Saturday, January 23, 2010

Six Lovely Ladies of Mystery

Today and tomorrow this blog will be focused on six widely diverse ladies of mystery, murder and mayhem.

This blog, in fact, became a reality due in large part to the encouragement and guidance of these ladies.

This time last year I didn’t have a clue what a post or a blog was. I had no reason to find out. I wasn’t one to venture into cyberspace. But the love a good book opened a door to a world of possibilities.

Reach for that cup of coffee or your favorite beverage of choice, get comfortable and let me tell you a story of how the ladies of Mystery Lover's Kitchen inspired me.

A number of years ago I found the Coffeehouse Mystery series by Cleo Coyle and have been a huge fan ever since. Last year I finally ventured into cyberspace to visit Cleo’s website, Coffeehouse Mystery. Her site is a “virtual” coffeehouse filled with great information about coffee, recipes and mysteries.

Cleo mentioned that she and five other mystery authors were getting together to start a blog called Mystery Lover's Kitchen where mystery authors cook up crime … and recipes.

I continued to read about it and decided to check it out. What would it hurt to visit a blog (whatever that is)?
The official launch date was Sunday, July 26, even though the ladies had been posting for a week to work out the kinks. I dropped by and enjoyed the post, went back the next day, the next day, the next ….. The ladies not only shared delicious recipes with beautiful photographs of their dish (and sometimes the preparing), but each recipe had a story with it.

Joining Cleo in the kitchen were Krista Davis, author of the Domestic Diva Mysteries; Julie Hyzy, author of the White House Chef Mysteries; Avery Aames (aka Daryl Wood Gerber), author of the Cheese Shop Mysteries; Riley Adams (aka Elizabeth Spann Craig), the Myrtle Clover Mysteries and the Memphis Barbecue Mysteries; and Jenn McKinlay, author of the Cupcake Bakery Shop Mysteries (aka Lucy Lawrence, the Decoupage Mysteries). Cleo (who’s really the writing team of Alice Alfonsi and her husband, Marc Cerasin) also authors the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries as Alice Kimberly.

I thought as well as the blog flowed that the ladies were all friends living nearby each other and had decided to combine their talents to create Mystery Lover's Kitchen. Wrong. Only a couple knew each other before they began and they live all over the United States.

The blog was the brainchild of Krista Davis. She organized everything, approached the various authors with invitations to join, and designed the blog.

When asked why and how the blog started, Krista said, “I was writing a blog called ‘The Diva Dishes.’ I really enjoyed it, but blogging every day was getting to be very time consuming. I’m a big fan of the Food Network and shows like Top Chef. It’s amazing to me that so many people are interested in food and cooking these days. Can you image what people would have thought in Julia Child’s heyday if someone had suggested a TV network devoted to cooking?

“So I talked to my critique partner, Avery Aames, whose Cheese Shop Mysteries will debut in July, and we thought it would be a great idea to put together a blog of mystery writers whose books have a food theme.”

I asked why she invited the authors that she did and she replied:

“Avery and I knew each other well. We met Julie and loved her, but the rest of us only know each other via internet so far. It’s funny, though, the blog has made us fast friends and we now know all kinds ofpersonal things about each other.”

I was curious about the group’s range in age, as well as where everyone was from.

Krista explained, “I watched a BBC program the other night in which they called women over 40 ‘Forever Forties!’ I love that expression. We range from almost 40 to creeping over 50, so I think we’re mostly in the ‘Forever Forties’ group. Quite by coincidence, we span the country - from the east coast to the west coast and points in between. From the north to the south, too. We’re spread out, but that keeps it interesting because everyone brings a different perspective to the blog. When it’s cold, snowy, hearty food weather in Chicago; it’s still warm, balmy salad weather in California.”

Krista said they considered having seven authors host the blog (one for each day), but decided they liked the idea of bringing in a guest each Sunday to keep the blog lively. The authors take turns choosing the guest blogger. The weekly line up of the blog is as follows: Avery on Monday, Julie on Tuesday, Jenn on Wednesday, Riley (aka Elizabeth) on Thursday, Cleo on  Friday, and Krista on Saturday.

A little background on each of the authors.

Krista writes the Domestic Diva Mysteries.  Her series has two contrasting divas - Sophie, who lives to entertain but keeps things simple, and Natasha, who never met a complicated craft she didn’t embrace. Growing up, her mother baked a cake every Saturday morning. She said her family baked and cooked everything from scratch.

Cleo writes the nationally bestselling Coffeehouse Mysteries for Penguin’s Berkley Prime Crime imprint. She also writes the Haunted Bookshop Mysteries under the name Alice Kimberly. Cleo said, “I felt honored  to be asked (to join the blog). In recent years, the culinary mystery has become an increasingly popular sub-genre. When Agatha Award-nominee Krista Davis approached me with the invitation, I jumped at the chance to blog with fellow foodie-loving mystery authors.”

Elizabeth, like her characters, has roots in a small, Southern town. She grew up in Anderson, SC, where she spent most of her childhood in the county library, staggering out with books by the armful. Her magazine articles have appeared in both England and the United States. She’s the mother of two and currently lives in Matthews, NC. Between juggling mom duties, refereeing play dates, and being dragged along as chaperone/hostage on field trips, she dreams of dark and stormy nights beside stacks of intriguing mysteries with excellent opening lines.

“Pretty is as Pretty Dies,” the first of the Myrtle Clover series for Midnight Ink was released August 2009 and “Delicious and Suspicious,” the first of the Memphis Barbeque books for Berkley Prime Crime will be released in May 2010.

“Originally I looked at it (joining the blog) as a great way to meet some fellow Berkley Prime Crime authors, discover some great recipes, and participate in a promotional opportunity that was a little different from the norm,” said Elizabeth.

Books are Jenn’s life. She discovered Nancy Drew at age 9, and has been a compulsive reader since. This lead to a career in the library science field. She has worked as a reference librarian in both public and private libraries from CT to AZ. Currently she is working with children and teens. Being surrounded by books, Jenn knew she had to write as well so she wrote Harlequin’s romantic comedy lines for a few years and then found a home with Berkley Prime Crime writing mysteries. She has two series in the works under the name Lucy Lawrence and one under Jenn McKinlay. Lucy’s books are set in a paper store in Massachusetts while Jenn’s stories are set in a cupcake bakery in Arizona. In addition to writing, Jenn is a wife, mother and pet owner. She loves to garden, cook, knit, go on long bicycle rides, and read.

“I had never blogged before and it seemed like a great opportunity to meet other writers and readers and talk about one of my favorite subjects: food,” said Jenn.
Julie was born and raised on the south side of Chicago (just like bad, bad, Leroy Brown) and has been writing since she could hold a pencil. She always knew she wanted to write, although she remembers wanting to be a movie star for a few years there too. She still lives in the Chicago area, but in the south suburbs. She and her husband have three girls, one of whom lives on the north side of Chicago near Wrigley Field and is a freelance artist. The middle daughter is a junior in college and the youngest recently submitted her applications for college. Julie says she’s not a ‘professional’ chef as everyone assumes, but has a ‘Ghost Chef’ create the recipes in her White House adventures.

Besides the White House series, Julie has four other books published. Three of the books feature Alex St. James, a news researcher in Chicago who gets into a lot of trouble. She’s busy working on the fourth White House book, “Buffalo West Wing.”

In addition to these books, Julie is writing a new series that will debut in June. This will be the Manor of Murder series and the first book is called “Grace Under Pressure.” Grace is a curator at a huge mansion/tourist attraction/museum. A murder occurs (of course) and pressure ensues. Julie said she is very excited about this particular series because “I drew on a lot of real-life experiences to write this. We always base things on our real experiences, but this one has more of it than most..”

Joining the blog Julie said, “I met Krista Davis and Daryl Wood Gerber (Avery) at Malice Domestic last year. Can I just say right now that I love these ladies. They came up with the idea of a recipe-based blog to help promote our books and asked me if I’d like to be part of it. I was thrilled.”

Avery is writing the Cheese Shop Mysteries and the first in the series is called, “The Long Quiche Goodbye.” Every book will have a reference to cheese in the title. Her protagonist is Charlotte Bessette.

She and her cousin Matthew have just taken over ownership of Fromagerie Bessette from her grandfather and grandmother. The Cheese Shop, as it’s familiarly called, is located in the fictional town of Providence, Ohio, set in the western half of Holmes County. The area draws huge crowds of tourists because of its proximity to the Amish. Charlotte has a passion for cheese and is devoted to family. The book comes out July 6 from Berkley Prime Crime.

Avery lives in Los Angeles with her husband and her adorable rescue dog, Max, who is almost 13 years old. She loves to cook, garden, take long walks, sing and read. She’s a amateur photography nut.

“I joined the blog because I was invited by one of the nicest gals in the world, Krista Davis, and a ‘foodie’ blog made total sense because my series is about cheese. As you know, blogging is important to get the ‘buzz’ out about a book, and since mine has yet to come out, blogging with established writers is a real boom to me.”

I asked each of the ladies what was the best thing about the blog and all their answers were similar.

Krista, “Great friends, lots of fun, and fabulous recipes.”
Cleo, “My fellow bloggers. They energize and inspire me. I truly enjoy checking the site every day to see what recipe, tip, or other interesting post my fellow authors have cooked up for the blog.”
Riley, “My fellow mystery writing cooks. They’ve made the whole experience on the blog even more fun than I’d originally anticipated. These ladies are warm, open, encouraging, funny, and fantastic writers. The e-mail threads for the group are just hilarious sometimes. There’s a true sense of camaraderie and support. And…I have to admit to being excited about the food aspect too. They’ve all shared some amazing recipes that I’ve enjoyed making for my family.”
Jenn, “Making new friends. I’d never met any of my blog buddies before and they are all so talented and helpful. I really cherish them. The followers of the blog have been a joy as well.”
Julie, “These women - Krista, Daryl (Avery), Alice (Cleo), Elizabeth (Riley), and Jenn (Lucy) are wonderful. The friendship I’ve developed with these woomen, even after such a short time, has been the absolute best. It’s just so great to have this group - we all work together and truly enjoy creating something cool and different. This is a blog I know we’re all proud of.”
Avery, “The six of us immediately got along. We have the same intentions, the same humor. I’m thoroughly enjoying it, and I’m learning a lot about other kinds of food and cooking and how to write “fun” stuff under a weekly deadline.”

For more answers to burning questions about these lovely ladies, their blog and their works; check back tomorrow for part two.

Now click over to Mystery Lover's Kitchen to check out Krista’s "Homemade Chocolate Pudding" recipe.


  1. Mason - What an interesting post! I really enjoyed learning some of what's behind that wonderful /Mystery Lovers' Kitchen blog, and who the creative ladies are behind it. Thanks for sharing with us.

  2. Thanks so much for featuring us today, Mason! Your post really captured the fun we feel as part of this great group. There's nothing better than sharing food (or recipes!) and fun with friends. :)

    Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen
    Mystery Writing is Murder

  3. Thanks, Mason! What a great post on some of my favorite women. I'm a follower of their blog, and, like you, I enjoy their wit and comaraderie. Mystery Lovers Kitchen feels like a comfortable spot to hang out with friends - food, conversation, laughter, and good books. What more do you want?

    (I also can't believe your blog is so new. It's so sophisticated and wonderful!)

    Lesa -

  4. Mason, aren't you just the sweetest to feature Mystery Lovers Kitchen and share our stories with your readers. You're the best.

    Note: are your readers confused why we have so many pseudonyms? Because we write in different genres...and/or work through different publishers...and/or...a whole sea of reasons. Enjoy!

    Avery (a.k.a. Daryl)

  5. Thanks for this post, Mason. I hear Elizabeth/Riley talk about this blog from time to time, but I've never been there because I'm always zipping someplace else. This morning I have time and I'm heading there now.

  6. Not only are these a bunch of good looking women, but incredibly talented.

    Great information.

  7. Margot, the ladies are a diverse group but with a lot of similar likes and interest.

    Elizabeth, I think the fun that the group has comes through in your posts. You all make it feel like someone's kitchen we're visiting each day.

    Lesa, thanks for your kind words about the blog. It is what it is because that group of ladies (especially Elizabeth) have been so very helpful in leading a novice through blogdom.

    Avery, thanks and you brought up a point I'm touching on later - the various names. You ladies are a fabulous group.

    Carol, I think once you go by and visit with the ladies you'll be hooked. I know I was. Their recipes and stories are wonderful.

  8. Teresa, they are a very talented bunch of ladies.

  9. Great post! I "know" Elizabeth from her other blog. I'll have to check this out! :)

  10. This was a fun post. I cyber-know Elizabeth/Riley, but the others are new to me. I hope to get to know them, as well.

    Straight From Hel

  11. Mason, you are such a dear. All of the authors at Mystery Lovers' Kitchen are over the moon about your blog!

    We have fun with our blog sisters, but I have to say that we have some regulars, like you, Mason, who have become a part of the group! :)

    I see a Siamese cat and a Tortoiseshell cat on your blog. How many cats do you have? And, BTW, I love the picture of you with the mask!

    ~ Krista

  12. "ladies of mystery, murder and mayhem."

    Yeah - now THAT's worth focusing on! (wink)

    Enjoyed this part one feature very much, looking forward also to Monday.

    Marvin D Wilson

  13. Mason, this is such an amazing feature. Joining my fellow mystery writing cooks in sending you an extra delicious, sweet and gooey, chocolate covered (fat free!) thank you.

    I have to tell you that I burst out laughing when I read your quick list of quotes from each of us on what we liked about the blog. I SWEAR we did not coordinate our answers!

    No kidding - it makes me very happy to know that everyone feels the same way. And that's how we'd like our blog followers and visitors to feel...welcomed, inspired, and energized by our love of food, cooking, and sharing.

    Cheers to you and thanks again for the wonderful post!
    author of The Coffeehouse Mysteries

  14. Jemi, I think you'll enjoy Mystery Lover's Kitchen. It's a great blog.

    Helen, the group of ladies are quite entertaining. I'd highly recommend "meeting" them all.

    Krista, thank you for the kind words. You and the other ladies have been a wonderful inspiration to me and ever so helpful. I would have been lost in blogdom without ya'll.

    BTW, a mask is the only way to get a photo of me. :) As for cats, I have two house cats and three barn cats.

    Marvin, glad you enjoyed today's post. Be sure to see part 2 tomorrow (Sunday). But I hope to make Monday's post interesting too even though the ladies of mystery, murder and mayhem will be hard to follow. :)

  15. Cleo, no thanks necessary, but thank you and the ladies of MLK. I have to say I laughed too when I started comparing answers. Everyone of you are unique in their own writing and style, but you are all the same in a wonderful, warm inviting way you relate to visitors to the blog and your followers.

  16. I just recently started reading Mystery Lover's Kitchen. I'm not much of a cook, and I'm hoping that it'll inspire me to try some different things. But more than that, what a fun way to discover all these wonderful authors. I already knew Elizabeth from her blog, and just recently discovered Julie Hyzy's series through Lesa Holstine's blog. I'm looking forward to getting to know the other "cooks" in the kitchen! Thanks for this great pst, Mason.

  17. Ingrid, I'm not much of a cook but I do enjoy the Mystery Lover's Kitchen and all their recipes. You're right that it's a fun way to discover new authors and interesting new books.

  18. I love to cook and I love to stop by Mystery Lover's Kitchen and read their posts and recipes. I very much enjoyed reading the background about all of them. Thank You!


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.