cheese.


What do you think? Would you pick up a culinary mystery series set in The Last Frontier? Please share this post. Thanks!

Facebook: Sharon Arthur Moore is planning her next culinary mystery series. This one will be set in Alaska. Check out what’s on the horizon. Recipes included. http://bit.ly/2ASIx7M

Twitter: @good2tweat shares two #recipes from her next culinary mystery series set in Alaska. http://bit.ly/2ASIx7M

Monday, November 27, 2017

There is Only One Genre: Mystery


I’ve heard it said that all novels are mysteries, in a broad sense.

And I can see some of the reasoning. If an engaging novel is about change from page one to the end of the book, and if an engaging novel requires obstacles to overcome, then how those happen to an unsuspecting character do constitute a kind of mystery.

None of us knows what is coming next. Even when we think we know, there are surprises, sometimes presaged by clues. Sometimes not. In real life. But in novels, the surprises and changes and obstacles are always set up by the author. Out of the blue doesn’t happen in novels as it might in real life.

My online dictionary lists three examples in its first definition:
something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain
 the condition or quality of being secret, strange, or difficult to explain
 a person or thing whose identity or nature is puzzling or unknown

See how that does fit, that all novels are mysteries?

Not traditional mysteries where a crime has occurred, necessarily, but a puzzle to unravel. A problem to be resolved. A secret to be uncovered. Explanations to reveal. Characters to understand.

So writers, no matter what genre you thought you wrote, welcome to my world, mystery writer.

Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments. And if you disagree, convince me, if you can!

Did you find this intriguing? Let your social media outlets know about the post.

Facebook: Sharon Arthur Moore posits that all novels are actually mysteries, ultimately. Read her argument see if you agree. http://bit.ly/2k3PI5x

Twitter: #Writers, forget what you thought you knew. There is only one genre, mystery. http://bit.ly/2k3PI5x

Monday, November 20, 2017

No Rest for the NaNos


This week is the All-American Gorge Fest known by some as Thanksgiving. Most of you will be slaving away over preparations for The Feast. NaNos, however, get no rest. Must. Crank. Out. Words.

Oh, sure, we’ll join the family to gulp down the turkey and gravy. You gotta be polite to family and friends. I suggested making a Turkey Dinner Shake so I could keep writing, but my family nixed it. They want me, for some odd reason, to join them at the table this Thursday. It could take hours to eat the menu my future daughter-in-law has planned. What was she thinking? Well, she’s new to the family, so I cut her some slack.

But what is a NaNo to do? Get up earlier. Put in seat time before called to cooking duty. And record your pathetic word count for the day. (Gotta get the badge for updating the word count 30 days in a row!)

You tell yourself that you’ll make up the deficit. That low word counts for thirteen days (in my case) won’t be a big deal. All you have to do is write like crazy once these family obligations cease.

That’s what you tell yourself because you blew through your banked words long since. And you have to tell yourself something, or you’d quit.

Given that you might be lying to yourself, and that you’ll never recover from the mounting word count deficit, you really ought to give in.

Relax. Play games. Laugh a lot. Enjoy Thanksgiving. NaNo isn’t really LIFE. Really. Right?


Funny? Please share on your social media outlets.

Facebook: Ready for a little humor with that turkey, NaNoWriMos? Relax. The world won’t end if we take a day break. http://bit.ly/2zNbNZV

Twitter: Ready for a little humor with that turkey, #NaNoWriMos? Relax. The world won’t end if we take a day break. http://bit.ly/2zNbNZV

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

It's a Wrap, Er, That is, a RAP


I told you I’d keep you apprised vis-à-vis the search for a new publisher. Well, it’s happened in a miraculous sort of way. Long story that began more than a year ago. Maybe we can get into it over a root beer someday.

But for now, I am pleased to announce that as of November 7th, I signed with Red Adept Publishing (RAP) to publish my culinary mystery. This small press in North Carolina has over sixty authors and has published more than 100 books in five years. Several authors have made the USA Today best sellers list.

Impressive, yes?

I’ll keep you up with publishing plans as they progress. But I am so excited to be part of this vibrant group of authors and the amazing owner/publisher.

One of the things owner/publisher Lynn McNamee asked us to consider doing is a newsletter to our fans. Would you consider subscribing to a monthly newsletter with content that ranges from mystery information (my books, mystery reviews, etc.) to food (recipes, cooking tips, etc.)? Here is the picture for the top of the newsletter. What do you think?


She also suggested producing some Facetime videos. I’m learning how to do that, too. Great opportunities appear when change happen. 

What content would you like to see in videos and a newsletter? I am open to your ideas! After all, it's for you!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Keeping the Pace


On another of my blogs, I wrote about PlotOber and planning the fifth in my culinary mystery series so the writing of it in November for National Novel Writing Month will go more smoothly.

Well, I’m into November, one-fifth of the way through today, and by the end of the day I need to have logged a minimum of 10,002 words to be on track to finish November 30th with 50,000 words.

I’ll make it. Last night I recorded a word total of 8356, slightly over the 8335 that I needed. Pretty darn good, with weeklong company, if you ask me.

I started strong, as I always do. That story has been percolating for months and I focused the thoughts by using two magic elements: my Plotober massive planning elements and by brainstorming with my two critique groups. My crit partners have AMAZING minds! Have I said how lucky I am to have them part of my writer’s life?

Here’s a peek at my time tracker to-date. The far right column is the minimum total number of words I need to have written to keep on track for NaNoWriMo. I got a strong start, “banking” words, so to speak for when I couldn’t write much.

Note, for example in the second column, that I had three days when I couldn’t make my minimum 1667 words for those days. Company. You gotta love ‘em, but there is a toll. My cushion of banked words let me enjoy my time with her.

Falling behind is inevitable, if my past years are predictive. But it is not fatal. I will just need to write more words on other days to catch up. She leaves today, so this afternoon maybe I can bank some more for the other days I’ll not write much if anything.

Have I mentioned that we are traveling for Thanksgiving this year? Again.

Each year I have about ten days of limited productivity due to company and travel. So I just have to write harder on those days that aren’t committed to fun, food, and family. I’ve got this!


2017 NaNoWriMo Time Tracker
TEQUILA MOCKINGBIRD
Book 5 “Dinner is Served”

Date
Daily Words/Pages Total
Running Total
Minimum Running Total
Nov. 1
2228/7
2228
1667
Nov. 2
2886/19
5114
3334
Nov. 3
1563/25
6677
5001
Nov. 4
725/28
7402
6668
Nov. 5
954/32
8356
8335
Nov. 6


10,002

Monday, October 30, 2017

The NaNoWriMo Merry-Go-Round is about to Open



Some call it NaNovember. Some call it #$*&!^%. Or perhaps they use the more popular NaNoWriMo.

No matter what label (epithet?) you use, National Novel Writing Month is a time to remember. And dread. And anticipate. And gleefully romp around in.

Re this blog, likely, as November progresses, I will not have long posts, just short ones and updates on progress once NaNo begins on November 1st.

I will dual post some days on “Write Away” (my writing issues blog) since the posts will be about my new culinary mystery and the writing process. Hey, that way you only have to read one blog and get credit for two this month!

I rarely struggled with planning my culinary mysteries in the past, but this one was difficult for me. I had trouble imagining, at first, my 10 key events (and ended up with 11 weak ones), and other elements that I use when planning my mysteries. Why is that, I asked myself as the deadline approached and I didn’t have a single scene card done?

I was scared.

What if I was dried up with no more stories to tell and only clever titles to toss out? What if I had a great premise and concept but not enough stuffing to prop up the saggy, soggy middle.

Where’s the tension? What are the characters’ motivations? Omigosh, “stuffingf” like that was missing. Big problem when you’re writing a mystery.

Enter a couple of brainstorm sessions with fab crit partner Sandy Bremser, and voila. I broke through the fear. We identified the major flaw (there are numerous big other ones we found, too) and brainstormed fixes. After the first session, I generated 6 scene cards. I got in another 10 after the second session. I am nearly at the halfway point (I usually create ~40 scene cards).

Now I know how the novel starts and how it ends, and I moved what I thought was a key scene in the middle to earlier so I could have a scene there that has much more tension. I created a bad guy, because, well, I didn’t have one before. Wow, Sandy! Thanks so much.

So still behinder than I’ve ever been at this point in my NaNovember PlotOber planning sessions, but I can do this. I will have those scene cards done before Wednesday morning. And, for the kind of writer I am, that is a huge relief.

Bring it!