All this month, BITTERROOT LAKE is a $1.99 Kindle Deal! Talk about sweet, right? BITTERROOT LAKE is my first standalone suspense novel, written as Alicia Beckman. When a young widow returns to her family’s lakeside Montana lodge in search of solace, murder forces her to reconnect with estranged friends and confront everything she thought she knew about the tragic accident twenty-five years ago that tore them apart.
But wait, there’s more!
The Solace of Bay Leaves is half price at Audiobooks.com, through February 24!
Pepper Reece never expected to find her life’s passion in running the Seattle Spice Shop. In The Solace of Bay Leaves, 5th in the Spice Shop series, evidence links a friend’s shooting to an unsolved murder, and her own regrets surface. Can she uncover the truth and protect those she loves, before the deadly danger boils over?
The audio, narrated by the fabulous Dara Rosenberg, is 50% off at Audiobooks.com, an independent audio bookseller, through Feb. 24.
I love a good audio book, and I know many of you have been waiting eagerly for the audio of Peppermint Barked, narrated once again by the fabulous Dara Rosenberg. The cover is a little different from the paperback and ebook cover, and just as much fun!
By the way, if you’re a library user and you don’t see Peppermint Barked in your library catalog, please submit a request. Library staff LOVE to know what their patrons want to read—or hear!
Find it here (these links may take you to a different format, but will lead you to the audio — I’m typing with an injured wrist and giving myself a break.)
Like me, Pepper Reece believes that every retail shop is a little sweeter — and a little more successful — when it includes books, whether it’s books on wine and wine country travel in a wine shop, regional art in a gallery, or local ghost stories in a coffee shop! In the Spice Shop, Pepper’s haven in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, you’ll find shelves and shelves of cookbooks, especially those that focus on spice or cooking for whatever holiday she’s celebrating! You’ll also find a healthy dose of foodie fiction, combining two of her favorite things — yours and mine, too!
In Peppermint Barked, Pepper sends a customer with a daughter just learning to cook home with Mark Bittman’s classic How to Cook Everything and Ian Hemphill’s go-to compendium, The Spice and Herb Bible. The customer adds a copy of Dorie Greenspan’s Dorie’s Cookies to the stack for a friend, then treats herself with David Lebovitz’s Drinking French. Not coincidentally, three of those four are go-to books in our house. And while we don’t have a copy of Dorie’s Cookies yet, I do love her classic Around My French Table, not least because it includes a recipe for a fabulous pepper steak from Bistro Paul Bert, a restaurant we discovered on our first trip to Paris in 2009 and revisited in January 2020. It also includes the marvelously simple recipe for chocolate mousse from the back of the Nestle’s chocolate bar sold in France, which we make often. (My girl Erin Murphy, from the Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, adds a Montana flavor to it with huckleberry syrup. Here’s the recipe for her Huckleberry Chocolate Mousse.)
Of course, Pepper loves a good mystery, too, especially one with a foodie theme. In Peppermint Barked, she’s enjoying the delicious combination of crime, retail, and food served up by Cleo Coyle, Ellen Byron who also writes as Maria DiRico, and Maddie Day aka Edith M. Maxwell.
And as always, she calls on her spirit guide, the medieval monk and herbalist Brother Cadfael, from the oh so good series by Ellis Peters that she discovered in a box books and videos her parents left in her storage locker before heading off to Costa Rica.
Here’s what Pepper was reading in The Solace of Bay Leaves and Chai Another Day, along with Parts One and Two of Pepper’s Bookshelf, dishing on her discoveries in the first three books of the series, Assault and Pepper, Guilty as Cinnamon, and Killing Thyme.
I’m deep into Book Seven as I write this, and I can tell you, she’ll have some great fiction to recommend as well as some intriguing nonfiction diving into Seattle history.
Most of you read this blog for creativity sparks and writing advice, but once or twice a year, I let you know what’s new for me. Next Tuesday, July 19, my sixth Spice Shop Mystery, Peppermint Barked, launches! I‘m celebrating on my Facebook Author page with a Christmas in July party and presents. (“Beat the heat — pretend it’s December!”) If you’re in Western Montana, come join me for a book talk and signing at Bigfork Art and Cultural Center, in the Village, Sat, July 23, 12:30 – 2:00, followed by a signing at Roma’s Gourmet Kitchen Shop.
Just a pinch of murder . .. When her life fell apart at age 40, Pepper Reece never expected to find solace in bay leaves. But her impulsive purchase of the Spice Shop in Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market turned out to be one of the best decisions she ever made. Between selling spice and juggling her personal life, she also discovers another unexpected talent – for solving murder.
A Dickens of a Christmas turns deadly . . . In Peppermint Barked, the 6th Spice Shop mystery, Pepper investigates when a young woman working the Christmas rush in her friend Vinny’s wine shop is brutally attacked, on the busiest shopping day of the year.
So here’s the promised quote: “It’s easy to celebrate the publications, the performances, the exhibitions, compositions, recognitions and awards. All of the achievements that form into important lines on a professional resume… “But what is also to be acknowledged are all the attempts that never find their way to this self-proclaimed piece of paper we’ve come to value as our calling card of worth to the world: countless hours spent in pursuit of your vision, researching, writing, creating a practice that creates myelin and muscle memory; time spent pushing away doubt and feelings of ineptitude; all the added up minutes spent pondering that gap between where you are and where you wish to be, who you are and who you know you can be… wanting to know in some unassailable way that your art makes a difference, that you matter. “There are many tender moments in life that get tucked away into corners, shoved into closets and into boxes because they feel like failures. Yet I would suggest there is no such thing as a failure because these difficult moments have a rugged beauty and place in our lives. They provide contrast that leads us to a deeper understanding of ourselves, of our art, of the world we live in. They shape us as surely as each achievement.”
~ fia j. skye, Flying Edna newsletter, 3/31/22
Celebrate it all!
(P.S. Writing Wednesday is taking the summer off, because of my deadlines. It will return this fall.)
Thank you, thank you, friends. We did it. YOU did it!
I’m thrilled to say that Crooked Lane Books will publish Alicia’s next suspense novel, tentatively titled BLIND FAITH, on October 11, 2022. Two women whose paths crossed in Montana when they were teenagers discover they share keys to a deadly secret that exposes a killer—and changes everything they thought they knew about themselves and their families.
And I credit YOU for giving BITTERROOT LAKE the push we needed to persuade them!
Who’s Alicia Beckman? You may remember that with BITTERROOT LAKE, the publisher wisely asked me to write my suspense novels under a pen name to avoid confusion with my cozies. (Don’t worry—Leslie will keep writing cozies!) Alicia novels are moody and I hope, suspenseful; still no gore, not much blood, but some darker moments. The name honors my mother, Alice, and my maternal grandparents.
I’ll be diving deep into revisions with my fabulous editor shortly.
Meanwhile, more good news! AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES, the 5th Food Lovers’ Village mystery, was re-released in paperback and e-book on November 9, by Beyond the Page Publishing. I’m so pleased to have all the Village books available again, after the sad closure of publisher Midnight Ink. And just in time for holiday reading — and gift-giving! (If you love Christmas mysteries, be sure to read “The Christmas Stranger” in CARRIED TO THE GRAVE AND OTHER STORIES, the 6th Village book.)
Speaking of short stories, Erin, Adam, and the villagers will return in “The Picture of Guilt,” in MURDER IN THE MOUNTAINS: A Destination Murder Collection, featuring short stories by nine terrific authors, out in paperback and ebook on February 1, 2022. Isn’t the cover a delight? And you can pre-order the ebook now for only 99 cents! (WoW!)
Last, but so not least, we have a publication date for PEPPERMINT BARKED, the 6th Spice Shop mystery, coming from Seventh St. Books on July 19, 2022. (Available for pre-order now.) Seattle Spice Shop owner Pepper Reece investigates when a young woman working the Christmas rush in her friend Vinny’s wine shop is brutally attacked, on the busiest shopping day of the year.
Meanwhile, I’m working on the first draft of another Alicia novel, using tips I picked up in a class to help me clarify the emotional heart of the story and identify what actions the characters take as a result. That’s always been key to me as a writer and reader, and I’m loving having new tools to help me heighten that story element.
(Reader Carol, who lives in Seattle, also bought SIX copies of ASSAULT & PEPPER as holiday gifts. I heart Reader Carol. And I sent her bookmarks. Drop me a line if you’d like a few to tuck in your holiday packages.)
I also heart libraries! The Mercer Co. (NJ) library system creates videos of authors sharing a bit of book-related trivia. I’m part of this compilation of mystery, suspense, and other fiction authors. Check the library’s channel for more trivia videos, including mystery and children’s books.
Reader Barb asked if I’d ever published the recipe for the Spice Shop’s signature spice tea. Surprise—I never had! CHAI ANOTHER DAY includes Pepper’s chai recipe, and PEPPERMINT BARKED will include both the pie spice recipe Pepper often puts in coffee and her peppermint mocha recipe, but the tea? I knew what was in it, so I headed down to the kitchen and brewed up a cup. For one cup, use a teaspoon or more of black Assam tea leaves, a slightly crushed cardamom pod, two allspice berries, and about 1/8 teaspoon dried grated orange peel (or fresh if you’ve got a willing orange). Use an infuser or a strainer. Steep 3-5 minutes, then pretend you’re sipping tea in the Spice Shop with Pepper, Sandra, and Arf!
Wherever you are, I hope you are safe and well, with a good cuppa and a good book close at hand.
My deepest thanks for keeping me company on this journey.
Cheers for the paperback of THE SOLACE OF BAY LEAVES!
I promise, it’s true. There’s a BIG box of them in my upstairs hallway!
In this strange year, ebook and audio lovers got their copies early, last July. Though I hated that some of you had to wait for the paperback, I am enormously grateful that my publisher was able to get those versions out as scheduled, and that it made the right call to wait so the paperback could get to you safely and smoothly.
Pepper is celebrating her second anniversary at the Spice Shop, but her friend Laurel is honoring a more somber anniversary, the still-unsolved murder of her husband, three years ago. When evidence links the murder to a friend’s shooting, Pepper’s own regrets surface. Can she uncover the truth and protect those she loves, before the deadly danger boils over?
I love this book. I know, I say that every time—and it’s always true—but SOLACE is special. It’s all about women’s friendships—how they lift us up and evolve over time, how they bounce back from jealousies and misunderstandings. It’s about new love after forty, about home and the importance of our neighborhoods and communities. About identity. About solace and comfort, and soup.
All the things we’ve learned to value even more these last few months.
There’s a saying that each book teaches you how to write it, and that’s never been more true for me than with this one. (Well, okay, maybe with BITTERROOT LAKE, out next April, too.) I was so sure I knew what this one was about. Boy, was I wrong. I thought Maddie was a minor character—when you meet her, you’ll see how impossible that was! I can still see myself walking into a gathering of my lovely women’s group in July 2019, mid book, completely freaked out. They talked me down, and the very next day, I discovered what the book was really about.
That’s why SOLACE is dedicated to those eight brave, creative, inspiring women.
No book travel this fall—we’ll make up for lost time next year. But I will be celebrating safely at the Bigfork Art & Cultural Center this Saturday at 3:00 pm for a socially-distanced book talk and signing. If you’re in the area, do join us.
I’ll also be visiting several blogs to talk about how audio books influenced my writing, the urban cozy, writing a series, ghost signs, and more. (I’ll share links on my Facebook Author page.) Swing by for a virtual chat.
And when you finish reading, I hope you’ll want to tell your friends about the book. My website includes discussion questions for all my novels.
I’ll confess, I stay away from Pinterest as much as possible because it’s so darned addictive. If you love the visual as much as I do, take a look at my Spice Shop board–-I’ve updated it with some of the images that inspired SOLACE.
My thanks, as always, for joining me on this writing journey. I literally could not do it without you!
From my heart, Leslie
In Western Montana, my books are available in Whitefish at Bookworks, in Kalispell at The Bookshelf and Montana Art & Gift (at the airport), in Bigfork at Roma’s Kitchen Shop and Bigfork Art & Cultural Center (Bigfork ), and in Missoula at Fact & Fiction, Shakespeare & Co., and Barnes & Noble. And of course, they’re available online and at independent bookstores across the US and Canada.
Praise for SOLACE and the Spice Shop Mysteries:
A “complex, well-developed mystery. … VERDICT The character-driven mystery by the award-winning author of Death al Dente is darker than many cozies. Readers attracted to unusual settings and mature, introspective amateur sleuths will appreciate this intricately plotted story depicting the impact of murder on the family and community.” — Library Journal, in a starred review
Publishers’ Weekly called SOLACE “savory.” Isn’t that delish? “Budewitz’s affection for Seattle is apparent on every page. Foodie mystery aficionados will love the mouthwatering recipes at the end.”
“Budewitz continues to whet the appetites of her readers while also highlighting the many unique characteristics of Seattle. … Full of humor and delicious descriptions of local cuisine, ASSAULT AND PEPPER isn’t afraid to tackle timely social topics and the complexities of family, responsibilities, and learning to let go.” —Kings River Life
“[C]lassic “Golden Age” … set in contemporary Seattle.” — PJ Coldren
Any cook can tell you how easy it is to overstock the spice cabinet! You try a new-to-you recipe and buy an ounce of this and a pinch of that, but what do you do with the rest of the jar? Well, search a good cookbook or online recipe source for more options.
But if you’re stocking a new kitchen, or you want to pare down to basics, here’s Pepper’s list of essential dried spices. (Okay, it’s mine, but we’ll pretend she isn’t fictional for a few minutes.)
Of course, your preference and how you like to eat play a big part. If you enjoy Mexican dishes, add more peppers and some dried cilantro. If you eat a lot of Italian, add rosemary. If you love making soups and stews, you need bay leaves.
And of course, blends are a great way to add a lot of flavor in a hurry.
In alphabetical order: Basil Chili Powder Cinnamon (ground, but sticks are great, too) Cumin Ginger Nutmeg Oregano Paprika (sweet or spicy; smoked is a fave in our house) Red Pepper Flakes Thyme
Plus a good sea salt* and black peppercorns and a grinder.
What’s the difference between sea salt and table salt? Sea salt is formed by evaporation of ocean or lake water, with minimal processing, while table salt comes from underground salt deposits. (“I’m going to the salt mine,” my father used to say before descending to his basement office.) Each has a different crystal structure. In addition, most commercial table salts also include iodine, which before the early 20th century, was often difficult to get in a diet, particularly for Midwesterners. That’s no longer the case, with changes in how we eat and where our food comes from. Table salt can oxidize to form iodine, and give food an acrid flavor.
If you bake, you’ll want kosher salt, so named because it’s used to draw out water in the koshering process. It’s got a coarser structure than sea or table salt, and is particularly good for baking. I have read that professional bakers prefer Diamond Crystal over Morton’s, that lab tests have shown it to be more consistent in structure and therefore salinity, and that most recipes are written expecting the cook to use Diamond Crystal. So that’s what Pepper and I do!
Why didn’t I mention garlic? Because you should use fresh when you can, though the chopped garlic in a jar is a lifesaver, as is jarred ground ginger. But dried minced garlic and garlic powder have a place, too, unless you’ve got a super-small kitchen!
Pepper Reece loves a good mystery — on the page, or in real life! She also enjoys selling culinary cozies along with the cookbooks and chef lit on the shelves in the Spice Shop, the shop she owns in Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market. So when Assault and Pepper came out and a reader asked for Pepper’s reading list, I was happy to oblige. Here’s Part One and Part Two.
In The Solace of Bay Leaves (out in ebook and audio on July 21, 2020 and in paper on October 20), Pepper once again mentions her love of the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters, triggered by the discovery of a book of the books and videos among the things her parents stored with her before decamping to Costa Rica. Sadly, the Seattle Mystery Bookshop is closed in real life, but I’ve kept it alive on the page, and Pepper credits a former law firm staffer now working there for feeding her love of medieval mysteries with the Sister Fidelma mysteries by Peter Tremayne and the Dame Frevisse mysteries by Margaret Frazer. She’s also enjoying the Crispin Guest Medieval Mysteries by Jeri Westerson, which she discovered herself, and is just finishing the first, Veil of Lies.
Another series she’s recently discovered, through her friend, Seetha, are the Perveen Mistry series by Sujata Massey, set in 1920s India and featuring the first woman solicitor in Bombay. The series starts with The Widows of Malabar Hill and continues with The Satapur Moonstone. When Pepper visits Maddie in the hospital, she takes her two UK historicals, In Farleigh Field by Rhys Bowen and the latest in the Dandy Gilver series by Catriona McPherson.
From the cover: Pepper Reece never expected to find solace in bay leaves.
But when her life fell apart at forty and she bought the venerable-but-rundown Spice Shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, her days took a tasty turn. Now she’s savoring the prospect of a flavorful fall and a busy holiday cooking season, until danger bubbles to the surface …
Between managing her shop, worrying about her staff, and navigating a delicious new relationship, Pepper’s firing on all burners. But when her childhood friend Maddie is shot and gravely wounded, the incident is quickly tied to an unsolved murder that left another close friend a widow.
Convinced that the secret to both crimes lies in the history of a once-beloved building, Pepper uses her local-girl contacts and her talent for asking questions to unearth startling links between the past and present—links that suggest her childhood friend may not have been the Golden Girl she appeared to be. Pepper is forced to face her own regrets and unsavory emotions, if she wants to save Maddie’s life—and her own.
Ebook and Audio: June 21, 2020 Trade paper: October 20, 2020
Published by Seventh Street Books and Tantor Audio
And gosh, we could all use a little solace right now, couldn’t we?
The ebook and audio will be out July 21, the paperback on October 20, but you can pre-order them now in all the usual places. Pop over to my website for an excerpt and buy links. And if you’re a library user, please ask your library to order the book — most libraries have request forms on their websites, and they want to know what patrons want to read.
The fifth Spice Shop mystery bears a more poetic title than its older siblings. Pepper likes to say that when her life fell apart, she never expected to find solace in bay leaves. Meaning that she never expected to buy a spice shop—or that it would be one of the best decisions she ever made.
THE SOLACE OF BAY LEAVES explores women’s friendships, a major theme of the series. Just as Pepper and Kristen’s friendship was tested in KILLING THYME, here we see how misunderstandings and jealousies affect other long-standing friendships, and how Pepper’s passion for justice makes her the very best kind of friend. Once again, we explore the Market, Seattle’s heart, soul, and stomach. Pepper also takes us up to Capitol Hill and the Montlake neighborhood, places where I lived, walked, and ate as a young woman. And we see her and her fisherman draw closer, as they learn to navigate the here again–gone again schedule his work dictates.
I think it’s a special book, and hope you’ll agree.
Why the paperback delay? Blame the virus. It’s jumbled so many plans, and book launches are no exception. In March, my publisher, Seventh St. Books, realized that disruptions in the supply chain meant it couldn’t guarantee that the paperback would be in warehouses, libraries, and bookstores by July 21, so the paperback launch was moved to October 20. But they didn’t want to make you wait for a little SOLACE, so they stuck to the original date for the ebook and audio. It’s not safe to get together in person now; let’s hope by then, we can meet for a book talk and a cup of chai.
Don’t worry, I’ll remind you when the paperback comes out! Remember, though, that you can pre-order it from your local booksellers or online now. As a friend says, pre-orders are great because you don’t have to give it another thought—the book just shows up, like a present you’ve given yourself!
I’ve been surprised how many readers have told me they’ll grab the e-book now and the paperback in the fall. See how wonderful and generous you are? Cozy mystery fans truly are the best. And in this oh-so-difficult time, I am grateful for every one of you.
Whenever you read the book, in whatever format, please do post a review online, at Amazon, B&N.com, Bookbub, Goodreads, bookblogs, Facebook, Twitter, Insta—so many options. Word of mouth, even if it’s digital, is simply the best.
To authors, an audio book deal feels like a sign you’ve arrived. I’m lucky that all my mysteries are in audio, and luckier still that the Spice Shop mysteries are narrated by the fabulous Dara Rosenberg. I finally got a smart phone and recorded myself pronouncing a few Northwest tribal names and other local tongue-twisters for her. She’s so smart and prepared – I hope you love listening to her as much as I love working with her.
In keeping with the bay leaves, my characters eat a lot of soup and the recipes are in the book. It’s not exactly soup weather, though, so in July and August, I’ll share some warm-weather uses of bay on Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen (I post on the 1st, 3d, and 5th Tuesdays) and get to the soup in October.
It’s beyond strange to launch a book without meeting readers face to face, and I don’t like it one bit. YOU make a book real. But we will meet again.