Opening Lines from Guest Leslie Budewitz plus #giveaway

News Flash: Valeri Sullivan is our lucky winner! Congratulations, Valeri – please check your email for a message from Leslie.

Edith/Maddie writing from a hot July north of Boston. And so pleased to host my second Leslie this month, my dear friend Leslie Budewitz!

Peppermint Barked, her latest Spice Shop Mystery, releases next week. I can’t wait to read the newest in this fabulous series set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. One lucky commenter wins a copy of either the new book or the first in the series, Assault and Pepper!

Here’s the blurb: A Dickens of a Christmas turns deadly…

As the holiday season lights up Seattle’s famed Pike Place Market, Pepper Reece’s beloved Spice Shop is brimming with cinnamon, nutmeg, and shoppers eager to stuff their stockings. Add to the mix a tasty staff competition—a peppermint bark-off—along with Victorian costumes for this year’s Dickensian Christmas theme, and Pepper almost forgets to be nervous about meeting her fisherman boyfriend’s brother for the first time. But when a young woman working in her friend Vinny’s wine shop is brutally assaulted, costumed revelers and holiday cheer are the last things on Pepper’s mind. Who would want to hurt Beth? Or were they looking for Vinny instead?

The vicious attack upsets everyone at Pike Place, but none more than Pepper’s own employee, Matt Kemp. At first, Pepper is baffled by his reaction, but his clandestine connection to Beth could hold the key to the assailant’s motive. Or perhaps it’s Vinny’s ex-wife who knows more than she’s letting on . . . and what about the mysterious top-hatted man with whom Pepper saw Beth arguing that morning?

As the secrets of the market come to light, long-held grudges, family ties, and hidden plans only further obscure the truth. Is it a ghost of the past rattling its chains, or a contemporary Scrooge with more earthly motives? Pepper chases down a killer, but someone is chasing her, and in the end, the storied market itself may hold the final, deadly clue.

Opening Lines

When you crack open a novel, often the first words you read are not the author’s, but a quote chosen to set the tone for what you’re about to read. I love those little hints. Some give a clear sense from the start of why they matter to the author—maybe the epigraph is the source of the title. Others are like puzzle pieces. When you finish, you flip back to see how the epigraph forecast or sums up what you’ve just experienced with the characters.

In my Spice Shop mysteries, set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, I skipped that introductory quote and open each chapter with a bit of Seattle or Market history. A fun fact about spices or cooking. A recurring image or motif that relates to the plot.

Like the cast list at the beginning and the recipes at the end, they add an extra layer to the story. And they’re fun.

So where do they come from? For years now, I’ve kept a collection of spice trivia and facts. If I hear an NPR story on the aphrodisiac powers of nutmeg or the many ways the unscrupulous try to fake saffron, the world’s most expensive spice, you can bet I’ll be making a note and sneaking that in. I’ve got a couple of shelves of books on spice history—closely linked to the Age of Exploration—and books on Seattle and Market history. Three volumes on Seattle ghost stories. I often quote Brother Cadfael, the fictional 12th century monk and herbalist Pepper considers her spirit guide, or Ellis Peters, his creator, and the book, Brother Cadfael’s Herb Garden by Rob Talbot and Robin Whiteman has been as valuable as the books themselves.

Peppermint Barked, the 6th Spice Shop mystery (out July 19th), starts on Black Friday, and I was curious about the origins of the phrase. Turns out it had nothing to do with its contemporary meaning of the day merchants turn a profit—shop owner Pepper and her pal Vinny agree, it’s more a day for browsing and idea-gathering than actual shopping—so I split the facts about the term into three quotes, scattered throughout the book.

Similarly, peppermint candy and the candy cane itself are steeped in both history and legend, and worked bits of each into the epigraphs. It’s even more fun when I can tie something into the story itself, as I did with the famed Altoids mints and the classic tins they come in, so good for hiding spare keys and other small objects.

When Mr. Right and I got Covid in November of 2020, my sense of taste was temporarily tangled (it didn’t last long and we’re fine now, thanks) and that sent me researching its impact on taste and smell. Our sense of smell is closely linked to memory—both are located in the limbic brain, one of the earliest parts of the brain to evolve. The ability to smell danger, and to remember it, was key to early humans’ survival. That led me to a series of articles and quotes about the importance of the sense of smell—as one neurobiologist said, we don’t think about it much until we lose it, and then we’re terrified.

Finding just the right quote for each chapter is a quirky little literary puzzle. But the best origin story relates to Assault and Pepper, first in the series. A couple of months ago, reader Joyce Donley wrote to ask about two quotes from what I termed a traditional American folk song.

“It’s a poor man who can’t see the beauty in the sun and the wind and the rain. And it’s a sad man who can’t love his neighbor and always finds cause to complain.”

“I thank the Lord that I’m not a poor man. I’m not a sad man, no, not me. I’ve got the sun and the moon and the wind and the rain. And I never lack for good company.”

Joyce and her sister love to sing traditional songs, but weren’t familiar with this one. What could I tell her about it? I learned “Poor Man,” as we called it, in Girl Scout camp in 1970, according to my notes in the handwritten song collection I started keeping as a young Scout who loved to sing and later, play my guitar. As for the source, “traditional” was all I knew. Many of the songs I learned then were brought to camp by our counselors, young women in their late teens and 20s, who came from all over the country, bringing songs they’d learned in other camps as well as on the radio or from recordings. When I first quoted “Poor Man” in the manuscript, I did a google search and came up with nothing. Neither had my reader. I sent her a picture of my notebook page.

A few weeks ago, she wrote me again. She’d found “Poor Man” in a folk song pamphlet she bought on line, titled Sing We Now, later called Pocket Folk Song Library Unit 18, originally published by Cooperative Recreation Service in Ohio, and later reprinted by World Around Songs. She also found it listed as “Poor Man Who Can’t See Beauty” in a book called Camp Songs, Folk Songs by Patricia Averill, which popped up on a Google search and listed it in a chapter on songs Girl Scouts often sang. She sent me a shot of the page, showing lyrics and music. There’s one slight variation in the tune I learned—not bad considering the long trip that song took to get to me and then to Assault and Pepper.

Readers: do you have a favorite quotation? Enjoy extras like cast list, epigraphs, and recipes? And if you come across a fun fact about spices, Seattle, or the Market, send it my way! I’ll send one commenter your choice of Assault and Pepper or Peppermint Barked.

Leslie Budewitz blends her passion for food, great mysteries, and the Northwest in two cozy mystery series, the Spice Shop mysteries set in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, and the Food Lovers’ Village mysteries, set in NW Montana. Watch for Peppermint Barked, the 6th Spice Shop mystery, in July 2022. As Alicia Beckman, she writes moody suspense, beginning with Bitterroot Lake in April 2021 and continuing with Blind Faith in October 2022. A three-time Agatha-Award winner (2011, Best Nonfiction; 2013, Best First Novel; 2018, Best Short Story), she is a current board member of Mystery Writers of America and a past president of Sisters in Crime. She lives in northwest Montana.

73 Thoughts

  1. My favorite quote is ” If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.” Sad but true most of the time. Thank you for this chance at your giveaway. pgenest57 at aol dot com

      1. I recognize it from a song on Hee Haw. ‘Gloom, dispare, agony, poor me. Deep dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all….” It was a lead in for a set of skits on the show. It was my Grandpa’s favorite show.

  2. I love this post, Leslie! But I confess, I never look at the cast of characters if provided. I want the author to roll them out for me in a way I won’t forget who’s who. I do enjoy epigraphs but have never wanted to do the work to use them in my own books.

  3. When I was elected to the school board, my father told me, “Never say anything in public you wouldn’t want to read on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow.” cheers (at) MarjimManor (dot) com

  4. This is silly, but the quote that came to my mind is “Sometimes you’re the princess and sometimes you’re the pea,” which comes from the cartoon version of Angelina Ballerina. My daughter started dancing when she was 3 and loved the Angelina books and shows. Miss Lily, her dance instructor, says this to Angelina when she didn’t get the role she wanted in a ballet. We loved that quote and still quote it to my daughter (now 19) sometimes when things don’t go exactly how she wanted them to go. Our interpretation being that life is full of ups and downs. Celebrate the “ups”, but don’t get discouraged when you’ve got the “downs”.

  5. There’s a number of quotes that I like. Some come from great lines of dialogue in TV shows or movies. Even some great turns of phrase in songs I listen to. Or in these awful days, whole monologues from George Carlin’s stand- up routines that echo so true even all these years since his death.

    But the one that always stuck with me was Benjamin Franklin’s quote: “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

    Of course, when I first heard read it decades ago I took it to mean something entirely different than what the quote was originally intended for. But I didn’t learn the real meaning behind it until long afterwards so my conferred meaning on the quote still lives on in my head.

    Also, I am not sure who actually said this quote but I heard comedian Billy Connolly say this on a political talk show (where he said that even he didn’t know the original source): “Politicians get money from the rich and votes from the poor by promising to protect one from the other.” Tell me that is relevant nowadays.

    1. Hi, Jay! Interesting how quotes mean different things to us at different times in our lives — and as you say, we often don’t know the original intent (to use another phrase that’s current again), which can make a difference. Thanks for the observations.

  6. Probably because of my parents stress on being honest, I have two favorite quotes. One my Mom use to say – “You can catch a thief, but you have to live with a liar.” and one quoted from Mark Twain – “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” I have found that it’s better to tell the truth and face any consequences now than to tell a falsehood and have consequences that last a lot longer and are far worse.

    Yes, I love all the extras in a book. When I say I read a book from cover to cover – I really do.

    Congratulation on the release of “Peppermint Barked”! Most definitely on my TBR list and I can’t wait for the opportunity to read and review this one.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. Thanks, Kay. Love both those quotes. Twain is probably the most quoted — accurately or not — American writer, don’t you think?

  7. I do enjoy reading about the spices you talk about and seeing the cast list, though most of the characters I do know by now. I think my favorite quote is something my mother used to say, and now that I am the age that she was, I understand it better – old age is not for sissies!

  8. Looking forward to a bit of Christmas in July! All the best with the new book. Your book shelf is enticing – I’ve made notes. I used to have a book titled The Herbalist – used it all the time for holistic and natural remedies. As Brother Cadfael will tell you, most everything we need is in nature.

    Favorite quote has nothing to do with writing – or maybe it does: Bloom where you’re planted! My second favorite quote comes in handy at plot knots: When life hands you lemons – make lemonade! I am one who loves cast lists and quotes in books, and often makes the recipes.

    1. Thanks, Kait! My husband is a doctor of natural medicine, so there’s a full reference library on herbal medicine close by if I need it! The epigraphs are a great place to make a few references to medicinal uses, since Pepper herself sticks to the culinary side of herbs.

  9. My father used to say Don’t let the bastards grind you down. And a frieds saying of Old age isn’t for sissies are my favorite quotes.,
    We as a family quote song and movie lines often. Love recipes in a book. Enjoy you series and look forward to the new one.

    1. Thanks, Candy! When my brother graduated from law school nearly 50 years ago, we gave him a little statue of a judge in robes saying your quote — in Latin! He still has it!

  10. A quote that has been on my mind lately is Churchhills “ Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

    1. Ah, yes. It’s as true of our personal experiences as of the world’s history, isn’t it?

  11. I love extras like epigraphs, cast lists and recipes. I also always read the acknowledgments in a book. A lot of times you learn fascinating things about the process of the book, or things about the author’s life. As for favorite quotes, the one that begins A Wrinkle In Time – “It was a dark and stormy night” – is a favorite.

    1. Another fan of all the extras — yay! And oh, A Wrinkle in Time. I re-read it a few years ago, and it was just as good as when I was twelve!

    1. Thanks, Sherry! It’s always a treat to be a Wicked for the Day!

  12. Congratulations on your new book, Leslie. One of my favorite quotes is “there are none so blind as he who will not see”. I think we have to deal with that so many times in our lifetimes. So many times people don’t see something, not because they can’t but because they won’t.

    1. Thanks, Laurie! And sometimes, we just don’t see — a connection doesn’t click, an argument doesn’t hit us — and then, in flash, we get it.

  13. Congratulations on the new book! I love recipes but I don’t have a favorite quotation.

    1. Thanks, Violet! Maybe you’ll find a new favorite quote on the pages of Peppermint Barked!

  14. I love epigraphs, when I taught creative writing to high school students we wrote poems based on epigraphs. I created graphics of a wide variety of quotes, printed on colored cardstock, and students selected their favorites to use as inspiration. Don’t have a favorite, but the one on my mind these days is “The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

    I discovered Assault and Pepper while visiting my son & daughter-in-law in Seattle. I enjoy visits to the Market & loved the idea of a book set there. I also loved the book & read each new one as it appeared. Can’t wait to read Peppermint Barked!

    1. Judith, I LOVE that class exercise! So glad you found the books — I am always happy when readers who know Seattle or the Market enjoy the books!

  15. I love those extras in a book, especially recipes. Crafts, maps, family trees, cast of characters, facts/history, reading lists, any of that is fun.

    1. Another fan of the extras! The trick for authors in to making them work, I think, is to see them as part of the story and the story-telling.

  16. I love all those extras in books, especially recipes. Any crafts, facts/history, cast of characters, family trees, maps, reading lists, etc. are a fun addition.

    1. Ooh, medieval MG — I love it already! And Brother Cadfael — well, he’s just about the coolest guy in books, isn’t it?

  17. My favorite saying, I don’t know if it’s a quote from anyone special is “What’s meant for you, will never miss you”. Looking forward to reading “Peppermint Barked”.

    1. I hadn’t heard that line but it’s a good one. Thanks for sharing it, Dianne!

  18. Congratulations on the new book. I can’t wait to read it! My favorite quote is actually from the Bible. ” In quietness and confidence shall be your strength. ” A good word for us introverts who live in an extroverted world. I like cast lists, if only to refresh in my mind those who are part of the story.

  19. An Irish proverb always stuck with me. Your feet will bring you to where your heart is.

  20. My childhood was full of “hay is for horses” from my grandmother!

  21. One favorite is
    “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” —Eleanor Roosevelt

    1. She was so wise. I also love her crack that a woman is like a tea bag; you see how strong she is when she’s in hot water!

  22. I love a cast of characters, a map, a diagram, anything “extra” even if it isn’t all that relevant to solving the mystery. And, yes, I read the acknowledgements, too.

    I have many “favorite” quotes, but I think the one that best describes me is, Dance to the Music that is Playing.

    1. Maps! We put one in Bitterroot Lake, my first standalone. I loved it, though I haven’t heard many comments from readers. And absolutely yes to the acknowledgments — even if they’re at the end, as they should be, I often read them first!

  23. Part of why I enjoy cozies/amateur sleuth mysteries are the recipes in the foodie ones. And each chapter being introduced by a neat fact or quote is perfect. Susan Wittig Albert’s China Bayles series has plant facts at the beginning of each chapter. Darynda Jones has fun memes and t-shirt sayings at the beginning of each chapter. As for Brother Cadfael…I have the omnibus of his mysteries as well as the DVD collection with Sir Dererk Jacobi as the best Brother Cadfael.
    Favorite saying I use, “Life is too short….” then fill in the gap. Usually it’s “Life is too short to read bad books”

    1. “Life is too short to read bad books.” So true! Happily you’re safe with the Wickeds — and, I hope, their friends like me!

  24. I enjoy extras in books. Especially the recipes, epigraphs, history etc. A quote I like is “Life is like the ocean, it goes in and down.

    Thanks for the chance!!

  25. Cinnamon is the oldest spice made.😁
    A bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.
    My mother said this to us all the time. I always think of her when I hear it.🥰

  26. I love the cover of your book. My quote would be “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Thank you for sharing. God bless you.

  27. I don’t have a favorite quote. I do love extras, especially recipes, in books. I do make some of the recipes too.

    1. I hope you enjoy the recipes in this book — we had great fun testing them!

  28. Love the extras, they add spice to the story! Erma Bombeck said, “Once you get a spice in your home, you have it forever. Women never throw out spices. The Egyptians were buried with their spices. I know which one I’m taking with me when I go.” And I do know which one I’m taking with me!

  29. “Once you Think you Have all the Answers, I Change the Questions “-Rowdy Roddy Piper, wrestler
    Also, we are watching Mariners ‘ games some this season for Eugenio Suarez, former Cincy Red.

  30. Hi, you have just popped up on my Facebook and I am very pleased you did. I live in Devon in the UK and I enjoy reading mysteries set in American towns. So I shall look up your books. I write myself, although not in your league. My books are set in a small North Devon village.
    My mum used to say if you can’t say anything kind, don’t say anything at all. Simple but a good one to learn.
    Lovely to meet you

    1. So nice of you to pop in, Glenda! The famous American wit Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, put her own twist on that: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me.” !

  31. What a fun and informative blog Leslie!!! Thank you for sharing your research, and for your fascinating books! My favourite quote is by Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”
    A fun fact about spices…What is “ASAFOETIDA”? (I had never heard of it until today) According the internet, it is the third rarest spice after SAFFRON and CARAWAY SEEDS.
    This interestingly named spice is a gum resin from a variety of giant fennel that has been powdered. Asafoetida has a strong smell and tastes similar to onion and garlic. It’s often used in Indian cooking, especially by Jain and Brahmin Indians who are forbidden from eating onion and garlic. Asafoetida powder comes in two forms. The brown powder is a very concentrated dried and ground gum, which should be used sparingly. When diluted with flour or turmeric, it comes in a yellow powder, but you should still keep an eye on how much you add. Better quality asafoetida is a mixed of asafoetida and fenugreek. The powder is used in vegetarian dishes, curries and stews to give the flavours a lift.
    Now I learned several lessons for the day 🙂 Thank you for writing such fun books Leslie!!! I look forward to reading many more!!!! luis at ole dot travel

      1. We have British friends from India, and they once told us that teachings from their sect do not allow them to eat foods/spices that ‘excite’, like onions, garlic and hot peppers…I am always safe with them, because I am intolerant of onions, garlic and related veggies…that’s a problem for me when traveling to most of the world, but everywhere restaurants are most accommodating. I carry a little sign in various Asian languages that states that I am allergic to onions and garlic, and that got me through our last trip to Cambodia and Vietnam just perfectly.

    1. Thanks, Luis. I’ve heard about asofetida, but have never used or smelled it. Spices are so fascinating!

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