I’m excited to give readers of my newsletter an exclusive sneak preview of two titles due out this fall.
Kelly O’Connell Number Eight
The first is the eighth novel in the Kelly O’Connell Mysteries, Contract for Chaos.
When four young men sign the rental contract on a Fairmount house, realtor Kelly O’Connell has no idea she has just signed a contract for chaos. But the racial tensions sweeping the country erupt in Fort Worth, and her new tenants fan the flames. A young black policeman shoots an unarmed white teenage thief who charged him, the chief of police is shot by a sniper, her best friend and right-hand assistant Keisha stops a stray bullet, and Kelly’s husband, Mike, is appointed interim chief of police. Life changes dramatically for Kelly and her family. Protests, threats, beatings, and graffiti mark daily life in Kelly’s beloved city. She must protect her infant, reassure her older daughters, and support Mike as he deals with the racism and dissension creeping through the police force and the city. How can she keep her family safe and stop the hate?
The second project that has kept me busy is my second-ever cookbook, Gourmet on a Hot Plate. Since I have been in the cottage almost two years, I’ve kept a record of my cooking adventures in a tiny, really tiny kitchen without a stove, microwave, oven, or dishwasher. I’ve had some successes and some misadventures, and the resulting book compiles recipes I’ve liked, cooking hints, suggestions for other tiny-kitchen cooks.
Here’s a recipe from Gourmet on a Hot Plate
- 6 oz. cooked, chopped chicken 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
- ½ cup chopped mushrooms
- 2 Tbsp. sliced green onions
- 1 pkg. 8 crescent rolls
- 1 Tbsp. melted butter
- Crushed croutons
Mix together chicken, cream cheese, mushrooms, and onions. Roll out crescent rolls to create four rectangles and pinch diagonal perforations on each rectangle together. Put equal portions of chicken mixture in the center of each of the four rectangles. Pull the dough up and over and pinch closed. Drizzle with melted butter and sprinkle with crushed croutons. Bake 12-15 minutes in a preheated 375° oven. If they start to get too brown, cover loosely with foil the last five minutes.
Writing about food
In another life, I believe I’ll come back as a chef, but in this one, I simply write about food—and do my best to cook it. I used to write a food blog, “Potluck with Judy,” and I’ve written about food in my own blog and as a guest blogger. But I also have three books dealing with food:
- Great Texas Chefs – a Texas Small Book with profiles of several chefs from around the state and a recipe from each. Visiting those restaurants was a lot of fun.
- Cooking My Way through Life with Kids and Books. A memoir with recipes, this chronicles my life from a Chicago childhood to my years as a Texas grandmother and presents some of the dishes my kids and I have shared plus what I cook as a hostess. It’s not quite a tell-all but close.
- Texas is Chili Country – Everything about chili from its history (no, it’s not from Mexico) to an explanation of the complicated chili cookoff system and the chili wars, plus a sampling of the thousands of dishes people call chili, from purist to vegetarian. Everyone has their own recipe, and most of them are terrific.
And in other news…
Word came in June of a nice affirmation of my work: I will be one of several authors featured in an exhibit, “Literary Frontiers: Historical Fiction and the Creative Imagination,” at the Wittliff Gallery, Southwest Writers Collection, Texas State University-San Marcos. The 1988 novel and Spur Award winner, Mattie, my all-time best-seller, will be featured but I gather there will be mention of my other historical works. The exhibition will run from August 1 to December 14.
Other authors featured include Larry McMurtry, Steve Harrigan, Jan Reid, Elizabeth Crook, Bud Shrake, Ann Weisgarber. I am truly honored to be in the company of such accomplished writers.
And, yes, of course, I’m planning a fall trip to San Marcos.
Sometimes writers seem to toil in lonely solitude, wondering if any but a few loyal fans read their words. This is nice confirmation that some people in the know think my work has made a contribution to Texas literature or that of the American West.
A big summer
Happy summer everyone. In Texas, it got hot in May and never looked back. We are still “enjoying” temperatures in the upper nineties and sun-baked dry days. Kids are out of school and into summer activities.
My grandson Jacob hamming it up at his 12th birthday with family & friends
Two events loom big on my summer calendar. In July family and friends will gather to celebrate my—gulp!—80th birthday! I’m a little self-conscious but also a lot grateful for the hoopla Jordan has planned. And it will be nice to bring all my family to town together. Jordan is, as some may know, the youngest of my four children and the one I live closest to—like a few yards away. She, her husband Christian, and my grandson Jacob are living in the house I occupied for nearly twenty-five years, while I am in the cozy cottage behind. Nope, it’s not quite a granny pod.
Then in August Jordan and I are going on an adventure—a Great Lakes cruise. We’ll fly to Toronto and spend a day there, so we can visit the graves of my father and my sister who died as an infant and try to find my grandmother’s house, which I remember so fondly from my childhood. Then it’s off on a cruise that will take us through the Georgian Bay to Sault Ste. Marie, across a bit of Lake Superior and through the Mackinac Straits (with a day on Mackinac Island). We’ll stop at Muskegon/Holland, Michigan (where we’ll meet up with friends from my childhood), and then cross Lake Michigan to Chicago. My other three children will meet us in Chicago for Labor Day weekend.
As a young friend said to me the other day, “I’m pumped” about summer.
Where’s Your Bookmark?
What’s on your calendar? Whatever it is, you’ll need some good beach reads. Here are a few titles I suggest:
- The General’s Women, by Susan Wittig Albert – a novel exploring the lives of two women central to Dwight D. Eisenhower’s life—his wife, Mamie, and his wartime driver and lover, Kay Summersby. Set against the backdrop of the end of WWII and Eisenhower’s emerging peacetime ambitions.
- Alice and the Assassin, by R. J. Koreto – a light-hearted romp that involves the ever-irrepressible Alice Roosevelt (later Longworth) and a fictional Secret Service agent in the aftermath of the assassination of President McKinley.
- A Reckoning in the Back Country, by Terry Shames – Acting Police Chief Samuel Craddock investigates the death of a visiting physician, attacked by several vicious dogs. This series is a solid contribution to the mystery genre and a great demonstration of what happens when you write outside the conventions of the genre. No young heroine here!
- The Traveling Feast, by Rick Bass- Award-winning essayist and memoirist Rick Bass thanks his heroes and mentors by traveling the world to cook them one lovely meal at a time. Part memoir, part travel adventure, part paean to food, from a writer described as a literary titan whose career is an unfolding gift to readers.
- Sue Ellen Learns to Dance and Other Stories, by Judy Alter—a little blatant self-promotion, but this collection of short stories lies close to my heart and is too often overlooked. Fourteen stories feature women, some from history, some contemporary, of the American West. Amazon reminded me about it recently, and I decided it’s time to garner it some attention.
Happy lazy days of summer to one and all.
I did it! Rock on.
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