WELCOME, BARB GOFFMAN!!
No matter what you’re cooking, you won’t end up with a good dish unless you use quality ingredients. This applies whether you’re baking a pie, making lasagna, or ... putting together a short-story anthology. Yep. A good book of short stories is only as good as the writers who wrote them, the ideas that inspired them, and the editor who helped shape those stories.
Now I’m no expert on pies. The only time I ever made one, my brother-in-law looked at it cooling and said, “Where’s the top?” I knew it hadn’t looked right when I took it out of the oven, but I had followed the recipe exactly, and the recipe hadn’t mentioned a crust. Sigh.
Thankfully, I’m a bit better at writing. As are the 18 other authors in the anthology The Gift of Murder. This book, which was published in October, has 19 crime stories all set during the winter holiday season. (Festive!) The reviews have been solid. (See some of them at the publisher’s website: The Gift of Murder. Others are on Amazon.) But the sales haven’t gone as well as we’d hoped. And that’s a shame, because the publisher is donating every dime of profits from this book to Toys for Tots.
So let me tell you about the ingredients making up this book. Hopefully, you’ll decide they’re the quality you’re looking for in a good read—both for you and for folks on your Christmas, Hanukkah, and/or Kwanzaa gift lists.
Do you like heartwarming stories, the kind that Hallmark scoops up and turns into feel-good movies? Then you’ll like Earl Staggs’s “Caught on Christmas Eve,” which involves bad choices and second chances. Do you want a solid puzzle in your mystery? Then you’ll be happy with J.F. Benedetto’s “The Seven Dollar Clue.” Are you a fan of amateur sleuths? Authors Marian Allen and Elizabeth Zelvin have you covered. Prefer cops and PIs? We have those, too, thanks to Austin Camacho, Kris Neri, and Sandra Seamans. If woo woo’s your game, Bill Crider wrote about werewolf love (much better than muskrat love) and Gail Farrelly has a Kindle with a mind of its own. Want to kill someone with a waffle iron? Stefanie Lazer’s story is for you. And to round things out, we have stories about folks in bad situations who find their way out of it ... and some who don’t.
I’m so pleased that folks who have read my story “The Worst Noel” have called it both funny and disturbing. (Too bad they’ve also said that about me.) The story starts at Thanksgiving and ends at Christmas Eve, and in between a woman with an overbearing mother and a witch of a sister decides to gift herself with a little less family. If you’ve ever wished you could get rid of that one annoying relative, I think you’ll like my story. Besides, it involves poisoned food, which just rounds out the whole holiday cooking experience, doesn’t it? Now, I don’t recommend putting poison into real-life recipes, but it’s an excellent ingredient in fictional ones.
The chefs behind The Gift of Murder are master storyteller and editor John Floyd and publisher Tony Burton of Wolfmont Press. This is the fourth year in which Tony has persuaded authors to donate their stories so he can raise money for needy children. It’s a great cause. Here’s how you can get the book: Visit the major online bookstores (Amazon also has it on Kindle) or your local brick and mortar shop. You also can get a copy in print form, e-book or audio through The Digital Bookshop. I highly recommend The Digital Bookshop, which has partnered with the publisher so that more money will end being donated to Toys for Tots.
And if you’re feeling lucky, maybe you can win a copy here. Everyone who comments below (before midnight tonight) with a funny story about their own cooking mishap—I can’t be the only one with a pie story, especially with this being the Sunday after Thanksgiving—will have their names thrown in a hat. I’ll mail one signed copy to the winner.
If you don’t win, please consider buying this book for yourself or as a gift to help us help the wonderful Toys for Tots Foundation, run by the U.S. Marine Corps. Not only will you get the joy of knowing you’re helping needy kids, but you’ll also be getting a great book that’s like a buffet. If you don’t love one of the stories, well, there are 18 more to read. Tony and John did an excellent job of mixing all the ingredients together to create a solid anthology with 19 stories that differ in content but blend well because of their authors’ creativity. You can’t get a better recipe than that. Well, except for the following recipe for chocolate pound cake. No poison included. Happy holidays!
Chocolate Pound Cake
Serves: 12-16 (No you don’t have to eat it all—if you’re not having that many relatives over, freeze the leftovers. They’ll keep.)
1 cup butter
½ cup Crisco
3 cups sugar
3 cups flour
½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 cup cocoa
1 cup milk
2 tsp. vanilla
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Grease a Bundt pan or an angel food cake pan. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Sift together the flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt. Set aside. Add vanilla to the milk. Set aside. Cream together the butter, Crisco, and sugar. Add the eggs one at a time to the sugar mixture, beating well after each egg. Add one third of the flour mixture to the sugar mixture, beat until it’s incorporated, then add one third of the milk, and beat until it’s incorporated. Repeat these last two actions, alternately adding in the flour mixture and the milk mixture in thirds. Bake for 1 ½ hours or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan. Dust with powdered sugar and enjoy.
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Barb Goffman is an Agatha Award-nominated author who toils as a lawyer by day to pay the vet bills at night for her miracle dog, Scout. (He had cancer three times, but now he’s cured!) She grew up on Long Island but figures she must have been Southern in another life because half the voices she hears in her head—oops, sorry, half the characters she creates—are Southern. In addition to the short story mentioned above, Barb has had stories published in the second and third volumes of the Chesapeake Crimes anthology series, and she will have a new story coming out this spring in the fourth: Chesapeake Crimes: They Had It Comin’, a wonderful book with twenty tales of murder and revenge. Barb’s website is http://www.barbgoffman.com/.