Thursday, March 31, 2022

What We’re Reading Now by WWK Bloggers

 Susan Van Kirk

The Finalist by Joan Long

Risa Marr considers herself lucky when she is chosen as one of five finalists to finish the ending of a mystery by a deceased famous author. The author's widow has invited the five finalists to Key Island, a tropical paradise, where they'll have a few days to read the unfinished manuscript and complete it. Whoever writes the best ending will be allowed to continue the series and change their life with great fortune. Risa has a past with one of the other writers, but the additional three are strangers. It isn't long before readers discover that these writers are hiding all kind of secrets. When they begin dropping ala Agatha Christie, Risa wonders if she'll escape alive. Long's debut novel is not short on plot, and you'll find yourself turning pages, wondering who's going to survive. Her characters could be more developed with key details and admissions that would surprise us and red herrings that would throw us off. But it's a fine debut novel for this mystery writer. I'll be waiting for the follow-up.


Warren Bull

The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country by Amanda Gorman

I’m currently reading and thinking about The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country, which Poet Lauriat Amanda Gorman wrote and read at Joe Biden’s inauguration when she was twenty-four years old.


Amanda Gorman was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She graduated from Harvard University in 2020.

She is the author of the The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country (Viking Books for Young Readers, March 2021), the poetry collection The Hill We Climb (Viking, September 2021) and The One for Whom Food Is Not Enough (Penmanship Books, 2015). In 2017, Gorman was named the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate of the United States. She previously served as the youth poet laureate of Los Angeles, and she is the founder and executive director of One Pen One Page, an organization providing free creative writing programs for underserved youth.

Gorman was selected by President Biden to read her original poem “The Hill We Climb” for his Inauguration on January 20, 2021, making her the youngest poet to have served in this role. She also is the first poet commissioned to write a poem to be read at the Super Bowl. Her poem honors three individuals for their essential work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her vivid imagery and personality shine through in her work. She is at once, clear about the lack of progress in achieving equality for all, and hopeful for the future. Her words acknowledge the forces arrayed against moving forward and the determination to make a better country. She calls for action with love and respect for all people. Her writing is luminous.

Marilyn Levinson

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

I've just finished listening to A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende. This beautifully written novel takes us through the life of Catalonian Victor Dalmau—his horrifying time as a medic in the Spanish Civil War; his immigration to Chile where he becomes a doctor; and his loves and his friendships with real people like Pablo Neruda and Salvador Allende, the author's cousin. A marvelous tale of a Spaniard who, despite hardships, finds a new home in Chile.


James M. Jackson

Morning Star by Pierce Brown

I recently started Morning Star by Pierce Brown. It’s the third in the Red Rising series. The series is set in a future in which humans have expanded across the universe and developed a caste system based on genetically modified color. The story follows Darrow, a Red, (Reds are lowly miners) who joins a rebellion against the structure.


The thing I most want to share about the series is not its storyline, but how we (Jan and I) discovered it. We belong to Wisconsin’s Digital Library (through a local library). During Covid times, we avoid physical visits and shop digitally for reads. The digital library has a “Lucky Day” feature: popular books you can immediately check out. It’s like scanning library shelves waiting for the serendipity of a book to call your name. Jan rarely reads science fiction or dystopian novels but chose Red Rising (the first in the series).


She loved it, so I read it. I rated Red Rising 5-stars and gave 4 stars to Golden Son (second in the series). You can check blurbs to learn whether the series is one you might like. Regardless, I encourage everyone to occasionally go wild and let a book pick you.


E. B. Davis

You Can’t Candle the Truth by Sarah Burr

When I saw WWK’s newest member wrote what I term the “nice paranormal” mystery genre, I decided to read her first book in the series, published in November 2021. Much to my delight it was available in Kindle Unlimited.


The series features niece, Hazel Wickbury, and her aunt, Poppy Glenmyre. The two are actually three years apart, in their early thirties, and the best of friends. They live in the historic town of Crucible in upstate New York. Hazel, the main character, makes candles for her shop, A Wick in Time, although she is rather cavalier in keeping shop hours. The two women are independently comfortable due to their ancestors being town founders and possessing paranormal skills, which they have passed down. I won’t spoil the fun and say what they are, but their skills induce sleuthing in the case of the town’s first murder victim.


A small town by a lake, shopkeepers galore, and town snob meanies, with two good women possessing paranormal “whims,” as Sarah deems their gifts, comprise a fun read and an interesting mystery to solve.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

A Review of Dee MacDonald's Kate Palmer Series by E. B. Davis

Dee MacDonald writes two genres, both of which I love. The first genre, if it truly is a genre, are feel-good books about second chances for the senior set, usually long tread-upon women who finally find happiness in their golden years. They are fun adventure books via physical travel and inward journey.


The second genre—the cozy mystery. By birth, Dee is from Scotland, but she now lives in Cornwall, England where she sets the Kate Palmer series. The first four books are: A Body in the Village Hall, A Body in Seaview Grange, A Body at the Tea Rooms, and A Body at the Altar. Next month, the fifth book, A Body on the Beach, will be released. It’s no wonder Dee told me she was too busy for an interview, which is why I decided to review the series, instead.


Kate Palmer, divorced, and her sister, Angie, widowed, retire to Cornwall where they share happy memories of childhood vacations and where together they buy a house, Lavender Cottage. The cottage has ocean views and a lavender border, but it is in more disrepair than they thought. Kate’s retirement as a practice nurse (which I think is like a nurse practitioner here) is short-lived due to the repair costs. While Kate is efficient and reality based, Angie has retired from acting after a lackluster career. She has more money and time than Kate, but Angie has a drinking problem. Unlike Kate’s sleuthing, which Angie ridicules, Angie’s hobbies are unsuccessful. In an effort to build healthy habits and a regular routine for Angie, Kate rescues a springer spaniel only to take care of Barney herself.


Her work at the clinic and, at times, in people’s homes, provides the backdrop for her discovering bodies and trying to solve cases. She is practiced at sleuthing by way of determining what ails her patients. She listens to them, asking them questions, and finds out much more than their ailments when they all have theories of whodunit. For a tucked away village, sexual infidelity and drugs run rampant.

While walking Barney, Kate meets Detective Inspector “Woody” Forester, an American who has lived in England most of his life and is nearing retirement. Together Kate and he solve mysteries and become significant others. Try these mysteries—a lovely series.


(Did I mention all of them are on Kindle Unlimited? I try and fail miserably to use coupons at the grocery store, but, I take advantage of Kindle Unlimited shamelessly. For $10.66 per month (including taxes), I read more books than I could possibly buy for that amount of money. Did I happen to mention that many of Jeanne M. Dams’ Dorothy Martin series are also now on Kindle Unlimited?)

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

What We’re Reading Now by WWK Bloggers

Martha Reed

The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne

I missed reading The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne when it was released in 2017. Word of mouth and a movie deal starring Daisy Ridley kept this psychological thriller on my TBR radar. During a trip to Tombolo Books in St. Petersburg, FL, the paperback caught my eye, so I quickly added it to my checkout double armful. I’m glad I did because I can’t put this book down. Written in first person, it tells the tale of Helena Pelletier, a woman living in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula who is hiding a dreadful secret. Karen Dionne skillfully immerses the reader into the story and Helena’s narrative voice rings clear and true. I’m halfway through reading this now and I’m holding my breath hoping it holds up because the storytelling is simply that good.


Annette Dashofy

Run, Rose, Run by Dolly Parton and James Patterson

I’m currently reading—technically, I’m listening to on audio—Run, Rose, Run by Dolly Parton and James Patterson. Dolly also narrates part of it, which is sheer joy. The story follows young, ambitious, and broke (in more ways than one) AnnieLee Keys, who is determined to take her guitar and her voice to Nashville and make it big, no matter what. When retired country legend Ruthanna Ryder tells her to go home, get out of Nashville before it destroys her, immediately after telling the young woman what an incredible talent she is, does AnnieLee listen? Of course not. I can’t wait to see where this “A Star Is Born meets The Country Music Awards” tale takes me.


Grace Topping

Hollywood Homicide and Hollywood Ending by Kellye Garrett

Given the depressing news, I needed something to lift my spirits. I'd heard good things about Kellye Garrett's award-winning Detective by Day series and was curious as to what all the hype had been about. Kellye's first book, Hollywood Homicide, had garnered an Agatha, Lefty, Anthony, and IPPY, and been nominated for a Macavity and Barry. Definitely impressive, but would it lift me out of the morose I'd found myself in? I downloaded the audiobook version of Hollywood Homicide, and found it so entertaining that I immediately downloaded the second book in the series, Hollywood Ending. I loved them, a term I don't use all that often to describe a book. 


Agents and editors often talk about an author's voice. Kellye's voice is not only distinctive, it is also hilarious. She weaves an intriguing plot, populates her story with winning characters, and left me laughing with her witty dialogue and imaginative analogies and similes. With the audiobook, you get Kellye's terrific story and brilliant narration by Bahni Turpin, a winning combination. Definitely add Hollywood Homicide and Hollywood Ending to your to be read pile or listen to list. They will definitely lift your spirits. Now I'm off to order Kellye's latest book, Like a Sister. 


Molly MacRae

Like a Sister by Kellye Garrett

I’m five chapters into Like a Sister, Kellye Garrett’s new book about a woman’s refusal to believe the official story of how her estranged half-sister died. The book is described in blurbs as “smart,” “whip-smart,” “twisty,” “twisting,” “tight,” “surprising,” “suspenseful,” “utterly convincing,” “wholly captivating,” a “domestic suspense for the Instagram gen.,” and “a marvel.” And that’s only a smattering of the praise on the back cover.

After five chapters (59 pages), do I believe the hype? Yes. The writing, the voice, the pace—they’re clear and driving. I’ve caught glimpses of the twists ahead and tightened my seatbelt. Sparks of humor lighten the mood, especially in Garrett’s similes—as an example: “I can remember the single stall bathroom. All stark and silver, like the latest model Terminator had morphed into a sink.” The chapter endings, rather than cliffhangers, are quick jabs to my sternum. My eyes go wide, my brain says “yow!” and my hand turns the page. Good book.


Margaret S. Hamilton

Shakespeare’s Landlord, by Charlaine Harris

Jane Cleland recommended Harris’s Lily Bard mystery series to me. Lily is a survivor of a brutal sexual assault who settles in the small Arkansas town of Shakespeare. She lives alone, studies martial arts, and supports herself as a domestic cleaner.

Lily’s past creates her present self. In Shakespeare’s Landlord, after witnessing a body dump, Lily investigates the landlord’s suspicious death. She soon focuses on her cleaning clients in the landlord’s small apartment building.

Harris’s book is a “skinny mystery” of two hundred pages, in which she deftly inserts memorable small-town Arkansas characters and local politics. It’s a cozy, though the main character is laden with psychological trauma. First published in 1996, the series shares many attributes with Kathy Hogan Trocheck’s Callahan Garrity house cleaner series, set in Atlanta and published during the same time period.

Monday, March 28, 2022

A Simpler Time by Nancy L. Eady

             My daughter is now 20, and while we deal with the issues parents and children handle at that age, sometimes it’s amusing to look back at the problems of yesteryear. So, just like a good book might, let me transport you back in time 11 years, to when my daughter was 9 and I had a list of rules I never expected to need.  

1.       Do not cut the screen out of its frame in the window to pick roses indoors.  (The need for this one arose when she was 6. In later years, she would cut the screen out of its frame to sneak out at night.  THAT was a whole different level of problem.) 

2.       Do not try to pierce your ears with the end of a paper clip, even if it looks like an earring hole is there.  (Age 6 and 7). 

3.       The controls on the dashboard in the car, including the radio, are MINE!  Please leave them alone.  (This battle still goes on today at age 20.) 

4.       Do not drag the dog into the bathtub with you.   (Age 6) 

5.       Do not dump the entire bottle of shampoo in the tub for bubble bath.  (Ages 6 through 8). 

6.       Do not dump the entire bottle of liquid soap from the sink in the tub for bubble bath.   (Ages 6 through 8). 

7.       Do not dump the entire bottle of conditioner in the tub for reasons I have yet to understand.   (Ages 6 through 8). 

8.       It’s not a good idea, either, to dump all of the bathroom dixie cups in the bathroom sink and then fill it up with water to watch them float.  (Age 6, but she had help from a visiting 4 year old.) 

9.       Soap is required for a bath to really be a bath.  (Age 5). 

10.     Do not put anything in your ear, including rocks, without consulting an adult first.  (Age 4.) 

11.     Do not put anything in your nose, including wooden sticks, without consulting an adult first.   (Age 4) 

12.     Which led to:  Do not put anything in any body part for any reason unless a parent says it is okay, with the exception of food or drink in your mouth. 

I hope you enjoyed this visit to yesteryear.  

Sunday, March 27, 2022

While I Wait by Annette Dashofy

I’ve been solidly in the midst of WAITING for a while now. Waiting for the revised contract from a new publisher for a new series. Waiting (like a kid at Christmas!) for the cover art for my upcoming release. Waiting for inspiration on a topic for this blog. 

To be honest, I have several topics, but none that I’m at liberty to share just yet. The details about that new series. The reveal of that cover. Another potentially REALLY EXCITING event. 

Yes, I hate vaguebooking as much as the next person. What I hate more is announcing news that isn’t yet set in stone only to later have to say “Oops. Sorry. That fell through and isn’t going to happen.” Bad enough I have to live with the disappointment. 

So with a list of blog topics circling my mind like a fleet of airplanes circling the airfield, waiting for clearance to land, I find myself sitting in my office, twiddling my thumbs. 

And working on less exciting but necessary tasks. My marketing plan for example. 

Marketing plans. The bane of the existence of most authors. I know of a few who enjoy that side of publishing. I, for one, love meeting my readers and am especially eager to get back to in-person events this year. It’s the business side that makes me pull my hair out. How much am I going to budget for advertising and giveaways? Where will I get the best bang for my meager buck? How many bookmarks should I order? How many hours should I waste invest in creating graphics for social media? Do bookstore events translate to book sales? How about libraries and book clubs? 

This is my twelfth release, so it’s not my first rodeo. I have an idea of what works. Or do I? 

I’ve queried my readers about how they found me and, in general, where they find out about new books and authors. Clearly, I did something right with them. Yay! The question now becomes, how do I place my new book so that new readers discover it? Goodness knows there are multitudes of readers out there who have never heard of me or of Zoe Chambers. Where do they hang out? 

You were expecting me to have an answer? If I did, I wouldn’t be puzzling over my marketing plan. I’d simply pull out the one from previous books. Copy and paste. Wash, rinse, repeat. But no, I’m looking to branch out. 

It’s terrifying. 

Dear readers: Where do you find out about new-to-you authors? Where do you shop for new books? 

My dear fellow authors: What marketing tricks have worked well for you?

Saturday, March 26, 2022

Bad Choices, by Kait Carson

One of the most popular questions at writer in-person events is “Where do you get your ideas?” Every writer has their personal favorite response. The safest is to claim one-hundred percent imagination. The strangest is to claim they come from the idea store. That always makes me think of the Horn & Hardart automats of my childhood. Put in a quarter, pull out an idea—as if. My reality is, well, reality.


“Write what you know” is a famous axiom. It’s attributed to Hemingway, and sometimes to Twain, but it isn’t strictly applicable unless you’re writing a memoir. My personal creative mantra is a sign I photographed at a Fort Myers restaurant. Let me point out three things: Not all of the choices I write about are mine. Not all of them were bad choices, simply the result of making the best of a bad situation, and ya gotta do something when you’re hip-deep in alligators. Might as well make it into a good story!


One of the most exciting scenes in my novel, Death by Blue Water occurs when Hayden Kent is diving the wreck of the Humbolt in one hundred twenty-five feet of water. Her first stage malfunctions, causing a rapid escape of air from her scuba tank. Her dive buddy has swum out of sight. Hayden’s training takes over, and she makes a controlled ascent while breathing from the tank. Hayden didn’t make a bad choice, but I did. I separated from my dive buddy leaving him fifty feet above on the deck of the wreck while I made the deeper dive to the sand. Writing this scene gave me the opportunity to re-write one of my bad choices.


“What if” are two of the most powerful words in a writer’s vocabulary. We take experiences, our own or others, and ask, “What if?” The answer to the question fills novels and stories with scenes, details, and sometimes humor. 


Writers, do you use your choices to inform your scenes? Readers, do you wonder how much of the author’s life is in the story?


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Friday, March 25, 2022

Loa Enviados (The Envoys): A Review by Warren Bull


Image by Grant Whitty on Upsplash

Los Enviados (The Envoys): A Review by Warren Bull

Paramount + showed an eight-episode series from Mexico and Argentina with mystery, suspense, a touch of horror, and blood. Two priests are sent by the Vatican to a Mexico City suburb with the task of finding out if a series of seemingly miraculous healings performed by a local priest are actual miracles or not. The priest disappears shortly after the investigators show up. 

Luis Gerardo Mendez plays Pedro Salinas, a physician and priest who hopes the miracles are real and is habitually rule-abiding. Miguel Angel Silvestre portrays Simon Antequera, an experienced investigator and attorney who is used to uncovering the mundane and occasionally dishonest bases of supposed miracles. He is more willing to break the rules in his quest for the truth than his more naïve partner. Irene Azuela and Miguel Rodarte lend their talents in supporting roles. The cast is excellent. Creator/Director Juan Jose Campanella created a spell-binding show.

The original is in Spanish with more than a little Italian. I saw an English-language version that was very well translated. It was not dubbed in English. The actors spoke in English. I noted a few phrases and verb choices that showed the original Spanish roots, but they would not have been noticeable to someone who does not speak Spanish. 

When signs in Spanish were shown, a voice provided the English translation. I thought it was amusing that a sign on a building spelled H-O-T-E-L was translated. This is an intelligent production, so the watcher needs to pay attention to time shifts and location changes to fully comprehend the plot. I’m certain I missed some of the cultural nuances, and I enjoyed what I did catch such as the tension between Spaniards and Mexicans. Interactions between the characters develop them in depth. The exploration of faith and reality were compelling.


I recommend this series highly and I’m pleased that a second season is planned. 


Thursday, March 24, 2022

The Worst Writing Advice I've Ever Gotten by Connie Berry

 Aspiring authors usually seek advice from those who have achieved success. Ten years ago, my big question was, “What do I need to fix? JUST TELL ME, AND I’LL DO IT!” Sorry—I was shouting there. The point is, I was open to advice. Too open. Since then, I’ve become a bit more discerning. All advice isn’t good advice. Here are five examples of terrible advice (or potentially terrible advice) new writers often receive:

Just Write—Your Editor Will Correct Your Mistakes

Two things are wrong here. First, unless you’re the next Shakespeare (or the next Lee Child, who claims to write only one draft), you will need to learn a thing or two. Like all skills, novel-writing has a rather steep learning curve. Give yourself time. Second, even if you are a naturally gifted storyteller, submitting a manuscript full of errors will probably earn you a quick “thanks but no thanks.” Why shoot yourself in the foot?

Don’t Use Fancy Words When Plain Ones Will Do

There is a point here: purposely scrolling through the dictionary for words you hope will make you sound intelligent is a terrible idea. If you’re not familiar with a word, chances are you’ll misuse it and embarrass yourself. On the other hand, word choice shouldn’t be based on length but on appropriateness in context. No two words mean exactly the same thing, and some long words are more precise or evocative in their connotation than an almost-equivalent short word. Evocative is a good example. It doesn’t mean the same thing as its synonym moving.

Always Start In Medias Res

The idea here is to hook your reader from the get-go. That’s good. Skip pages and pages of backstory and get right into the conflict. But starting a book with a car chase on a Los Angeles freeway or with someone teetering on the parapet of a thirty-story building in downtown Chicago when the reader has no clue what’s going on is confusing. Why should they care? The idea isn’t to grab readers by the throat and yank them stumbling into the action but to draw them in by giving them someone to care about. Conflict can be internal.

Eliminate All Adverbs

Stephen King said, “The road to hell is paved with adverbs.” Catchy and mostly true. Overusing adverbs is a lazy way to write. It’s better to use strong, precise verbs. But every part of speech has its uses, and adverbs are no exception. Your POV character, for example, might pick up on the way someone says something, not just the words. Or you might want to say, “The trees were nearly bare,” instead of the convoluted, “Only a few leaves still clung to the trees.” And people do use adverbs in speech all the time. Wouldn't some characters say simply, “She’s really beautiful” rather than “She is resplendent in face and form?” 

Write to Please Yourself

Writing to the market usually fails because by the time your story actually gets out there, the market has moved on. However, writing purely to please yourself without regard for modern tastes is fruitless. I’m an English major. I love reading the classics. But few agents today, not to speak of readers, will entertain a modern version of the near-million-word Clarissa. Modern readers have little patience for a long build-up and paragraphs upon paragraphs of description like Leo Tolstoy. You can certainly write to please yourself, but you may be your only reader. Tastes change, and authors who keep up with current trends are smart.

There’s only one more thing to say: no so-called “rules” are absolute. Nevertheless, you have been warned!

What is the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? What is the best?

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

An Interview with Korina Moss by E. B. Davis


Who needs Xanax when you’ve got cheese?

Korina Moss, Cheddar Off Dead, Kindle Loc. 389


In Korina Moss's cozy series debut, Cheddar Off Dead, cheesemonger Willa Bauer discovers that her new home in a small Sonoma Valley town is ripe for murder... something here stinks to high heaven, and Willa knows it's not the cheese.

Cheesemonger Willa Bauer is proving that sweet dreams are made of cheese. She’s opened her very own French-inspired cheese shop, Curds & Whey, in the heart of the Sonoma Valley. The small town of Yarrow Glen is Willa's fresh start, and she's determined to make it a success – starting with a visit from the local food critic. What Willa didn’t know is that this guy never gives a good review, and when he shows up nothing goes according to plan. She doesn’t think the night can get any worse... until she finds the critic’s dead body, stabbed with one of her shop’s cheese knives. Now a prime suspect, Willa has always believed life’s problems can be solved with cheese, but she’s never tried to apply it to murder…


WWK Blogger Korina Moss’s debut book, Cheddar Off Dead, will be released next week on March 29th. Korina’s main character Willa Bauer is a likeable character. As the daughter of dairy farmers, she knows her milk products and has worked in the cheese industry. Opening her new cheese shop in Sonoma Valley should be easy. What better to eat with wine than good cheese?

 But Willa is the new shop owner in town. She’s lucky that her employees are knowledgeable about the townspeople because when she finds a murder victim’s body, she has to solve the case or land in jail. I especially liked Korina’s secondary characters who help her investigate.


Please welcome Korina Moss as my interviewee to WWK.     E. B. Davis


Yarrow Glen is in Sonoma Valley. It has a few wineries and farms surrounding it. Why hasn’t it made more of a name for itself?

Its roots are in dairy farming, so it’s more of a working-class town, whereas the towns with the vineyards and wineries tend to attract the tourists. I wanted Yarrow Glen to sort of mirror Willa’s journey—both are ready to blossom. Many of the characters that you’ll see throughout the series are also finding their footing, the same way Willa and Yarrow Glen are.  


Willa’s parents owned a dairy farm in Oregon. But Willa never was into farming. She made and sold cheese at an early age. What kind of cheese did she make to sell in farmers’ markets?

You’re right that she preferred the cheese-making aspect of their dairy farm, although she had to do plenty of farming growing up, since that was the family’s main source of income. The creamery was a smaller part of their dairy business. She eventually convinced her parents to let her sell mozzarella and ricotta at their local farmer’s markets.


I can understand why Willa didn’t return to live near her parents. They have sayings that come back to Willa in times of stress that I don’t think are very helpful. What are some of their sayings and how does Willa use them?

Willa’s parents are hardworking, humble farmers who always put in an honest day’s work, which is enough for them. Willa sees life a little differently, but their sensibilities still stick with her. When she remembers them saying things like, “It’s not about the outcome, it’s about the work,” or “We do our best and we don’t get upset,” they mean for her stay focused on the work she’s putting into something. You can’t control the outcome or how others perceive what you do. This helps her when she’s nervous about whether the magazine critic will like her shop. It gives her confidence that the critic’s judgement won’t change how great Curds & Whey is.


Why didn’t Willa know that the food critic, Guy Lippinger, rarely gave good reviews to Yarrow Glen venues?

The book begins in Willa’s cheese shop, which readers learn has been barely open two weeks. She’s just moved to Yarrow Glen and opened her shop. She’s never lived in northern California before and hadn’t been familiar with All Things Sonoma magazine, which is where Guy Lippinger’s reviews are published.


One of your characters, Roman, owns a meadery across from Willa’s shop. What is mead?

Mead is an alcoholic beverage somewhere between wine and beer. Whereas wine is made from grapes, and beer from barley, mead’s base is honey. It’s brewed and fermented like beer, but its alcohol content is about the same as wine. Also like wine, it can be produced in a variety of sweetness levels, from very dry to sweet, and can be still or sparkling.  It can also be brewed with grains, fruit, spices, or hops to give it many different flavors. Over the last few years, meaderies have been popping up all over the U.S.


Roman attracts Willa. But she doesn’t approve of her own feelings. Why?

Willa enjoys flirting with Roman, but he’s known for being a serial dater. Willa was burned by love badly once, so she needs a certain level of trust before she’ll allow herself to really fall for someone.


Willa incorporates her store promotions with sleuthing. What promotions has she created?

The most successful one is the Cheese Hunt. It’s a game where customers get a fun fact about a type of cheese, and they search for which cheese it describes. When they find the right one, they get a discount. It was a fun way to add some cheese trivia into the book and it was also an important scene to ensure all the townspeople were in her shop that day.


Willa has a cheese making class, which interested me. What cheese were they making?

They were making fresh mozzarella from curds, which is how all cheese starts. (The whey is the liquid it floats in.) All mozzarella gets stretched, which prevents the proteins from breaking. If they break, it alters the texture. Anybody can make their own mozzarella and some cheese shops have cheese-making classes like the one in my book.


Sixty-something Mrs. Schultz was a favorite of mine. Please describe her to our readers. She has some particular notions!

I’m glad you enjoyed Mrs. Schultz. It’s fun to write her. She’s a retired high school drama teacher “smack-dab” in her sixties, who was looking for her next chapter after being widowed. She rides a retro bicycle to work and I describe her appearance as “an updated Lucy Ricardo, but with the curly blonde hair of her sidekick, Ethel.” She prefers to be called Mrs. Schultz rather than by her first name, but don’t let that fool you into thinking she’s stuffy or formal otherwise. She’s unconventional, loyal, whip smart, and always up for the next adventure to take her out of her ‘comfort zone.’


Who is Loretta?

Willa isn’t home often enough to have a dog or a cat, so she has Loretta, a fluorescent red and blue Betta fish. But, according to Willa, she’s not just any fish—she’s a fish with attitude and particular preferences, such as having a favorite TV show.


Toilet guy’s real name is Baz Tooney and lives next door. Why does Willa take a liking to him?

He’s the first one to arrive after Willa discovers a dead body, so they’re bonded in that way. He also reminds her of her younger brother, who she misses. There’s not any physical attraction to their relationship, just a fast friendship.


What is the cheese trail website?

The cheese trail is a map of cheese shops and creameries in California. You can work your way up the coast, tasting and buying cheese. When people think of northern California, their image is wine country, but it also has a long dairy farming history. If you plan a trip to visit wineries in Sonoma or Napa Valleys, check out the cheese trail too. What’s better than wine and cheese?


Like wine, do some cheeses have province?

Some cheeses must be made in a certain region and only have certain ingredients in order to be labeled that type of cheese. Parmigiano-Reggiano is one of these cheeses. It’s not just a fancy name for Parmesan. It must be made with only three ingredients: milk, calf rennet, and salt, and it’s solely made in the regions of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Modena, Bologna to the left of the Reno river, and Mantua to the right of the Po river in Italy. Their website is beautiful and fascinating if you want to see how it’s been made for the last thousand years.


When Willa makes fondue in her store, she melts three cheeses together. I thought fondue always had wine added to thin the cheese. Is that wrong?

When Willa makes cheesy dishes, I don’t list every step, so as not to bog down the book with too many cooking details. With that scene, I mention that the three cheeses are the base for the fondue. Plus, one of characters, Archie, was partaking and he’s not yet 21, so I didn’t want to get into trouble with any readers by specifically adding wine. The fondue recipe is one of the recipes in the back of the book. It includes wine, but you can make it without wine and use chicken broth and lemon juice instead.


Willa and her two employees use different methods to dip the bread into the cheese mixture. Is this symbolic of their sleuthing styles?

For sure. Archie goes in for the full dunk, which is indicative of his all-in method of investigation. Mrs. Schultz, on the other hand, tends to ask more questions while they’re trying to figure out whodunit, and how she takes her time by dabbing her bread to coat it in the fondue is analogous to this.


Like yogurt, were many cheeses discovered by accident?

Cheese predates recorded history, but it is thought to have been discovered by accident. In my research, I did come across some types of cheeses that were produced accidentally, such as Tilsit cheese. It was made by accident when the Dutch, settling in East Prussia, were trying to recreate Gouda (which originated in the Netherlands). The caves of that area where it was aging were damp and infected it with unintended molds, yeasts, and bacteria, which created a new cheese they named after the town.  


What type of certification do you need to be a cheesemonger?

It’s a rigorous standard. You must have 4,000 hours of documented experience (paid or unpaid) in the cheese profession or 2,000 hours of experience and 2,000 hours in cheese-related formal education. Then you must pass an exam given by the American Cheese Society (ACS), much like the bar exam for law school graduates. In addition, you can also get a sensory certification. That exam requires you to be able to evaluate cheeses by using your senses, similar to how a sommelier would be tested for their knowledge of wine. An example of a past exam question: test-takers were asked to identify 10 vials of milk based on scent alone. 


What’s next for Willa and her employees?


Gone for Gouda, the second book in the Cheese Shop Mystery series, comes out in September. Here’s the jacket description:


Things are going from gouda to bad to ugly for cheesemonger Willa Bauer in Gone for Gouda.

Yarrow Glen’s newest cheese shop, Curds & Whey, has a lot on its plate, but cheesemonger Willa Bauer relishes a challenge. There’s a float to build for the fall festival, plus the French-inspired cheese shop is playing host to celebrity vegan chef Phoebe Winston. But when photos surface that prove this vegan influencer is, in fact, a carnivore, things crumble faster than any cheese on the market: Phoebe is murdered. Willa’s employee, the affable Archie, was the last one to see Phoebe alive and the first person the police suspect. To clear his name Willa must uncover who’s been up to no gouda...