I have two piece of awesome, exciting, delightful news that I’ve been sitting on but now have permission to let loose on the world.
FIRST, Kensington Publishing has renewed my Local Foods Mysteries contract for two more books. This is immensely gratifying to me, and I hope to my readers. It feels like a validation from the publisher, pretty darn nice for a still-beginning author. I’ll be getting to work later in the fall on Compost Mortem, which takes place during March, with controversy surrounding locals vs. the nouvelle riche in town, the sudden death of a local chicken farmer, and avid volunteer Alexandra coming under suspicion of murder. It will release sometime in 2016.
SECOND, I’m heading out on a research road trip to Indiana Saturday. Why Indiana? Because I have a new three-book contract with Kensington Publishing for a Country Store cozy mystery series set in the beautiful, hilly part of southern Indiana known as Brown County! I’ll be writing under a brand-new pseudonym, Maddie Day (because the publisher wanted me to, that’s why). And I’m super, extremely, radically excited about the new gig. Let me give you the series blurb first:
In the Country Store Mysteries, chef and carpenter Robbie Jordan remodels a country store full of antique cookware in fictional South Lick, Indiana, and turns it into a local breakfast and lunch establishment called Pans ‘N Pancakes. She doesn’t plan to have murder on the menu. But small-town secrets and bitter rivalries put sand in the batter and before Robbie knows it, her new life is a lot more complicated than she had expected.
Doesn’t that sound like fun? And here’s a quick paragraph about Book One, tentatively titled Flipped for Murder (can any of you come up with a punnier title for me?):
Stella, the mayor’s difficult assistant, is found dead the night of the store’s grand reopening with one of Robbie’s trademark cheesy biscuits stuffed into her mouth, and the future of Robbie’s new life is threatened. Is the killer the competitor country store owner who wants to sabotage Robbie’s project? The former mayor who thinks Stella rigged the election? The new mayor with a tricky past whom Stella was blackmailing? Or someone else? Robbie uses her skills as a champion puzzle solver to salvage her business and help the small-town police put the murderer behind bars.
But really, you might ask, why Indiana? Well, I spent five happy years earning my
doctorate at the flagship Indiana University campus in Bloomington, one that generations of Maxwells attended and of which my great-great-great grandfather was one of the founders (also: my great-grandfather was first dean of the IU Medical school, my grandfather was captain of the IU basketball team in 1916, and my own father was an undergrad there). Think huge university in a small town. You can walk or ride a bike everywhere. People are friendlier and talk more slowly than in the northeast. And neighboring Brown County is as hilly and pretty as Vermont.
The seed for this series was this: a fellow grad student named Benjamin dropped out of the IU Linguistics PhD program in the late 1970s. With his girlfriend he bought a run-down country store in the town of Story, and fixed it up into a breakfast restaurant as well as a bed-and-breakfast establishment. They served whole-wheat banana walnut pancakes, which I make to this day, and which will figure prominently in my books. The Story Inn still exists, although my friends don’t own it any longer.
When I was imagining how this series might play out, I conjured up a twenty-seven-year-old woman named Robbie Jordan who grew up in Santa Barbara, California. Three years after Robbie moves near her mom’s sister Adele in Brown County to work as a chef, Robbie’s carpenter mom dies suddenly. Robbie uses her savings and a small inheritance to acquire the country store.
I’ve been having a ball remembering and researching phrases and pronunciations from that part of the country. “I might could do it for you.” “Faster than green grass through a goose.” “I can’t eat another bite ’cause I’m as full as a tick.” Actual small town names are awesome: French Lick, Bean Blossom, Gnaw Bone, Floyds Knobs, and so on. When I saw South Lick Creek on a map, I knew that was the name of my fictional village.
I’ve already written about three-quarters of the first book and I’m delighted with the secrets, secondary characters, and food that’s popping up. Meat gravy for the biscuits, but also miso gravy for the green-eyed vegetarian lawyer that Robbie might just be having some feelings for. The big-haired, bigger-than-life mayor Corrine and her high heels. The secret of the Italian father Robbie never met. And more. You can expect it to release in the fall of 2015.
I’m leaving Saturday to spend a week in Bloomington and Brown County soaking up the local culture and dialect and, yes, spending a couple of nights in the Story Inn. I can’t wait. Whole-wheat banana walnut pancakes, anyone?
Readers: Any title help for me? I need three! And if anybody has dialect tips for southern Indiana/northern Kentucky, please share.