Posted on September 21, 2016 - by Lucy
|John has batting practice
We’ve had a zucchini extravaganza in our garden this summer. As my friend Gina says, tis the season where people lock their garage doors and car doors to prevent gardeners from leaving baseball bat-sized zukes on the premises…
But in case this happens to you, here’s a yummy recipe for zucchini/blueberry bread.
3 large eggs
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
½ cup butter
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
½ cups granulated white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups shredded zucchini, squeezed with a paper towel
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp no sodium baking powder
1/2 tsp no sodium baking soda
2 cups fresh blueberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil two 8×4 inch loaf pans.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, applesauce, vanilla, sugar and zucchini.
In a food processor, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda. Cut in the butter.
Mix a tablespoon of the flour mixture into the blueberries.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir gently. Carefully stir in the floured blueberries.
Divide the batter between the two prepared pans. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool for at least 20 minutes, then turn out bread onto wire racks until it has cooled completely.
Lucy Burdette writes the Key West food critic mysteries. Are you all caught up? Hope you have plenty of time to read this fall… and then for all the latest news, follow Lucy on:
Posted on September 15, 2016 - by Lucy
Can’t wait to join in the fun with mystery writers and readers at the New England Crime Bake in Dedham MA, November 11-13!
Posted on September 15, 2016 - by Lucy
I’m looking forward to participating in Mysterium, a one-day conference at Wesleyan University (Middletown, CT) focused on mystery writing (October 8.) The conference is organized by Amy Bloom and is awash in big names like Laura Lippmann, Stephen Carter, and Ann Hood, and includes several of my cozy-writing friends, Barbara Ross and Liz Mugavero, and fellow Jungle Red Writer, Susan Elia MacNeal. Hope to see you there!
Posted on September 15, 2016 - by Lucy
|Cousin Tom, Sister Sue, Cousin Joan
LUCY BURDETTE: My cousin Tom is a limerick genius. (In photo to left, they must be laughing at one of his wondrous poems!) He also works as a professor at a school in NC–I won’t say more as he thought they might not appreciate this kind of publicity. Lucky for all of us, he’s agreed to help us get started on JRW limerick mania. Thanks for agreeing to visit, Tom! Is there a certain structure that the limerick should follow?
TOM ISLEIB: Generally, a limerick has five lines with syllable content and rhyme scheme 8a, 8a, 5b, 5b, 8a. If you read a lot of limericks, you will find that there is some variation in the numbers of syllables in lines, usually within one or two of the eight or five. As for the rhyming, I have seen some real stretches, and I think it unsporting when the fifth line simply repeats the last word of the first or second line, e.g., one attributed to Rudyard Kipling:
“There was a small boy of Quebec
Who was buried in snow to his neck.
When they said, “Are you friz?”
He replied, “Yes, I is,
But we don’t call THIS cold in Quebec.”
I imagine that Kipling would punch me out for calling that “unsporting.”
LUCY: When you, Tom, are beginning a poem, how do you start? With the important rhyming words for lines 1, 2, and 5, or somewhere else?
TOM: I usually start with a word that is critical to the particular limerick, say, a name, and try to think of words that rhyme with it that could end lines 1, 2, and 5. Some names are hard to rhyme, for example, “Martha” (my newly married cousin) although the shortened version “Mart” or “Marty” is easier. If a critical word is difficult to rhyme, you can bury it within a line that ends with a more easily rhymed word, e.g.,
“When Martha was going to be wed
She asked, “Will it go to my head?
I caught me a mister
Then gloated to Sister.
Should I have just shacked up instead?”
LUCY: Any other tips for limerick novices?
TOM: A memorable limerick is off-color, some of them downright nasty dirty. We all know the famous dirty one about the man from Nantucket, although I have heard a perfectly clean version of that one. “There once was a man from Nantucket who kept all his cash in a bucket…” If not off-color, a limerick usually has a pun, a joke, or some other cleverness built into it that makes the reader groan. Consider Mark Twain’s famous one:
“A man hired by John Smith and Co.
Loudly declared that he’d tho.
Men that he saw
Dumping dirt near his door
The drivers, therefore, didn’t do.” **
See how he did that? Jot down your first try, then let it fester in your subconscious mind for a day or two. You may come up with a better variation or rhyme if you do.
LUCY: And ps, in case you think my cuz can’t take a harder name like “Martha” and do something with it, here’s the limerick he dashed off just before the wedding:
“There once was a woman named Martha
Who was hunting a guy like Siddhartha,
And then she met Rich,
A nice sonofabitch,
Now they’ll marry and snooze by the heartha.”
And in case (like me) you didn’t get Mark Twain’s cleverness, here’s the key:
Co. = Company
Tho. = Thump any
Do. = Dump any
To see all the wonderful limericks written by friends and fans after this post, jump to Jungle Red Writers.
Posted on September 9, 2016 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: You may well have read on Facebook that Penguin Random House is not renewing the Key West foodie mystery series. Though I’m sad about this, I’m not taking the news personally. Here’s why:
- I don’t think it has much to do with either the quality of the books or the sales. Lots of mass-market cozy folks are ending up in the refugee boat with me—it’s a mysterious corporate decision over which we have no control.
- It’s happened before and I’ve survived and thrived.
- I will most likely continue the series in another form in the future.
- The support and enthusiasm of readers has been a huge comfort!
But I thought it might be interesting to look back on my reaction to the news that the golf lovers’ mystery series was not getting renewed. (Hint: devastated.) I called this essay “Character Assassination.”
Losing a special friend hurts, even if you’re mourning a figment of your own imagination.
I’ve been getting to know my protagonist, professional golfer Cassie Burdette, since scratching out the opening paragraphs of my first mystery in January 1998. As with most fictional detectives, Cassie wrestled with skeletons in her closet: her father’s desertion, a melancholy, alcoholic mother, a fog of self-doubt. Ambivalence infused her relationships with men and she tended to defer soul-searching in favor of the anesthetic effects of Budweiser. Notwithstanding these conflicts, I imagined Cassie eventually thriving on the professional golf circuit through a combination of talent, spunk, and the right friends.
With five golf mysteries in print by March 2006, Cassie and I have spent the better part of eight years together. I finally talked her into starting psychotherapy (with the help of a couple of other characters) to address her low self-esteem and self-destructive tendencies. She began to play better golf, choose kinder men, drink less, and reconnect with her dad.
Meanwhile, researching Cassie’s world took me on some amazing adventures. I spent most of my first (modest) advance paying to compete in a real professional-amateur LPGA tournament so I could absorb the correct ambience for book two.
And I played golf at Pinehurst, Palm Springs, and in the Dominican Republic—all tax-deductible without stretching the IRS code. I met and corresponded with professional golfers, and many fans—mystery fans, golf fans, and best of all, fans of both. These people worried about Cassie: how can she drink that much before a tournament? How can she eat like that and stay in shape? Lose the boyfriend—he’s a bum! Over coffee, my friends were more likely to ask what was new with Cassie, than with me. And reviewers hailed Cassie as “a character readers can root for.”
I’d begun plotting the skeleton for the sixth installment, involving a golf reality show, a hunky cop, and murder, of course.
Then the word came from my editor: “We’d rather see a new idea—the numbers just haven’t been that good…”
Surprised or not, I was flooded with sadness and disappointment. No more Cassie Burdette mysteries? Like the end of a souring romance, I wished I’d been the one to call it quits.
Days later, waiting to sign books at the Malice Domestic mystery convention, I sat next to an older man with a soft voice and a full beard. He introduced himself as H.R.F. Keating—the Malice honoree for lifetime achievement, including twenty-five novels in his Inspector Ghote series. In response to his kind interest, I spilled the news that Cassie’s series was being killed. I’m quite certain that I cried. He assured me that he’d often thought his series went on too long, that perhaps years ago he’d said all he really had to say, and that seven books might be the optimum length for a series. Then the doors opened and a crush of fans queued up to have him sign books that spanned forty years.
Twenty-five novels, each one nudging back a little further the curtain obscuring Inspector Ghote’s personality: I realized there are many things I’ll never know about Cassie. Will she win a tournament? Have a relationship with golf psychologist Joe Lancaster? Get married? Overcome her fear of kids? Hey, I’ll never know if I’m a grandmother.
But life in the publishing business lumbers on: I’ve signed a contract for my next writing adventure. The new series will feature psychologist and advice columnist, Dr. Rebecca Butterman, a woman who made cameo appearances in several of the golf mysteries.
Cassie wasn’t crazy about her—I can hear her voice now: “You’re writing about a psychologist? Rebecca Butterman? Bor-ing.”
And PS, back to me in the present, wasn’t I so lucky to be seated next to that sweet man at the exact moment I needed his calm? And ps, Cassie did make a brief appearance in ASKING FOR MURDER and DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS. I am a fictional grandmother.
Meanwhile, I am working madly on several projects, but I’m feeling very superstitious. So I decided not to say much about them…I’m not being a tease, I swear, just nauseously nervously anxiously cautious.
And meanwhile, all 7 books in this series can be found wherever books are sold!
Posted on August 31, 2016 - by Lucy
|Lucy and John
LUCY BURDETTE: In 2007, my sweet husband retired from his regular job and moved home to start a website for Baby Boomers trying to figure out where to retire. As most of you know, I’m a writer. And I had grown accustomed to having the house to myself, except for the pets. In other words, lots of space—and peace.
On that first day, he clattered up from the garage with boxes crammed with file folders and photographs and mementos from trade shows–all the junk packed up from his previous office, which he proceeded to unload in the dining room.
|his desk, I kid you not!
I caught him spreading his computer and piles of other miscellany out on the dining room table—the first thing every visitor to our home would see.
“Oh no you don’t,” I said. “You can’t set up your office there.”
“It has to be somewhere,” he said. “And don’t think I’m going to be eating lunch with you everyday, either.”
“I wouldn’t dream of having lunch with you.”
|Mr. Top Retirement’s summer office
After some more heated discussion, we agreed that he might enjoy sitting out on the porch—a nice view for him and out of sight for me.
“But what will I do when it gets chilly?” he asked.
“Think layers,” I said
Nine years later, things have settled down quite a bit. He still has his spot on the porch, but he also has a perfectly nice office upstairs out of view. And sometimes when he sees what I’m making for my lunch, he asks if he can join me.:)
Besides that, he’s developed his idea into a major retirement website (with 20,000 subscribers to his weekly newsletter), having written thousands of articles about every aspect of retirement ranging from all kinds of best places to retire lists (best towns for bookstores, best places for walkability, etc.) to when to start taking Social Security, over 4,000 reviews of places to retire. I’m very proud of what he’s done and thought you might like an inside look.
LUCY: When you started out, how were you imagining the shape of the project? Are you surprised at how far you’ve come?
JOHN BRADY: I wanted it to be a project available on the Internet and pertinent to baby boomer retirement, since I am a Boomer and I had just retired from my longtime job. My initial goal was a little vague: Get it started and see what happened. The process of conceiving it and watching it become a real website with real people coming to visit has been really fun. My financial goal was that if it made enough money to pay our taxes that would be great. It turns out that lots and lots of people found it useful. We get over 140,000 visits a month and sometimes close to a half million page views – that is pretty good. And the revenue is a lot better than I ever imagined. Pretty lucky.
LUCY: how about sharing some advice about the process? What were some big turning points? Or ideas you had that didn’t pan out?
JOHN: My previous experience in online publishing was a big help. Without a disciplined process of putting down on paper what each web page would look like, and how each page would lead to the next in the navigation, the project never would have gotten anywhere. To save money I outsourced the technical development to a firm in India. I had to imagine and write down every detail very precisely, because they, or no one really, can read your mind. It was a great exercise in imagination and in follow-through. Of course sometimes I was way off, but the team was able to either interpret or suggest a better way.
I thought that most of my revenues would come from active adult or 55+ communities purchasing enhanced listings. Turned out that Google Adsense was a much more important revenue source, and easier. I also had a lot of ideas for developing other sites – BestAssistedLiving.com, BestPlacesinUSA.com, etc. Although I thought they were great ideas, not many visitors agreed! They still exist, but they are only marginal compared to Topretirements. What I learned from that is that getting a big idea is lucky – enjoy it if you are fortunate enough to get one!
Hackers are a problem I didn’t foresee. Having been hacked several times, I’ve learned there are people in Russia and China whose full time job is trying to hack into successful websites, either to steal traffic or plant malware. Finding a web developer who can successfully defend against these villains is absolutely critical (I have been lucky to find one, this time in Connecticut, not India).
LUCY: I know this is impossible, but can you give some quick tips about how to figure out the best place to retire? And maybe some links to a few of your favorite articles?
JOHN: I am always getting asked, what is the best place to retire? And I always try to respond that it is a very personal decision. It is all about knowing the criteria that are important to you – do you want to be near your grandchildren; how cold can your winters be; how important is culture, town size, walkability; how important are taxes and what is your budget. The answers to all of these questions and more help you narrow the possibilities and point you to some good choices. Lucy helped me write this free Ebook, which has been probably been downloaded 1 million times by now –
It contains short checklists which are designed to help you (and your significant other) narrow down the other possibilities.
In 10 years I and some faithful contributors have written a lot of articles. Here are some all-time favorites:
Best Places to Retire for 2016
Worst States for Retirement
Dueling Carolinas: North vs. South Carolina for Retirement
11 Affordable Places to Retire on theWaterfront
Wow, Your Bucket Lists are Amazing
What You Think You Know About Social Security Could Hurt You
Thanks for having me. Jungle Red Writers has given me a lot of reading pleasure over the years, keep up the good work!
And if you’d like to sign up for the FREE Top Retirements weekly newsletter, here’s the link.
Posted on August 26, 2016 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: One of the disadvantages of writing a daily group blog like JUNGLE RED WRITERS is that perfectly good posts mostly disappear into the ether after the day (or week) they are posted. And last I checked, our blog had posted 2724 blogs on the site–kind of mind-boggling, right? So I thought you might enjoy a round-up of some of our most popular posts about writing—feel free to share! Remember that there is often some great info in the comments section, too.
The Agony of Writing by the Jungle Red Writers: The reds admit to their panic mid-book and offer tips about how to keep going.
Are You Branded? By Chris Tieri, who explains the importance of understanding your reading audience–and your books. And PS, Chris will be the Friday keynote speaker at the New England Crimebake this year.
How to Write Fast by Peter Andrews, who shares his tips about writing faster…
Title Clinic by Elizabeth Lyon: The secret to choosing a great book title
EJ Copperman on the Best Writing Advice You’ll never Get
And Our Own Hallie Ephron on Juggling Timelines
And another brilliant article from Elizabeth Lyon on WritingSubtext
Tips on Productivity by prolific writer Edith Maxwell
Literary Agent Paula Munier on Plot Perfect: how to build a great story scene by scene
Literary Agent Victoria Skurnick on Top 10 No-no’s for Submissions
And strictly for fun, because writers and readers need to eat, here’s a post I wrote on how to find good food almost anywhere.
Eight Rules for Finding Decent Food Almost Anywhere by Lucy Burdette
Posted on August 21, 2016 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: My hub and I are mad for cherries when they are in season, and trust me we’ve eaten pounds and pounds of them this summer. But we’ve never done anything except eat them from the bowl. I couldn’t imagine pitting all those little guys. But then I got the image of a cherry cobbler in my head, and it would not be denied. (Sadly, I went to the grocery store yesterday and the cherries were GONE FOR THE SEASON! I’m quite certain you can use this same recipe for blueberries or peaches. Back to the story…)
So I went in search of a cherry pitter and found this one on Amazon, which handles 6 pieces at a time. So it still takes a while (maybe half an hour) to pit enough for the cobbler, but this time it’s worth it. Be careful because one diner did find a pit in her portion. You don’t want your guests cracking their molars on your dessert! (Recipe has been adapted for low-sodium diets.)
For the cherry filling:
Six cups pitted cherries
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
Half a lemon, squeezed
Place the cherries in an 8 by 8 Pyrex pan, ungreased. Mix in the cornstarch and sugar, and squeeze the lemon over the top.
For the crust:
6 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon no sodium baking powder
1 cup flour
1/2 cup cream or milk
1/2 cup sugar
Combine the dry ingredients and then cut in the chilled butter, using a pastry cutter. When the lumps are pea-sized, stir in the cream or milk. Do not over mix. With a large spoon place blobs of the crust over the prepared cherries. Do not worry about smoothing the crust or covering every square inch.
Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes. The cherries should be bubbling and the crust a light brown. Let the cobbler cool a bit and serve with almond-scented whipped cream.
For the cream:
1 cup organic whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring
1 tablespoon sugar
Whip the cream with the almond flavoring until thick. And the sugar and stir that in. Serve with the cobbler and swoon. (This is very rich–serves 6-8.)
It’s perfect for celebrations, like the publication of a new book! Or simply reading a great book.
Posted on May 17, 2016 - by Lucy
From time to time I’m asked if I’d be willing to auction off a character naming opportunity in one of my mysteries to benefit a charity. I’m always happy to do so and enjoy figuring out how the new character will fit into the story. A few years ago, I was asked to contribute this kind of item for the Key West SPCA. Of course I agreed. The highest bidder chose to immortalize her schnauzer, Schnootie. So in Death With All the Trimmings, the dog became a character on the houseboat adjacent to the one where my food critic lives in the Key West mysteries.
Schnootie was a lot of fun to write, and so I offered the same opportunity to the SPCA the following year. Schnootie’s mother bought the naming rights a second time, and asked that her elderly black feline, Dinkels, be added to the mix. But later I heard that a couple in my neighborhood was distressed that they hadn’t bid high enough to win for their elderly feline, so I layered Jack into the story, too. (In photo above, Jack is on the left, Dinkels on the right.)
I thought you might enjoy reading this scene from Killer Takeout, which hit bookshelves last month. The scene takes place on the houseboat where Schnootie, Dinkels and Jack now live. If you follow the Key West series, you will remember that both Hayley and Miss Gloria have cats who live on the boat next door. (Don’t even think about all those litter boxes on the high seas!)
From Killer Takeout:
As I puttered up to the parking lot in front of Tarpon Pier, feeling the breath of relief and gratitude that always greets me when I realize I’m at home, I heard a huge ruckus on the dock. The racket radiated from Schnootie the schnauzer, whose barking echoed hysterically from the Renharts’ houseboat. As I strode up the finger, I spotted Miss Gloria on the Renharts’ deck. This never happens because Mr. Renhart abhors socializing. Over the incessant yapping of the schnauzer came the shrieking and growling of what sounded like hyenas. A lot of them.
I was pretty sure I recognized Evinrude’s angry cat voice among the yowls.
I broke into a trot, arriving just as Miss Gloria dove into a cartoon maelstrom of spinning legs and feet and fur and emerged with my tiger cat.
And that break in the action gave enough space for Miss Gloria’s black cat Sparky to rush back into the fray. So much was happening that I wasn’t certain who was fighting—or how many of them. But when Schnootie lunged into the whirling fur, I saw my chance and snatched Sparky out. Her chest heaving, Mrs. Renhart wrestled down two other long-haired cats, one pure black and one furry gray with a white face and neck and striking green eyes.
“Oh my gosh,” she said, her voice squeaky with exertion. “What a way to meet the new neighbors. And I so hoped my new kitties could be friends with yours.” She looked utterly bedraggled and forlorn, the two big cats clutched under her arms.
“These belong to you? Let us put our guys away,” I said, gritting my teeth as I smiled. “Then we can have a proper introduction.”
(First published as a guest post on the Conscious Cat.)
Posted on May 3, 2016 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: This year for Christmas my wonderful uncle sent me a big box of dried Michigan cherries. They are so sweet and delicious! I’ve used them in granola and cookies, but I wanted to find a salad to showcase them as well. This combination does just that.
1 head red leaf or butter lettuce
2 small cucumbers
2 sticks celery
One ripe avocado
One half ripe mango
1/2 cup dried Michigan cherries
1/2 cup walnuts, broken into pieces and toasted
Wash and dry the lettuce, tear into bite-sized pieces and layer at the bottom of the salad bowl. Slice the cucumber and the celery and mix this in.
Toast the walnuts until slightly brown and crunchy.
Peel and dice the avocado. Slice the ripe sections of the mango off the pit, and dice. Layer the avocado and the mango onto the salad. Sprinkle with cherries. Top with cooled walnuts.
Dress with a mustard vinaigrette and toss, once your guests have admired the presentation:). (You of course should feel free to make your own tweaks, onions if you like them, or some kind of soft cheese, for example.) In this case, we ate the salad with pan-fried yellowtail snapper and roasted rosemary potatoes–yum!
The seventh Key West mystery, KILLER TAKEOUT, is on bookshelves everywhere. What about yours?
You can follow Lucy on Facebook,