Thursday, January 21, 2010

What Makes Your “Geiger Counter” Go Off?

Please help us welcome our guest blogger, Cleo Coyle.

"It's a reactive thing, like a Geiger counter; you click whenever you come close to whatever you were built to do." ~ Stephen King

Nice analogy by King, don’t you think? Me? I “click” whenever I cook…or bake…or read about cooking and baking. This is actually a second love for me. Writing is (and always was) my first love.

I started making up stories at my grade school lunch table. I still remember the one about the giant mouse that lived on the moon and ate astronauts. With tales like that, I actually got the attention of the cutest boy in the 3rd grade—at least for an hour at lunch. After that, he was off kanoodling with the cute blonde in the expensive jeans. (I was the chubby kid in geeky clothes, but I told a mean tale.) Thus the dye was cast for this chunky Italian girl:
Good storytelling = attention from the opposite sex.

And the corollary: Storytelling is always more fun when it involves food.

Some years later I became a journalist. I’d also slimmed down and figured out how to dress. By that time, I was determined to get paid for my stories—in something other than Twinkies and Tater Tots.

The catch was…the stories had to be true. No more giant mice. The male attention was even more interesting now, especially the tough guys who’d covered war zones and police beats. (Be still my heart.) But this time it involved drink. (Hard journalists are hard drinkers. I wasn’t a hard journalist. I drank spritzers then asked for coffee.)

These days I’m a professional, full-time fiction writer. I get paid for telling stories again, albeit tales a tad more believable than astronaut-eating rodents. I even figured out how to get paid for writing about food. Clever me. Here’s how I did it…

Clare Cosi is the gusty amateur sleuth in my culinary urban cozy mystery (how’s that for a sub-genre?). She’s a single mom who used to write a food column for a local Jersey paper, and now—with her young adult daughter attending a famous New York culinary school—she’s moved to Manhattan to be closer to her girl.

Clare, who is now in her forties, ended up returning to the job she’d had in her twenties—managing a landmark coffeehouse in New York’s Greenwich Village. Being a former food writer, Clare still thinks about food 24/7 and creates delicious recipes for herself, her man (an NYPD detective) and her coffeehouse customers.

Below, with my happy compliments, is one of Clare’s recipes. It’s also in the recipe section of my latest Coffeehouse Mystery: Holiday Grind, along with a few dozen others. The book features my most ambitious recipe section yet (about 80 pages).
Oh, and as for that male attention? Well, I still have it. My hunky husband, also a full-time professional author, is my mystery-writing partner.

This thing is absolute heaven. It tastes like a rich, warm coffee-infused milkshake. Drink with joy! ~ Cleo (See a photo of this recipe today at )
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup white chocolate, chopped, or white chocolate chips
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1-2 shots hot espresso or strong coffee (see note)*
Whipped cream (optional)

Step 1. Combine milk and white chocolate in a heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan about one-third full of boiling water. (You are creating a double boiler, so the water level should be under the bowl but not touching it.) Stir constantly until chocolate is melted.

Step 2. Using a whisk or handheld electric beater, whip in the vanilla. Continue to whip about a minute until the warm mixture is loosely frothy.

Step 3. Pour the espresso (or strong coffee) into a large mug. Add the steamed and frothed white chocolate milk and stir to blend the flavors. You can top with whipped cream, but I serve it without.

*Cleo's Note: For strong coffee simply make a double-strength version of your regular cup. For instance, in a drip coffee maker, instead of using 1½-2 tablespoons of ground coffee for every six ounces of water, use 3-4 tablespoons.

If you would like more of my recipes and/or to find out more about Clare Cosi & her crime-solving baristas, just stop on by my *virtual* coffeehouse Web site: “Where coffee and crime are always brewing…”

And now…I’d love to know what makes YOUR Stephen King “Geiger counter” go off? If you’re a writer, you have to share something other than writing because of course we know that’s your passion. (It’s too crazy a journey for it not to be, right?!)

Comments welcome.


Mary Kennedy said...

Love your books--didn't realize you'd been a journalist! I think reporters always something special to bring to the table when they turn to fiction. Their powers of observation, their attention to detail--it all shows. And your recipes are terrific. Not sure if I ever told you that I sent your "eggnog" cookies to the troops in Iraq. I put together a box of home-made goodies and some mysteries. I didn't use the little "coffee mug" cutter you had, but they were delicious and a big hit. Great blog!

Julie Hyzy said...

What a wonderful post, Cleo. Hmm... in addition to writing, what makes my Gieger counter go off? Tough choice. Art, probably. I haven't painted watercolors in years, but I love them so much. Now that my eldest daughter is an illustrator and knocks my socks off with her watercolors, I'm even less likely to pick up my brushes again. But the smells, the feel, the color...
Thanks for giving me a chance to remember this. Maybe soon...

Wendy Lyn Watson said...

Cleo - great recipe! And great books, too!

So ... a passion other than writing? Alas, I have too many. But I'm fortunate enough that one of my #3 passion (after Mr. Wendy and writing) is my day job: teaching. I teach college kids about American government and constitutional law, but I enjoy teaching about writing, too ... I just love seeing that light come on in someone's eyes as they suddenly get a new concept or discover a new skill. Being a part of that moment is magical.

Deb Baker said...

I write next to a big window (probably a mistake) looking out on the woods. I get a click just watching the birds at the feeder and the seasons change. I'm an outdoor girl.

Mason Canyon said...

Enjoy your coffeehouse book series. It's very inspiring in itself. Love all the great recipes, tips and information 'Clare' shares at the end of each book.

Tiffany @ Lattes And Life said...

For me, it's also baking. If I can get everyone to leave me alone, and lose myself in a complicated multi-step torte or cake or another type of sugary production....I am in bliss.

misterreereeder said...

So ... I have my introduction to another author. It sounds like your books come close to your heart (and stomach). But if I have learned anything from the books I have read, it is best to write about what you know.

jbstanley said...

Thanks for coming by today, Cleo! My other passions are gardening and baking. I love the dirt and I love the smell of bread in the oven!

Can't wait to try your recipe!

Mare F said...

My "geiger counter" goes off around fine yarn, mystery books, and yummy food, not necessarily in that order. LOL. I can't wait to get home to try your recipe. It sounds lovely.

Sheila Connolly said...

Love the series (and the coffee).

I think my unrealized passion is archeology. When I was eight, a friend and I started excavating what had been a farm dump on her property and came up with all sorts of odd bits of broken china. My mother was not thrilled.

In college one of my professors led us on an informal excavation of a former paint factory on campus--which was later declared a toxic site. I've always wanted to go on a "real" dig--but it's not too late!

Leann Sweeney said...

I have so many things that make my Geiger counter go off besides writing. Cooking, painting, quilting, cross stitch, but my animals most of all. I have one sitting by my side right now and my life would be empty without them. Thanks for your post Cleo! Made me think about all the good stuff this morning. (esp. whipped cream, two words that always make me smile)

Jessica said...

Writing and baking hands down! Unfortunately, I haven't been able to make a living out of either one yet! ☺ Thanks for the recipe Cleo, it sounds fantastic!!

Heather Webber said...

Nice to have you here, Cleo! Great blog. Let's see--I had something in mind for my Geiger counter and then reading all these comments just kept me adding more and more things to the list!

Originally: Pottery. I just love it, especially Rookwood. I don't have a collection or anything, I just love looking at it.

Then Julie mentioned water colors and yeah, I love water colors, too, esp. landscapes.

Then there was Deb with her nature. Sigh. Me too. I'm sitting here watching a hawk rest on a bird house nearby. He's just amazing to watch (but please stay away from the bunnies).

And then there are the books. There's nothing quite like a book store. The ultimate in setting off a Geiger counter...

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Great blog, Cleo. I just finished the Ghost and Mrs. MacClure and that was terrific too, as is your high octane coffee series. Now I will die if I don't get some of that fabulous white chocolate latte!

Robin, David, Simon and Leo said...

We're trying a special diet for our 9-year old son that requires drinking coffee every morning. It has not been easy because he just doesn't like the taste, so we started adding a few pieces of valrhona chocolate to melt into the coffee, and what do you know, now he likes coffee. This is a great twist that we'll definitely try out for him.

Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Hi Cleo! I loved finding out more about you. I was a journalist once, too (for a short time. And long ago!)I was on the magazine side, though.

80 pages of recipes is incredible!

My Geiger counter goes off when I watch plays, read an incredible book, and listen to music.

Great post!

Mystery Lovers’ Kitchen
Mystery Writing is Murder

Dru said...

what sets my "geiger counter" off is being in a bookstore and I'm in heaven.

I love to quilt and when I'm in a fabric store it's like nirvana.

Cleo Coyle said...

Oh, wow. These comments are all fantastic. Thank you. I am loving learning about all of you and what passions live in your hearts.

Keep those comments coming! I'll check back again later today.

author of
The Coffeehouse Mysteries

Shel said...

Great post, Cleo! My "things" are books and computers. Now if I could just combine them and make a living at it...

Helen Kiker said...

Weaving has been my passion - the sounds of it with shuttles zooming over the shuttlerace - the feel of it with smooth wood in your hand and the soft fabric being woven - the sight of it with the pattern appearing before your eyes!!

Thanks for a great post!


Kate Collins said...

So many things set off my geiger counter. In addition to writing, of course, I love to speak about writing. It's the teacher in me, I guess. I also go "click" when I get a decorating catalog or magazine in the mail. I'm a frustrated interior decorator. I could read those mags for hours, dreaming of possibilities. Hmm. If I move that sofa to the right, push the coffee table to the left....
Okay, scratch that. My husband just ran screaming from the room.

Sheery said...

Okay, I'm late getting here today but want to say hi to Cleo Coyle and tell you how much I adore your series! Thank you for blogging today.

In addition to writing - which I am determined to make a living doing - I love to read and scrapbook. Along with scrapbooking, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE photography! I get really excited about 'getting the perfect shot'. I like taking pictures of my family, friends and nature. My little girls are hams but my oldest sometimes groans when I pull out my camera. :)

Bookworm Princess said...

Nice to see you guest blogging. While I would love to be a writer, and someday when I can actually focus on a topic for more than 30 seconds without hearing "mommy, mommy, mommy, what? I love you" I shall try to pursue that avenue.

Scrapbooking is something that I really enjoy. I love being able to share more than just pictures with my family. It is wonderful to be able to preserve memories with emotions, thoughts and feeling attached to them that will educate future generations about our lives. And maybe when I can't remember anymore it will help me as well :-)

Bookworm Princess said...

Oh and I forgot to mention that I was on the newspaper in high school and community college but that interest was diverted when I joined the military. I didn't want to have to go anywhere near Iraq and decided that is probably where they would have sent me. I am now a business major and am looking into going into editing or trade journal writing.

Maggie Sefton said...

Hey, Cleo. Glad you stopped by Cozy Chicks. And much good luck with your series, it certainly looks fun. And your latte recipe sounds delish. Yum.

signlady217 said...

Absolutely love your coffeehouse series! Reading one of those always makes me want more coffee than I really need!

My Geiger counter reacts to: book stores, quilt/fabric shops, cross stitch, office supplies (all those cute little post-its!), scrapbooking, cats, Christmas decorations, American Sign Language/Deaf culture, my wonderful hubby, and probably a zillion other things that I will think of later!

Lindy said...

Nothing sets off my Geige counter like the thrill of teaching a class when you have their attention and they are learning. I was an instructor for CIA for years, and I absolutely love to share information that will help them to do their jobs better or improve their work or home relationships. Yes, it was for "the" CIA... that's why you know me as Lindy Someone.

Claudia said...

Ahh the grand geiger counter. It changes with the season and who's at home. Family, four-legged loved ones, friends, feeding people, bookstores.... Now this coffee is decadent.Not really coffee - but dessert!

Cleo Coyle said...

Just a quick reply to say these comments are wonderful. I have really enjoyed this chance to learn about all of you and what fuels your passions.

~Cleo Coyle

Kiy said...

(Yes, I am behind and playing catch up!)

First, I wanted to say welcome. The CC's are one of my most fav blogs to read and I get totally excited to see a new (to me) author pop up here. I tend to collect authors like I do recipes.

My click (love this!) is counted cross stitch. Before our daughter joined our household, I'd wake up thinking stitching and fall asleep thinking stitching. I'd stitch 8-9-10 (more?!) hours a day. Yes, I love it that much. I get some of my best thinking done that way, catch up on dvr'd shows and read (listen) to some of my fav authors all the while creating (at least to me) a work of art.

Cheers, Kiy