The Ghost and the Candelabra

By Leslie Budewitz

Assault and Pepperin my new mystery series, the Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries — debuting in March 2015 from Berkley Prime Crime, with ASSAULT & PEPPER — questions of ghosts flit around the plot and characters like a mist off Puget Sound. In writing ASSAULT & PEPPER and its sequel, tentatively titled GUILTY AS CINNAMON, I’ve been recalling real life ghost stories I’ve heard over the years.

My favorite is this: My friend Cath suffered from several health conditions that at times put her on crutches or in a wheel chair. During a time when she had good mobility, she bought an older home on Seattle’s Capitol Hill and set about remodeling it. Flanking the fireplace in the living room were sconces with detachable electric “candles.” Cath noticed that one or both were regularly turned upside down. During an extended health challenge, she was on crutches. Several times, she dragged herself over to the fireplace and righted the sconces, only to find them turned upside down again. After a few weeks of this, she finally decided she had a ghost, and it was time for a talk. “Look,” she said, “I’m on crutches.The lights don’t work when you mess with them, and fixing them is a real pain. A real pain. You don’t have to leave — just stop messing with the sconces.”

ghosts2She never did figure out who her ghost was — but the lights never went out again.

***

LESLIE BUDEWITZ is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries (Death al Dente, winner of the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, and Crime Rib, July 2014) and the forthcoming Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries, starting with Assault & Pepper in March 2015, both published by Berkley Prime Crime/Penguin Random House. Visit her online at http://www.LeslieBudewitz.com, on Facebook as Leslie Budewitz Author, or on Twitter, @LeslieBudewitz.

A peek at Leslie’s WIP (the work in progress)

Leslie's deskYou’ve no doubt noticed that we’re all sharing bits of the WIP — the work in progress — this month. Here’s a  snippet of the mystery I just finished, Spiced to Death, first in the Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries (Berkley Prime Crime, March 2015). Pepper Reece, owner of Seattle Spice in the city’s venerable Pike Place Market, must investigate when a man is found dead at her shop’s front door—clutching a cup of the shop’s famous spice tea.

 

CHAPTER ONE

An herb is a fresh or dried leaf. A spice is a dried plant part—a bud (cloves), bark (cinnamon), root (ginger), berry (peppercorns), seeds (fennel), or even stigma (saffron). The same plant may provide both—fresh or dried cilantro leaves are the herb cilantro, while the dried seeds are the spice coriander.

“What does autumn taste like? How does it smell?”

Even as I asked, the question seemed utterly ridiculous. This was already shaping up to be one of those glorious September days in Seattle that make you think the weather will never change, that the sky will always be a pure cloudless blue, the leaves on the trees a painter’s box of green, the waters of Elliot Bay calm and sparkling.

I’ve lived here all my forty-two years, and I still get fooled.

But as the owner, for the last ten months and seventeen days, of the Seattle Spice Shop, it was my job to think ahead. Fall would be here in days, going by the calendar. And by my nose. I really could sense the difference right about this time of year. The annual run on pickling spices for the last cukes would soon give way to cider mulling mixes. And before long, our customers would be asking for poultry seasoning and scouting for Christmas gifts.

“The taste,” I repeated to my staff, gathered around the butcher block work table in our mixing nook, “and smell of fall.”

Sandra fanned herself with a catalog from the kitchen shop up the hill and peered over the top of her reading glasses—today’s were leopard print. “Fall, shmall. It’s seventy-six degrees out.” Spot-on to most Seattleites, but my assistant manager is one of those native Northwesterners who thrive in a narrow temperature range. Anything above seventy-two and she sweats; below forty-five, she shivers. And complains, cheerfully. A short, well-rounded woman of sixty with smooth olive skin, pixie-cut dark hair, and lively chocolate brown eyes, she came with the place, and I am so glad she stayed.

“Apples,” Zak said. “Applesauce, apple butter, spiced apple cake. Plums in brandy. Plum pudding. Fruit cake.” Zak had been my first hire after I bought the shop. Six-two and almost thirty, with muscular shoulders, Zak had seemed an unlikely candidate for employment in a retail spice shop in Seattle’s venerable Pike Place Market. But I’d been desperate, he’d been earnest, and he pleaded for a weekday job so he could rock the nights and weekends away with his band.

Plus he was my ex-husband Tag’s best friend’s nephew, and I have to admit, Tag Buhner isn’t always wrong about people.

Leslie-WEB-Color

 

Thanks for reading. Please join me for book talk and more on my website and on Facebook.

 

Leslie Budewitz

All Roads Lead to Montana

By Leslie Budewitz

Death al DenteWell, maybe not. When I was a kid and we visited relatives in Minnesota, they always called out “come back soon” when we left, and my father always replied — sometimes loud enough to be heard outside the car — “the roads go both ways.”

But in my life, all roads — live and Memorex — seem to lead to Montana. One of my eight short stories is set elsewhere (“The End of the Line,” in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, December 2006).* Everything else happens under the Big Sky. 

Like many Montana writers, I consider myself a very placed writer. My view of the world is literally shaped by having grown up here and having chosen to return. I define direction by the flow of the rivers and the location of the mountains. I breath easier in these valleys and on the front range. It is my default landscape — the one that fills my dreams, both waking and sleeping. 

When it came time to choose a setting for my first mysteries, Montana was both natural and right. It’s the place I know best. No other cozies — the light-hearted side of the mystery world — are set in the region, although Diane Mott Davidson has set a wonderful example with her catering sleuth series set in Colorado. Leslie's view

More importantly, story derives from interesting — intriguing — characters put in positions of contrast and conflict. Montana is rich in all of those, making it a particularly rich source for writers of all genres – literary fiction, darker crime fiction (think James Lee Burke’s recent Dave Robicheaux mysteries), and, I hope, the lighter side. Montana is a vast state, with many views, and a many kinds of small towns.  Jewel Bay – like Bigfork, its’ closest real-life relative – surprises people. And surprise is the first ingredient in a memorable setting. 

Come on by. I think you’ll be glad you did. 

Leslie-WEB-Color

* But I’m having a blast writing the Seattle Spice Shop Mysteries, debuting from Berkley Prime Crime in March 2015. After all, as readers of Death al Dente know, it’s a common story for Montana kids to leave home and return, as both Erin Murphy and I did. But my Seattle years left me with great affection for the city, and it’s a delight to visit it again on the page and for research. And to eat my way through the Market, again, and eat tax-deductible meals in restaurants I remember fondly and their younger cousins.