The Detective’s Daughter – The Importance of the Dinner Table.

On Sunday I met my mom for Mother’s Day brunch at one of my favorite coffee shops, The Filling Station. As we sat around the table chatting with my children I was reminded of all the happy dinners I had growing up. Our kitchen was always filled with people and everyone was welcome.               .FullSizeRender (1)

There is something magical about a table. You gather around to share stories and secrets and many times the meal becomes secondary to the conversation. It’s the gathering together of friends and family that remain in our memories long after the menu has been forgotten.                FullSizeRender

As we grow older and families move away or pass on, we gather with friends. My book club meets each month around one of our tables, regardless of how cozy and comfortable a living room might appear, it’s the table we gravitate to.  I look forward to the evenings I spend with friends and family, whether it is the girls I grew up with or my wickedly wonderful cozy sisters here on the blog. Though our times together are infrequent, they are meaningful and cherished by me. FullSizeRender (2)

So, dear reader, make the time to share a meal with someone you love or like or maybe even just want to know a little better. It is the community we find around the table that really nourishes us.

 

What was your most memorable dinner conversation? Who is the person, living or dead, you would want to invite to your dinner table?

 

Family Dynamics

By Liz, happily celebrating launch day for Custom Baked Murder and Barb’s Iced Under!

Another release day is here. Five books? How in the world did that happen, anyway? And rumor has it there’s a sixth book on its way – that is, if I could get my butt in the chair and my fingers on the keys…

But that’s a problem for tomorrow. Today, I’m reflecting on how amazing it feels to have five published books in a series.To have readers who anxiously await Stan’s next adventure, and people who write to me to tell me my books have brought them joy. People who love animals and want to share their experiences after reading about the animals in the books.

It’s a wonderful feeling to have created a world people love to visit.

I’m excited about this book, too. Each one is more fun to write (deadline and plot hole angst aside), and with every new visit to Frog Ledge I find more and more reasons to want to go on living there virtually for a good long time. A lot of that is because of the relationships. And I don’t simply mean the good ones – the Stan and Jake story, or Stan’s friendships with Izzy, Char and Ray, to name a few. Having Stan’s “real” family take such a large part of the storyline has been fascinating for me.

Stan’s mother’s involvement in Frog Ledge isn’t something I plotted out when I originally planned the series. Patricia Connor’s re-entry into her older daughter’s life sort of just happened, and it felt right so I’m following along. I might be hoping this complicated relationship will untangle itself in a way that is mutually beneficial for both parties – something I’ve always hoped for in my own relationship with my mother. It hasn’t happened for me yet, but maybe Stan will have better luck.

In Custom Baked Murder, Stan’s family life gets even more complicated when her sister Caitlyn turns up in town – and doesn’t want to leave. But she’s in for some surprises on that front, too.

This is truly a case where the characters are telling me what to do instead of the other way around. I’m simply along for the ride on this front. But families? When do they ever listen anyway?

At least when it comes to the murder portion of the book, I’m still in charge…

Readers, what about you? What do you love most when reading about family dynamics?

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From the back cover:

Kristan “Stan” Connor gladly turned tail on her high-flying job and moved to a quaint New England town to sell organic pet treats. But with her nose for solving murders, there’s no such thing as a quiet life…

Summer is winding down in Frog Ledge, Connecticut, but Stan’s love life and career are both heating up nicely. In between planning her new pet patisserie and café, Stan is settling into living-in-bliss with sexy pub owner Jake McGee. Love’s on the menu for Stan’s mom, Patricia, too, who’s engaged to Frog Ledge’s mayor, Tony Falco.

Mayor Falco’s dogged ambition isn’t popular among locals, but it’s his executive coach, Eleanor Chang, who’s inspired a dangerous grudge. When Eleanor is found dead, there’s a whole pack of suspects to choose from. Stan has first-hand experience of Eleanor’s unsavory business tactics. But finding out who forced her to take a fatal plunge off the corporate ladder means unearthing some shady secrets…and a killer who’s too close for comfort.

 

What’s my brand? What does it matter? And a giveaway! by Daryl Wood Gerber

Hey all, Liz here – and today I’m happy to host the lovely and talented Daryl Wood Gerber. She doesn’t need much of an intro with this crowd – so take it away, Daryl!

blue_small_headshotBranding oneself – what does that mean?

When the first Cheese Shop Mystery came out, I “branded” myself as the cheese lady. I did my research. I became knowledgeable. I had fun. Readers at conferences didn’t know my name, but they knew I was the cheese lady.

When the first Cookbook Nook Mystery came out, I re-branded myself as a culinary  or foodie mystery author. It was a no-brainer. I know food. I love recipes. The Cookbook Nook Mysteries are set in a cookbook shop and feature food. Plus I was already posting GTS_coverrecipes and photographs on Mystery Lovers Kitchen.

However, when I decided to publish a stand-alone suspense novel, I hit a wall. How was I supposed to brand myself so that readers knew what they were getting? Would my readers feel that I had betrayed them? What about the food and the recipes and the small town flavors they had come to expect from me?

As I was redesigning my website, I came up with some food terms that I thought might help define my work: Tasty ~ Zesty ~ Dangerous.

Tasty and zesty are pretty self-explanatory. Why dangerous? Think of it like three-alarm-chili dangerous.  At first it was a designation for some of my short stories. They are not all cozy. Then I realized that dangerous could also work for my future suspense novels.

However, I got to wondering if that was the brand that would help my fans feel comfortable reaching for my other genre titles on the shelves? I asked myself: Why have my readers truly enjoyed my books? It can’t be just because of the food element. I’m not a celebrity chef.

Then it hit me. My readers like that I write about family. The protagonists in all my books are closely bonded to family. They are loyal. They follow their hearts. Not all families are built the same way, of course. In the Cheese Shop series, Charlotte’s family includes her darling grandparents, her cousin and his daughters, and her good friends Delilah and Meredith. In the Cookbook Nook series, Jenna’s family includes her dad and aunt but also her good friends, Bailey and Katie. [Just between you, me, and the lamppost, I think she would like to make Rhett family sometime soon, too.] No matter what, the protagonist’s devotion to protecting those she loves is vital to her—just like it is to me.

So, though all my novels might be tasty, zesty, or dangerous, the theme is always family.

For example:

GOTR_pngIn Girl on the Run, when Chessa wakes up beside the body of her husband, nauseous and confused, unable to explain to the sheriff why her princess costume is covered in blood, she runs. Over the course of the novel, she must delve into the truth about her husband and her family.

In Grilling the Subject, Jenna’s father becomes the suspect in the murder of one of his neighbors. The woman and he have been at odds over property rights. Jenna won’t sit back and let him go to jail. She has to prove him innocent.

Now, a question you might ask: can my cozy readers read my suspense even though they are categorized as dangerous? Yes. I still avoid using bad language. I do not write explicit sex or violence. The pace is faster, the ante greater, but the theme—family—is the same.

Some might wonder whether writing in multiple genres means I’m scattered. I don’t think so. I’m creative. I have lots of ideas. There are plenty of authors who write for more than one audience. It can be done.

What’s next for me? I’m going to publish another suspense. It will come out in November. I’m going to continue writing more cozy mysteries, too.

No matter what, each novel—whether tasty, zesty, or dangerous—will focus on family because family matters. That’s my brand and I’m sticking to it!

Daryl, thanks for visiting!

Readers, leave a comment for Daryl for a chance to win any of her published books in print or e-book format: Cheese Shop Mysteries (1-7), Cookbook Nook Mysteries (1-4), or Girl on the Run. 

Agatha Award-winning and nationally bestselling author DARYL WOOD GERBER ventures into the world of suspense with her gripping debut novel, GIRL ON THE RUN. Daryl also writes the bestselling Cookbook Nook Mysteries. AsAVERY AAMES, she pens the bestselling Cheese Shop Mysteries. Fun tidbit: as an actress, Daryl appeared in “Murder, She Wrote”. In addition, she has jumped out of a perfectly good airplane and hitchhiked around Ireland by herself. She absolutely adores Lake Tahoe, where GIRL ON THE RUN is set, and she has a frisky Goldendoodle named Sparky. Visit Daryl at www.darylwoodgerber.com.
Twitter: @darylwoodgerber
Facebook: www.facebook.com/darylwoodgerber
Website: www.darylwoodgerber.com

The Detective’s Daughter – Who Are You?

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Kim, in Baltimore, enjoying the first day of summer.
I have over one thousand photos stacked in several boxes around my office. I’ve begun to sort them into piles for other members of my family, the majority of them are of my Uncle Roy and his family. My grandmother had seven siblings (Madeleine, Leona, Thomas, Albert, Mildred and Leroy) and two step-siblings (Charles and Annie), so there are quite a few photos to go over.

For the most part, I have enjoyed sifting through them; remembering good times or seeing events from a long ago past. Because my grandmother spoke often of her family, and because I knew most of them, I was able to recognize nearly everyone in the photos.image
It was all going quickly until I came across a photo of a woman I didn’t recognize. Then there was another. Soon I had a box just for the unidentified.
I posted them on Facebook hoping someone would know them, but they remain nameless. My work table is now covered with their faces. Every night I sit staring at them, searching for any clue of who they might have been. It troubles me not knowing. Are we all so easily forgotten?
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I reexamine group photos hoping to find them in one, but I have yet to discover where they fit in with my family. There are a few I’ve made up my own stories about, others I just shuffle back into their spot. As much as I want to organize and condense the amount of things I have, I am hesitant to part with these photos. The photographs should be cherished. These people were loved and an important part of someone’s life. They must have meant a great deal to my grandmother or else she would not have kept them.image

In the evenings over the past week, I’ve gone over the photos I have personally taken and have carefully written the names, places and dates on each one. No one will be forgotten.

Readers, how do you keep your photos? Are they framed or in albums, or is everything digital now?

 

The Detective’s Daughter: The Lost Art of Letters

Kim'spolicehatNot long before Dad’s house burned down, he gave me the family photos. There were boxes upon damaged boxes of photographs, letters, postcards and telegrams dating back to the early 1860’s. They had sat in the dampness of the basement pushed behind trunks of dishes and forgotten housewares on the bank under the house.

I will admit that I was snooping. For the last year or so I had been keeping an extra eye on him since his illness. I’d show up every few days to clean or make him a meal and to toss out the tower of pizza boxes that accumulated no matter how often I’d visit. He never let me take anything home and always insisted he was just about to use whatever I wanted to throw out or donate. When he gave me the mangled boxes to take home, I was surprised.

“You like all that stuff,” he said and helped me drag them to my car. I can spend hours, days sometimes, sorting through the photos and trying to figure out who is who. My favorite things, though, are the letters. I still write letters, but I must admit, they are usually sent as an email. When did letters go out of style? Occasionally I receive one in a Christmas card, and even those are usually printed from a computer.

My grandmother was a great letter writer. She had family across the country and overseas that she kept in touch with through the years. I love reading their responses to her and try to imagine her reading them at our kitchen table in her housecoat drinking a cup of coffee.

Letter from Uncle Al to Nana.

Letter from Uncle Al to Nana.

The letter I cherish the most is one written by my Uncle Al. He was my grandmother’s older brother and also one of her closest friends. By the time Dad was two, my grandmother was a widow. On her first Mother’s Day without her husband, Uncle Al sent her a letter, a poem really, that he sent to her from Dad. It is sweet and I keep it alongside a note my own son wrote to me on a Mother’s Day not so long ago.

Email is wonderful to send a quick note, but it will never replace the excitement a letter brings when received in the mail, nor will it ever hold the faint scent of lavender or be tucked between the pages of a favorite book. I think it’s time the handwritten letter made a comeback.

Dear Readers,
Please tell me the last letter you wrote or received and how that made you feel.
Best regards,
The Detective’s Daughter

The Detective’s Daughter – Sentimental Journey

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Kim in Baltimore counting down the days to Malice Domestic.

“The thing I miss most are the fog horns,” Aunt Betty would tell me each time she spoke of growing up in San Francisco. As a small child, I was so caught up in her stories that I could see each hill, hear the clang of the streetcar and taste the crust of the sourdough bread. Aunt Betty had been a young girl when her family sailed through the Panama Canal on their way to live in the Philippines. Before the start of World War II, her father was sent to the Presidio in San Francisco. Of all the places they lived over the years, it was here that her heart held as home.image
Aunt Betty and Dad were first cousins though they were as close as siblings. Their mothers were sisters and both Auntie and Dad had lost their fathers when they were young. When Dad was eighteen months old my grandmother, who had been recently widowed, took him on a train across the country to be with her sister. The story of my grandmother, grieving and traveling alone with her baby, revealed a vulnerable side she didn’t often acknowledge. I was fascinated by Nana’s story and hoped to one day recreate her journey and travel to San Francisco to see the city she and Aunt Betty loved.
It wasn’t until a year after my dad died that Aunt Betty and I were able to take a train trip to California. My husband and children shared one compartment and Auntie and I shared another. We spent hours talking about her life over cups of coffee in the dining car.image
The train arrived hours later than scheduled and afterwards we had a thirty minute bus ride from Oakland into San Francisco. It was after midnight by the time we were brought to the apartments I had rented. We immediately went to bed.The next morning, with the sun shining, I stepped out into the courtyard feeling much like the women who rent the villa in Enchanted April. Everywhere I looked was beautiful and exactly as Auntie had described.
My mom had flown out to meet us and was sharing a place with Aunt Betty across the courtyard from us. Each morning we would stroll up Chestnut Street, passing Auntie’s old apartment building, to get our morning coffee at The Squat and Gobble. We spent some time visiting attractions such as the Coit Tower and Alcatraz, but mostly we stayed in Cows Hollow retracing the steps of Auntie’s youth. On Easter Sunday we went to mass at St. Vincente de Paul, the church Aunt Betty had received her sacraments. After mass imageAuntie cornered the priest to tell him how much the church had changed since 1940, yet told me how everything looked the same as she had left it.
At night, before I went to sleep, I would listen for the fog horns and smile knowing that Auntie would be listening as well. In a blink of an eye two weeks passed and we were boarding another train to make our way home. There wasn’t one conversation I had with Aunt Betty over the next few years that didn’t include reminiscing about our trip. Some days she would call me and say, “Hon, you ready? Let’s go to our city and never come back.”
It’s been three years since she’s left this world and now I am the keeper of her stories that became our stories. Before I close my eyes at night, I remember the sound of the fog horn and know that is what I most long to hear again.

Have you ever heard a story that has inspired you to take a trip?

One Memorable Moment

Edith here, on the penultimate day of the year!calendar

Wickeds, tell us one memorable moment from 2014 that is NOT writing related.

Edith: I’ll start. On my California trip in March, I spent a few days with my last remaining uncle, San Francisco author Richard Reinhardt. I have
Dick2014adored this man my entire life. His dear wife Jo, my father’s sister, passed away several years ago at age 82 after nearly sixty happy years of marriage to Dick. And now, despite still missing Jo deeply, he has found love again in the person of Judy, with whom he worked on John Kennedy’s presidential campaign many decades earlier. I was delighted to see them both happy, bantering together, cooking together, and enjoying each other’s company in their mid-eighties. Life goes on for them in the best of ways. And I even got to go to his birthday party!

IMG_1796Sherry: What a lovely story, Edith! I had to sort through a lot of events to come up with one. But it has to be my ride along with the Fairfax County Police Department. We did a bit of everything from the mundane — going to court and sitting at a non-injury accident waiting for a tow truck to show up. To the exciting — responding to alarms, pulling people over, teens with pot, helping who I call “the crying girl”, and heading down the road with lights and sirens blaring to help look for a stolen car. My respect for the dangers the police face with every stop multiplied that night.

Liz: Can I share two? They’re kind of related…First, my surprise 40th birthday party wasLiz Bday definitely the highlight of my year, full of fabulous family and friends.

And to continue with my birthday celebration, we finally got to visit the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, which was amazing. Full of rescued farm animals, this place is a fabulous experience for people to really get to know farm animals and see how very sweet and grateful they are. We got Woodstockto pet the goats, talk to the chickens, hug turkeys and hang out with sheep. Highly recommend!

Barb: This is hard. One highlight of my year was our two and a half weeks in Paris this August. Thanks to a friend, we stayed in a gorgeous apartment right behind the plaza of the Musee D’Orsay with a view of the Seine and the Tuileries. It was the best vacation evah, both a great sight-seeing trip and a relaxing time. It’s not often you achieve that combination. Plus, Paris.

Julie: As I write this as I’ve had a brief but wonderful visit with both sisters, my parents, my brothers-in-law, and the nieces and nephews. Honestly, hard to top sitting around playing Uno and laughing with some of the people I love most in the world. My blessings are many.

Dear Readers: Please chime in with yours, too.