08-11-2013 02:02 PM - edited 08-11-2013 02:06 PM
This week's featured author, LESLIE BUDEWITZ, is new to B&N's Mystery Forum. Please give her a rousing welcome!
Leslie's website is here (I love the beautiful artwork in the banner): http://lesliebudewitz.com/
About the banner (from Leslie's website): The top banner is "Birch Grove," painted with French dye on silk. I painted it in a class with renowned Montana artist Nancy Dunlop Cawdrey.
Read more about Leslie here:
A Prairie Girl Reads: Top 5 Places to Visit in a Cozy Town, with Erin Murphy from Death al Dente by Leslie Budewitzhttp://aprairiegirlreads.blogspot.ca/2013/07/top-5
Fresh Fiction: On Going Home http://freshfiction.com/page.php?id=5167
Mystery Lovers Kitchen: Shrimp! Salad
Dying for Chocolate: Huckleberry Chocolate Mousse
Jungle Red Writers: From Fact to Fiction
08-11-2013 02:03 PM
Leslie Budewitz blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and her native Montana in The Food Lovers' Village Mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime. New York Times best-selling mystery writer Sofie Kelly calls it “A delicious new series.” Award-winning author Hank Phillippi Ryan says of Death al Dente, first in the series, “Clever, charming and completely yummy.”
Leslie is also a lawyer. She graduated from Notre Dame Law School, practiced in Seattle for several years, then returned to Montana, where she still practices civil litigation and employment law. Her first book, Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure, won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction and was nominated for the 2012 Anthony and Macavity awards.
A true believer in the power of writers helping other writers, Leslie is an active member of Sisters in Crime and is a founding member of the SinC chapter for new and unpublished writers, the Guppies. She is also a member of Mystery Writers of America, the Authors of the Flathead, and Montana Women Writers.
Leslie loves to cook, eat, hike, travel, garden, and paint—not necessarily in that order. She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, Don Beans, a musician, writer, and doctor of natural medicine, and their Burmese cat, Ruff, an avid bird watcher.
08-11-2013 02:04 PM
Where did you get the idea for The Food Lovers’ Village?
Toni Morrison says you should write the book you want to read–so I did. And I created the town where I’d like to live. When I wanted a birthday present for my mother and wondered what The Merc might have, I knew I’d either succeeded–or gone off the deep end.
Jewel Bay does borrow from the delightful villages and hamlets of northwest Montana: Bigfork, Whitefish, Apgar, and others. But it has a flavor all its own–one I hope you’ll enjoy!
Erin likes to read almost as much as she likes to cook and eat. What’s on her bookshelves?
Well, The Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, of course! She adores food writing, but can’t keep up with the magazines, so Chiara gives her the annual Best Food Writing anthology for her birthday.
Erin’s mother Fresca collects cookbooks. Fresca also makes her own with three-ring binders and clear plastic sleeves for recipes she’s created herself or torn from magazines. Erin’s more likely to search out a recipe online. Then she’ll bookmark it and use the computer to make notes. But of course, she keeps a few classic and modern cookbooks:
Julia Child’s two-volume Mastering the Art of French Cooking can be daunting. The Way to Cook and its companion CDs or Julia’s Kitchen Wisdom are easier to use, and a great way to learn. Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table is a delight, with mini-essays about eating in France, clear instructions, and photos that really do look like the dishes!
The Gourmet Cookbook by Ruth Riechl. Gourmet no longer lands in our mailboxes every month, but with more than 1,000 recipes from its storied pages, this is just as good.
When Erin’s friend elderly Roxy was dying, she gave Erin her cookbooks, including a treasure:Lean Italian Cuisine by Anne Casale. Every recipe is perfect: simple, elegant, and easy to follow. You’ll like some better than others, of course, but they will all turn out just right.
For baking, Erin recommends Rustic European Breads From Your Bread Machine by Linda West Eckhardt and Diana Collingwood Butts, and another classic: Baking in America, by Greg Patent, a Montana food writer, winner of the 2003 James Beard Award.
Erin also loves foodie movies. A few of her favs: Julie & Julia, Babette’s Feast, Chocolat, and The Mistress of Spices. And of course–as you’ll see in Death al Dente–Ratatouille.
What else have you written?
My first book, Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books, 2011), is for writers who want to know more about the legal issues that crop up in fiction. It’s also a great primer for anyone who wants to better understand our criminal and civil justice systems. It covers 160 topics, in easy-to-read Q&A, with examples from real life, as well as books, movies, and TV. Most thrilling, it won the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, and was also nominated for an Anthony and a Macavity. Read an excerpt at Law & Fiction. I also blog about legal issues writers can use.
I love writing short stories, and half a dozen have been published. “Snow Angels” (ThugLit, 2008) was listed in “Other Distinguished Stories” in Best American Mysteries, 2009. It’s about one weekend in the lives of two young women on an Indian reservation in western Montana, one a desperate young mother, the other a deputy sheriff. All my stories take place in Montana, except The End of the Line (Alfred Hitchcock, 2006), set on the tip of the Mani peninsula in Greece. Only “Thicker than Blood” (Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology, 2011) is still available, but that may change–stay tuned!
08-11-2013 02:05 PM
Tell me more about the characters of Jewel Bay:
My characters tell their own stories at Killer Characters on the 27th of every month. You can read the backstory and find out what happened in the months before Death al Dente opens byreading my characters’ earlier posts.
What's that Cat?
Erin's companion, Mr. Sandburg, is a sable Burmese, based on my cat, Ruff. The standard Burmese coloring is sable--a very dark brown with black pointing, meaning on the face and ears, feet, and tails. Less common variants are champagne or silver (called blue). Even young sable cats may sport flecks of silver--it's a breed trait, not a sign of age. In the full-size cover painting, Sandburg is sable, but at actual cover size, he looks black. Burmese are sometimes mistaken for their better-known relatives, the Siamese, but have a characteristic small, round head and short nose. They tend to be small--a full-grown male like Ruff or Sandburg may top out at ten pounds. Burmese combine a sweet friendliness with typical cat independence. Ruff often greets visitors to my husband's in-home acupuncture clinic and regularly leaves a dead mouse on the doorstep. Burmese make wonderful pets--especially if you like a cat who talks to you.
Will you visit our book club, writers’ group, or library?
I’d love to join any group for a discussion of Death al Dente or Books, Crooks & Counselors by speaker phone or Skype. If you’re anywhere in Montana, I’ll come in person.
I’m also available to speak and teach at writers’ conferences. I’ve been a panelist and moderator at all the major mystery conventions–Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, and Left Coast Crime--great fun! I’ve spoken to the Authors of the Flathead writers’ group, and had a blast speaking and teaching at the 2012 Flathead River Writers Conference, sponsored by theAuthors of the Flathead; references available.
08-11-2013 02:07 PM
Jewel Bay exists only in my mind–and I hope, in yours, after you’ve taken an armchair tour. To help guide you, here are my maps of the Village and the area.
But Jewel Bay does resemble Bigfork, Montana, a picturesque town tucked between the Mission and Swan Mountains and Flathead Lake, where the Swan and Flathead Rivers flow into the lake. It sparkles year-round, with art galleries, theater and music, outdoor recreation (golf, boating, hiking, riding, and more), and yes, lip-smacking restaurants. Like Jewel Bay, Bigfork is not an incorporated town, but you can find tourist info from the Bigfork Area Chamber of Commerce.
Glacier National Park, aka The Crown of the Continent, is only thirty miles away.
Get more ideas for exploring “Glacier Country” from the Montana Office of Tourism.
08-11-2013 02:09 PM
FIRST IN A NEW SERIES!
The town of Jewel Bay, Montana—known as a Food Lovers' Village—is obsessed with homegrown and homemade Montana fare. So when Erin Murphy takes over her family’s century-old general store, she turns it into a boutique market filled with local delicacies. But Erin’s freshly booming business might go rotten when a former employee turns up dead
Murphy’s Mercantile, known as the Merc, has been a staple in Jewel Bay for over a hundred years. To celebrate their recent makeover as a gourmet food market, Erin has organized a town festival, Festa di Pasta, featuring the culinary goods of Jewel Bay’s finest—including her mother Fresca’s delicious Italian specialties.
But Erin’s sweet success is soured when the shop’s former manager, Claudette, is found dead behind the Merc on the Festa’s opening night. With rival chef James Angelo stirring up rumors that Fresca’s sauce recipes were stolen from Claudette, Erin’s mother is under close scrutiny. Now Erin will have to hunt down some new suspects, or both her family and her store might wind up in hot water
INCLUDES FRESH, DELICIOUS RECIPES!
08-11-2013 02:10 PM
Like Erin Murphy, the main character in The Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, I love to cook--and eat! Erin’s heritage is half Italian--from her mother Fresca--and much of Erin’s cooking has an Italian accent. But after living in Seattle for a decade, working as a buyer for SavClub–an international warehouse retailer and a major competitor of Costco--she’s developed a taste for almost anything yummy.
In Death al Dente, Erin and Fresca share recipes and tips to help you recreate the Festa di Pasta yourself. Meanwhile, here’s an easy dinner I think you’ll enjoy.
Grilled Shrimp & Prosciutto Wraps
16 large shrimp, preferably tail-on
8 thin slices of prosciutto, cut in half
Wrap each shrimp in a slice of prosciutto; one wrap is fine, two is even tastier. The prosciutto will stick to itself; you won’t need a skewer or toothpick.
Erin grills these on her outside gas grill, for 5-7 minutes. You can roast them if you’d rather, at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes.
Tri-Color Garbanzo & Pepper Salad
A delightful salad, especially in summer. The flavors meld beautifully, both the first night and as leftovers. Erin loves it with Grilled Shrimp & Prosciutto Wraps and melon and berries for dessert.
1-15 oz can garbanzo beans, rinsed & drained
½ c. each red & yellow bell peppers, chopped
½ c. chopped red onion (or less, if you’re not a big onion fan)
3-4 green onions, w/greens, sliced
1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped
2T orange juice
2T olive oil
1T lime juice (half a fresh lime)
1T white wine vinegar
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp sea salt
Whisk together dressing and pour over bean and pepper mixture. Terrific served by itself or on a bed of spicy greens.
And check out Fresca’s February post on Killer Characters where she dishes up Tuscan Bean Soup with Asiago Toasts--as much fun to say as it is to eat!
08-11-2013 02:11 PM
08-11-2013 02:12 PM
Find Leslie on Facebook as Leslie Budewitz Author
Agatha-winning author of Books, Crooks & Counselors
Death al Dente (Berkley Prime Crime, August 2013) It takes a village to catch a killer.
08-11-2013 02:15 PM
Here's an excerpt, courtesy of the author:
“Who put these huckleberry chocolates on the front counter?” I grabbed the stack of purple boxes crammed with gooey huckleberry-filled chocolate wannabes swathed in purple foil and shoved them onto an open shelf on the side wall, next to the herbal snoose.
“I did, honey,” my mother said. “Our customers love them.”
“Our customers,” I said, “buy one for seventy-five cents and walk around the store, so preoccupied with unwrapping it and indulging their sweet tooth that they can’t fathom buying Montana-made goat cheese, or buffalo jerky, or your pastas and sauces. Then they grab a napkin that costs us five cents apiece to wipe purple goo off their fingers, and half of them drop it on the floor. There goes our profit.”
My mother scowled. “Erin, what on earth has gotten into you? Why do you hate huckleberry chocolates?”
“I don’t hate huckleberry chocolates. I love huckleberry chocolates. But we can’t rebuild this business on fake food and chemical sugar.”
She picked up the boxes I’d just moved and carried them back to the cash register. “We have always had huckleberry chocolates right here, where the customers can see them.”
“Mom, you hired me to run the place, remember? To shake things up.”
“Some things shouldn’t be changed.”
“Mom, we agreed. The Merc will die if it’s just another knickknacky gift shop. But an artisan market for local and regional foods—”
“Those are local. They’re made five miles from here, by a woman you’ve known half your life.”
“With high-fructose corn syrup and milk chocolate that tastes like rancid Hershey’s. If we find a vendor using fresh berries, real sugar, and high-quality fair trade dark chocolate, sixty percent cocoa solids or better, I will build the Great Pyramid of huckleberry chocolates right here.” I jabbed at a spot on the oak floor, ten feet inside the Merc’s front door, little changed in the hundred years since my grandfather Murphy built the place and opened the town’s first grocery. “I will worship at her kitchen stove. I will put an ad in the paper and a post on Facebook offering a free huckleberry truffle to everyone who walks in that door. And if they aren’t wrapped in purple paper, I will even consider raising the price split.”
My mother stared as though she didn’t recognize me. Not for the first time since I’d returned to Jewel Bay, Montana, the hometown I couldn’t wait to leave after high school, fourteen years ago, to take over her struggling business so she could focus on building her own product line.
And not, I was sure, the last.
“But Erin, chocolate isn’t local. Neither is sugar.” Tracy, my shop clerk and sole employee, cocked her head, her thick chestnut hair swaying. One elaborately beaded earring brushed her plump shoulder.
“That’s not the point.” I reshelved the chocolates. Poor things. Not their fault they represented the worst of the specialty food market. Overprocessed and overpriced, they were nothing more than overhyped M&Ms that melted in your hand, and gummed up your mouth. “Our mission is to sell high-quality natural and organic food. Real food. Sustainably grown.” We’d been over this, and my mother had agreed, knowing the Merc desperately needed a change in direction to survive. But while she’d turned over the reins, she hadn’t quite given up control.
“We showcase the local, but we won’t sacrifice quality for proximity. We are selling a vision—the natural taste of Montana.”
“If it’s made in Montana, it must be good.” Tracy repeated our new slogan in a singsong voice, her earrings swaying like a drunk failing a field sobriety test. She squeezed her Diet Coke can. Its metallic twang made my brain hurt.
“I think you’re taking this Festa too seriously,” my mother said. Like you always do, I heard in her tone. “Why don’t you eat something? Slice up some tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, with basil and that yummy herbed olive oil.”
I groaned inwardly. The two women who ran Rainbow Lake Garden had brought us incredible Early Girl tomatoes and heavenly Genovese basil from their greenhouse. Perfect for Caprese salad, the dish the angels serve when God needs a snack.
“Mom, thanks. You go ahead and eat, but I’ve got too much to do. We still have to decorate.”
The Merc, formally known as the Glacier Mercantile, backed on to a small courtyard. Our next-door neighbor, Red’s Bar, sported a larger courtyard. Tonight, we were throwing open the gate between the two and hosting the kickoff dinner for the First Annual Jewel Bay Festa di Pasta. Tracy and I had decorated our space that morning. But Old Ned Redaway—aka Red—didn’t want us to “doll the place up” until his Friday burgers-and-beer lunch crowd had cleared the door. Which meant ignoring my gurgling tummy until every table was set and the last lights strung.
Meanwhile, we had a store to spiff up. For the next hour, we filled shelves and displays with goods our vendors and producers had delivered, and worked with the smattering of midday customers. I helped my mother—Francesca, aka Fresca—refill the coolers and shelves that held our signature products and biggest sellers: her handmade pastas, both fresh and dried, and a dozen varieties of sauce and pesto. That done, she restocked wine from Monte Verde Vineyard: Chardonnay, a red blend, and cherry wine with the peppery vibrance of a young pinot noir. She cradled a bottle of prize-winning Viognier, admiring the label my sister had designed.
I paused to read over my mother’s shoulder. “Looks great, doesn’t it? Chiara turned Jennifer’s scribbles into a brand with a simple, attractive message.”
“Yes,” she said. “It says ‘drink me.’”
I laughed and kissed her cheek. Working with—for—my mother wasn’t always easy, but we were still the Murphy girls.
On the surface, the Merc looked like any other specialty food shop. In reality, we were more like a co-op, with nearly two dozen regional growers and producers consigning their food and drink for sale in a single space. I wanted to prove that even a small mountain town with long winters and a short growing season could do a lot to feed itself, while sharing local bounty with our thousands of summer visitors. In the two months since I’d been back in town, we’d redefined our goals and realigned our product mix. The Festa—a village-wide event I’d conceived to celebrate the start of summer—was the big test. After all, we called ourselves The Food Lovers’ Village.
I helped Tracy unpack cartons of jams and jellies, lining them up on the shelves and in the open drawers of an antique Hoosier cabinet: cherry, strawberry, black cap, wild chokecherry. And the crème de la crème, the King, the Queen, the Champion of jams, wild Montana huckleberry.
08-12-2013 11:16 AM
Hi Leslie! To get started, tell us something about your writing process. Do you plot your books out in advance or do you write generically? What book are you working on now? Can you tell us anything about it or is it too soon to say?
08-12-2013 01:10 PM
Hi, Leslie, your book sounds quite interesting andI will check it out. Thanks for being here at the forum this week.
08-12-2013 08:06 PM
Leslie is having trouble signing in - do I even need to tell you this? It's frustrating that the glitch is still plaguing people who want to join us, but hopefully it will be fixed soon.
If Leslie can't get in after trying the usual remedies, I'll post her responses on her behalf.
Leslie - thanks for bearing with us!
08-14-2013 12:33 AM
08-14-2013 12:40 AM
I'm having trouble getting text to post (aaugh!). This book of Leslie's won the prestigious Agatha Award in 2011. I was at Malice Domestic (where the Agathas are presented) in 2012, so I missed Leslie's big day. I'm trying to remember if we met at Malice in 2012 - it was my first time, and I met so many people I'll never remember them all!
08-14-2013 01:15 PM
Leslie - We have some foodies here at the Mystery Forum. Do you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share?
Here's Leslie's response to my question:
Glad you asked! My little town lacks a bookstore, darn it – happily, in fiction, I was able to give Jewel Bay a lovely bookshop – so my launch party was held at a local art gallery and framing shop, Frame of Reference. The owners recruited ten local artists to submit paintings of the village, preferably with a food angle, and hired a caterer to make appetizers. To my surprise, he used the recipes in the book and on the website, including the Tri-Color Salad and the Prosciutto & Fennel Shrimp Wraps – you posted that page, above. About 400 people came over 3 hours, and the place was buzzing! One woman came up to me, book in hand, kind of upset. “You said all the recipes are in the book and I can’t find the garbanzo bean salad.” I was stunned silent, a rare event, until I realized it was on the website*. She came to my booth at the Festival of the Arts that weekend to tell me she’d already made it and “it turned out just as good as Chef Dan’s!” Love hearing that! It’s easy, and the citrus vinaigrette is especially nice on these hot summer days.
*Here's the link to the recipes on Leslie's website: http://lesliebudewitz.com/a.recipes.html
08-14-2013 09:46 PM
Please welcome LESLIE BUDEWITZ!
Here is Leslie's reply:
“Thanks so much for inviting me, Becke – and for posting my replies.
Death al Dente came out a week ago, and it’s been beyond wonderful to share the story of Erin Murphy and her friends and family, and the village of Jewel Bay, Montana, with readers near and far. Local readers have asked about the Merc. An old building in town, now a sculptor’s gallery, housed the original Merc, but few people know its origins. I chose to create my own Merc, in a different location, so I could play around a bit. And yesterday in the grocery store, a checker told me she’d had customers buying ingredients to make the recipes in the book. How cool is that?
I’ll be here all week, and with Becke’s help, will try to respond to all your comments and questions.”
08-14-2013 09:47 PM
Hi, Leslie, your book sounds quite interesting andI will check it out. Thanks for being here at the forum this week.
Hi Max - here's Leslie's reply:
“Thanks for the welcome! Erin is prone to quoting poems and plays, and got her cat, Mr. Sandburg, from an elderly friend who taught English for decades, so I enjoy seeing your quote from Mr. Frost.”