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Tuesday, August 20, 2019


Author Linda Lovely writes the Brie Hooker Mysteries; the Marley Clark Mysteries; the Smart Women, Dumb Luck romantic thrillers; and LIES: Secrets Can Kill, a standalone romantic suspense set in 1938. She finds writing pure fiction isn’t a huge stretch given the years she’s spent penning PR and ad copy. Learn more about Linda and her books at her website

Fictional Carolina Settings Add ‘Real’ Atmosphere
While I’m not a native Southerner, I’ve called South Carolina home for decades, living in the coastal Low Country for 13 years and the lake and mountain-rich Upstate for 18 years. I’ve capitalized on these charming regions as settings for five of my eight published novels—plus the mystery-thriller I’m in the process of writing now.

But you won’t find the towns or counties inhabited by my contemporary heroines and heroes on any map. There is no Ardon County, though my cozy Brie Hooker Mystery series is set on a goat dairy farm in this fictitious county in South Carolina’s Upcountry. Nor is there a Dear Island—the private barrier island terrorized by a pun-loving murderer in Dear Killer. The town of Shelby is fictitious, too. It’s the home to fictional Blue Ridge University, the troubled campus threatened by homegrown terrorists in Dead Hunt.

I write mysteries, suspense, and thrillers. Ergo bad things happen. People die. Killers elude authorities. Developers are sometimes greedy. Public officials may lie or cheat. Deputies are occasionally crooked. Company owners may love nothing more than swindling their customers. Suffice it to say that unsavory, if not downright despicable, antagonists flourish in these novels.

I need to weave a cast of smart, unscrupulous characters into my mysteries to challenge my heroines and heroes. What I don’t need is a lawsuit brought by someone who believes the character is based on him or her. Also I don’t want to irk residents of a real community. I’m loath to suggest there might be bad apples among the law enforcement officers in any actual city, town, or county. And I’m not about to poke fun at the officials of any organization that might bare some slight resemblance to a real one in that location. That’s why I’ve given make-believe names to the institutions, companies, towns and counties populated with such characters.

Yet I still try to faithfully capture each region’s beauty and majesty as well as what can become frightening elements if my protagonists are alone, lost, or being pursued by ruthless villains. I hope this balance works.

In my new humorous mystery series, Brie, a vegan, lives with her Aunt Eva, a dedicated carnivore, who owns a 400-goat dairy enterprise. Fictional Ardon County is sandwiched between very real Greenville and Pickens Counties, allowing my heroine to travel to nearby locations many readers know well—Asheville in North Carolina, and Clemson, home of Clemson University, and Greenville, in South Carolina.

Using fictional locations with the local region’s flavor also gives me handy latitude. In my fictional Ardon County, I can place lakes, parks, and mountain trails conveniently near wherever I need them to serve my plot. However, I did take care to offer readers a variety of touchstones. In fact, Brie’s parents live in Pickens County, where her dad is a professor at Clemson University and her mom is the attorney for the City of Clemson.   

Though the settings for my books are fictional, I can close my eyes and recall exact moments in time. Paddling a kayak in the calm of an ocean inlet and hearing the cries of seagulls and smelling the acrid aroma of the marsh. Hiking a mountain trail and listening to the gurgle of a rushing stream and inhaling the scent of crushed pine needles in the shadowy twilight of the dense forest.

While my place names may be make believe, my South Carolina settings are as real as my most vivid memories allow.

And, right now in Upstate South Carolina, it’s harvest time for tomatoes! That means it’s also time to roast tomatoes and freeze them to make delicious tomato basil soup to enjoy when tailgating at fall football games or sitting by the fire on a snowy winter day.

Tomato Basil (Vegan…or Not)
Adapted from an Ina Garten recipe shared via the Foodnetwork.com. Here’s a link to the original.  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/roasted-tomato-basil-soup-recipe-1940376

The heroine of my humorous Brie Hooker Mystery series is a vegan chef. Brie lives on a dairy farm with four hundred goats and her Aunt Eva, a cantankerous carnivore who makes her living selling cheese. Needless to say, the two have very different ideas about what should be on the dinner menu. But even Aunt Eva loves this vegan version of tomato basil soup—though she pairs it with cheese. (Me, too, nowadays.)

I first modified this recipe, eliminating butter and chicken broth and making a few other tweaks, when my husband and I were giving a vegan diet a try. While we admire vegans, we missed cheese and eggs too much to persevere beyond two years. Nonetheless, I still regularly serve vegan and vegetarian dishes because they’re delicious and good for us.

3+ lbs. fresh tomatoes, sliced  like an apple (leave skins on when you roast them)
1/4 cup olive oil (or slightly more if more tomatoes)
1 T. Kosher salt
2-3 T. olive oil
2 T. coconut oil
2 large sweet onions, chopped
4 small (16 oz) cans fire-roasted tomatoes with garlic
6 vegetable cubes
3 T Agave
4 cups fresh or handful of dried basil
1 tsp. thyme

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil and Kosher salt. Spread on nonstick cookie sheet. Roast for 45 minutes.

Place the vegetable cubes in two cups of water to soften.

In large stock pot, sauté onions in olive and coconut oil. Add the fresh roasted tomatoes and all the juice, then add everything else including the veggie cubes and water. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer uncovered stirring occasionally for 40 minutes.

Ladle small batches into food processor and puree.

Hints: You can use any tomatoes. This is an ideal way to use any excess from your summer garden. You can roast the tomatoes and freeze them and then use them to make batches of soup in the fall and winter. You can serve the soup with croutons or crusty bread.

Not a vegan? Add grated or hunks of sharp cheddar cheese to melt in the hot soup. You can also use chicken bouillon cubes rather than veggie cubes if you’re not doing vegan.

Bad Pick
Vegan Brie Hooker lives and works with her feisty Aunt Eva at Udderly Kidding Dairy, a hop, skip, and jump away from South Carolina’s Clemson University. Brie’s fun farm outreach attempt backfires when religious extremists decide goat yoga is a form of devil worship.

Picketers at Udderly’s gates soon become the least of Brie’s troubles. Not only is she accused of murder, she worries the death might actually be her fault.  Danger mounts when an old family friend’s visit ensnares Brie in a high-stakes feud between a U.S. Supreme Court nominee and the woman determined to expose his secrets.

In her personal life, Brie’s still torn between the town’s two most eligible bachelors. While she’s edging toward a decision, she must first survive a cunning killer adept at crafting murders that look like tragic accidents. Will Brie be another “accident” victim? Pay a visit to Udderly Kidding Dairy and find out!

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Linda Lovely said...

Thanks for letting me drop by today. Our house guests brought us tomatoes from their garden! What timing. The tomato basil soup really is good.


I gave up on growing tomatoes, thanks to the darn squirrels. But you just reminded me I need to check my zucchini.

Linda Lovely said...

The squirrels and chipmunks are a nuisance, but I try to plant enough for humans and critters. However, I wish the dang squirrels wouldn't take one bite and then move on. The same critters (plus birds) eat my blueberries, but I still picked about 8 gallons this summer.

Robin Weaver, Author said...

Hey Linda! Your tomato soup is truly a thing of beauty, but too much work for the average mortal! Great post!