Real-Life Inspiration for “Crystal Bay,” Wisconsin, the fictional setting of The Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries: Plus, a Cake Recipe!

September at the beach.

Sorry it’s been so long since I posted on this blog, but you could say I’ve been busy. Besides traveling this summer and getting my two daughters back to school — I finished Book 2 in The Callie’s Kitchen Mysteries! Now, my book is in the editing process and I’m having the new cover designed. It’s super-exciting and I can’t wait to share my new book with you. I’m looking at a release date in early November. Please sign up for my email list so you can be the first to know about release dates, giveaways and other fun events.

And please note: I promise to tell you the title soon — it will not always be Book 2! I will have a title reveal followed by a cover reveal later in October. [Update: My book SPICED AND ICED) will be up for pre-order early in November with a late November release date. More updates to come. :)]

Hotel with marina.

As I gear up to release the second book in my cozy mystery series, I thought it would be fun to share some of the real-life inspiration for the book’s cozy setting “Crystal Bay, Wisconsin.” If you’ve read “On the Chopping Block,” you know that Crystal Bay is an idyllic waterfront community with a small-town feel and a picturesque downtown filled with small shops and restaurants. Several readers have told me how much they enjoy this setting — that it almost has become a character to them. That is part of the fun of writing a cozy, since the setting should be a place you would want to visit — well,  despite the high crime rates, lol.

Outside of a historic home facing the water. It’s now a 1920s themed restaurant, bar and hotel. Might have to use this one in a future mystery.

When I first started writing the Callie’s Kitchen series, I wanted to write about Wisconsin (I went to school there) because not a lot of cozies were set there and I thought that a Midwestern sleuth was a fun idea. You may have heard: we’re kind of down-to-earth in the Midwest and by and large, we trust people — perfect set-up for a mystery!

“Crystal Bay” evolved from my trips to Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, located in the Southeast part of the state and surrounded by more rural towns. The town of Lake Geneva, since it’s located on the water, boasts a lot of natural beauty. Plus, it is known for its lake homes that were built by the former titans of Chicago business (such as the Wrigleys). In fact, you can take a boat tour and see these stately mansions.It’s also a magnet for boaters, beach-seekers, shoppers, etc. So I figured there was a lot to work with here.

The Inn that inspired events in my second Callie’s Kitchen Mystery, set in December and out soon.

Now, please keep in mind that Crystal Bay is still a fictional place in that I’ve made it up — it is in no way a perfect reflection of the wonderful Lake Geneva area. I wanted to have enough leeway to make it how I needed it to be. But I will say that visiting the area has inspired me in so many ways. In fact, sitting at a waterfront restaurant one night I came up with the murder and plot for book 2, the one I’m releasing in November. (That’s the kind of thing mystery writers do — we can be morbid dinner companions, I guess.)

I hope you enjoy these pictures but remember, the best picture is in a reader’s mind! However you picture Crystal Bay is how it should be for you. I hope I’ve created a place you will enjoy visiting over and over again.

And now, just because it’s been so long since I posted, here is a recipe you won’t find in “On the Chopping Block.” This would definitely appear in Callie’s Kitchen for breakfast or an afternoon snack and it includes a  favorite Greek ingredient — lemon! I can never have enough lemon in the house for my family.

I think this lemon loaf cake is delicious all year long. It never goes out of style. Enjoy it! It’s really easy to make.

Callie’s Lemon Loaf Cake

Why is there a slice missing? My family says it’s a mystery…




For the cake:

2 – 1/2 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1-1/4 cups sugar

2 tsp freshly grated lemon peel

2 large eggs

1 container sour cream (8 oz)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray Pam baking spray with flour into a 9 x  5 metal loaf pan (or use butter and flour — make sure it’s well greased).

In medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In large bowl, with mixer at low speed, beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and lemon peel and beat until fluffy.

Reduce speed to low and add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape the bowl occasionally with rubber spatula. Add flour mixture alternatively with the sour cream, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Add vanilla and beat just until smooth.

Spoon batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 1 hour or so. Cool pan for 10 minutes and remove from pan; place on wire rack.

While the cake is still hot, poke holes in the top of the cake with a toothpick, then make a “syrup” of the juice of one lemon and 2 tablespoons of sugar, stirred until sugar dissolves. Brush this mixture over the top of the hot cake.

Let cool and sprinkle with a little more granulated sugar on top, if desired. Makes about 16  thin slices.

Note: Please visit the “Recipes” portion of this site (see the menu) for even more good stuff you can make at home.

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