FOUR CUTS TOO MANY – Sarah Blair, who finds kitchens more frightening than murder, gets an education in slicing and dicing when someone in the culinary school where her friend teaches serves up a main corpse. Sarah soon discovers that there’s no time to mince words when it comes to finding the real killer.
Judge Debra H. Goldstein writes Kensington’s Sarah Blair mystery series (Four Cuts Too Many, Three Treats Too Many, Two Bites Too Many, and One Taste Too Many). Her short stories, which have been named Agatha, Anthony, and Derringer finalists, have appeared in numerous periodicals and anthologies, including Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, Black Cat Mystery Magazine, Mystery Weekly, Malice Domestic Murder Most Edible, Masthead, and Jukes & Tonks. Debra is on the national board of Mystery Writers of America and president of SEMWA. She previously served on Sisters in Crime’s national board and was the Guppy Chapter president.
Do you write in more than one genre? Although my six novels are all traditional or cozy mysteries, my published short stories range from non-mystery literary works to different mystery genres. During my time as a judge and a litigator, almost all of my writings were non-fiction legal articles and book chapters.
What is your writing process, and what is most challenging about it? My true nature is to be a pantser who listens to the voices of my characters but only writes when the muse strikes me. I repeatedly tell myself I need to get up and write every day, but I constantly fail to do so. This was the exact style I used when I wrote the first Sarah Blair book, One Taste Too Many; however, after Kensington contracted the first three books, I faced several challenges. First, each book now had a deadline for submission, which meant I had to produce on time. That was a challenge I could easily meet. What was more difficult was that for each book, my New York editor wanted a detailed synopsis. It was emphasized to me that it needed to be detailed. Consequently, I spent weeks working out the plot of Two Bites Too Many and finally submitted an eighteen-page synopsis. My editor had only one comment: “Next time, double space.”
Although I wouldn’t say I like thinking the books out in advance, and I often must send my editor an email with a little change – like I discovered there needed to be a new character added to the cast in Three Treats Too Many. I have learned to write and appreciate having shorter, double-spaced treatments for each book.
Has any association membership helped you or your writing? When I announced that I was going to write mysteries, I was told to join Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America. These two organizations provided classes and mentoring guidance that helped me develop my skills and understanding of the craft and business aspects of writing. They also have proven invaluable in helping me make friends at all levels of writing and who generously share their expertise and encouragement.
Do you have subplots? If so, how do you weave them into the novel’s arc? The basic premise of the Sarah Blair books is that Sarah, who was married at eighteen, divorced at twenty-eight, with the only thing she got out of the marriage being RahRah, her Siamese cat, is starting over with no skills and a lack of confidence. As the series proceeds, Sarah evolves. She acquires new skills, including those needed to solve murders, and she grows in terms of her confidence level. Sarah’s interaction with the people around her set up several personal interaction sub-plots in each book. Whether the sub-plot revolves around family, friends, community groups, or her pets varies based upon the main plotline. I also work in social issue subplots, including economic development, mental abuse, ageism, and animal rescue. The key to these subplots is to make my point without banging the reader over the head with it. My goal is to have readers enjoy a carefully crafted whodunit but walk away with subconscious thoughts raised by the subplots.
What kind of research do you do? When Maze in Blue and Should Have Played Poker were orphaned, I knew I had to write something new and that I wanted it to be a cozy mystery. Having spent a great deal of time in small southern towns when I was litigating for the Department of Labor, I knew I could capture their essence in any book I wrote. I also had no problem making my sleuth an amateur. A problem arose when I thought about the fact that most cozy mysteries include crafts or cooking, and I hate both. Once I decided there had to be readers out there who hate the kitchen as much as I do, I had a hook for my series – a woman more frightened of the kitchen than murder. Despite Sarah’s unfamiliarity with the kitchen, I had to learn about it in order to write the kitchen scenes realistically.
Consequently, I approached several restaurant owners, chefs, and waiters in Birmingham, Alabama, which has become a foodie town. They graciously told me their stories and took me through their kitchens. From each person I interviewed, I learned something new that appears in the various books. For Three Treats Too Many, I wanted to write about a community motorcycle group and a veterinarian’s office. To get these things right, I interviewed a few individuals who collect motorcycles, and I shadowed a veterinarian for a day. I believe the more hands-on research I do, the more realistic and enjoyable my books are.
Website – www.DebraHGoldstein.com
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/DebraHGoldsteinAuthor/
Twitter – @DebraHGoldstein
Instagram – debrahgoldstein
Bookbub – https://www.bookbub.com/profile/debra-h-goldstein
Four Cuts Too Many and the other Sarah Blair books are available from indie and big-box bookstores but can also be purchased online.
Four Cuts Too Many by Debra H. Goldstein, Paperback | Barnes & Noble® (barnesandnoble.com)
Day 1- Saturday 6/6/2020 Started well with a tailwind. That was fine until I turned south, and that same wind pushed almost sideways off the road. In and out of wind tunnels for a hundred miles or so. Then running below the flow of traffic at 80+ mph on I-5. But sure ate up the miles. When I turned onto SR 138, it was a smooth ride, and a bit of scenery again had a tailwind, nice road, smooth as silk. Hit cruise control. After a couple of minutes, glanced at the speedometer, 90 mph in a 55 zone. Dropped to 75 until I the 210 and turned toward the coast, and now the wind was pushing me around again.
210 and I-10 to San Bernardino was an experience. At 85 mph, I was forced to the slow lane. The fast lane was 95 to 100 mph.
528 miles got me to the Best Western in Indio as I enjoyed the welcome dust blowing in the wind. What an experience check-in was.
What a boring day. The only positive was being on two wheels.
Day 2 – Sunday – Not as boring even without any scenery
Sgt. JAK woke me before 7:00 a.m. “You up yet?”
Hit the road and missed the turn to I-10. A mile down the road, asked a guy in a jeep, “If I keep going straight, will I hit the I-10?” He pointed straight ahead and said yes. I kept going for 35 miles. Stopped at the end of the Salton Sea in Imperial County. Checked my map, made a U-Turn, and back the way I had come for a 70-mile experience to the I-10. Trust me; the Salton Sea is not much in the way of scenery.
I-10 is not quite as boring as I-5, but not much less. Crossing into Arizona, I was feeling the heat and felt as though heat stroke was a possibility. It may have taken me 76 years to realize, when that happens, you should get out of the sun. I pulled into the first rest stop, drank two fruit juice packs, a bottle of water, and splashed water on my head a few times and sat in the shade. After a half hour, I felt refreshed and got back on the road.
Being in Arizona, I kept the speed down to 80 mph and watched those doing 90+ fly by.
About thirty miles from JAK’s place outside Phoenix, the cruise control bucked and quit working. This is usually a clue. The amp meter dropped and indicated no charging. I figured I could keep going and get closer to civilization as long as the battery had some juice. Nope, after a couple of miles, everything failed. As I pulled to the side of the road, I spied an overpass ahead. Time to get into the shade for what I knew would be a wait of several hours. I made it.
I pulled out the iPhone. Crap, almost out of charge because the GPS sucks power like the sun melts ice. I did manage to call the Harley-Davidson Road America and get the process started. Four cages and one BMW Motorcycle stopped and offered help. Four Harley’s went by without stopping.
I called JAK, and he came out and got my gear. When the two arrived, the operator was a woman. She was a character. In large letters, she had “TOW CHICK” tattooed on her neck.
Loading was an adventure. The bed of the truck was as slick as snot with oil. Of course, JAK had to get a photo of me sitting on the scooter on the truck. Almost a duplicate of a photo he took about ten years ago when the bike broke down on the way to Sturgis.
We get to Roadrunner H-D. No service personnel until 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday. They would not allow me to lock the Ultra inside. “I’ll lock it up in front of the service door.” That was not well received, but look where it’s parked and locked.
I’ll be waiting when they open.
My riding budding and I, 153 years combined, are ready for a road trip. Our route will traverse seven states and cover 4,000 miles give or take a few. I’ll be leaving from Oakland, California on Saturday, 6/6/2020. We’ll blow out of Phoenix on the 8th or 9th.
The photo shows our route, exclusive of a few side trips. If we hit 4-Corners then it will be nine states.
If anyone is riding some or all the way with us give shout out.
I haven’t had a chance to wrap up the Brown Water before now. We were on a cruise to Alaska and then my two months out of warranty hard drive failed.
Monday, July 8th was officially the last day of the 2013 Brown Water Run.
When we settled down the night before, the Bison Fire was raging east of us. The distance that the fire covered was astonishing. I’m glad I was a police officer and not a fire fighter. I will never comprehend how a sane person can put themselves in front of a moving fire. To all Fire Fighters – Thank you for your service.
Here is a quote from one of our riders, “This is a fast-moving fire.” Jeff Zolfarelli – Fire Chief (Retired). Personally I think all fires are fast movers and should be avoided.
Monday started poorly. First, the Bison Fire continued to grow. The Motel 6 staff told us, “We don’t put out coffee until 7:00 a.m.”. We had two motorcycles down. The Harley people told Keith Wallace that his problem was the stater. They couldn’t get one in for a day or two. Fred Sicard had to wait for the service department to replace his tire.
When Keith got back to Arizona he raised cane with the Harley-Folks who had “fixed” his electrical system. It turns out that it was the regulator, not the stater. Carson City had regulators in stock and could have fixed the bike. I believe they returned his diagnostic fee.
Fortunately Grandma Hattie’s was just across the parking lot. We trooped over and had coffee and breakfast.
Paul Wallace had our waitress deliver a jar of mayonnaise to me. I HATE MAYONNAISE. This wasn’t just any mayonnaise, it was from 2003. He had saved it since I was airlifted out of the Oregon Mountains to the hospital in Medford. What a guy.
Larry Eade models a shirt from Pig Trail Harley-Davidson, Eureka Springs, Arkansas. The Pig Trail is a popular ride and should not be missed if one rides through the state. Here is a shortened link http://goo.gl/MhYxo0 if you care to learn more about the trail. Larry, Jim, Burny Matthews and I were on route to Washington, D.C. for the 2010 Law Enforcement Memorial Service during National Police Week. To learn more about this program, link to http://www.nleomf.com
After breakfast we loaded up and prepared to go our separate ways.
The Los Angeles riders headed over to Carson City Harley to wait for Fred. Later they enjoyed a great ride over the Ebbetts Pass Scenic Byway, State Route 4, before spending the night in Fresno. Some BWR riders took US-50 back to the Bay Area. Jim Kennemore took I-80 over Donner Summit. For a “slab” it’s not a bad ride.
I headed to Las Vegas to attend the Public Safety Writers Association Annual Conference. As much as I enjoy riding with a group, solo riding is a delight. I took US-50 through Dayton Valley to US-95 south to Las Vegas. Last June, Jim Kennemore and I were on US-95 up in Idaho. This section is desert, but in its own way, just as scenic.
The Bison Fire was visible looking west, the reverse view of what we had seen the night before. The fire destroyed great tracts of mountain terrain.
Wild horses are not uncommon in areas of Nevada. While this looks to be a rural range, it wasn’t. The west side of the road is wide open with no fences, the east is not. I pulled to a stop and took this shot from about fifty yards. On the east side of the highway were several gas stations, stores, and fast food restaurants. The horses did not seem to have any interest in me or the Ultra’s loud pipes.
I spent the night in Beatty, Nevada and was in Las Vegas by noon on Tuesday. Passing Creech Air Force Based I saw three or four remotely piloted aircraft systems flying in the area. Most of us refer to these devices as Drones. They were bigger than I had imagined.
I attended the Public Safety Writers Association Annual Conference this week at the Orleans Hotel, Las Vegas. The conference was a smashing success and I will be back next year.
What is it that I won’t ever do again?
I rode my Ultra Classic Harley Davidson from Carson City to Las Vegas. The two-day ride wasn’t bad. The weather was hot, hovering around 100º to 102º.
Las Vegas to home is another matter. I left at 1:00 p.m. and rode 302 miles. The Amber Alert signs warned of heavy traffic to California and major delays. They weren’t kidding.
Eleven miles outside Primm I-15 traffic stopped dead. I split lanes to Primm. It took 35 minutes. If I hadn’t, I’d probably still be there. I ‘forgot’ that Nevada frowns on motorcyclists who enjoy this time saver. I got honked at a few times by folks riding in air-conditioned cages.
Ten miles east of Baker, California I realized that it was hotter than anything I had ever experienced. Temperatures in the low hundreds are uncomfortable, this was painful.
I stopped in Baker for fuel and to hydrate. Asking folks in their air-conditioned cages the temperature, provided a consensus of 112º. The highest I’ve ever ridden in. After downing two Gatorades in four swallows, I got on the Ultra. My dark glasses burnt my nose, the grips stung my hands, but the kicker was my seat. I stood up on the floor board and dropped onto the HOT black leather. Not only did I burn my thighs, I scorched everything in between. Ouch.
Weather.com lists the high as 110º.
I’m spending the night at Motel 6, Button Willow. I will be up at dawn with the goal of being home before the sun has a chance cook me again.