Monday, September 2, 2019

Welcome Guest Author Ellen Byron

Award winning author Ellen Byron is one of the first authors I met in my debut year at Raleigh, NC, Oct. 2015, and we've been fast friends ever since. Today, Ellen is guesting in my first Monday spot. Welcome Ellen!

My Cajun Country Mysteries always include recipes. I’m not a cook by nature. To be honest, it’s sometimes easier for me to write a whole book than compose a recipe or adapt an existing one. But no matter how much work it takes, I’ve always managed to power through—until the sweet potato praline and I came up against each other. 

Since my Cajun Country Mystery series is set in, well, Cajun Country, I get to make lots of trips to Louisiana. It helps that our daughter is a rising sophomore at Loyola University, New Orleans. (I didn’t force her to go there, I swear.) On one of my many trips, I wandered into Southern Candymakers, a shop in the French Quarter, and discovered their one-of-a-kind sweet potato praline. It was like a candy version of sweet potato pie. I fell in love.

A sweet potato praline from Southern Candymakers

In FATAL CAJUN FESTIVAL, my latest Cajun Country Mystery, the town of Pelican, Louisiana decides to kick off an annual music festival called Cajun Country Live!In addition to music, residents set up booths to sell local fare. I decided the family of my protagonist, Maggie Crozat, would sell a variety of pralines at their booth, which would of course lead to praline recipes in my book. But the signature praline, the one everyone touted as the most mouth-watering sweet treat, would be – you guessed it – the sweet potato praline. 

I congratulated myself on the brainstorm, wrote the draft, and then tackled the recipes. I quickly learned that pralines are reallyhard to make. A single batch of mine would have three different consistencies: chewy, hard, and rock-hard. But my sweet potato praline recipe served up only one consistency: useless. Batch after batch coagulated as blobby mess of butter, potato, cream, and sugar. If my kitchen trash was a sentient being, he or she would have been very happy because that’s where each batch ended up. I’m not a quitter, but I also know my limits. Making dud pralines was expanding my waistline. It was also costing me a fortune I finally had to do something I’ve never done before: give up. Readers will find a couple of hard-won recipes for pralines in FATAL CAJUN FESTIVAL. But instead of a recipe for sweet potato pralines, they will find this:

I’m bummed I had to bail on the recipe. But I learned a valuable lesson. From now on, if I build a story around a treat or a dish, I’ll be sure it’s one I can actually make. And if I have a craving for a sweet potato praline, I’ll just pay a visit to Southern Candymakers.

Readers, has a recipe ever stumped you? And if you’re tempted to try a sweet potato praline, here’s the link to Southern Candymakers:

About Ellen Byron: Mardi Gras Murder, Ellen Byron’s fourth Cajun Country Mystery, won the Agatha Award for Best Contemporary Novel. The series has also won multiple Best Humorous Mystery Lefty awards from Left Coast Crime. Writing as Maria DiRico, she’ll debut a second series, The Catering Hall Mysteries, in 2020. TV credits include WingsJust Shoot Me, and Fairly Odd Parents. Published and produced plays include the award-winning Graceland.


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