October 02, 2015

Where it All Began

An Excerpt from A Sheetcake Named Desire

first in the Piece of Cake mystery series


The Mississippi riverboat cake tilted on the table in front of me, its fondant paddle wheel askew, gashes of lemony yellow cake gaping in its once-smooth white surface. In the five years I’ve been working as a cake artist, this was the worst disaster I’d ever seen. Repairing the badly damaged three-foot cake would have been a daunting task under ideal conditions. In my current situation, the job was almost overwhelming.

Trickles of nervous perspiration snaked down my back as I studied the wreck from every angle. I could feel the staff of Zydeco Cakes watching me intently as I sorted through possible ways to proceed.

First priority: stay calm. Not easy under the circumstances. The stakes were as high as they got in the world of professional cake decorating. The cake was due in less than three hours at the grand opening of a new riverboat cruise line, for folks with money and influence. Failure to deliver on time would have a far-reaching impact on Zydeco’s reputation. For a cake artist, reputation is every bit as important as talent.

The staff at Zydeco had already suffered a blow today. I couldn’t let them down again.

The air conditioner was cranked up to keep the work area cool, but the intense heat and humidity of New Orleans in July still managed to creep into the building somehow. The undercurrents of tension that ebbed and flowed through the room didn’t help me keep my cool either.

My name is Rita Lucero, and I’m a trained cake artist, a graduate of the French Pastry School in Chicago. Currently wasting my fancy training by working as sous chef in my uncle Nestor’s Mexican restaurant in Albuquerque. So what was I doing sweating over a cake in New Orleans?

It was the same pending divorce that had left me chopping onions by the bushel that had brought me to the Crescent City for a few daysBut now, instead of getting my ex’s signature on our divorce settlement, I was standing in his bakery, shaking the dust off my cake decorating skills.

Taking a deep breath to calm my nerves, I closed my eyes and counted to ten—a trick my aunt Yolanda had taught me when I was thirteen and angry with the world. It didn’t always work, but I hadn’t given up trying. I needed to focus, but concentration was hard to find in a room full of tense, anxious people.

When I opened my eyes again, Zydeco’s manager, Edie Bryce, was staring up at me, a deep scowl accentuating her round face and the almond-shaped eyes she’d inherited from a Chinese grandmother. To the uninformed, Edie resembles the stereotypical porcelain doll, but I learned a long time ago not to underestimate her.

“So?” she demanded. “Can you do it or not, Rita?”

“I’m thinking.”

“Think faster! That cake is due for delivery in less than three hours.”

Not helpful. “Nobody’s more aware of the clock than I am,” I assured her. “Just back off a little, okay? Pushing through this too quickly is guaranteed to make things worse.”

Edie’s frown deepened, and impatience flashed in her dark eyes. She muttered something under her breath and turned away, but I knew she’d be back soon. Patience has never been one of her virtues.

I glanced around at the others, some of whom I’d known since pastry school. The rest I’d met just a couple hours earlier, and I was still struggling to remember their names. “We’re going to need buttercream,” I said to no one in particular. “Lots of it.”


Berkley Prime Crime: ISBN-13: 9780425242742

September 25, 2015

Cover Reveal: The Cakes of Monte Cristo

I don't usually put up two blog posts in the same day, but I just received the cover for The Cakes of Monte Cristo and I'm too thrilled to wait. This is the 6th book in the Piece of Cake Mystery series, due to hit bookshelves and online retailers in January 2016.

From the back cover: 

In the fresh new Piece of Cake Mystery from the national bestselling author of Rebel Without a Cake, a pastry chef becomes embroiled in a suspicious death as a mysterious curse casts a pall over an annual New Orleans ball.

Rita Lucero, co-owner of New Orleans’s Zydeco Cakes, is thrilled to be catering an annual ball held at the Monte Cristo Hotel. Designing the high-end desserts is her priority—until she stumbles upon a mystery long-buried at her shop. It’s an ornate ruby necklace, hidden underneath her staircase and rumored to be cursed. 

After the gem’s appraiser suddenly drops dead and Rita herself is targeted by a menacing stranger, she’s no longer laughing at local superstition. Now with five cakes on order and an investigation into the necklace’s past revealing layers of unsettling clues, Rita has reason to keep looking over her shoulder while she’s frosting. Because any way you slice it, the next victim of the legendary curse could be her.
Follow this link to pre-order your copy.  As of this posting, the cover was so hot off the presses, it hasn't even been uploaded to other sites yet. 

Tex-Mex Chicken Soup

I'm learning to embrace a new, much healthier lifestyle, so I'm also on the lookout for new, much healthier recipes. I found a new (to me) recipe for Tex-Mex Chicken Soup on Pinterest and decided to give it a try.

The pin took me to Taste of Home's website. You can find the recipe here, but here are the basics:

The recipe says that it takes 10 minutes prep time, which is about right as long as you've pre-cooked your chicken. Otherwise, you need to tack on time for that.

Total cook time is about 45 minutes. Again, that was just about right. And it smelled delicious as it was cooking.


1/2 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups chicken broth
3 cups cubed cooked chicken
3 medium zucchini, sliced
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes undrained
1 can (11 ounces) whole kernal corn, drained
1 can (8 ounces) tomato sauce
1/2 cup salsa
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt (optional)
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
tortilla chips (optional)

The verdict:

Very good. It tastes great, full of flavor and nicely spiced. I did sprinkle a little shredded cheese on my bowl but did not use tortilla chips, but even without the chips, the zucchini was cooked through but not mushy, so the texture was pleasant.

I'll definitely make it again.

photo credit: Food 003 via photopin (license)
photo credit: milho via photopin (license) 
photo credit: Clagett Farm Share Week 15 via photopin (license)

September 18, 2015

You Say Absaroka, I Say Absorkee

Longmire is one of my favorite shows on TV. I love the writing. The characters are richly drawn and deep. I love the friendship between Walt and Henry, but I also love the relationship between Walt and Branch. The books by Craig Johnson are wonderful, and nobody in the known world (with the possible exception of Mr. Johnson himself) was happier than I when Netflix picked up the series to stream for season 4. 

However, I have had one tiny quibble--and when I say tiny, I mean tiny. It's about one word. One single word. 

When I was a kid growing up in Montana, my dad always pronounced Absaroka as Ab-SOHR-kee. Three syllables, not four. When I started watching Longmire, it bothered me a bit that everyone on the show says AB-sah-RO-ka when they're talking about the county in which the series is set. It didn't bother me enough to stop watching or anything silly like that, but it was always there niggling at me. 

At first, I thought the writers, actors and directors just didn't know what they were doing. And then, I started wondering if my dad just got it wrong. (Gasp!) Could it possibly be? I mean, look at that face. Does it look like the face of a man who might say a word wrong? 

Well, yeah. 

Frankly, it wouldn't have been the first word he pronounced wrong. He spent his entire life putting the "T" in often. When I said it the way he did at school, I got a mighty scolding and some shaming from a teacher. And then there was the word chiropractor, which Dad always, somehow, pronounced CHOIRpractor, as if the doctor also led the singers at church, which was kind of funny since Dad loved listening to Mom, my sister and me pay the piano, but couldn't carry a tune himself. 

Through three seasons of Longmire (I haven't started the 4th yet.) I've wondered if Dad just had it wrong. But the other day, while procrastinating, I came across a Montana pronunciation guide put out by the Billings Gazette (the trusted newspaper of my youth) in which the mystery is finally solved. 

In Montana  (I can't speak for Wyomingites) the correct pronunciation of Absarokee/Absaroka is, indeed, Ab-SOHR-kee or Ab-SOHR-ka, not AB-sah-RO-kuh.  

There! My dad was right. Phew. 

I have to admit, it makes my heart happy to find out that, at least for the place we lived at the time, my dad nailed it. And now that I know that, Walt and Henry and Branch and the rest can pronounce it any old way they want. It won't bother me a bit. 


September 14, 2015

A Sneak Peek Today!

An exclusive offer for readers of Killer Characters: You'll find an excerpt from The Cakes of Monte Cristo (coming in January) on the blog today. Stop by and check it out!

The Cakes of Monte Cristo is available for pre-order now. If you like the series and want more books, put a hold on your copy now.


Jacklyn Brady is a national bestselling author who lives on the Gulf Coast. She writes the Piece of Cake Mystery series set in New Orleans. The series features cake artist and trained pastry chef, Rita Lucero. Rebel Without a Cake, book #5 in the Piece of Cake Mystery Series, is available now! 

Jacklyn loves to hear from readers. Connect with her on the web: Website | Facebook | Twitter

June 24, 2015

20 Things About Me ...

Which works out to approximately 19 more things than you ever wanted to know! 

1. I'm the mother of two adult daughters who are without question my best friends in the world.

2. I'm the grandmother of two granddaughters, who are without question the light and the air in my world.

3. I've wanted to write novels as long as I can remember. Never had any real interest in short stories or magazine articles, just novels.

4. My favorite food in the entire world is my mother's homemade spaghetti and meatballs -- unless she makes the meatballs with ground turkey, which she started to do several years before I moved away.

5. The taste of ground turkey literally makes me gag, even if it's nicely browned and simmering in my mother's amazing spaghetti sauce.

6. If you ask my kids what makes me happy, they will answer without even pausing to take a breath that it's my family.

7. I frequently have discussions with the TV -- usually because some ad makes no sense or insults my intelligence, or because a plot twist in a TV show is unrealistic and unbelievable.

8. Apparently, I'm not very good at keeping my opinions to myself. At least, that's what one of my daughters says. If only she knew how many opinions I swallow whole, she would be stunned by my amazing ability.

9. I have been told that I remind some people of Bette Midler -- in her character as Winnie in Hocus Pocus. Now I love Bette. I truly do. But this one's kind of hard to take as a compliment.

10. I do not have a middle name.

11. I was born in Utah, moved to Montana before I was a month old, back to Utah before I was 12, and then, eventually, to the Gulf Coast region.

12. Perhaps because I was born in September, autumn is my favorite season of the year. Sadly, we don't have a recognizable autumn where I'm living now and I miss it. We do, however see Monarch butterflies migrating in the fall and we have an invasion of dragonflies every year. Some day I may actually think autumn when they show up.

13. I was born without any natural ability to be a good hostess. If you were to knock on my door, I would talk to you for 2 hours without ever once inviting you inside. Honestly? I wouldn't even think of it. This failing has always been apparent, but is even more evident now that I live in the South.

14. My favorite form of exercise is turning the pages of a book or pressing the forward key on my Kindle.

15. I spent many years (years ago) singing and playing keyboards with a band.

16. I love to travel. I've been to all but 9 states in the US and to several provinces in Canada. Some day soon I hope to color in the states I'm missing and also travel abroad.

17. For some reason I can't remember now, I learned how to play the clarinet when I was a small child. No, I wasn't very good at it -- probably because when my mother set the timer for me to practice, I kept inching the dial forward, shaving minutes off my practice time.

18. I am presently owned by my cat, Tinkerbell.

19. Even though I was a single mom with very little money when I was younger, struggling to make ends meet, if anything had ever happened to my sister and brother-in-law when the kids were little, I would have raised my nieces and my nephew as my own. In fact, I would have taken out anyone who tried to stop me. I knew without question that my sister would have done the same for my kids. Now that I think about it, this may be why I created Aunt Yolanda in the Piece of Cake mystery series. Aunts are Awesome!

20. I love to laugh.


May 28, 2015

Uhhh.... I Forgot

My daughter called me on her way to work this morning to tell me about a story she'd heard on NPR. It had to do with a study recently conducted on the difference between reading a book on a mobile device (specifically a Kindle) versus reading a print book.

According to the study, some readers retained less information when reading on the Kindle than other readers did when reading a print copy of the same story. Researchers indicated that the tactile experience (feeling the stack of pages growing smaller on one side of the book and larger on the other) might contribute to the ability to better retain information when reading a print book.

Now, I didn't hear the NPR story myself, and I don't know my way around the NPR website well enough to figure out if there's a podcast of the story available to those of us who missed it, but a Google search did turn up this article that I read and found interesting.

Let me preface my thoughts by saying that I'm really a print book fan. I love the feel of books and love the way they look on a shelf. In my opinion, a home without bookshelves is ... well missing something important.

But I'm also quite fond of my Kindle. When it comes to moving 3,000 books from one location to another, for example, the e-reader beats the print book hands down. I also like the fact that on my Kindle I can adjust the font to suit my mood and level of eye strain. On the other hand, I prefer the feel of a real book in my hands and nothing can beat the smell of a library or book store (unless the smell is ruined by stale coffee).

But even though I appreciate my Kindle, I sincerely hope that print books never completely disappear from our human experience. But even though this study would seem to support my love of the print book, I did have some doubts about the veracity of the study I read about.

My biggest doubt arises because there's no indication in the article that all the human readers involved were equal. That makes me wonder whether the results are really proof that retention is skewed by reading an ebook or if retention is skewed by having a memory like a sieve.

No matter what device someone handed me, I would find myself challenged if asked to recall certain events from most stories/books I've read unless I was pre-warned that I would be tested later. So without warning that would make me pay more attention than I might otherwise, I would probably test poorly on recall of plot points and character names.

I know people who can talk about a novel they read years ago and mention the characters by name. I'm not one of those people. Unless the book is off-the-charts amazing, I'm not likely to remember character names ten minutes after I put the book down (and sometimes not even then.) It wouldn't matter which type of book the researchers handed me, I would bring my faulty memory with me. Someone would be wrong to assume that my inability to remember the order of story events was the fault of the device I used to read the book.

And even if everyone who participated in the study had brilliant memories, some stories resonate with certain readers and not with others. I'm much more likely to recall details from a story that touches me on some deeply personal level than I am from one that I don't personally connect with. There again, the medium I use to read the story matters much less than my likes and dislikes, my personality, and my past experiences.

I guess what it boils down to is that even though I still prefer a print book, I'm not ready to point an accusing finger at the much-maligned e-reader on the basis of the study I read about. What about you?

photo credit: DSC02792 via photopin (license)