Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cooking Up Laughs for Thanksgiving

Note: I'm thankful for the many wonderful friends I've made in this business, and Barb Goffman is one of them! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving. Joanna

By Barb Goffman

It seems appropriate to have my contribution to today’s Killer Hobbies blog be about my own hobby, writing. And, in case you work for the IRS, by hobby I mean an activity I spend a lot of time on, from which I’m trying to make a profit . I promise! Now back to our normal programming.

My hobb ... errrr ... non-day job is writing. But not just any kind of writing. I write mystery short stories. And just to get a little more specialized, I particularly enjoy writing funny mystery short stories.

Nothing like putting a little pressure on myself. Don’t just write a good story, with strong characters, a developed setting, and an interesting plot. No. I tell myself to try to make the darn story funny, too.

Thankfully, I’m easily inspired. Take a call for stories that came out this summer. The publisher Untreed Reads wanted to put out an anthology of humorous mysteries, each focusing on a traditional Thanksgiving food. Baby, I was off and running.

The first food that came to mind was gravy. Don’t ask me why. It’s not like I can cook it myself. As my friend Logan loves to remind me, I don’t actually cook anything. I warm things. From freezer to microwave to a plate on my kitchen table. She’s right. I admit it. But thankfully I don’t have to know how to actually cook food to write about it. Just like I don’t know how to commit murder to write about that. Really. I promise that, too.

So I decided to write a mystery involving gravy. Once I had that idea, my imagination went berserk. Before I knew it, I had created an entire family, headed by Dotty, a proud southern matriarch who likes things just so and whose annual Thanksgiving feast could give Martha Stewart a run for her money. Unfortunately for Dotty, her sister, Agnes, insists on making the turkey and gravy every year. And Agnes, like me, can’t cook, which drives Dotty to distraction.
That set up has humorous potential in itself. But writers are supposed to make life hard for their characters. It makes the story more interesting. So for this Thanksgiving, I decided Dotty shouldn’t simply have to put up with Agnes’s dreadful gravy. I threw in an airhead trying to marry into the family and get her paws on Dotty’s deceased mother’s engagement ring. Dotty certainly can’t let that happen, so she comes up with a plan to save the ring involving cunning, deception, and Agnes’s horrible, horrible gravy. Dotty sets her plan in motion and ... then the wheels come off the bus.

Because when is Thanksgiving ever a simple holiday where everything works smoothly?

You can read all about Dotty and Agnes and the world’s worst gravy in my newest short story “Biscuits, Carats, and Gravy,” which appears in Untreed Read’s anthology The Killer Wore Cranberry. The book has nine humorous short mysteries, each involving a Thanksgiving food.

It’s a perfect read, especially this week.

The anthology is available solely as an e-book, so you can download it right now from all the online stores onto any e-reader, or you can download it as a PDF onto your computer. And if you prefer your short stories a la carte, no problem: each story can be purchased individually, too.
So if your family becomes a little too much to bear this week, just download this book and in a couple minutes you can be laughing—and getting some ideas for making your own family’s feast more ... interesting. But keep in mind that this is all for fun and enjoyment. I’m not actually promoting any crimes. Really, I’m not. I promise!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Barb Goffman is a short-story mystery author whose work tends to focus on families. Twice nominated for the Agatha Award, Barb is a member of the national board of Sisters in Crime, is a co-coordinating editor of Chesapeake Crimes: They Had It Comin’ and the forthcoming Chesapeake Crimes: This Job is Murder, and is program chair of the Malice Domestic mystery convention. She lives in Virginia. You can learn more about her at


Linda O. Johnston said...

Welcome to Killer Hobbies, Barb. I love your story's premise! As one who started out with short stories and still writes one now and then, I love to hear of how those fun, concise mystery stories originate.

Barb Goffman said...

Thank you, Linda, for welcoming me. And thank you, Joanna, for arranging this my blog post.

I know that you (and Joanna) will be attending the Malice Domestic mystery convention this spring, which will give us a chance to meet in person. I'm looking forward to it! In the meanwhile, happy Thanksgiving!

Linda O. Johnston said...

It'll be great to meet you, Barb. And Happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, Barb,

Sounds like a great anthology, and I love the cover art. Some years ago I wrote a Thanksgiving mystery that was a winner in a culinary mystery contest sponsored by Food Writing. I rewrote "Dead in Dinkyville" and it was published a year ago in Horizon Magazine, Canada. It was great fun. Sounds like you had a similarly good experience.

Joanna Campbell Slan said...

Barb, you are delightful. Thanks for joining us! I'm feeling very leery of gravy...

Barb Goffman said...

Hi, Jacqueline. Congratulations on your story! And yes, I think this is my favorite of all my short stories I've written. The publisher had asked for humor, and I gave it my all.

And Joanna, you're very sweet. You're also not the only person afraid of food (or at least my food) after reading my stories. Our friend Logan says that between "Biscuits, Carats, and Gravy" and my story from last year in which I used poison, she won't eat at my house! (Silly lady, because she still will have drinks at my house, which are just as easy to ... er ... modify.)