Spring 2019


Find out what I’ve been writing and doing, cook some carnitas for supper, and read a short story!

It’s been a busy spring. Most recently I was involved in a blog tour for my new cookbook, Gourmet on a Hot Plate (Amazon). Posts included reviews, a q&a, an excerpt from the introduction explaining why I cook on a hot plate, a gallery of pictures, and, of course, a recipe. Reviewers seemed particularly to like the storytelling narrative of my cookbook—I simply can’t resist throwing in my family history of a recipe or the advice from my mom to always add a pinch of sugar to a tomato-based sauce to “round it off.” Still not sure what that means, but I always faithfully add that tiny bit of sugar.

Here’s what some of the reviewers are saying:

  • “I have a feeling that Alter has been working on this cookbook long before hotplate cooking became all the rage. Why? Because her recipes are down-home cooking dishes, not the latest street food infused with some random essence you’ve never eaten before prepared with a gastronomical twist.” –Missus Gonzo
  • “How many people can honestly say that they have read a cookbook cover to cover? I couldn’t. Not until about a month ago when I sat down and devoured (pun definitely intended) Judy Alter’s, “Gourmet on a Hot Plate”. . . . I laughed so much when reading through Alter’s recipes. She has such a glowing personality that there were times I forgot that I was reading a cookbook.” —Five stars from The Love of a Bibliophile.
  • Note: I must say, I’m not a fan of anchovies, but Judy just may have convinced me to give them another go. —Ruthie Jones—Reading by Moonlight

You can keep up with my recipes and cooking hints on my weekly blog post, “Gourmet on a Hot Plate.” Look for it on Thursdays.

Welcome to some new readers

As a result of the blog tour, several new readers have subscribed to my newsletter. So let me tell you a bit about me. I have been writing ever since the stories I wrote as a ten-year-old girl. When I went to college, I majored in English because I liked to read, and I was going to get married and some man would take care of me. It didn’t quite work out that way, and I kept going to graduate school because I didn’t know what else to do.

In grad school I developed a great interest in the history and literature of the American West, and my first few novels were fictionalized lives of real—and strong—women of the nineteenth-century west. A lifelong reader of mysteries, I then tried my hand in a totally different genre—the mystery. In a short span of years I wrote twelve cozy mysteries. I have also written fiction and nonfiction for young adults, library books for middle school readers, short stories, and cookbooks—this is my fourth cookbook.

A book about the Alamo brought me back to writing about the West, and I couldn’t be happier. But while I was writing those books, I was also for almost twenty years the director of Texas Christian University Press—a job I loved because it involved me in the world of books, and I met lots of authors and other publishers, many of whom remain my friends to this day.

And while I was writing and publishing, I was raising four incredible children as a single parent. Those four have made me the grandmother of seven. We recently had a family reunion—twenty-four of us! What a blessing.

Can you guess which one is me?!

The Alamo

I spent over a month this spring working on edits for The Second Battle of the Alamo. It’s been a delight to work with Erin Turner, my meticulous and detail-oriented editor at Rowman & Littlefield. Not only did she guide me toward sharpening the manuscript, but she made sense out of the somewhat random selection of images and matched them to appropriate chapters. Watch for the book February 2020.

I enjoyed working on this project so much that I have worked up a proposal for another book on a western topic–Texas again. Keep your fingers crossed, please. This means that I won’t be announcing two new books a year as I did for a while. More of my time will be spent on research.

But I haven’t abandoned mysteries completely. I have a start on a culinary mystery, this one set not in Texas but in my home town of Chicago. Research on my other projects has taken me away from it, but I hope to get back to it soon.

To those of you who read and like my books, a hearty thank you. I love writing, and you’re the reason I keep writing.

And for those of you who love cooking as much as I do, here’s a recipe from Gourmet on a Hot Plate:

YUM! Soooo gooooood!


  • 2-1/2 lb. Boston butt roast, untrimmed and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tbsp. salt

Ask the butcher to cube the roast for you, if you have access to a butcher. Their idea of cubes is usually pretty big chunks, but it’s a start. You just have to cube the cubes until you get something the size you want—about an inch.

Add the following to the water:

  • One good-sized onion, roughly chopped
  • 6 strips orange zest (serve orange wedges as a side to the dinner)
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1-1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 2 whole cloves

Bring the water and salt to a boil. Add the cubed meat and other ingredients. Reduce to a simmer. Cook for at least an hour and a quarter, until all the water evaporates. The meat will look unappetizingly white, but cook it longer, stirring occasionally, and the cubes will develop a nice brown crust.

Serve with tortillas and this sauce.

Garlic sauce:

  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, pressed.
  • Salt and pepper—go easy on the salt, as the meat cooked in salted water, but I suggest at least a half a tsp. of pepper.

Suggested accompaniments: lime wedges, sour cream, chopped cilantro, chopped red onion, grated cheddar or Monterrey Jack. Brava! You have tacos de carnitas.

Summer Reading

Here are a few books I’ve read and enjoyed recently and am pleased to recommend:.

  • If you’re a fan of Susan Wittig Albert and her China Bayles series (now at 26 and counting), you’ll like her new novellas featuring China’s pal Ruby Wilcox and exploring the paranormal. As Susan puts it, the improbable is always possible. Start with NoBODY. You’ll want to follow with SomeBODY Else, and then, Out of BODY, when it’s available.
  • Saving Ferris by A. R. Kennedy—a touching story about a new widow and her husband’s dog turns into a nail-biter of a mystery. A great read that you might miss if you stick to standard reviews. Four and a half stars on Amazon.
  • An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helen Tursten, featuring Maud, a feisty 88-year-old lady, easily irritated, who has no qualms about murder. If stories can simultaneously be dark and hilarious, these fit the bill.

And for your reading pleasure, here’s a free short story from me: “The Art of Dipping Candles” (.pdf). It displays my love of western history and is based on a real incident that I read of in the files of Fort Worth’s Log Cabin Village.

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Have a wonderful, relaxing Summer!

Sophie masterfully demonstrates the art of relaxation


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