Calling for Recipes

Kitchen

With Camp NaNoWriMo over today, it’s time to get moving on my work in progress.

A portion of each book in the Melanie Hogan cozy mystery series includes some time spent in Nana’s kitchen. There, not only does she teach Melanie how to cook, but they make lasting memories with time spent together and connecting as can only be done in the warmth and love of a kitchen. With good food, coffee or tea, and good company, what could be better?

Each book also includes a recipe. In fact, Shear Madness, book one in the series, contains three recipes! Since the series is set in northern Minnesota (fictional Birch Haven, to be exact), the recipes included are either hotdish or some other recipe native to Minnesota. What is hotdish some non-Minnesotans may ask? It’s a casserole that contains some sort of starch, meat, canned or frozen vegetables, and canned soup.

I’m currently searching for recipes for my upcoming book, Shear Murder, book four in the series, scheduled for publication in November, 2018,  If you have a hotdish recipe, or another that is native to Minnesota, that you would like featured in the book, send it to me via email at rjblackhurst0611@gmail.com. If your recipe is chosen, your name will appear in the book as well. I will also select recipes for any upcoming books in the series.

I’m looking forward to trying the recipes I receive. The chosen recipe, along with the sender, will also be featured on an upcoming blog post.

e2809cpull-up-a-chair-take-a-taste-come-join-us-life-is-so-endlessly-delicious-e2809d-e28095-ruth-reichl.png

Camp NaNoWriMo

Off to Camp

So in further explanation from the brief mention of Camp NaNo in last week’s post, what exactly is Camp NaNo? It can be summed up in two words:

Fun Challenge!

Camp NaNoWriMo is a spinoff from November’s NaNoWriMo where participants from all over the world strive to write 50,000 words in the month of November. Camp NaNo is a bit looser. Where November’s goal is to write the first draft of a novel, Camp allows the participants to set their own goal in word count, page count, minutes or hours. The “campers” are also given a place to stay with like-minded campers in virtual cabins, making virtual s’mores over virtual campfires, but having real conversation. Cabin mates encourage one another, share their expertise and knowledge, and new writer friendships are developed.

Lantern

I’ve participated in November’s NaNoWriMo in the past (in fact, my first published book, The Inheritance, was born from my very first NaNoWriMo experience), I usually participate in the April Camp NaNo, but I never miss a July Camp. I dust off my lantern, prepare the month before by planning my project and reading what I can. When Camp starts I celebrate with a real s’more on day one (No virtual ones for this part) and at set intervals to celebrate accomplishments along the way.

This year I’ll be working on edits and revisions on book four in the Melanie Hogan Mystery Series, Shear Murder. Shear Madness, Shear Deception, and Shear Malice are available here and here. I’ve set my goal at 40 hours, I’ve printed my manuscript and placed it in a 3-ring binder, I’m re-reading the book Revision and Self-Editing for Publication by James Scott Bell (one of the best books on editing I’ve ever found), and I’m ready to roll!

One last thing–Each of the Melanie Hogan Mysteries contains a recipe. Shear Madness, book one in the series, actually contains three! I’m searching for hotdish recipes for my new book. Unless you’re from Minnesota, you’re probably wondering what in the world hotdish is. It’s a casserole that typically contains a starch of some sort, meat, and canned or frozen vegetables with canned soup. Minnesotans can get pretty creative, let me tell ya, don’tcha know. Since the Melanie Hogan series is set in northern Minnesota, the chosen recipes are native to Minnesota (like hotdish) or those that were special to me as a child growing up. If you don’t have a hotdish recipe but want to participate, anything native to Minnesota will do. Nothing with Spam though, please. I’ve yet to see anything that makes Spam edible. Ugh!

I’ll be accepting submissions for the next couple of months, and the chosen recipe, along with the winner’s name, will be mentioned in the book. If you’re interested in participating, send your recipe via email to rjblackhurst0611@gmail.com.

And now it’s back off to Camp!

Campfire

 

Character Interview with Rose Donnelly

meet-rose-donnelly.png

This is the last of the character interviews from the Melanie Hogan cozy mystery series. I hope you enjoyed getting to know them.

Can you tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
I’m Melanie’s grandmother, but I’ve raised her since my daughter, Violet, left her with me when Melanie was just four years old. Violet broke Melanie’s heart when she decided that making it in Hollywood was more important than her own daughter. At first Melanie didn’t understand, but as she got older, her resentment grew. I pray that someday Violet will find peace and she and Melanie can have a relationship. But I have to say, raising Melanie has been my greatest joy. That child is more precious to me than anything in the world. I couldn’t ever imagine my life without her. Back when I was working as a nurse at St. Luke’s hospital, Melanie helped me take care of her granddad when he became ill. She has been a Godsend.

Where do you live?
I’ve lived in Birch Haven, Minnesota all my life. I was born here, and I’ll die here.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
No further than my own front porch. I love my home and every day I spend here is a blessing.

What is your favorite pastime?
Gardening and cooking. I love to work in my flower gardens and to teach Melanie how to cook. We Minnesotans love our hotdish, dontcha know, so there’s never a shortage of recipes to teach her. And there’s no better place to connect and spend time together as a family than in the kitchen. Melanie and I have had our best conversations while cooking or sitting at the kitchen table.

What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?
When you’re retired, dear, every day is a weekend. My favorite way to spend any day is with Melanie and her friends. And they always make time for this old woman, those sweet kids.

What brings you the most joy?
Melanie. And my memories of her granddad. It’s those memories that help me through my broken heart from Violet. But I believe there’s still hope for her.

What is your most fond memory?
When Melanie was young, watching her with her granddad in the garage. He loved to work on cars and she was right by his side, soaking up everything he taught her. She’d come in with grease smudged on her face and cute as a button.

If you could change one thing about your life what would it be?
I wouldn’t change a single thing. I’m the most blessed woman on this earth.

You wouldn’t change anything?
Well, maybe for Violet to finally find peace so she and Melanie could have a relationship. Maybe someday. Perhaps in one of the next books. Tune in to find out.

 

 

CI – Claire Davis

 

a-snapshot-of-claire-davis.png

CI = Character Interview, not Confidential Informant. 🙂

Welcome to the world of Claire Davis, side-kick of Melanie Hogan in the Melanie Hogan Cozy Mysteries, and co-owner of Melanie’s hair salon, A Cut Above.

Can you provide a physical description of yourself?
Hmmm…that’s kind of awkward. Let’s see…I’m taller than Melanie, but that doesn’t take much. I’m 5’6, to be exact, so I wear flats a lot. I’m African-American with brown eyes and kinky-curly hair. I love bright-colored hair scarves and bright colors in general. I love to work out so there’s that, too. Melanie and I couldn’t possibly be more opposite from one another but it works for us. Our friendship is as solid as they come.

Where do you live?
I’m originally from Southern Florida, but I’ve lived in Birch Haven, Minnesota for several years.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Paris! The city of love. Or Italy. I love the happy, robust Italian families I’ve see in movies. They’re always hugging and kissing and eating meals together.

What is your favorite pastime?
Being with my daughter, Sydney. She’s eight years old and looks so much like her daddy, my late husband. Tyler was in the military and died while on duty.

What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?
Saturday’s are spent at the salon. Mel and I own A Cut Above so Saturday’s really not a weekend for us. Our weekends are Sunday and Monday. Those days I love to spend with Syd, Mel, Jack—when he’s in Birch Haven—Rubie, and at Rose’s house with Melanie. Rose is Melanie’s grandmother and the sweetest, most kind-hearted, yet spirited, woman I know.

What is your biggest secret?
I don’t think I’ll ever be over my late husband. Tyler was everything to me. I’m super lucky to have my current boyfriend—and the only once since Tyler—Cole Mahoney, but I can’t ever give him my whole heart. Tyler will always have a huge part of that.

What makes you angry?
Life is too short to be angry.

What brings you the most joy?
My friends and family. There is nothing better than spending time with them and watching them when they don’t even know I am.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
When one of my flouncy-bouncy skirts got caught in the wind and flew up. Melanie never lets me forget that.

What is your most admirable character trait?
That’s the one thing Melanie and I have in common. I’m super loyal. Also, I don’t let things bother me. I don’t hold grudges or resentments. Life is too short for that stuff.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
Maybe to be a little more discerning about who I trust. I want to believe everyone is good and for the most part, I truly believe they are. But every now and then I’m reminded that not everyone is nice. Especially lately with all the trouble makers Melanie has been attracting lately.

You can catch me in Shear Madness, Shear Deception, Shear Malice, and soon in Shear Murder.

Carpe Diem

 

Character Interview

Grab a Cup of Java and get to Know Melanie Hogan

This month I’ll be posting character interviews from the world of the Melanie Hogan cozy mystery series, which thus far includes Shear Madness, Shear Deception, Shear Malice, and coming in 2018, Shear Murder. This week’s interview is with Melanie Hogan, the protagonist in the series. I hope you enjoy getting to know Melanie. 

Can you provide a physical description of yourself?
Other than my greener than average eyes, similar to a cat’s eyes according to Claire and Jack, I’m Plain Jane. I don’t like a lot of makeup, and typically wear my hair loose or in a ponytail. My favorite things to wear are jeans, black boots or black sandals, both with chunky high heels to make me a bit taller than my five-foot-two frame, and hoop earrings. I have hoops of every size and color.

Where do you live?
In a small town called Birch Haven, Minnesota. It’s up north about an hour from St. Cloud.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I rather like staying home or at my Nana’s. Those are my two favorite places in the world. If I ever get adventurous and travel outside of my comfort zone, I’d visit Ireland or Scotland.

What is your favorite pastime?
Hanging out with my best friends—Claire, Jack, and Rubie. And, of course, with Nana in her kitchen. She loves to teach me how to cook and we’ve made some pretty good progress, proving there’s hope for me in the kitchen. I’m also kind of a loner and love spending time alone.

What is your favorite way to spend a weekend?
Owning a salon, Saturdays are spent neck deep in hair color and perm solutions, inhaling fumes from artificial nails and hair spray, and listening to the hum of blow dryers, stationary hair dryers and the chatter and laughter from our clientele. I love hearing the secrets they tell. On the wall of my salon hangs a plaque that says If These Walls Could Talk. If they could talk indeed. Sundays, I love to spend hanging out at my log house. I enjoy sitting on the balcony that overlooks the lake reading my devotionals, drinking coffee, and an occasional glass of wine with Claire. I also like to take my little boat out on the lake and drift.

What is your biggest secret?
Well, it wouldn’t be a secret anymore if I told you, now, would it?

What makes you angry?
Thanks to my birth mother, Violet, and my ex-husband, Cain, infidelity and dishonesty. I harbor just a wee resentment toward them but am working through it slowly. I might just get there before I die. Maybe. Also, anyone who hurts my friends and Nana.

What brings you the most joy?
Nana, Claire, Jack, Rubie, and Claire’s daughter, Sydney. I know it’s kind of creepy, but I love children, and since I can’t have them, sometimes I pretend she’s mine.

What is the most embarrassing thing that has happened to you?
Showing up on the first day of beauty school wearing the ugly black polyester uniforms when everyone else showed up in “cool” clothes. Apparently, everyone else read their welcome and orientation packet better than I did. Which is super unlike me. I’m typically a more thorough and follow-the-rules kinda gal than the average person. Well, until a couple of years ago, that is, when dead bodies started littering my life.

If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
My sarcasm. But it is what it is.

What is your most admirable character trait?
I’m more loyal than a dog to my friend and to Nana. That and I’m probably the most stable person you’ll ever meet. Well…there, again, until a couple years ago. My life was so stable, planned, and predictable, that I longed for some action and spontaneity. And boy did I get it! I quickly learned to be careful what I wish for. Carpe Diem

 

Development of the Melanie Hogan Cozy Mysteries

Melanie Hogan Cozy Mysteries
I’m often asked by my readers, “How do you come up with your ideas?” To which I chuckle and joke, “My mind is a scary place.”

Okay, so maybe I’m not joking. Not completely, anyway. But since I write cozy mysteries and suspense, both that contain “clean” romance, I think I’ll pass my mother’s inspection.

When asked “What’s a cozy mystery?” my answer is always, “Something you would be comfortable with your grandmother reading. Think Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote.” That usually does the trick. In fact, it was watching so many episodes of Murder She Wrote that made me fall in love with mysteries, though I don’t think they were coined “cozies” back then.

My cozy mystery series is set in small town Birch Haven, Minnesota, which is essentially its own character. The steady cast includes the protagonist, Melanie Hogan, who co-owns a hair salon with her best friend, Claire Davis. Enter Jack Dancy, the third musketeer with Melanie and Claire. Jack is a clothing and jewelry designer from Minneapolis. Add Rubie and the rest of the stylists who work in the salon, as well as Melanie’s grandmother, Nana, a retired nurse who raised Melanie since she was four years old, and Melanie’s go-to. Nana is modeled after my own grandmother who was my go-to. Most of Nana and Melanie’s chats occur around the kitchen table or when Nana is giving Melanie one of her famous cooking lessons. Each book includes one of Nana’s recipes at the end. In fact, Shear Madness, book one, includes two recipes. The cast is diverse in every way possible, which makes for fun interactions and endless story lines.

Birch Haven is a combination of two towns I’ve lived in, towns that hold a special place in my heart. Melanie’s lake house is fashioned after the house I grew up in. So when writing the books, I get to be back in those places again, which makes it fun and more intimate. When I read the newspaper, watch TV, or read a book, I will frequently ask myself, “So what if that happened in Birch Haven?” From there it takes on a life of its own.

As each day unfolds, it’s ripe with potential storylines. It’s a matter of training the mind to actively think like a writer rather than passively watch and listen. Just be careful what you say to another in the grocery line or waiting for a latte at Starbucks, because if a writer is within earshot, it could end up in a book.

The series includes three books so far, Shear Madness, Shear Deception, and Shear Malice, which was just released on June 11th. Shear Murder is in the works and scheduled for a 2018 release. Stay tuned for more.

Carpe Diem

 

Cover Reveal

Shear Deception Cover Reveal…

book_cover_RGB_300dpi

When a body is discovered in the woods by Melanie’s Minnesota lake house, it nearly gets both her and her estranged mother, Violet, killed. Melanie retreats to the familiar and comfortable surroundings of the beauty salon she owns with her best friend Claire, but when the details surrounding the death begin to unravel, Melanie is thrust into the middle of the investigation.

When her grandmother, Rose Donnelly, is the next target, Melanie will stop at nothing to catch the killer. Melanie begins unraveling a tangled web of lies and deceit that finally reveals the painful truth of the question that has haunted her since youth. The truth that ultimately cuts her loose from the burden of her past that has held her captive for far too long and sets her on a path to freedom.