Critical praise for Christy!

For "Murder Hooks a Mermaid:"
"Author Christy Fifield creates the kind of characters that stay with you for a long time. Fifield’s new Haunted Souvenir Shop mystery, Murder Hooks a Mermaid has it all: a sunny, relaxed setting, captivating locals, delicious food, and—of course—murder! Delightful amateur sleuth Glory Martine is back with her wisecracking parrot and charming group of friends in this thoroughly entertaining adventure. Don’t miss it."—Julie Hyzy, National Bestselling author of the Manor House Mysteries and the White House Chef Mystery series
"A whodunit with a dose of the supernatural, "Murder Hooks a Mermaid" is a worthy successor to the series opener and showcases Fifield's talents for plotting, characterization and humor." - Richmond Times-Dispatch
"Quirky and unique, a heroine for whom you can't help but root. The story sucks you in." - The Maine Suspect
"With a lovable cast of characters, good conversations and a great setting, this well-written book is a terrific read." -- Dru's Book Musings

For "Murder Buys a T-Shirt:"
A refreshing new sleuth! - Lynne Maxwell, Mystery Scene Magazine
"A fun book that will make the dreariest of days a little brighter! Socrates' great Book Alert" - Socrates' Cozy Cafe
"An entertaining and clever Florida whodunit" - Harriet Klausner
"Hilarious! A great murder mystery with well-written characters" - Paranormal & Romantic Suspense Reviews
For the Georgiana Neverall Series:
"Christy Evans will find legions of fans with this new series" - Sheldon McArthur, Lincoln City News Guard
"Funny and entertaining -- a solid mystery filled with likable characters." - RT Book Reviews"
Cute cozy mystery debute -- wry humor -- adorable dogs" -Publisher's Weekly
"Will have you giggling out loud! Four Stars." - Kathy Fisher, The Romance Readers Connection"The Book is good! Keep them coming, Ms. Evans!" - Mystery Scene
"Evans delivers a fast-paced mystery with admirable finesse!" - Sharon Galligar Chance,
"Christy Evans has a hit on her hands" - Harriet Klausner,
"Christy Evans is aces. I'll be very suprised if Sink Trap isn't an instant hit with cozy readers!" -

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Cooking Up a New Series - Part Three - Fried Catfish

Research for MURDER IN A SHOT GLASS continued with fried catfish (see Part One for the beginning of this thread,  and Part Two for my adventure with hush puppies).  Now, I am a West Coast girl and my favorite fish are probably salmon, trout and tuna, but my husband's taste buds were formed in Alabama, and he remains a loyal catfish fan.

Fortunately, his mother gave me her catfish recipe.  I had my fryer (already hot from cooking hush puppies) and I had the catfish, which had finally thawed completely, thanks to putting the zipper bag from the grocery store in a bowl of cold water.  This is a small town, far from catfish country, so we had to settle for frozen fillets on short notice.

I cut up the fish, salted it, and left it to soak in buttermilk while I assembled the coating.  The recipe said to soak it in a shallow pan, but since it came in a zipper bag I used that.  It seemed to work fine.  All I did was sprinkle the fish with salt, put it back in its bag, and pour the buttermilk in.  I made sure the fish was covered by the buttermilk, squeezed out as much air as I could, and set it back in the bowl so it wouldn't accidentally get bumped, dropped, or otherwise disturbed.

The instructions I had said to fry the fish first, and I suspect some flavors would transfer to the hush puppies as they're cooking.  But I had to wait for the fish to thaw, so I did hush puppies first.  Next time I will allow thawing time - if I can't get fresh, or at least thawed, catfish - and do the fish first.  And yes, there will undoubtedly be a next time, if only to make my husband happy!

Mixing the coating was easy, since I had already made self-rising cornmeal for the hush puppies, and I had been able to buy self-rising flour.

I put the dry ingredients in a large, shallow bowl to give me lots of room to work, and started dredging the soaked fish pieces.

One thing that surprised me was how much the buttermilk clung to the fish when I took it out of the soak.  I guess I'm used to regular milk, which doesn't cling as much.
It did make it easy to coat the fish pieces, however, and they retained their layer of cornmeal nicely.

With the oil at the proper temperature, and the fish soaked and coated with cornmeal, it was time to start frying.  While my recipe called for 370 degree oil, the fryer recommended 340 for fresh fish, and I followed the manufacturer's recommendations.  It only took three or four minutes for the fish to develop a beautiful light gold crust, and float to the top of the pan.  As with the hush puppies, I could only do a few pieces at a time.  But with the timer running to enforce patience, and a stack of dishes to clean up as a distraction, I managed to wait as each piece turned golden and tempting.

Finally, we reached the rewarding end of the experiment: Tasting!  OK, I admit it, we'd been sampling hush puppies as I worked, and had decided on the more-onion option as the preferred version.  Steve, to his credit, had been patient and helpful, and took the pictures that accompany these posts.  He had even managed not to eat all the hush puppies while he waited for the fish.  (Though, in truth, there were so many hush puppies we actually had leftovers - which he ate the next day with the last couple pieces of fish.  Imagine, it was good enough to eat as leftovers!!)

Here's the finished product, in all its glory.  And the recipe for the fish is below the picture.

Next up, banana pudding.  After all, you can't have a good Southern meal without a sweet finish!!

Fried catfish and hush puppies - can't get much more Southern than this!

Fried Catfish

2 1/2 - 3 pounds of catfish fillets
1 tsp salt
2 cups buttermilk
2 cups self-rising cornmeal
1 cup self-rising corn flour
lemon quarters (optional)

Place fish in a shallow pan and sprinkle with salt.  Pour buttermilk over fish and refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Combine cornmeal and flour.  Remove fish from buttermilk.  Dredge fish in cornmeal mixture.  Carefully drop fish in deep fat heated to 370 degrees.  Fry until fish float the the top and are golden brown.  Drain well and serve with lemon quarters.  8 servings.

(Note:  I only used 1 pound of fish, since I was feeding two people, and we had a little bit left over.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Cooking Up A New Series - Part Two - Hush Puppies

Actually cooking some of the recipes for MURDER IN A SHOT GLASS was one way of making sure I understood the action in the cooking scenes.  Once I was set up with the proper ingredients - or reasonable substitutes - I was ready to start cooking.

The banana pudding was already made and we'd actually had some last night.  It's even better the second day, when the vanilla wafers have softened and the flavors have blended from sitting in the refrigerator overnight.

I prepped the catfish, salted it, and set it to soak in a buttermilk bath while I worked on the hush puppies.

First I needed self-rising cornmeal, one of the ingredients I didn't actually find in my shopping expedition.  Self-rising simply means the cornmeal already contains a leavening agent, in this case salt and baking powder.  According to the information I found online, all I had to do for each cup of cornmeal was replace 1 tablespoon of cornmeal with a tablespoon of baking powder and add a half-teaspoon of salt.  (Thank you,!)

I mixed the cornmeal and self-rising flour, sugar and garlic powder and added the onion.  My husband was leery of too much onion, and I dialed back the amount the recipe called for.  Then I added eggs and buttermilk, and I had hush puppy batter.  It looked thin, and I had my doubts, but I dropped a spoonful in the hot oil.

Now THAT looks right!
I was right, it was way too thin.  I had little crumbles of cornmeal batter, not a beautiful hush puppy.  At that point I double-checked the recipe, verified I had used the proper amount of each ingredient, and decided I needed to fix the mixture.  I added some more cornmeal and baking powder, until I got a batter that had the consistency I expected, and tried again.

This time things went much better.  The dough formed little balls in the hot oil instead of falling apart like cardboard in a heavy rain.  The fryer would only hold 4 or 5 at a time, but I waited patiently as each batch made its way from gooey dough balls to golden brown globes of corn-y goodness.

My husband taste-tested one of the first ones and pronounced it edible, much to my relief.  In fact, after a couple tastes, he said it could stand a little more onion.  Since I like onions I quickly added a couple heaping spoonfuls of minced onion and stirred it into the remaining dough.

Patience is not one of my strong points, but these were well worth the wait.  As you can see, they tumbled out of the fry basket onto the paper-towel-lined plate all golden brown and crunchy.

It took quite a while to cook up all the dough I'd made, but in the end I was rewarded with a baking pan full of lovely hush puppies.

Since I had a problem with the consistency of the original recipe I am not going to post it here - at least not until I have a version that works properly.  But in the meantime, here's a link to a recipe for hush puppies, similar to what I made.  There's also a link to a Paul Prudhomme recipe that I want to try.

In the meantime, here's a photo of the final result.  I think they came out looking good, and they tasted great in spite of the experimental nature of the recipe.

But that catfish was still soaking in buttermilk, and my work was far from over...

(To be continued...)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Cooking Up A New Series - Part One

I'm working on the new series, and doing a lot of research to make sure I get the details right.  Research can be challenging, it can be fun, and sometimes I need to ask for help.  Right now it's all three.

One of the things that will run through the series is a weekly dinner for Glory and her friends Karen, Ernie, and Felipe.  In MURDER IN A SHOT GLASS the foursome are focusing on traditional Southern cooking.  For me this means learning some new ways of cooking (challenging), tasting the food (fun), and finding authentic recipes (help!).

Fortunately, my mother-in-law (a wonderful lady) was born and raised in southeastern Alabama, just north of the Florida panhandle.  She was my first call when I started looking for recipes and she didn't disappoint me.  I now have a list of things to try.

But before I could start cooking, there was the problem of rounding up typical Southern ingredients in a small West Coast town.  Especially a small town on the beach, with limited shopping opportunities.

To the Internet for help!!  I found instructions on how to make your own self-rising flour and cornmeal, and also discovered advice about using masa - readily available in a town with a large Latino population - as corn flour (when you look at the label, the words "corn flour" are right there).  At this point I'm guessing that  "corn flour" is probably the functional equivalent of "fine ground corn meal."

I hope.

Armed with this knowledge, I made a trip to the "big city" in search of supplies.  I found self-rising flour, several varieties of cornmeal, and a bag of masa.

Back home I consulted with my husband - an escaped Southerner - about what to try first.  We decided on a few of his all-time favorites: fried catfish, hush puppies, and banana pudding.  I've made a lot of banana pudding over the years, and I even had all the ingredients on hand, so that was no problem.

Catfish was another matter.  We managed to find some frozen fillets at the market, in portions large enough to feed a half the town.  Fortunately the woman on duty at the meat counter was kind enough to break up the package and sell me just a pound of fish.  (Which was still quite a lot for two people!)

Now that I had ingredients - or at least instructions on how to make substitutes - I needed the proper utensils.

The first problem was getting an appropriate fryer.  We considered using a pot on the stove, but I had a couple concerns, first and foremost being temperature control.  I have a lovely new stove, but keeping hot oil at a consistent temperature can be a pain, and requires a good thermometer and constant monitoring.  I needed an electric deep fryer.

I hit the local Goodwill looking for a deep fryer, but struck out.  I went in the Bi-Mart next door, hoping to find one of those miniature fryers that wouldn't set me back too much.  For once luck was on my side, and I found a nice sized one on sale for $30.  I have no idea where I am going to store this thing, but it was a great price, so we dragged it home.

Back home I now had ingredients and tools, all I had to do was cook...
(To be continued!)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sometimes, A GREAT Day!

We all have "those" days - the ones where you oversleep, your hair won't behave, the cat barfs on your shoes, you burn your mouth on that first (and oh, so necessary) cup of coffee. The days where you want to go back to bed and start over in the hopes things will get better.

My granddaughter's crazy hair day!

This Sunday, I am happy to say, was NOT one of those days. This Sunday was the kind of day where you wish you could go back to bed and start over only because you would like to repeat the fabulous-ness of the morning again and again.

Sundays are usually good days. I don't have to go to work, so I can sleep in - a treat for someone who is Not A Morning Person. I have a standing lunch date with my best writer friends, and there is time to read and write and hang out with my husband.

So this Sunday started with the sleeping-in part, followed by the reading-the-newspaper-on-my-Kindle segment. Eventually though, I had to haul my tail out of bed and face the day, starting with my e-mail.

Imagine my delight when I found a personal note from a complete stranger, telling me how much she was enjoying the Georgie books! She had purchased them at a local bookstore where the owner knew me, and Diana (the owner) had encouraged the reader to drop me a note. It took the kindness of two people - Diana of Bob's Beach Books and her customer - to make that little moment happen for me, and I deeply appreciate it. To a writer positive feedback from readers is worth its weight in gold.

Right behind the reader e-mail came one from the Fresh Fiction website. They wanted to let me know they had posted a review of DRIP DEAD, and they asked for permission to post an excerpt on their site. The review? Wonderful! They tagged it with "Watertight mystery is full of fun and suspense." Thank you, Sharon Galligar Chance, that line made my whole day!

So far it's been a pretty good day, right? Well, there was one more boost to come. A few minutes later my husband came into my office and asked if I had seen his tweet. I hadn't, so I went to look. He had posted a link to Whodunit? Mystery Bookstore in Winnipeg. Right there on their bestseller list for February (behind Martha Grimes, Tamar Myer, and Robert B. Parker) was DRIP DEAD! That's right, #4 on their mass market list for February!

All of this came on top of a notice a few days earlier that DRIP DEAD had reached #10 on the mass market list for Seattle Mystery Bookstore.

You know, if every Sunday was like this, I could almost become a Morning Person.  Almost.