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?
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Posted on April 5, 2016 - by Lucy
A few years ago, one of my friends mentioned that the foodie mystery series I’ve been writing since 2012 is really a love letter to Key West.
I hadn’t thought about it in exactly that way, but she was right of course. In all seven books, I’ve been excited to share the food and the setting and the people I’ve grown to love since John and I first visited the island ten years ago.
And since that conversation, we’ve had many wonderful moments. The Key West Island Bookstore (where I’ll hold a signing with some of my “characters,”) has a hard time keeping the books in stock.
This winter, the series was included in a feature in Key West magazine about the best Key West beach reads. (I had to giggle seeing the young beach beauty on the cover reading AN APPETITE FOR MURDER–in large print!)
Of course, most of all I love hearing from readers who’ve become fans, whether because of the characters, the island, or the food. Let me tell you a little bit about the new book…
KILLER TAKEOUT: #7 in the Key West food critic series
Killer Takeout takes place during Fantasy Fest, a zany ten-day festival beginning with the unofficial zombie bike ride, and ending with an enormous, creative parade winding from the Truman waterfront across the length of Duval Street.
As always, John was a super good sport, as we got our faces painted like zombies for the bike ride, trotted around town in tutus (no body paint costumes for us though), and served as Fantasy Fest parade ambassadors. We also ate every kind of takeout we could get our hands on–because what seasoned food critic tries to elbow her way into a restaurant with 90,000 visitors crammed onto the island? The only research we avoided was experiencing a hurricane, which to me would be much more scary than zombies or people wearing body paint only.
I’ll be doing some signings to celebrate the new book–and hope to see you at one of them! Any of these stores will be happy to send you a signed book, or two…
April 7, from 5 to 7 pm, Key West Island Bookstore, 513 and 1/2 Fleming St.
April 21, 7 pm, Murder on the Beach, 273 NE 2nd Ave, Delray Beach, Fl
May 4, 7 pm, RJ Julia Booksellers, 768 Boston Post Road, Madison, CT 06443, 203.245.3959
June 5, 1 to 3 pm, Barnes and Noble, 1375 Boston Post Road
Milford, CT 06460
Posted on March 24, 2016 - by Lucy
For immediate release: MARCH 24, 2016
KEY WEST MYSTERY CHARACTERS CONVERGE ON FLEMING STREET BOOKSTORE TO CELEBRATE “KILLER TAKEOUT”
Killer Takeout (NAL/Signet), Lucy Burdette’s 7th Key West mystery, will be launched with a book signing party at Key West Island Bookstore on April 7 from 5 to 7, with many of Lucy’s “characters” in attendance.
“I was delighted when bookstore owner Suzanne Orchard invited me to launch the book at her store,” said Burdette, a Key West resident. “And then I cooked up the idea of inviting my characters to attend and sign books too. Recurring characters based on Key West people such as Lorenzo the tarot card reader (aka Ron Augustine) and Officer Steve Torrence have become beloved to my readers. Sharing the day with them feels special.”
KILLER TAKEOUT, the seventh installment in the Key West food critic mystery series, features Hayley Snow, an aspiring food critic and amateur sleuth living in America’s southernmost island paradise. Key West residents will recognize local details such as Houseboat Row, Robert the doll, the zombie bike ride, Mallory Square, and local eateries including Garbo’s Grill.
In KILLER TAKEOUT, the action kicks off during Fantasy Fest week, with a possible murder during the zombie bike ride, and a major tropical storm gathering speed below Cuba. Key Zest magazine has assigned food critic Hayley Snow to write a piece on the fest’s grab-and-go food, so she’s planning on hitting up the mobile eateries while checking out the party preparations. Meanwhile, Hayley’s office mate, Danielle, recently elected Queen of Fantasy Fest, is also buzzing between festivities and fundraisers. But when Danielle’s former royal rival gets taken out, Hayley needs to put down her party hat and her pen and figure out who served up a side of murder—before her friend gets crowned a killer.
Burdette’s (aka Roberta Isleib) first mystery series included 5 books featuring Cassie Burdette, an aspiring golf professional. Her Advice Column series featured Rebecca Butterman, a fictional psychologist who lived in Connecticut. Isleib/Burdette’s books and stories have been short-listed for Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. She is a past-president of Sisters in Crime, a national organization founded to support women crime fiction writers.
About the Key West mystery series:
“Complete with a clever plot, a cast of familiar and amiable characters, a buffet of food and all the wackiness of Key West, “Fatal Reservations” displays Burdette at peak form and whets the appetite for Hayley’s next case.”—Jay Stafford, Richmond Times-Dispatch
And the Florida Book Review has said “in a crowded cozy market, Lucy Burdette’s Key West Food Critic series stands out among its peers.”
For more information, contact Roberta Isleib/Lucy Burdette raisleib at gmail dot com or Suzanne Orchard, (305) 294-2904.
Posted on January 28, 2016 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: In Key West in the winter, we get lots of houseguests (no surprise!) Suppose you’re looking for something special to serve your visitors for breakfast? Over a year ago, I made some blue cornmeal pancakes that were to die for (she said modestly.) But when I went back to look at the recipe, I was shocked about how much sodium was involved. In pancakes! Who knew? So this is a revised version, equally delicious, probably under 100 mg of sodium for the whole batch. Next time we’d double the amount and freeze any extras for quick lunches or snacks.
2/3 cups cornmeal (I used Bob’s organic)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons Featherweight no-sodium baking powder
1 teaspoon Ener-G sodium-free baking soda
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 cup milk with 1 Tbsp vinegar added (less than 150 mg sodium vs 257 in one cup buttermilk)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for greasing griddle
1 cup blueberries (frozen works fine)
Stir together cornmeal, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar in a large mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Add the blueberries. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until mostly combined.
Heat the pan or griddle and melt some butter to cover the bottom. Add the wet batter to the pan. Cook over medium heat until bubbles pop, then flip the pancakes over and cook the other side, 1 to 2 minutes.
Serve with real maple syrup. Next time I would also top with a dollop of plain yogurt.
KILLER TAKEOUT is coming next April, but available for pre-order today!
And you can follow Lucy on Facebook,
Posted on January 22, 2016 - by Lucy
John and I are trying to make a commitment to cleaning out some of our “stuff.” Drawers crammed full of stuff. Closets filled with things I’ll never wear–you get the picture. So when our daughter was last home, I had her go through my tangle of jewelry to see if there was anything she’d like now or later, and also identify things she’d never, ever wear. Those I could turn over to the church white elephant sale.
Then I came across this and just had to share.
I must have gotten the charm bracelet at some point in my teens (note the sweet sixteen.) After that, my mother would give me a new charm for birthdays and Christmas. Multiple cats of course, since she and I were obsessed with a giant yellow tiger named Tigger, plus a German shepherd representing our dogs. You’ll see lots of gifts from the sea because we spent every summer either at the Jersey Shore or the Outer Banks, along with charms of places we’d lived.
I especially love the grand piano, though I was a dud as a student–the top lifts open, can you see? And if you can’t make it out, the one with the telephone says “if you’re ever in trouble, here’s the price of a call.” And a dime fits in the slot! That’ll date you…
Did you ever do the charm bracelet thing? What special treasure still lives in your jewelry drawer?
Posted on January 16, 2016 - by Lucy
LUCY BURDETTE: Since the mayhem of the holidays has finally subsided, I can turn my thoughts to the new year, wondering what I’ll write and how I’ll get it done.
First of all, I always have doubts! Every book. KILLER TAKEOUT will be my fifteenth published book and I still get stuck every time in the middle. Where is this book going??? What’s the point? Why is she doing this? Who will ever want to read this?
A few things help keep me sane in this situation. One is to keep writing. Apply butt to chair and write 1000 words a day. It also helps to write out a sentence or two the night before about what I will cover the next day. Another good tool is brainstorming with my writer friends. They are invariably generous, and fresh eyes can see paths out of my plot when I feel hopeless.
I also heard two wise quotes while I was at the New England Crime Bake in November that I plan to keep right beside my computer. The first from Elizabeth George:
“When your story stalls out on you, you’ve played your hand too soon.”
And Peter Abrahams/Spencer Quinn suggested when a writer gets stuck: “Think about the engine that drives the story.”
How about you dear readers? Do you ever have doubts when you are in the middle of the writing, or other non-writing projects? How do you get past them?
Posted on January 11, 2016 - by Lucy
Lots of folks write to ask me for restaurant recommendations in Key West. I couldn’t do any better than Hayley Snow. So here are a few of her favorites:
from DEATH WITH ALL THE TRIMMINGS:
Kojin Noodle Shop, Southard Street
“Then I roughed out a review of the Kojin Noodle shop–its light and savory dumplings, irresistible cold sesame noodles with shrimp, and the more adventurous pho and dragon bowl. I pulled the container of dumplings out of the bag, offered one to Wally, and then dragged another through a pool of spicy sauce and popped it into my mouth. Instant ecstasy.”
Latitudes, Sunset Key
“I tweaked my lead-in paragraph, which was all about the setting: the short ride across the harbor to Sunset Key on the private people ferry, the palm trees wrapped in Christmas lights, the flickering torches lining the path that lead to the restaurant, the aura of wealth and privilege. Then I moved on to the amazing, spicy, condiment-laden, bloody Mary–thinking I could use one of them before facing Ava. ”
Coles Peace Bakery, Eaton Street
“The lunch rush was in full swing, including a cluster of women ordering holiday pies and platters of Christmas cookies. I wormed my way to the counter, paid, and grabbed my sandwiches. The tantalizing smells of mustard and roasted pork and dill pickles called to me all the way over to the police station.”
From FATAL RESERVATIONS:
Firefly, Petronia Street
“My eye caught on pimento cheese with spiced saltine crackers and a plate of fried green tomatoes–was it too early in the day for pimento cheese? My mouth watered at the prospect, which I took as a definitive no. Eric and I did the best we could with all the food that was delivered. The fried chicken with a thin crisp waffle and spicy maple syrup was my favorite, although Eric was crazy about the cheese grits and the kale salad.”
Old Town Bakery, Eaton Street
“I drove by the Old Town Bakery this morning and they had a special sandwich on their chalkboard. Italian with ham, soppressada, basil pesto, fontina, spinach, and tomato. On one of their homemade French bread loaves. Doesn’t that sound like heaven?”
“Absolutely. Dessert?” I asked.
“I’m on a diet,” he said, his voice halting and mournful. “I have to tap everything I eat into this smartphone app that adds the calories up on the spot. I think I’m already over the limit for today.”
“So the chocolate OMG brownie?”
And a few more suggestions:
Pepe’s Café, 806 Caroline Street, homey and cute
The Café, a mostly vegetarian place, 509 Southard Street, love their food, setting isn’t much
Salute! On the beach, 1000 Atlantic Blvd., can’t beat the setting
Coles Peace Artisan Bakery, 1111 Eaton St, carry out yummy sandwiches
Santiago’s Bodega, 207 Petronia St, little plates
Blue Heaven, 729 Thomas St, KW classic, courtyard seating with chickens
El Siboney, 900 Catherine St, homestyle Cuban comfort food, filling but not fancy
And here are a few others in a previous post
Posted on January 7, 2016 - by Lucy
I’ll be kicking off the series of author talks sponsored by the Key West Library on January 19 at 10 am–in the library auditorium, 700 Fleming St, Key West FL
Posted on January 7, 2016 - by Lucy
On February 24 at 4 pm, Barbara Ross and I will be talking at the Marathon Branch of the Monroe County Library. We write our series from the two ends of Route One–Key West and Maine!