Thursday, July 1, 2010

Guest Blogger, Cricket McRae

It’s my pleasure to welcome author Cricket McRae as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.

Cricket joins us today to celebrate her latest release. I ask her to tell us about her new book and the Home Crafting Mystery Series. Cricket will be dropping back by during the day to answer any questions you might have and respond to your comments.

Thanks for inviting me to Thoughts in Progress, Mason. How awesome that I get to be here on the release day for Something Borrowed, Something Bleu!

In the book, Sophie Mae returns to her home town of Spring Creek, Colorado (which bears an eerie resemblance to the town I live in now) when her brother's suicide note turns up after eighteen years. The violence of the past rears its head in the present as she delves into his life and death, juggles a cranky eleven-year-old, a Zenned-out father and a mother who is determined to plan a fancy wedding rather than allowing Sophie Mae and Barr to make a quick trip down to the courthouse. 

The impetus behind this fourth Home Crafting Mystery was threefold. I wanted to feature cheese making, bring Sophie Mae back to Colorado for one book, and finally address her brother's suicide.
The backdrops for my mysteries are colonial home crafts or pioneer skills. I couldn't write effectively about them if I weren't a bit crazily obsessed with them myself. So far I've written about soap making, food preservation, and spinning, and there's a story behind every one of those activities. There's a story behind the cheese making in Something Borrowed, Something Bleu, too.

When I lived in the Seattle area and still worked for That Big Software Company, I often spent my weekends getting back to basics and making things from scratch. Dipping candles, growing vegetables, putting up pickles and jams, that sort of thing. It wasn't until after I left that job that I began my handmade toiletries business (now defunct -- I'd rather write about it). But while I was still working I came across the section in Carla Emery's Encyclopedia of Country Living about cheese making. It was pretty basic, but it sparked a memory from Little House in the Big Woods where they make huge rounds of cheese and store them in the attic.

Online I discovered The New England Cheese Making Supply

Company. Fifteen minutes and a few dollars later I'd placed my order. The cultures, rennet and an instruction pamphlet arrived within the week. Fresh cheeses? Bah -- too easy. Much like I began writing novels rather than short stories, I plunged into the hard stuff that takes a lot of time and patience. I made Cheddar and Monterrey jack, which were actually quite easy, though tedious. They aged for months and finally I had my first taste. Pretty good, actually, and satisfying because I'd made them myself.
Since then I've taken classes on how to make mozzarella, feta, paneer, queso fresco, fromage blanc, etc. and still make those on a regular basis, as well as yogurt and piima-cultured butter. I just couldn't resist teaching Sophie Mae -- and maybe a reader or two -- how to do the same things.
As for setting the mystery where I live now, Sophie Mae's hometown is mentioned as being in Colorado in the very first book in the series, Lye in Wait. I'd lived in the Pacific Northwest for almost twenty years by then, and had no idea I'd move back to Colorado. But I did, and that provided me with the perfect opportunity to bring her home for one book.
In addition, her brother's suicide years before was one of the driving reasons Sophie Mae felt compelled to investigate the life -- and death -- of the neighborhood handyman who drank lye in her workroom in Lye in Wait. So the first book in the series set up the fourth. Yes, it was a way to avoid the dreaded Jessica Fletcher Syndrome, where more people are murdered in one small town than is remotely feasible. But as I wrote books two and three, I really wanted to know more about Sophie Mae's background, her family, and what happened to her brother. Something Borrowed, Something Bleu was the answer.
If you want to know more about the Home Crafting Mystery Series my website is . And on my blog, , I talk about writing, food, gardening, and various domestic arts.


Cricket, thanks so much for blogging here today on the release of Something Borrowed, Something Bleu. Learning additional background on Sophie and the series has been interesting. Remember, Cricket will be available to answer any questions you might have about her latest release, the series or her writing.


  1. I love the comment 'I wanted to feature cheese making' for a mystery novel. I love a good mystery and am now intrigued about the art of cheesery :-)

  2. I think my attempts to make homemade anything would end badly!

  3. Cricket, thanks so much for guest blogging here today. Your Home Crafting Mystery Series offers so much to the readers. Best of luck.

    Hi all, hope everyone has a great day. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Mason - Thanks for hosting Cricket.

    Cricket - Thanks for sharing some of the background on your Sophie Mae series. Really interesting stuff! I have to admit, while I admire people who are experts on pioneer crafts, I don't know much about candle/soap making, weaving, etc.. I like it when mysteries teach me things as well as tell a good story.

  5. Great guest post! I'm so impressed that she made Cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese! I've got a New England Cheese Making Kit but all I've tried is mozzarella.

  6. Great interview and this book is one of my definite reads.

  7. Mason, thanks for introducing me to Cricket.

    This is a new-to-me author and series. I took notes since I think my sister would love this series. She's into things like making soap. So, I'm thinking ahead to Christmas. (The bonus is that I can buy them now, carefully read them, then give them to her. ;-)

    Straight From Hel

  8. I love using research to inform and shape a story. Cricket, do you find that using the crafts and cheese making and that sort of activity helps to give shape to your story? That it provides an avenue for the characters to take the plot along?

    Thanks for sharing your journey here with us :0

  9. Sounds like a great summer read - the cheese making is really interesting.

  10. It's always so much fun to learn things while reading for pleasure. It's a 2-fer. Congratulations on the book realease, Cricket!

  11. Hey all! Thanks for the comments. Mason, I'm thrilled to be here today. Thanks for inviting me.

    Charmaine, intrigued is good!

    Alex, as a writer you're already making something by hand, eh?

    Margot, I consider myself more of a dilettante than an expert...

    bermuda onion, awesome that you got one of Ricki's cheese making kits! Homemade mozzarella is SO good.

    Hey Dru -- glad you stopped by!

    Helen, I highly approve of "recycling" books by reading them and then giving them away ; )

    Joanne, the home crafts definitely inform the story. I've killed people with lye, botulism, a hank of yarn and by bashing them over the head with a milk bottle.

    Thanks, Jemi. Happy Canada Day! (yes, I looked up your website)

    And dear Sue Ann -- thanks for the congrats.

  12. Congratulations Cricket! I'm looking forward to reading your book. I love the way home crafts work into your mysteries. :)

  13. Thanks, Elizabeth. I'm looking forward to the release of Delicious and Suspicious on July 6, as well. Right around the corner!

  14. Mason, thanks a bunch for showcasing Cricket today at Thoughts in Progress. One of our more famous Northern Colorado authors, Cricket has a great series and she knows tons of good stuff -- her blog is a treat.

  15. Oh, that cheese is making me HUNGRY!

    Congrats, Cricket! Great interview, ladies!

  16. Patricia, you're too kind. But I'll take it. ; - )

    Thanks Talli! Cheese is better than chocolate in my book.

    And thanks again to Mason for inviting me to post today. I had a great time!

  17. I love the image of you engaging in homemade handwork as a foil to the techie stuff--and now it's coming to life in print! I've made cheese, but only simple stuff. Looking forward to the book!


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