by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of the latest Magical Bakery Mystery by Bailey Cates, along with an interesting interview with Bailey. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Cookies and Clairvoyance. We also have a link to order it from Amazon, and from an indie bookstore where a portion goes to help support KRL.
Cookies and Clairvoyance: A Magical Bakery Mystery By Bailey Cates
Review by Cynthia Chow
Hedgewitch Katie Lightfoot’s wedding to Declan McCarthy is fast approaching, but unless the renovations on her Savannah home manage to overcome an increasing number of delays and snafus, it is very possible that her reception guests will be using the on-site porta potties. It’s why Katie is so looking forward to a visit from her father Skylar Lightfoot, who is not only a practicing Shaman but has a surfeit of home construction experience. As it turns out, his shamanic skills are needed first when local philanthropist Kensington Bosworth is murdered.
Katie had hoped that the sight of her dragonfly totem around Bosworth was just a fluke, but her newfound heritage as a lightwitch and catalyst for “things” has her prepared when she receives a call from Savannah Police Detective Peter Quinn. Recently informed, and shown to the extent that it was impossible to deny, of Katie’s talent as a witch, Quinn calls her to the Bosworth mansion when the man is found bludgeoned to death by a magic-related instrument. Kensington Bosworth was collector of a vast array of paranormal books and objects, and it is a distinctly Native American totem that is smeared with his blood. Katie’s father is able to provide more information on the Ginegosh statue, but Detective Quinn has already focused his attention on Randy Post, the fireman who set up Bosworth’s security system and was seen arguing with him before his death. Randy being one of Declan’s firefighter friends means that for once Declan is all on board with his fiancée’s magical investigation, although they are all warned away by a very unexpected source.
When a spell designed to give her insight into the crime is diverted and goes disastrously wrong, Katie finds herself robbed of her magical skills that she has so embraced for the last two years. Not only does this result in rather abysmal and sad pastries within her Honeybee Bakery, the loss of her magic cuts the connection between Katie and her Cairn terrier familiar Mungo. Preventing her from spiraling into despair are her Uncle Ben and Aunt Lucy who, along with her coven spellbook club, continue to search not just for answers to Bosworth’s death but in how to restore Katie’s inherited witch talents.
From the start of this series, the books of Katie Lightfoot and the Honeybee Bakery have always been charming and full of humor and romance. This eighth in the series departs by exploring a magically injured Katie, and she experiences the same fury and depression as anyone with a physical injury. Lashing out at those who care for her, it takes her father and a shamanic journey to give her a glimpse of hope and possible solutions to both the murder and theft of her magic. R
eporter and druid Steve Dawes still flirts and irritates Declan, but the Dragoh Druid also provides insight into a mysterious, long-thought defeated druid clan that had caught the interest of Bosworth’s son. A thrilling conclusion leads not just to new discoveries that could complicate Katie’s life, they also set forth a path for her next adventure. Readers will be left hungering for this next exciting installment in Katie’s life, but this latest will more than satisfy with its magical intrigue and even some (non-magic-infused) recipes.
Interview with Bailey Cates:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Bailey: I’ve been writing since I was a teenager – lots of bad poetry in those early years – but I waited until my mid-thirties before I delved into novel writing.
Bailey: Lye in Wait, which I wrote as Cricket McRae, was released in October of 2007. It was the first in the Home Crafting Mystery series and featured soap maker Sophie Mae Reynolds. There were eventually six books in that series. In each one, the murder and mayhem is set against the backdrop of a colonial home craft – food preservation, cheese making, spinning, etc.
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Bailey: All of my published books are mysteries.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series?
Bailey: My latest book is Cookies and Clairvoyance, which is the eighth Magical Bakery Mystery. I have an avid interest in the practice of herbalism as it was traditionally used in healing of all kinds. That led me to learning about those practitioners, often known as hedgewitches. I also love baking, so I fell in love with the idea of a kitchen witch with a bakery, a group of friends who were also witches with different magical specialties, all set in historically and magically rich Savannah, Georgia.
KRL: How fun! Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Bailey: I do write to entertain, because I feel that losing oneself in a lovely story where things tend to turn out right in the end is a welcome respite. At the same time, I carefully research the herbalism, magical practices, and baking so those aspects of the story can be educational for readers who are interested in learning about those things. In the end, I want the reader to be entertained and at the same time to put the book down feeling a bit lighter, a bit more hopeful.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Bailey: Both. I try to write first thing in the morning, while I’m having coffee. Then I’ll see what the day looks like and where I can fit in three to four hours of keyboard time. I try to schedule most real life things in the afternoon, so for the most part all my writing time is in the morning. If that doesn’t work out, I’ll carve out the time later in the day. I do take one or two days off a week but not necessarily on the weekend.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Bailey: My process is to doodle until I come up with a concept for the book – though there’s usually something that’s been lurking in the back of my mind for a while. Then I free write, moving between plot, character studies, motivations, and themes. I figure out how to begin and how to end the book, major scenes, and a few subplots. All that goes into a short, general, and mostly chronological outline of sorts. As I do that, I usually uncover more of the story and add some notes. Then I start writing, using clustering or mind mapping to quickly capture the essence and goals of each scene before I dive in. So I kind of outline, but it’s pretty loose and usually changes as I draft the manuscript.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Bailey: Mornings are when writing feels freshest.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Bailey: I paid my dues – learning the writing craft, writing a book, revising it again and again, querying agents, dealing with rejection. I tried not to take that rejection personally and learned a lot from it. So it didn’t feel difficult to me, but it took a while.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Bailey: I had queried an agent I really liked for the first Home Crafting Mystery, and she politely declined. A year later, I queried the same agent for a standalone mainstream mystery. She called me the day after Christmas and said she wanted to represent me. I was thrilled and asked if she’d be willing to represent a cozy mystery I’d written as well. She agreed, not realizing she’d already rejected that cozy, and I signed on. She sold the cozy and two more in that series within weeks. The mainstream mystery, on the other hand, languished. Not long after, that agent left and I began working with one of her amazing colleagues (and still do).
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Bailey: Once I had a man come up to me after a signing and announce that he’d hated my book, it was utter drivel, and since I’d somehow managed to get published in spite of my work being so bad, perhaps I could give him some pointers on how he could get his own, much better book published. I smiled and told him I didn’t think I could help.
KRL: Oh wow! Future writing goals?
Bailey: I plan to continue with the Magical Bakery Mysteries as long as the publisher wants more of them. In the next few months, I hope to re-release the Home Crafting Mysteries, which recently went out of print. I have other projects in the works, including another mystery series, a cookbook, and a middle grade book. We’ll see what happens with those.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Bailey: So many, but the list absolutely includes Charlaine Harris, Agatha Christie, J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Sarah Addison Allen, and Diane Ackerman.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Bailey: I do a lot of online research, and my office shelves are packed with books I mine for information on everything from magical practices to herbalism to the history of the settings in my books. I check almanacs for sunrise and sunset times and general weather and temperature for the week in which a book is set so I don’t have a something happening in the dark at 5pm in June. I visit Savannah for the Magical Bakery Mysteries and use Google Earth to walk through specific scenes if I’m unfamiliar with a neighborhood or route. I have maps of the fictional towns in my other series, so I keep things straight from book to book. And, of course, I test recipes. Lots of recipes…
KRL: What do you read?
Bailey: I’m all over the board. I read a lot of mysteries, though usually not cozies when I’m writing a cozy – which is most of the time, it seems. I don’t want to inadvertently influence what I’m writing with similar books. So I read thrillers and domestic suspense, as well as a bit of literary fiction and young adult. I also read nonfiction – history and nature writing, but my favorite reading to relax is, weirdly, cookbooks — especially vintage cookbooks.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Bailey: I don’t watch a ton of television, but like anyone else get hooked into certain series. I keep a list because I’m always behind. I just finished the last season of Stranger Things, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel is next up. I like all sorts of movies, but my guy and I love to settle in with the old black and white movies on TCM, especially on winter evenings.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Bailey: Write. Read. Write some more. Read some books on writing. Write some more. Join a writer’s group if that appeals to you, but make sure it’s a good one, because a bad writer’s group is worse than unhelpful. Above all, do your best to tap into the joy of writing. Stephen King’s book, On Writing is great. So is Ray Bradbury’s Zen in the Art of Writing. But there is no cookie cutter way to go about it, and waiting for the perfect process or just the right circumstances is just a way to procrastinate. Above all, apply butt to chair and know that the more you write, the better you’ll get.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Bailey: I chose my major in college by closing my eyes and randomly pointing in the course catalog. My finger landed on philosophy, which I fell in love with immediately and stuck with throughout my university career, though later I added on a second major of English and a minor in, of all things, Tudor-Stuart English history.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of Cookies and Clairvoyance, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “cookies” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen October 12, 2019. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address (so if you win we can get the book sent right out to you), and if via comment please include your email address. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section. And join our mystery Facebook group to keep up with everything mystery we post, and have a chance at some extra giveaways. Be sure to check out our new mystery podcast too with mystery short stories, and first chapters read by local actors. A new episode went up last week featuring a mystery short story told by a black cat-perfect for Halloween season.
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