Guest Post: Wendy Tyson

Murder with a Side of Kale

A Muddied Murder, the first in the Greenhouse Mystery Series from Henery Press, comes out Tuesday. I’m elated. I’m nervous. And I’m feeling the urge to cook.

It runs in the family.

muddiedmurderI learned much of what I know from my great-grandmother. She was born in Italy, then moved to the United States when she was only ten. Her English was imperfect, especially when she didn’t want us to understand what she was saying, but her cooking was divine. I remember hours spent in the kitchen she shared with my grandmother. I would perform some small task while my grandmother, great-grandmother and aunt prepared lavish family meals, all the while sharing stories. The tales—set against my family’s constant culinary activity—riveted me. We ate dinner with my grandparents every Friday and Sunday, and those meals—and the time spent preparing them—are some of my favorite and most vivid memories.

So when I decided to write a cozy mystery with an organic farm as a backdrop, I knew I had to include food. Not just any food: dishes prepared using the fresh ingredients from the farm. Washington Acres Larder & Café was born.

You see, my family loves to travel, and we love to eat. We’ve eaten our way across much of two continents, sampling cuisine in more than ten countries and trying (occasionally with a modicum of success) to recreate the exotic dishes we’ve had elsewhere. I cook creatively when I’m anxious (like tonight—Gruyere macaroni and cheese is on the menu, in case you’re curious), when I’m writing a book (the activity is conducive to plotting a novel), and when I need to relax. Cooking and sharing food bring back those wonderful memories and remind me of the places we’ve visited.

But in addition to the pleasure it gives me to cook and write about cooking, food and murder make good sense. As an author, I love the twist of mixing meals and mayhem.

For many of us, food is comfort. Cooking can be therapeutic, and reading about food and cooking can be comforting too. What better way to offset the tension and suspense of a fictional murder than with something so basic, so evocTyson 3ative of coziness and safety? And at the Washington Acres café, much of the food comes from the farm. Fresh ingredients, sustainable agriculture (the stuff of life)…and a deadly dose of intrigue. There is a built-in paradox in pairing food with murder—which is why it works.

Another benefit of the café? Community. Food is only part of the equation. Like those Sundays spent at my grandmother’s house, many cultures use mealtime as a way to bond, to develop kinship, to celebrate family life. In A Muddied Murder, the café is a challenge to get off the ground, but it provides a spot for the residents of Winsome to come together and build community. And where there is community, gossip spreads and grievances are aired—perfect ingredients for a cozy.

Culinary mysteries are not new. Many authors before me have understood the allure of food and mystery, and I’m grateful for their creativity. As I sit here tonight grating Gruyere and chopping kale for the side dish, I’m thinking about my next Greenhouse mystery. And all the ways misfortune may come to Winsome.

***

Wendy Tyson is an author, lawyer and former therapist whose background has inspired her mysteries and thrillers. Wendy has written four published crime novels, including Dying Brand, the third novel in the Allison Campbell Mystery Series, which was released on May 5, 2015. The first in the Campbell series, Killer Image, was named a best mystery for book clubs in 2014 by Examiner.com. Wendy is also the author of the Greenhouse Mystery Series, the first of which, A Muddied Murder, is due to be released in spring 2016. Wendy is a member of Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers, and she is a contributing editor for The Big Thrill, International Thriller Writers’ online magazine. Wendy lives with her husband, three sons and three dogs on a micro-farm just outside of Philadelphia.

Find her on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/WendyTysonAuthor), Twitter (@WendyTyson) and at www.WATyson.com.

 

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20 thoughts on “Guest Post: Wendy Tyson”

  1. Yum! Setting and story are both delicious, can’t wait to read it. And, as a fellow veteran of the Nona brigade – those kitchens were a great place to learn to plot! Well done.

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  2. Thank you, Kait! Yes, there is something about the kitchen as the hub of the house; it’s a great place to learn and connect. The tradition continues. After building a kitchen addition on to our current house, my husband and I quickly realized that’s where the family spends almost all of its time–the rest of the house remains largely unused. My boys linger in the kitchen as much as I did when I was young. They especially love when my mother and cousins are there, cooking alongside me.

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  3. Love your post! A perfect read while I drank my coffee and fed a million treats to my doxie. Your writing brings back warm memories of family and friends. Will you also be writing a cookbook? Congratulations on tomorrow’s release of A Muddied Murder.

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  4. Wendy, welcome! I was just reading an article in our local paper this weekend about how kitchens are the new “hub” of the house. That’s where everyone hangs out. I think it’s always been that way, at least a little. In days gone by, that’s where the heat was (the big stove) and now that’s where the food is. The one thing I’d change about my house is making the kitchen bigger. No seating and it’s a smallish space for hanging out.

    Any tips for home gardeners who are planning their yearly crop? (Like me?)

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  5. Wendy, love the post! You are so right about the mix of murder and food–food provides just the right amount of comfort. Are you including recipes? I always love cooking from a novel! Some Diane Mott Davidson brownies are still my all-time favorite go-to recipe.

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  6. Good morning! Thank you! I have one recipe included in the book–Bibi’s Farmers Market Pasta Primavera. It’s yummy (but definitely NOT low fat)!

    Mary–we put a kitchen addition on our house a few years ago. We designed it with the “hub” in mind, and it has been a godsend.

    As for gardening tips, my biggest one is about planning. We have limited space (and energy), and in years past, we planted things that we thought sounded cool but that in retrospect took up space but did not “give back” well. For example, one year we planted quite a large patch of French breakfast radishes. They were beautiful and delicious, but we could only use so many radishes. Now we think hard about the veggies we use most often, the ones that are most versatile and the ones that store well. We love tomatoes, and it’s easy to throw extras into a pot for a quick tomato puree that you can freeze for winter. We love kale, and it not only freezes well, but it’s great for impromptu dishes like massaged kale salad or kale, pasta and white beans with garlic. So before you start, list the veggies you enjoy and that will serve you well all year. Then perhaps choose one or two that are new or out of your comfort zone and experiment.

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  7. Michelle–thank you for your kind words–and for the congratulations! My agent and I have talked about the idea of a cookbook. Perhaps that’s a possibility for the future! Enjoy your doxie and your day!

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  8. Sounds delicious! Kitchen and community are the perfect ingredients for a cozy. Can’t wait to check out your book. Good luck with sales, and thanks for visiting us!

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  9. Love your post, Wendy Tyson. I’ve been admiring the new book cover on FB for a while now. Your setting sounds like a wonderful place to pull together the community and launch murder investigations. Can’t wait to read your book! Hope to bump into you at Malice Domestic!

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  10. While I love eating food and reading about food, if I never had to cook food again, I’d be perfectly ecstatic. I love knowing there are people in the world who enjoy cooking and are good at it (see first five words above) and can bring that joy to the printed page (see words 7-9). I’ve put this new series on my list! I hope you have great success with it, Wendy. And if you ever make too much food, I have a big freezer. Just sayin…

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  11. Thanks to the Mysteristas for having me join them today. I’m thrilled to be here.

    Becky–what is not included in my story is the fact that my mother doesn’t like to cook. Perhaps that’s why we spent two days a week at my grandmother’s house! Thanks for posting and for the kind words!

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  12. Welcome, Wendy, and congrats on your new release! I also love cooking, especially with family and friends; it’s amazing how food can bring people together. My favorite mac and cheese recipe (courtesy of Ina Garten, pretty much my culinary idol) uses Gruyere and it’s absolutely delicious! Definitely adding A Muddied Murder to my TBR list… 🙂

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  13. Thank you Kate and Peg!

    As for the Gruyere mac and cheese, it is pretty darn yummy (and would pair well with a robust red!). We found the original recipe in an old French cookbook that we picked up in a used bookstore. It’s basically pasta, creme fraiche and lots of good quality Gruyere layered and baked. Has a sharp flavor, but my 12yos love it.

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  14. Several things. 1. I love this post. 2. I’m starving just reading about your culinary background. 3. I love Henery’s covers! 4. I look forward to reading your book while eating a salad.

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