Pies and PerilHello! My name is Amy Ridley. Welcome to my kitchen. Since it’s only 6:30 a.m., I’m willing to bet you haven’t had any breakfast yet. So, have a seat in the breakfast nook. There are applesauce muffins in the oven, a cream cheese coffee cake is almost cool enough to eat and the second pot of coffee just finished brewing. Welcome to my world of recipe testing and stress baking.

You may have guessed, I’ve been awake for awhile. It’s kind of hard to sleep when you keep receiving threatening notes. I prefer to collect cookbooks instead of death threats. Cookbooks are treasure chests full of tips and techniques that I can use to win a contest. You see, I love entering culinary competitions, from national recipe searches for the best brownies to the Kellerton Summer Festival baking contests. Competing in my town’s contests has always been fun. I’ve won quite a few trophies, but this year’s competition had a nasty surprise. As in a dead body nasty surprise. It was worse than tasting a rhubarb pie where salt had been used, instead of sugar.

The person that was murdered wasn’t exactly likable. The number of people that didn’t like her is longer than the ingredient list for an Oaxacan black mole sauce (about 25 ingredients). I may not be quite as sweet as buttercream icing, but I just can’t figure out why someone would want both of us dead. I take that back. I can figure out how we’re connected, but my ideas keep getting shot down for being too far-fetched. What can I say? My theories are as creative as my recipes…and I’ve made things like jalapeno corn bread with candied pecans. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the notes and I think best when I’m cooking. So here I am watching the sun come up and nibbling on my newest, potentially-contest-winning creations.

My best friend, Carla, will be here soon. She often stops in after working third shift in the emergency room. We have breakfast and chat, but usually about things much more mundane than murder suspects. She’s helping me figure out this mess. A big part of her help involves hanging out with a guy that is so hot I think he’s rated on the Scoville scale, the chart used to determine the heat level of chile peppers. At least I can be happy for her, even if my life is crumbling like an over-baked shortbread cookie.

Thank you for stopping in to chat with me. Here’s a mug of coffee. Let me get you a slice of coffee cake. The muffins will be done in a few minutes, so you can try one of them soon. Once Carla gets here, maybe you could help us brainstorm suspects. I really would like to stop stressing out and get back to normal. Remember how I said I cook when I’m under stress? There is so much food in the house right now I’ve been giving it away to visitors and neighbors. When you’re ready to leave, please remind me to give you a bag of oatmeal cookies and a loaf of date bread.

You can read more about Amy in Pies & Peril, the first book in the new “Culinary Competition” mystery series, published by Gemma Halliday Publishing. Books are available at retail and online booksellers.

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment by 6 p.m. eastern on July 30 for the chance to win a copy of Pies & Peril. (US entries only, please.)

Meet the author
Janel Gradowski lives in a land that looks like a cold weather fashion accessory, the mitten-shaped state of Michigan. She is a wife and mom to two kids and one Golden Retriever. Her journey to becoming an author is littered with odd jobs like renting apartments to college students and programming commercials for an AM radio station. Somewhere along the way she also became a beadwork designer and teacher. She enjoys cooking recipes found in her formidable cookbook and culinary fiction collection. Searching for unique treasures at art fairs, flea markets and thrift stores is also a favorite pastime. Coffee is an essential part of her life. She writes the Culinary Competition Mystery Series, along with The Bartonville Series (women’s fiction) and the 6:1 Series (flash fiction). She has also had many short stories published in both online and print publications.

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