Thursday, July 24, 2014

Journey to Publishing: Pies & Peril {+ Giveaway}

Pies and Peril finalIt’s a pleasure to be participating in a virtual book tour for friend, fellow blogger and author Janel Gradowski as she stops by with her recent release, PIES & PERIL, the first installment in her Culinary Competition Mystery Series.

As part of Janel’s tour, she’ll be talking about the journey to publishing this book and including an excerpt. I’ll also share my thoughts on this delightful murder mystery. In addition, Janel is giving away a copy of PIES & PERIL to one lucky visitor. Please see the end of the post for more details.

Please join me in welcoming Janel as she tells us about her writing voyage.

The grain of sand that forms a pearl. A mountain out of a mole hill. A novel from a short story. My new book, PIES & PERIL, is a mystery novel, but it started out life as a short story. I’ve always loved to write short fiction. In fact, for several years I wrote flash fiction almost exclusively. 

Flash fiction is generally used to classify stories that have under 1,000 words. While I’m sure I have written enough short and flash stories to total the number of words in a novel, PIES & PERIL is the longest story I have ever written. It was like a seed that grew and grew until it was all grown up and now it’s bearing fruit.

The journey to publishing this book is also a tale of taking advantage of opportunities when you happen upon them. A year ago, I never planned on signing with a publisher. I wasn’t querying agents or publishers. I was just writing stories, self-publishing some of them, working to place others in magazines or websites.

I had a lot of fun writing the original short story for a contest. The story didn’t win any prizes, but I wasn’t terribly disappointed. Rejection is a part of being a writer, like it or not. So I choose to view rejections as office work. I record the date I received the rejection on my tracking spreadsheet and maybe research some other markets to submit the story to. I did all of those things, then got a surprise. The author that held the contest, Gemma Halliday, contacted me. She was starting a small publishing company and wanted to know if the short story was part of a book.

It wasn’t at the time, but I thought about it for a few days. The internal conversation went something like: “It could be a book. Definitely. Yes. Absolutely. I can write a full-length novel. Right?” After that little self-administered pep talk, mixed with a bit of apprehension, I got to work figuring out who was going to be murdered then wrote two more chapters. I submitted the sample chapters and jotted down some notes about the plot of the book, if by some chance I was actually offered a contract for the book. Another saying you may have heard before…life is stranger than fiction. Suddenly, I had a book contract and a novel to write to fulfill it. My writing life took an unexpected curve, but I couldn’t be happier.

One of my favorite things to tell me kids, when they get discouraged or are resistant to try something, is: You may not be able to do some things, but you can TRY to do everything.

Janel, thanks for joining us and sharing your excursion into publishing. Life does throw some unexpected and happy curves from time to time and this sounds likes one of those.

Now let me share a bit of background on Janel for those who aren’t familiar with her.

Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. 

Her journey to becoming an author is littered with odd jobs like renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life. 

She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications.

For more on Janel and her writing, visit her website and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter. You can also learn more about this book and virtual tour HERE.


        Amy shifted her basket so that it was directly in front of her, both hands on the leather handles, in battle position. Ahead of her a knot of people clustered around the booth selling miniature pies and tarts. A couple teen girls, dressed in black nylon smocks that signified they were enrolled in the downtown beauty college, scowled as Amy wriggled through the throng. She should've picked the small gap between two older gentlemen to squeeze through. Coming between women and sugar fixes was always a bad idea. People had poured out of the downtown businesses to find a meal at one of the many prepared food stands or food trucks set up around the perimeter of the park. The farmer's market was one of her favorite parts of summer, but during peak hours the crowd was often so thick it felt like hand to hand combat as people jostled each other to select the perfect size of summer squash or the most beautiful wildflower bouquet. Being short didn't help, especially on hot days, since she was pretty much at the armpit level of most normal-sized people. It felt and smelled like she was a sardine being packed in a tin. Ugh.
         The crowd thinned a bit once she got past the pie-hungry mob. Ahead, the last booth she wanted to visit was surrounded by customers. Amy channeled her inner miniature basketball player and made a break for it. Her petite stature, for once, worked to her advantage as she darted around a couple women standing in the aisle having a conversation about removing stains from cloth diapers, and slipped into a crack in the human barricade. The vendor's offerings were a sight to behold, like Mother Nature and the Easter Bunny had gotten together and made tomato babies. The table was filled with baskets full of heirloom tomatoes in a range of colors from acid green to chocolate brown. Some were as large as softballs while others truly looked like eggs. Amy had been making salads with the lovely tomatoes for over a month, but she'd had an idea while making the casseroles for Kevin earlier in the day. Tomato pie.
        She chose a basket with a nice variety of medium-sized tomatoes and paid for them. Luckily she had brought a hard-sided wicker basket with her, to protect the delicate cargo from bony hips and giant zucchinis protruding from shopping bags like vegetal clubs. She tilted her head from side to side like a prize fighter before a match as she steeled herself for the last push through the mass of hungry humanity. There was only about 20 feet left in the vending area. Then she could break free and make a dash to her car. As she turned she caught a glimpse of Elliot Maxson's unmistakable helmet-like black hair.

PIES & PERIL is available at the following sites: Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iBooks, and Print.


PIES & PERIL by Janel Gradowski
If you’re a fan of food fiction and/or cozy murder mysteries, you’re in for a treat when you pick up a copy of author Janel Gradowski’s newest release, PIES & PERIL.

Gradowski’s first installment in her new Culinary Competition Mystery series is filled with zany characters, delicious food tidbits, suspense, a dab of romance, and all-out fun tracking down a killer.

Amy Ridley is out to win the third crown in the local cookies, cakes and pies competition, having captured the first two jewels. However, the pie honor has gone to Mandy Jo, Amy’s former friend and co-worker, for the last five years. It’s a fierce competition between the two woman and little love loss as they prepare their best pies. Despite being foes, when Amy discovers Mandy Jo’s dead body at the competition, she’s determined to help find her killer. Little does Amy realize just how close she’s getting to the killer and how quickly she could become the next victim.

The author has created likable characters with realistic actions and traits readers can relate to. She’s combined humor and suspense for a well-balanced story that flows quickly and smoothly.

The small town setting pulls the story together and draws the reader in. The food elements add to the story, but don’t overwhelm the mystery and suspense aspects. The recipes at the end of the story are a nice bonus.

PIES & PERIL is a delightful start to an intriguing and fun new cozy murder mystery series that shows great promise.

Pies & Peril by Janel Gradowski, Culinary Competition Mysteries Book #1, Gemma Halliday Publishing, @2014, ISBN: 978-1500385835, Paperback, 198 Pages 

FTC Full Disclosure – A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher in hopes I would review it. However, receiving the complimentary copy did not influence my review. The thoughts are completely my own and given honestly and freely.


This giveaway is for one copy of PIES & PERIL. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents (print or eBook), as well as international (eBook only) and will end Friday, Aug. 1. The eBook will probably be awarded through Smashwords.

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter widget below and following the instructions. The widget may take a few seconds to load, so please be patient. The winner from this giveaway will have 72 hours to respond after being contacted or another winner will be selected. The email will have ‘Thoughts in Progress Janel Gradowski’s Tour’ in the subject line, just so you know what to watch for (in case it goes into your spam folder).

Thanks so much for stopping by today. Have you ever enter or attended a pie baking competition? Would you like to be a judge at such a contest?

*This post contains affiliate links. a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Congrats Janel on making that leap to a full-length novel. I'd certainly find it difficult but you've done it! The series sounds really promising and I'd love to get in at the beginning with the first book. Thanks for the chance to win a copy.

  2. Hey, writing a full novel is tough! All those words. I can relate.
    Congratulations, Janet.

  3. Congratulations on your full-length novel—I'm looking forward to reading Pies & Peril!

    skkorman AT bellsouth DOT net

  4. Mason - Thank you for being a part of the blog tour and thank you to your readers for their lovely comments. Good luck to everybody entering the contest!

    1. Janel, thanks for including Thoughts on your tour. Your book was a delight to read and I look forward to seeing what happens next for Amy. Wishing you much success.

  5. Congrats to Janel on her release! It looks good! I wasn't familiar with the flash fiction idea, although short stories are, of course. Thanks and I'm looking forward to checking it out.

  6. Hi all, thanks for stopping by and good luck to those entering the giveaway.

  7. it looks like a great book, thank you for the chance to win :)

  8. Mason - Thanks for hosting Janel.

    Janel - Thanks for sharing your journey to publishing with us. It just goes to show that things sometimes work out really well in the most unexpected ways.I wish you much success.

  9. I love food cozies and this one sounds like a lot of fun,


  10. This is a delightful cozy. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  11. Really like the book cover and the books great.

  12. Congrats, anything that says pies has got to be a winner.

  13. I'm looking forward to reading this, it sounds good. She is a new Author to be

  14. CONGRATS to Janel!

  15. I really love your attitude! Office work! How the novel developed is interesting too.

  16. Congratulations and good luck with the series!

    patucker54 at aol dot com

  17. Congrats! I love the food competition shows on TV so this should be a terrific series.

  18. I always like to hear about author's journeys. Great post.

  19. 'PIE' is in the title......good enough for me!!!!

  20. Congrats to Janel. Flash fiction does teach a writer to cut extraneous words while also delivering a powerful story. Making the leap from short to long is tremendous. I started with short stories then poetry before writing novels.

  21. congrats on the book. I love mysteries and baking so would dearly love to win this book.

  22. I think I would enjoy being a judge. Being able to taste the different pies.

  23. This sounds like a fun read and Congrats to Janel.

    Thank you for your kind words.


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