Sunday, July 8, 2012

Guest Blogger Penny Warner

Please welcome our guest, prolific author Penny Warner.


By Penny Warner

Like most female readers I’m a Choc-addict. That’s like being a crack addict but more fattening. So naturally both protagonists in my two mystery series have my disorder. Connor Westphal (DEAD BODY LANGUAGE) keeps chocolates hidden in her desk, while Presley Parker (HOW TO DINE ON KILLER WINE) offers them to unsuspecting crowds at her parties. But when she’s not sharing them, she uses chocolates for medicinal purposes. She has ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and the caffeine in chocolate and coffee are similar to drugs like Ritalin and Adderall, which calm her down instead of revving her up.

So she self-medicates. Often.

Unfortunately for Presley, her chocolates are sometimes lethal. As a party planner, she always includes some form of chocolate on the party menu. For example, in my first book, HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY, Presley Parker hires local TV chef Rocco Ghirenghelli to create chocolate Maltese Falcons for Mayor Davin Green’s Alcatraz Wedding Party. But she soon realizes a couple of the brown birds have been injected with cyanide. She discovers this when the bride-to-be is found floating in the San Francisco Bay, a victim of poisoning. And dead guests of honor aren’t really good for the party business.

In my latest book, HOW TO DINE ON KILLER WINE, Presley pairs wines with desserts, but soon the chocolate bread pudding becomes a weapon, when placed in the wrong hands. You can imagine what happens next…

So how did Presley get herself into this chocolate mess? That’s the way I wrote her. After all, it’s a murder mystery. And while I haven’t had much experience injecting chocolates with cyanide (see the Internet for instructions), I have had a lot of experience with chocolate, as well as party planning, writing party books for kids and adults, and creating mysteries. Since “they” often say, “Write what you know,” I decided to make my new sleuth a party planner (she prefers “event planner”), put her on Treasure Island where she lives and works, and have her solve mysteries all around the San Francisco Bay Area.

Presley, recently downsized from her teaching job at San Francisco State University, agrees to the career change after being encouraged by her mother, once a popular party girl and member of the City’s café society. But after developing early stage Alzheimer’s, Mother has retired to a care facility, leaving Presley to fill her party slippers.

After that it’s just one party foul after another…

Here’s Presley’s recipe for Chocolate Bread Pudding:


4 cups milk
4 eggs
½ cup sugar
8 tablespoons butter
12 ounces semisweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 loaf white bread, no crusts
1 pint heavy cream, whipped


1.      Stir milk, eggs, and sugar in medium saucepan.

2.      Add butter and chocolate and heat over low, stirring until butter and chocolate are melted.

3.      Spray 13 x 9 inch pan with cooking spray.

4.      Arrange bread slices in 3 layers.

5.      Pour chocolate sauce over bread.

6.      Cover with plastic wrap and place another dish on top to weigh down bread for 1 hour.

7.      Heat over to 325 degrees.

8.      Remove top dish and plastic wrap.

9.      Bake uncovered for 35-40 minutes or until set.

10.  Serve warm with whipped cream.

11.  Serves 8

And now I’ll leave you with one last Presley Parker tip that’s guaranteed to make your party a success: “When your dessert soufflé falls flat, dump the disaster into the disposal and bring out your backup stash of gourmet chocolates. One bite of a Christopher Norman, Marie Belle or Lake Champlain chocolate and your guests will be eating out of your hands.”

Penny Warner has published over 60 books for both adults and children. Her first mystery series featuring Connor Westphal, a deaf reporter in the California Gold Country, won a Macavity Award for Best First Mystery, and was nominated for an Agatha and an Anthony Award. The seven books in the series will be available online soon.
Her new mystery series features event planner, Presley Parker, and is set in the San Francisco Bay Area. HOW TO HOST A KILLER PARTY offers a wedding on Alcatraz, HOW TO CRASH A KILLER BASH features a Murder Mystery Party at the de Young Museum, HOW TO SURVIVE A KILLER SÉANCE presents a Séance Party at the Winchester Mystery House, and  HOW TO PARTY WITH A KILLER VAMPIRE is set in Colma, the City of Souls.  HOW TO DINE ON KILLER WINE offers a mystery in the Napa Wine Country.
Her middle-grade mystery, CODE BUSTERS CLUB: SECRET OF THE SKELETON KEY, was nominated for an Agatha Best Juvenile Mystery Award. It features four kids who solve a mystery by cracking codes in each chapter. The second book in the series, CODE BUSTERS: THE HAUNTED LIGHTHOUSE, is set on Alcatraz. (Join the Code Busters Club at Her non-fiction book, THE OFFICIAL NANCY DREW HANDBOOK, was nominated for an Agatha Award.
She writes a column for the local newspaper on family life in the Valley, creates fund-raising murder mystery events for libraries across the country, and teaches child development at Diablo Valley College. She can be reached at or


  1. Welcome, Penny!

    This recipe sound wonderful. Any recommendations for what kind of bread to use?

  2. Greetings, Penny! Like Presley, I use coffee for medicinal purposes. Also for: Waking up. Thinking. Murder prevention. :)

    Great post today. Your bread-and-chocolate recipe is a must try. Congrats on your latest book hitting print, and thanks for hanging with us in the Kitchen.

  3. Right after I type this I have to go buy the first book in this series. I have ADHD as well but I use chocolate and coffee to help stave off headaches. When I first feel a migraine I can sometimes stop it in its tracks with good old fashion caffiene. I prefer Diet Coke but that is no longer in my list of allowed beverages.
    I applaud you giving your character ADHD. So many adults have no idea that they even have it. I did not get diagnosed until a few months ago and I will be 50 in September. It explained so much for me and I no longer critisize myself for what I saw as personal shortcomings. I guess I just thought everyone thought the way I did.

  4. This recipe sounds absolutely delicious, Penny ... and easy, to boot! Thank you for visiting the kitchen!

  5. Penny, welcome! I don't know how you do it. You are definitely prolific. Maybe chocolate has something to do with your output. Congrats! Love the recipe. I'm going to see if I can make this one gluten-free. I'll let you know.


    Avery aka Daryl

  6. Hi All,
    Thanks for letting me visit Mystery Lovers' Kitchen!
    What a great group!

    Sheila, you can use French Toast instead of white bread and it's even better!

    Cleo, you can use coffee for lots of things--dying your clothes brown, deodorizing the kitchen sink, destroying ant hills...

    Lori, I have a touch of ADHD - something you don't outgrow. You channel it into writing books....

    Wendy, it goes well with ice cream...

    Avery, I'm sure it will work gluten-free--just don't leave out the chocolate...

  7. Recipe sounds delish! It might have a "get thee to the treadmill" aftertaste though! :)

  8. This sounds like a great recipe!
    Im going to put this book on my To be read list. =)

  9. Dana, There are no calories in this dessert! And it covers the 9 basic food groups, is non-addictive, and the entire thing can be devoured by one person in one sitting!

  10. Penny,
    I am so glad to see you here. I love your books. I can identify with your character. I often wonder if I'm an undiagnosed ADHD. And I believe I was a pray planner in a previous life, and I applaud your idea of the fee going to a charity in part. That is so unique! I can't wait to try the recipe! Hi, my name is Tammy and I am a chocoholic!