HANK: Do you know Julie Hyzy? If you don't, I am delighted to introduce you to one of the most charming, intelligent, witty and hard-working rising stars in mystery world. Julie and Karen Olson and I toured the hot spots of North Carolina together a few weeks ago--we were the Triple Threat Mystery Tour under the watchful eye and wise shepherding of the amazing Molly Weston. And someday really, I'll post pictures of the hilarity: books, barbeque, sweet tea, some wonderful bookstores and libraries and non-stop fun--but the photos are still in my camera, so you'll have to imagine. Oh, wait! here's one, courtesy of Karen Kiley (xoxo) at the Cary Library. (Notice Julie and me, listening, enraptured, to Karen, while Molly Weston prepares her next tough question.)
So you see--just like any good writing ,the weekend has a theme! The Triple Threat reunion.
Yesterday, the fabulous Karen shared her tattoo secrets. Today, we're eggcited to welcome Julie. Yes, I can spell. But that's eggzactly what I meant to say.
Julie Hyzy: Today is Easter Sunday, and whether you celebrate the day because of its religious significance, or just because you enjoy Marshmallow Peeps, you have to admit one thing: Eggs are everywhere. There are plastic eggs filled with treats, hard-boiled eggs colored in bright pastels, cream-filled eggs, and those superbly smooth Dove truffle eggs. Ooh… I could go for one of those right now.
Hank generously invited me to guest blog today because my latest book—the third in my White House Chef Mystery series, Eggsecutive Orders, is set just before the Easter Egg Roll. These books feature Olivia (Ollie) Paras as Executive White House chef who feeds the First Family and saves the world in her spare time. Although we truly do have our first-ever female Executive Chef in the real White House, my books are fiction, and my President Campbell and his wife bear no resemblance to our current leader and his family. (Buffalo West Wing comes out next year and…cough, cough…that may change…)
Tomorrow, in the real world, in a tradition that dates back to 1878, President and Mrs. Obama will open the White House lawn for the annual Egg Roll. The event is for kids and their families—provided, of course, those families were lucky enough to snag tickets. As I’m sure you know, books take a long time to get published.
Back when I turned in Eggsecutive Orders, the only way to get a ticket was to stand outside the White House on the prescribed date, cross your fingers, and hope for the best. The Obamas have since updated the process so that Egg Roll lottery tickets are awarded online. Now hopeful families sit at their computers with fingers crossed and hope for the best. So, even though it just came out, Eggsecutive Orders is already a little bit dated.
This year’s Egg Roll theme “Ready, Set, Go!” is designed to dovetail with Mrs. Obama’s mission of promoting kids’ health. And just for the record, the Egg Roll is no small event. There will be live music, cooking stations, storytelling, kids’ activities, and of course there will be eggs. Lots of eggs.
And hey… even the Oval Office is in on the fun. It’s in the shape of an egg, isn’t it?
When I was researching Eggsecutive Orders I discovered that the White House provides over fifteen thousand hard-boiled eggs for the event. Think about that. Fifteen thousand eggs. That’s one thousand two hundred and fifty dozen. When my kids were little and we colored eggs the Friday before Easter, it sometimes felt as though we went through at least that many. Nowadays we color just enough to make a pretty platter at dinner. But it’s still a lot of work.
When I envisioned what it might be like for my characters to produce fifteen thousand eggs, I had a hard time wrapping my head around that number. But I also realized that the White House kitchen staff does this every year as a matter of course. No big deal. Just one more “herculinary” project on their platter. So I decided to make things a little tougher—to give Ollie’s group an extra challenge this time around.
When Eggsecutive Orders opens, it’s eggsactly (sorry, couldn’t resist!) one week before the annual Egg Roll and Ollie, Bucky, and Cyan are hauled in for questioning, eventually finding themselves banished from the kitchen. Seems one of the president’s guests didn’t make it to dessert. What’s the worst kind of dinner guest a chef has to deal with? You got it—a dead one. Carl Minkus, head of the NSA, keeled over at the table, a victim of poisoning. And except for the kitchen staff, no one had access to his meal.
Fun stuff. Along with the dead guest and the team’s subsequent banishment from the White House, there’s espionage, Ollie’s mom and nana visiting from Chicago, Ollie’s frustrated Secret Service boyfriend, a couple of celebrity guest chefs with a possible motive, and an over-the-top newspaper reporter looking for scoop… all in a day’s work for Ollie. Heh heh heh. Why is it so much fun for writers to put characters in conflict?
I think that’s another blog.
Today—this Easter—I have far fewer worries than Ollie does. I’m carrying on a tradition set up years ago by hosting the extended family for dinner. I’ve owned Easter as my holiday for a number of years now, and although I can probably run dinner in my sleep I still worry about everything being hot at serving time and remembering to turn the coffee on before we sit down. Small concerns really. Even if I burned the entire meal, they’d all still love me…and probably even come back next year for another round.
But tomorrow—Egg Roll Day—just as Ollie puts all the pieces together to figure out who killed Carl Minkus, just as
she scrambles to make sure all of those fifteen thousand eggs are where they need to be, just as she brings the guilty person to justice while protecting innocent bystanders from getting killed, I’ll be here in my quiet house, enjoying the best part of hosting holidays: leftovers. Ham, potatoes, sausage, sauerkraut, lamb cake, jelly beans, and chocolate..
For the record, I can skip on Marshmallow Peeps. But hand over those truffle eggs and no one will get hurt.
HANK: Thanks, Julie! We used to make Easter Eggs by--writing on them with crayon? And then dipping them into..something? Am I remembering this correctly? Any Easter egg-making secrets out there?
Julie Hyzy’s first book in the White House Chef Mystery series, State of the Onion, won the Lovey Award for Best Traditional Mystery and the Barry, and Anthony Awards for Best Paperback Original in 2009. The series includes Hail to the Chef, Eggsecutive Orders, and (coming in January) Buffalo West Wing. Julie is also excited to announce the debut of her new Manor of Murder Mysteries. The first book in that series, Grace Under Pressure, comes out June 1st.