I’m not super big on New Year’s resolutions. We’ve all been
there. Eat less; exercise more. Spend less; save more. Yada yada yada. But when
it comes to books and reading I can always get behind a fresh initiative and
If you’re like me, you tend to read a lot of the same kinds
of books. I tend towards escapist fiction, whether contemporary or historical.
I also love a well-plotted mystery, so long as there’s not too much
nightmare-inducing gore. But we all know that there’s so much more out there
for us to sink our teeth into.
So I got the idea to run a Reading Challenge for 2020 where I will join you in broadening our horizons. Let’s challenge ourselves this year to read from a wider variety of genres.
I have identified 12 different categories of books, one for each month of the year. (Scroll down to see the graphic with my picks!) Join me as we pick up books that are not just women’s fiction (like mine…mark your calendars for May 5th when Hello, Summer hits stores!), but also from the genres of history, self-help, non-fiction, historical fiction, short stories, romance, thriller, mystery, fantasy, science fiction, and young adult.
To make this challenge a little extra fun, I have identified
one book in each category that I am adding to my own personal TBR (to be read)
pile for 2020. Of course, because I love giving away free stuff, I am offering
you all the chance to win each book!
Over the next couple of weeks I will do a post per day on my Instagram feed featuring each category one by one. Each day my followers will have the chance
to enter to win not just that book, but also a signed copy of my book, Sunset Beach.
So follow along on Instagram as I feature a wide variety of books day-by-day over the next couple weeks. Join the conversation each day and maybe you’ll be one of the lucky 12 winners!
Writing about murder must be in my DNA. Growing up in St. Petersburg, Florida, the setting for my new novel SUNSET BEACH, my family gathered most weeks at my grandmother’s house for Sunday dinner, where my uncle, a career police officer, enthralled us with stories of his latest, most intriguing cases.
When most children my age were reading the comic strips, I was poring over the police logs in the newspaper, and racing through the stacks of Perry Mason and Mickey Spillane paperbacks supplied to me by my grandfather.
With my newest novel, SUNSET BEACH, I’ve returned to the Gulf of Mexico beaches of my youth, to a very specific plot of land called, fittingly, Sunset Beach.
After majoring in journalism in college, I started my newspaper career as a night shift reporter in Savannah, where, on slow news nights, I’d steal away to the paper’s morgue—that’s reference library in newsspeak—reading up on infamous and unsolved local homicides.
In subsequent years, I covered crime stories all over Southeast Georgia, including writing about the notorious 1981 murder of a down-and-out drifter named Danny Hansford by a wealthy Savannah antique dealer named Jim Williams. Those trials—there were four in all, before Williams was acquitted—later became the basis for the book and movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. (Which, tragically, I did not write.)
Later, I got myself assigned to cover cops and courts, eventually moving to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where I quickly became obsessed with the city’s most puzzling cold case, the 1965 disappearance of Mary Shotwell Little.
The 22-year-old newlywed met a co-worker for lunch at Atlanta’s best-known shopping center, Lenox Square, and after shopping and dinner, Mary parted from her friend, telling her, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Tomorrow never came. The raven-haired bank secretary vanished that night, the only clue to her fate a pile of her blood-stained clothing folded neatly on the front seat of her car, which investigators found in the shopping center parking lot.
Although I left journalism in 1991 with the publication of my first novel (a murder mystery titled EVERY CROOKED NANNY), my fascination with crime has never wavered. I wrote two mystery series, one set in Atlanta, the other in my hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida, and then, in 2001, I decided to branch out from crime writing with a novel called SAVANNAH BLUES.
That book did have a murder at its core, but as my editor explained to me, nobody cared “whodunnit” because the victim was a homewrecking hussy who needed killing. SAVANNAH BLUES was really about a woman at a crossroads, fresh from a devastating divorce, who in the process of fixing up a carriage house in Savannah, reinvents herself and finds a new life and a new love.
My subsequent novels, including SUMMER RENTAL, BEACH TOWN, THE WEEKENDERS, and THE HIGH TIDE CLUB, have been called beach reads, because they’re fast-paced, entertaining reads, featuring characters my readers can root for, and because they include a puzzle, sometimes a murder, sometimes not, that hopefully keep you guessing right up until the end.
This summer’s book, SUNSET BEACH, features Drue Campbell, a professional kite boarder who’s suffered a career-ending sports injury. Down on her luck and at a dead-end in her personal and professional life, her fate changes suddenly when her long-estranged father, a flamboyant ambulance-chasing personal injury lawyer, shows up at her mother’s funeral in Fort Lauderdale with the surprise news that she’s inherited her grandparents’ cottage across the state in Sunset Beach. He also throws her a lifeline—the offer of a job working in his law firm.
With no other options available, Drue reluctantly accepts her father’s offer, moving into the now-shabby and hurricane damaged beach cottage—dubbed Coquina Cottage by her grandparents, that was once the scene of the happy summer stays of her childhood. The roof leaks, and there’s no air conditioning or furniture, but it’s the first home Drue has ever owned. It might need work, but so does she.
That’s not the only nasty surprise awaiting Drue. On her first day on the job she discovers that her father’s latest wife—and the office manager, happens to be Drue’s junior high frenemy, who makes it quite clear that she opposed Drue’s hiring.
Drue also takes takes up a cubicle working on the firm’s “Justice Line” which boils down to answering and screening the unending stream of callers generated by the firm’s non-stop television, radio, and billboard ads. Most of them are hoping for a fast buck and a lucrative settlement for their slip-and-fall lawsuits.
When a grieving
grandmother walks into the law firm demanding real justice for her
daughter—whose murder at a swanky beach resort has never been solved, Drue
quickly becomes embroiled in trying to find a solution to that mystery, despite
everyone’s repeated warnings that the case is a dud.
After her roof
springs a new leak, Drue climbs upto the
attic and discovers what appears to be a decades old official police file about
the disappearance of a local woman who might have had a connection to her
father, Drue realizes she has no idea who to trust—or to fear.
Drue is a different kind of character for me. She’s independent to the point of being prickly; wounded, but resilient; and dogged in her determination to get some answers, sometimes to her own detriment.
Writing this book is a sort of valentine to my hometown of St. Petersburg, and with the inclusion of an old cold-case disappearance inspired by the Mary Shotwell Little case, a return to my life of (fictional) crime.
My hope is that readers will find SUNSET BEACH a different kind of summer read, with a little romance, a healthy sprinkling of humor, and yes, a double dose of mystery. In other words, a beach book that comes with a twist.
Maybe you didn’t know, but I’ve been living a double life for some time now. Yep. At home, I’m Kathy Hogan Trocheck, mild-mannered junker, wife, mom, grandmother, recovering journalist (I was a reporter for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution for many years) and decorator in denial. But in public, when I’m wearing makeup and not-yoga-pants, I’m Mary Kay Andrews, best-selling novelist and author of 28 novels and (and The Beach House Cookbook) and counting.
Many people aren’t aware that I started my fiction career in 1992 as a mystery writer—penning ten mysteries under my real name, Kathy Hogan Trocheck, including the much beloved Callahan Garrity mystery series. In 2002, when I had an idea for a different kind of book, Savannah Blues, I adopted the pen name of Mary Kay Andrews, which is a combination of my two children’s names—Mary Kay for my daughter who was christened Mary Kathleen, and Andrews, for son Andrew. And poor old KHT went on hiatus. Because of all the hassle of maintaining dual identities, eventually my publisher re-released all the books as being “by Mary Kay Andrews writing as Kathy Hogan Trocheck.”
I always get a laugh when people discover that MKA is in reality KHT. The most common reaction is “I loved those books, but when you stopped writing, I assumed you were dead.”
Not dead at all, I can assure you. And now I’m dropping back onto my sometimes-neglected blog to share the news that my rookie book, Every Crooked Nanny, which is the first in the Callahan series, will be a Kindle Monthy Deal for only $1.99 from Oct.1-Nov. 5, 2018. Download yours now while this deal lasts!
If you haven’t already met Callahan, her irascible mother Edna Mae and the rest of her House Mouse crew, I think you are in for a treat.
Here’s a little of Callahan’s backstory. She’s a former Atlanta police detective, who quits the department due to sexist bosses who don’t think a woman can be a good homicide cop. She gets a private investigator’s license, but when business isn’t as brisk as she’d hoped, in frustration buys a cleaning business called The House Mouse. Callahan and Edna share her home, a Craftsman bungalow in the real Atlanta intown neighborhood of Candler Park.
Her House Mouse cleaning crew “girls” are an eccentric bunch, a loud-mouthed big-boned gal named Neva Jean who is married to good-old-boy Swannelle, elderly African-American sisters Baby and Sister, and the quietly religious Ruby.
In Every Crooked Nanny, Callahan’s first outing, she’s hired by an uppity former sorority sister to track down the family’s missing nanny, who, before running off with the family secrets, has gotten a little too cozy with the man of the house.
Because I wrote the eight Callahan mysteries before the advent of Google, Smart Phones or the GPS, my low-tech sleuth relies on good old-fashioned street smarts and shoe leather to solve the crimes that occur in and around Atlanta with unnerving regularity.
Here’s what the critics have said about Every Crooked Nanny “Fresh, confident, intelligent and amusing. Grab a cold drink, put your feet up, and enjoy yourself.”—Sue Grafton “Crisp intelligence and earthy wit.”—New York Times “A clever, colorful page-turner, not to be missed…A high caliber debut.”—Publishers Weekly
I hope you’ll agree—and at $1.99 for the first installment, that you’ll want to binge-read all eight books in the Callahan Garrity series. Here’s the list, from first to last. Enjoy!
It’s hard to believe that another summer is about to be officially behind us. As we begin our Labor Day weekend, I’m pleased that Mr. MKA and I do not have much planned. We will kick back and enjoy some much-needed downtime. I think we will take a relaxed approach to our meal planning too. I’ve gathered a few of my simplest no-fuss recipes from THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK to compile what feels to me like the best hassle-free Labor Day menu plan for Labor Day weekend.
Enjoy the fresh, simple goodness of Greek Salad My Way. You can find the recipe on page 85 of THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK.
Fresh tomatoes are the star of this easy-peasy Fresh Tomato Pasta dish, which is perfect for this time of year when tomatoes are so ripe and delicious. Find this recipe in the “After a Day at the Beach” menu on page 81 of THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK.
What screams summer more than ice cream sandwiches? The Sweetie Pie Ice Cream Sandwiches are the perfect dessert to send-off Summer 2018 in style. Find them in the “Full Moon Party” menu on page 114 of THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK.
Happy #ThirstyThursday to you! What are your favorite #summersippers? Thanks to their generous support for my book tour this summer for THE HIGH TIDE CLUB, I was introduced to Mississippi-based Cathead Vodka. And I’ve since been enjoying this refreshing concoction. Give it a try this summer whether you’re on vacation, at the beach, or just winding down at home on a hot summer night. #Cheers, y’all!
You know what makes an awesome gift for that dad who has enough neckties, aftershave, golf doodads, and fishing tackle? A cookbook! Might I suggest my very own, THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK?
Mr. MKA, the father of my children and grandfather of the cutest grands in the world, is a fabulous cook who actually loves trying out new recipes—especially if they involve jalapenos, bourbon or seafood. Many of the recipes in THE BEACH HOUSE COOKBOOK are ones he developed, perfected or outright stole from me—and then adapted by adding copious amounts of jalapenos, bourbon, and seafood. (Not really, but you get the point.)
My own dad, however, was never much of a cook. He came from that generation that expected to sit down to a hot homemade dinner every evening, but his own cooking expertise was limited to opening a can of tomato soup or heating up jarred tamales.
Which was okay with my mom, who was a sensational cook. Friends still speak wistfully about her chocolate pie, pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, fried chicken, and carrot cake.
Since I’m finally home from the five-week-long book tour for THE HIGH TIDE CLUB, I’m already making plans for the weekend. This Father’s Day, our family, including son Andy (aka Boomerang Boy) daughter Katie and her husband Mark, along with Molly and Griffin, will gather at our house to celebrate.
I think we’ll give Tom and Mark the day off from their usual grilling chores. They can sip some Boozy Arnold Palmer Cocktails or Beergaritas while dinner is prepared. What’s on the menu? Thinking that with the swamp-like summer temperatures already enveloping us here in Atlanta we’ll do something like the make-ahead Marinated Shrimp which we can serve over salad for a complete meal. Our garden cucumbers are about to overrun the backyard, so I see the Marinated Cucumbers & Onions in our future too. And since both the dads we’re celebrating have a sweet-tooth, Katie and I might have to whip up a dessert buffet, including the kid’s favorite Trailer Trash Dessert, along with a Peach and Berry Cobbler to take advantage of those sweet Georgia peaches just turning up at our local farmer’s market.
And sometime during the day—probably right around the dessert course, which was always my Dad’s favorite, we’ll pause to toast and pay homage to all the good dads we’ve been fortunate enough to have known.
If you watch live you can ask me questions about my cookbook and my novels which I will answer in real time. If you miss the live broadcast, no worries. The video will live on Facebook forever.
You can find the recipe in The Beach House Cookbook. If you don’t already have a copy, grab one now. Its most definitely not all summer food in there. I’ve got easy breezy menu plans appropriate for every season and holiday, enough to last all throughout the year.
Match our $250 donations to Americares! Six people will be our guests for drinks on Saturday.
Join our efforts to share the light of hope with victims of Hurricane Harvey and Patti Callahan Henry & Mary Alice Monroe and I will take you for free drinks & nibbles this Saturday evening in Decatur, GA!
The three of us — Patti Callahan Henry, Mary Alice Monroe, and I — all have homes along the coast and feel for our coastal neighbors in Texas. Their devastation could be ours but for the whims of weather. Help us share the light of hope by joining our efforts to raise money for disaster relief—and we’ll thank you by taking some of you out for drinks in Decatur, GA this Saturday. Here’s how…
The three of us have made a donation of $250 apiece to the AmericaresHurricaneHarvey Relief Fund. If you are in the Atlanta-area and able to meet all three of us for drinks this Saturday night, we will choose the first six local donors who match our donations to join us for cocktails and nibbles at No. 246 this Saturday evening after the Decatur Book Festival.
1. Make your donation. 2. Screen shot your confirmation screen or email. 3. Email it to [email protected] before midnight on Friday 9/1.
We will notify the six winners with details on when/where to meet up with the three of us on Saturday evening.
Not in the ATL this weekend, but still want to join the fun? Please consider giving. No amount is too small. Share with us in the comments your location and your words of love and hope for those suffering. We’ll raise a glass to all of you on Saturday night.
For a fun & easy Easter Sunday brunch menu, try a few recipes from my upcoming The Beach House Cookbook. I demo’d a few of these recipes on Fox5 Atlanta’s Good Day Atlanta morning TV program on Thursday, April 13, 2017. You can access all of these recipes in my new cookbook, which will be in stores on May 2nd. Meanwhile, here’s the recipe for the Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding. Paired with Prosecco Sippers, Fruit Salad, and Pig Candy, it’s the perfect no-fuss, crowd-pleasing brunch menu. All can be made ahead and are easy to transport if you’re joining family & friends. Just put the casserole into the oven before church or the Easter egg hunt.
Cinnamon Roll Bread Pudding
Two of Tom’s favorite grocery-store breakfast treats are cinnamon rolls—those big, gooey ones you buy on a foil tray in the bakery department—and apple fritters. So this is what you would get if an apple fritter were to marry a stale cinnamon roll. Not that a cinnamon roll was ever allowed to go stale in our house. But if that were to happen, you would have a heavenly culinary marriage—not to mention a very grateful audience around the breakfast table.
For the pudding:
1⁄2 cup raisins 1⁄4 cup rum or brandy 2 cups half-and-half 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar 2⁄3 cup milk 5 large egg yolks 2 tsp. vanilla extract 1 tsp. ground cinnamon 1 tsp. grated nutmeg Pinch of salt 8 large cinnamon rolls, left uncovered overnight 2 cups peeled, chopped tart apples (such as Honey Crisp, Pink Lady, or Granny Smith) 1⁄2 cup finely chopped pecans 2 Tbsp. (1⁄4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into pieces 1 1⁄2 Tbsp. cinnamon sugar
For the icing: 1⁄2 cup powdered sugar 4 tsp. milk 1⁄2 tsp. white rum
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 7-by-11-inch casserole dish. Combine the raisins and rum and let stand for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 teaspoon of the rum. 2. Beat the half-and-half, brown sugar, milk, egg yolks, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt together in a large bowl until well combined.
3. Cut the cinnamon rolls into 1-inch chunks and add to the egg mixture, tossing well to coat. Stir in the apples, raisins, pecans, and reserved rum. Let stand for 30 minutes or until the bread has absorbed most of the liquid.
4. Spoon the mixture into the prepared baking dish, dot with the butter, and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar. Place the baking dish in a roasting pan. Pour boiling water into the roasting pan to reach halfway up the sides of the dish. Bake for 50 to 55 minutes, or until the bread pudding is set and the top is browned. Carefully remove the bread pud ding from the water bath.
5. To make the icing, whisk the powdered sugar, milk, and rum in a small bowl until smooth. Drizzle the pudding with the icing and serve warm.
My mother must have baked hundreds of these super-moist three-layer cakes with maple cream cheese frosting in her lifetime. It was a family favorite as well as the star of the dessert rotation at the restaurant she ran in downtown St. Petersburg, FL. She probably burned through a half-dozen food processors grating all those carrots.
After mom passed away, my sister Susie inherited the carrot cake tradition. One Christmas, Susie and I baked the cake layers and left them cooling on the kitchen counter. When we turned around, we discovered that Wyatt, our English Setter, had devoured most of one of the layers. We mixed up anohter batch of batter, put it in the oven, and then realized we’d used up all the eggs we needed for another recipe. We set the timer and put my dad and Tom, who were watching football, in charge of removing the cakes. When we returned from the store, we were greeted with the distinctive aroma of burnt cake. Sure enough, their team had scored a couple touchdowns—but our cakes were ruined. Again. That was the year we discovered that two-layer carrot cake was better than none. If you attempt this creation for Easter, I hope your preparation is not as drama-fueled as ours was that fateful Chistmas!