Friday, March 06, 2015

Guest Blog by Leslie Budewitz - Judging a book by its cover - March 6, 2015

Please welcome Leslie Budewitz to The Qwillery. Assault and Pepper, the 1st novel in the Spice Shop Mysteries, was published on March 3rd by Berkley.

Judging a book by its cover
By Leslie Budewitz

“Don’t judge a book by its cover.” As a metaphor, it’s spot-on: Don’t judge the interior by the exterior; don’t assume you know a person’s nature—their heart, mind, and values—by their appearance.

When it comes to actual books, though, we do it all the time. And it’s not a bad way to make that first decision—“Is this a book I’m likely to enjoy?” Occasionally, there’s a miss—a cat prances across the cover of a book with no felines, or the cover shows a bridge that appeared in a previous draft only to be demolished by the wrecking ball of later edits.

But in the world of the light-hearted mystery, the cover works hard. It cues us in to the protagonist’s occupation and where she spends most of her time, conveys the mood of the story, and may offer clues to the central conflict. Food, pets, and even the murder weapon are common elements.

I love hearing reader compliments about my covers. While I adore them all, ASSAULT AND PEPPER may be my favorite cover yet. My publisher, Berkley Prime Crime, part of Penguin Random House, contracts with artists who have a magical ability to convey our story worlds in pictures. (Both my series are illustrated by the same artist.) Authors provide images and a description of key locations— the cover of the first book in a series usually showcases the protagonist's shop, library, or bakery, while later covers illustrate a location that features in the story. The artist may also read a draft, or at the least, a synopsis.

The cover of ASSAULT AND PEPPER takes us inside Pepper Reece’s Seattle Spice Shop, with the Pike Place Market visible through the open door and window. Shelves brim with spice jars. Pepper’s collection of antique grinders and spice boxes can be seen on the shelves beneath the front counter, and the pseudo-samovar the staff uses to serve sample cups of tea sits on a vintage tea cart Pepper snatched up on a junking trip with her BFF, Kristen. Both the samovar and the sample cups—a few are littered on the floor—are critical to the story.

And so, of course, is Arf the dog, who comes alive on the cover. It’s been great fun to see how my artist works Mr. Sandburg, Erin Murphy’s Burmese cat, into the covers of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries. He lives at home with her, not in the shop, but there he is on the cover of DEATH AL DENTE, demonstrating both his cuteness and his influence over Erin. On the cover of CRIME RIB, he and Pepé, his dog-in-law, join Duke the Retriever, who belongs to one of the chefs competing in the steak grill-off, for a romp on the stone patio of Caldwell’s Eagle Lake Lodge. The lodge is the scene of both festivities and crime. In BUTTER OFF DEAD (coming July 2015), Mr. Sandburg takes in a movie, presiding over a concession stand brimming with the over-the-top treats typical of the Food Lovers’ books. The artist even worked in the movie posters that play a role in the story. And if you look closely, you’ll see another cat ....

My artist, Ben Perini, illustrates covers in other styles as well—he’s done covers for J.A. Jance, literary novelists, and even nonfiction. He’s also a fine artist who calls himself "a professional dreamer." His covers are your invitation to enter the world of my dreams and play for a while.

So, welcome—come on in.

Assault and Pepper
A Spice Shop Mystery 1
Berkley, March 3, 2015
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 304 pages

The Agatha Award-winning author of Crime Rib is proud to introduce Pepper Reece, the owner of the Seattle Spice Shop who thinks she can handle any kind of salty customer—until a murderer ends up in the mix…

After leaving a dicey marriage and losing a beloved job in a corporate crash, Pepper Reece has found a new zest for life running a busy spice and tea shop in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Her aromatic creations are the talk of the town, and everyone stops by for a cup of her refreshing spice tea, even other shopkeepers and Market regulars. But when a panhandler named Doc shows up dead on the store’s doorstep, a Seattle Spice Shop cup in his hand, the local gossip gets too hot for Pepper to handle—especially after the police arrest one of Pepper’s staffers, Tory Finch, for murder.

Tory seems to know why she’s a suspect, but she refuses to do anything to curry favor with the cops. Convinced her reticent employee is innocent, Pepper takes it on herself to sniff out some clues. Only, if she’s not careful, Pepper’s nosy ways might make her next on the killer’s list…

Food Lovers' Village Mysteries

(Click to Enlarge)

About Leslie

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Spice Shop Mysteries and the Food Lovers Village Mysteries, both from Berkley Prime Crime. She is the only author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction—the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, for Death al Dente and the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, for Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books). She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Website  ~   Facebook  ~  Twitter @LeslieBudewitz

The Giveaway

What:  One entrant will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of Assault and Peppr by Leslie Budewitz from the publisher. US ONLY

How:  Log into and follow the directions in the Rafflecopter below.

Who and When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a US mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59 PM US Eastern Time on March 27, 2015. Void where prohibited by law. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 years old or older to enter.

*Giveaway rules and duration are subject to change.*

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Thanks for inviting me to the blog. I hope you all enjoy the virtual trip to Seattle as much as I've enjoyed taking you there!

  2. For some reason, I've recently made several dishes with Sage in them! This book really looks interesting!

  3. I am a big fan of herb blends. They are an easy way to add a lot of flavor and I'm able to use them quickly. In my yard I have parsley, rosemary, thyme, and basil and I use them all summer long.

    This book looks fantastic!

    llcejka at gmail dot com

  4. I can't wait to start this new series. I love the Food Lover's series and I'm sure this new series will be just as good. Thanks for the opportunity to win a copy of the book.

  5. Thank you for the chance to win. I have this book on my to read list. Looking forward to it. Thanks again

  6. A lovely feature and giveaway. Many thanks. I use basil since this is my favorite herb and is very versatile. saubleb(at)gmail(dot)com

  7. Nutmeg is a big favorite . Love it in meatballs!!!!

  8. I would love to win this book.

  9. Taco seasoning is my favorite. This book sounds delicious. Thank you for the chance to win it.

  10. Looks like a good read! Thanks for this opportunity!

  11. Thanks for the giveaway! This book looks like a fantastic read. Thanks again!

  12. I love basil on everything as well as garlic. Cant live without either of them!!

  13. I love cinnamon, and nutmeg. I also love other spices, and am learning to cook low sodium

  14. I love this writer's work—can't wait to read Assault and Pepper!

    skkorman AT bellsouth DOT net

  15. My favorite spice is cinnamon. patucker54 (at aol dot com)

  16. Thanks for sharing your faves with me. I cannot choose a favorite herb or spice -- spice is the variety of life!