In the meantime, while you're here, pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of coffee or a cuppa tea, have a piece of pie and always feel free to speak your mind, and your heart, here at Meanderings and Muses.
When I grew up in the suburbs of New Jersey and Detroit in the fifties and sixties, haute cuisine consisted of adding a can of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup to the dish in question. Spinach, green beans, chicken-they all got the same treatment.
Red meat selections, on the other hand, were married to Lipton's onion soup (pot roast) or Campbell's alphabet soup (meatloaf.) Just add a crisp, pale wedge of iceberg lettuce dressed with a glob of other-worldly-orange bottled French dressing and voila-fancy company fare.
Oh, we had ethnic dining options too: heat up a can of slimy lo mein noodles and flaccid vegetables and sprinkle with crunchy faux-noodle topping.
With that background, you might wonder about my qualifications to write about a food critic character. Basically, I love to eat. And I love to eat good food--not fussy, just delicious. My husband teases that "Isleib" (my family name) means "is stomach" in German. His other fictionalized translation for my name is "large lunch followed by a restful nap."
I don't think I'd enjoy being a food critic in real life--when I go out to eat, I like to choose what I feel like eating, not what I think other folks want to hear about. And I draw lines where my character Hayley Snow, cannot. For instance, tentacles. Raw fish and meat. Slimy things. Like that:).
In TOPPED CHEF, the third book in the Key West food critic series, Hayley Snow gets roped into being a judge for a reality TV contest. During the contest, three contestants cook their way through a variety of challenges, beginning with presenting their "signature dish." I had lots of fun imagining how the three chefs would think about food and what they'd prepare. One of them leans toward home-style Southern food (a carping judge calls him "Paula Deen squared"); a second cooks from the tradition of molecular gastronomy; and the third, now that I think about it, is a little lost. Although she did produce some killer key lime cupcakes for the wedding challenge. (Recipes for the cupcakes and the shrimp and grits dish made by the fictional chefs will be posted on www.mysteryloverskitchen.com on May 2 and 9 to celebrate the launch of TOPPED CHEF.
My husband says the shrimp and grits could be the best thing I've ever made.)
As usual, I've gone on too long about food and not told you much about the book. Here's the tiniest little snippet to whet your whistle: "Four little judges, judging for TV. One swinging from the mast, and then there were three. Three little judges, tasting wine and roux. One couldn't swim, and then there were two".
I will keep you posted as it gets picked up by additional bookstores, shops and galleries. This is a very big deal to a self-published author - word of mouth advertising is so important, and in our case, very important. I appreciate all your help.
And if you see it on a shelf, please let me know! And if you don't see it on the shelf of your favorite bookstore OR library, I would very much appreciate you asking them to order it. If anyone would care for a "sell sheet," just drop me a note and I'll send you one. barleykw at appstate dot edu
My friend, the incredibly delightful, Lesa Holstine, interviews me today at her place - Lesa's Book Critiques ( http://lesasbookcritiques.blogspot.com/ ). I hope you'll take a minute to drop by and say "Hey!"
earned a long list of Five Star reviews for his novel MEMORY OF A MURDER and
has twice received a Derringer Award for Best Short Story of the Year. He
served as Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Magazine, as President of the
Short Mystery Fiction Society, is a contributing blog member of Murderous
Musings and Make Mine Mystery and a frequent speaker
at conferences and seminars. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
writers who’ve been around the block a time or two, I can produce a new book
from start to finish in several months, a year at the most. I’d like to tell
you a story, however, about a book that took much longer to write. How long?
Ten years. That’s right. Ten years.
I didn’t work
on it full time for that long. It took me that long to get it right
The idea for
the book came to me not long after the horrendous incident we now refer to as
9-11. Terrorists killed three thousand innocent, unsuspecting people that day
and left a scar across the world that will never heal. Like most people in the
world, particularly Americans, I was deeply affected. I wanted to rush out and
kill terrorists. I couldn’t do that for real, of course, but it occurred to me
I could do it in a book. That’s how it started.
I came up
with a fictitious secret agency which tracks terrorist groups. If the agency
determines the group has definite plans to kill innocent people, it steps in
and stops them with extreme prejudice. That usually means the terrorists are
I gave the
book what I thought was an appropriate title. JUSTIFIED ACTION.
I needed a
central character and came up with the name Tall Chambers.
years in the Army, most of it in Special Services, Tall joined the agency.
admit, in the wake of 9-11, I enjoyed writing about saving innocent lives by
taking out those who would kill, I soon realized an entire novel of that would
not be interesting for long. I put the book aside and worked on other projects.
never really left my mind, however. He took shape over a period of time until I
knew him as a friend, someone I liked. I formed ideas of what kind of man he
would be, what were his goals and ambitions, and what did he want for his life.
While Tall remained
a fixture in my mind, I occasionally went back to the book. This time, the
business of tracking and dealing with terrorists became only a background on
which Tall’s personal life played out. I liked the story much better this way,
but still didn’t stick with it full time. I’d put it on a back burner from time
to time and write other things. Eventually, his story, a personal one played
out on the stage of international terrorist activity, became more clear and
And Tall definitely
had a personal life. He met the ideal woman, fell in love, and married. He’s
also a man of action and, since I love writing action scenes, there are plenty
of them in the book.
But his life did
not become a happily ever after story. Everything changed when a murder turned
his life completely around. After that, Tall has only one goal in mind: find
the killer and set things right. In the process of doing that, he comes to a
hard-earned decision about the path his life will travel from that point on.
and the process actually did take ten years -- I finished the novel, completely
satisfied with how it all came together. I’m as proud of it as anything I’ve
announced the debut of JUSTIFIED ACTION, a Mystery/Thriller novel, in both
print and ebook form. But then came that nail-biting, can’t-sleep,
suppose-everyone-hates-it phase. That’s the period when you don’t breathe, the
hands of the clock don’t move, the sun never rises or sets but just hangs over
you, and you wait for reviews.
reviews were as good as they could be.. All Five Stars.
included comments such as:
“Read this book. You'll be glad you did.”
. .a strong emotional impact and a satisfying ending.”
“Action and suspense
without all the gore.”
I got to the last page, I wished for more.”
Can’t ask for
better than that. Two major hurdles are now in the rear view mirror – getting
it published and receiving great reviews. It feels good, especially when I
think about how long it took to write this book.
excited about the cover. I wanted a particular mood and attitude on the cover. I
wanted it to speak in a voice filled with suspense and tension and say, “Get
ready. Here comes trouble.” It took a while, and I had help from a good friend,
but the perfect cover eventually came around. The cover is. . . . But, wait. Instead
of talking about it, let me show it to you. Here it is.
Cover by Carole Ryan
invited to read Chapter One of JUSTIFIED ACTION and meet Tall Chambers. I hope
you like him as much as I do. You’ll find it at http://earlwstaggs.wordpress.com
the story of a book that took me ten years to write. Thank you, dear Kaye, for
letting me tell it here.
I will keep you posted as it gets
picked up by additional bookstores, shops and galleries.
And if you see it on a shelf, please
let me know! And if you don't see it on the shelf of your favorite bookstore OR
library, I would very much appreciate you asking them to order it. If anyone
would care for a "sell sheet," just drop me a note and I'll send you one.
barleykw at appstate dot edu