Marja McGraw is in the garden today

Welcome everyone. Today we start the first interview/post of the Mysteries We Write Blog Tour. And today's guest is Marja McGraw. Before we start, grab some delicious food from the refreshment table. Don't forget the tea--and there's something to add, don't worry. Now settle in and let's begin.

Marja McGraw has past experience in both criminal and civil law enforcement, and she occasionally calls on this experience when writing her mysteries. She also owned an antique store/tea room, worked in state transportation, and recently worked for a city building department. She’s lived in California, Nevada, Oregon, Alaska and Arizona. She writes two series: the Sandi Webster Mysteries (female P.I.), and the Bogey Man Mysteries (amateur P.I. husband and wife team), both of which take place in Los Angeles. With her love of dogs, she’s included two yellow Labrador retrievers and a half Golden retriever/half wolf dog in her stories. Her hobby is photography, and she says that writing as a job is the most fun she’s ever had. She and her husband now live in Arizona, where life is good. You can visit her website at and read her blog at

I used to own an antique store/tea room. How I moved from that to mystery writing is a mystery to me. I suppose antiques are a little mysterious in their own way, but in general they don’t enter into my stories.

I write two series and one of them is a spinoff from the other. I started with the Sandi Webster series and moved on to the Bogey Man Mysteries.

Sandi Webster is a young female P.I. who’s constantly having to learn new lessons about life and the people around her. She’s surrounded by interesting characters, like her love interest, Peter Goldberg, an Italian ex-cop. Stanley Hawks was a mild-mannered greeting card writer until Sandi handled a case for him, and his new girlfriend is as small as a pixie and she’s a hand model. Figure that one out.

 In A Well-Kept Family Secret Sandi’s menopausal mother asks her to solve a hundred-year-old murder. Can a murder that happened so long ago be considered an antique crime? Maybe cold case would be a better description. She does end up moving into a vintage home though, and the attic is filled with years of left-behind antiques.

In Bubba’s Ghost, Sandi still lives in the aging home. Other than the house, there are no antiques in this story – just a dog who seems to think there’s a ghost in the attic. There’s also a young widowed mother who’s being harassed by a bum, and she lives in an old house, too. The murder is current though, so no antique crime there. However, you might learn how much Sandi likes vintage movies.

Prudy’s Back! has a whole different antique angle. Prudence Lewis was a P.I. back in the 1940s, and she wants Sandi to solve the crime she couldn’t get a handle on. Is Prudy the antique or is the crime? Prudy wears an aged fur coat and carries a retro cigarette holder, although she doesn’t smoke anymore. Oh, yeah, you’ll also find her wearing cowgirl boots. She’s an interesting woman.

The latest in this series is The Bogey Man, which entertains the reader with some 1940s slang and mode of dress. Chris Cross has an uncanny resemblance to Humphrey Bogart, and he tries to take advantage of that. He walks the walk and talks the talk, and he wants to be a P.I. just like the real Bogey was in some of his movies. Sandi has a thing or two to say about that, and when someone is murdered at a costume party, the fireworks begin.

Readers liked the Bogey Man so much that I gave him his own series, which begins with Bogey Nights. Chris now has a wife and young son, and two yellow Labrador retrievers. The dogs find a body buried in a basement, and it’s been there since 1942. Aha! A vintage body. How much more antiquey can things become?

So, from antique store and tea room to mystery writing. I guess I never really got away from enjoying the wonderful things from the past. I’ve just incorporated some of them into my books.

In the tea room we served scones, finger sandwiches and some gourmet goodies. Mary asked for the scone recipes, so they’re presented here for you. (See below for recipes) I hope you enjoy them, and while snacking on them, remember this story. We (my daughter and I) used to play 1940s music in the store. On opening night an older couple came in. They were obviously annoyed with each other. They weren’t speaking and they both appeared angry. Sitting down at a table, they began listening to the old music. After a couple of songs they began talking animatedly, and I could see them looking toward the speakers and listening to the music. It transported them to another era, and seemed to bring back some memories. By the time they ate their scones and drank their tea, they were holding hands. They walked out the door and kissed each other while standing in front of the store window. Wow! Who knew a tea room could solve a problem?

Buttermilk Scones

1-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
5 tbsp. unsalted butter
Approx. 3/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450°

Combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add just enough buttermilk to form a soft dough.

Turn out onto a floured board and roll out until 1/2 inch thick. Use a 2 inch round cookie cutter and place on an ungreased baking sheet.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes approximately 12. They’ll resemble biscuits in appearance, but what an awesome flavor.

Top with your favorite jam (Tayberry Jam is delicious) and cover with clotted cream or whipped cream.

Gingerbread Scones

2 cups all purpose flour
3 tbsp. brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2  tsp. salt
1/2  tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4  cup butter or margarine
1 beaten egg yolk
1/3 cup molasses
1/4 cup milk
1 slightly beaten egg white

Preheat oven to 400°

In a large mixing bowl combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, ground ginger, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a “well” in the center.

In a small mixing bowl, stir together the egg yolk, molasses and milk. Add all at once to the well in the center of the flour mixture. With a fork, stir until combined (mixture may seem dry).

Turn dough onto a lightly floured board. Quickly knead dough for 10-12 strokes or until nearly smooth. Pat or roll dough into a 7” round. Cut into 8 wedges. Arrange wedges on an ungreased baking sheet about 1 inch apart. Brush with egg white.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until light brown. Cool scones on a wire rack for and serve while still warm.

Nutmeg Whipped Cream

1/2 cup whipping cream
1 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. finely shredded orange peel
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

In a chilled small mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Beat with chilled beaters on medium speed until soft peaks form. Can be chilled for up to two hours.

Thank you, Mary, for inviting me here. I’ve enjoyed telling my stories, and I hope your readers like the scones.

Thank you Maria, I'm so enjoyed your post, and your scones.


Marja, what great recipes! And you already know that I love your book. This is a great blog, Mary. I loved reading about your trip to Austin. I went there a few years back to a mystery con and I agree, it was fantastic!
Marja's "Criminal Background" gives more credibility to her stories, I bet. Can't wait to check them out. For anyone who didn't read the blog, she has training in criminal areas, on the good side of the law. I just couldn't resist the bit of humor. But the statement is true. I'm sure there's a touch of realism that some mysteries don't have.

I was thrilled to death to see the scone recipes, by the way. My son mentioned scones the other day, in a jest about how long he's gone without a good scone...and now I'll be able to surprise him.

Another surprise that my interest you, is Vivian Zabel over at my blog, another stop on the Mystery We Write Tour.
Another surprise that MIGHT interest you...Sorry...speed typing along, I guess. Always proofread is the lesson here.
marja said…
Thank you for stopping in, Marilyn and Jennifer. Who knew that blogging could be fun? And it's so nice to have people whose writing I admire visit. Hope you enjoy the scones. We actually had some people from "across the pond" ask for the recipes.

Morning, Mary, and thank you for letting me visit today.
Sharon Ervin said…
Very nice interview, Mary. After reading it, however, I feel compelled to go bake something.
Beth Anderson said…
First, I copy/pasted the scone recipes for my Recipes folder. Can't wait to make them.

I haven't yet read your books, Marja, but I'm interested enough to do so now. This was a great blog, giving everyone an overall look at all of your books. Now I wish I'd done that, instead of focusing on only my new one. I will definitely be buying a book in the Bogey series, it sounds like something I'd love to read.
And Mary, I'm so glad I found your blog. I've never been to Austin but I'm going one of these days. Thanks for giving us a look at it.
Palmaltas said…
Love,love the tea room story. And I love books with recipes. Great interview, Marja, and I am so looking forward to your latest two books!
marja said…
Sharon, Beth and Pat, thank you so much for stopping in. By the way, the books don't contain recipes--just the blog. And for anyone who hasn't heard, Pat's reference to my two new books means that I have another book, Old Murders Never Die, coming out in July, 2011. Woohoo!
Sunny Frazier said…
I'm such a sucker for scones! You never let on that you owned a tea room; now we at Oak Tree Press will be bugging you to supply the munchies when we see you at events!

I was thrilled to be a part of getting Bogey Man into print.
Mary Martinez said…
Marja, I loved having you visit. Come again often. I've already copied the recipes into my file also. Can't wait to try them.

Thank you, everyone for dropping by today.
Jeana Thompson said…
Hi Marja,

Wonderful Blog ! I am thinking I am going to have to squeeze in some time to try some new recipes too !!! Yummy ;o)
Jean Henry Mead said…
Marja, I enjoyed your Bogey Man series and look forward to more. And your recipes sound delicious. I've got to try them.

Mary, if that's your backyard pictured, I'm coming for a visit. (I love waterfalls.) :)
Marja said…
Sunny, Thanks for stopping by. And the scones? You'll love them, I promise. LOL I can just see me catering an event with scones and finger sandwiches.

Jeana, Thank you for stopping in, too. Trust me, the scones are worth the time spent in making them.

And, Jean, I'm so glad you've enjoyed the Bogey series. Yes, right about now I'd like to be sitting next to Mary, too.
Mary Martinez said…
My web site and blog design are from pictures of me at Red Butte Gardens our only Botanical Garden that I know of in Salt Lake City. They have out door concerts, we are going to The Moody Blues there Sunday evening.

The kids love to visit and have lunch there. Any time you're in SLC let me know and I'll take you there.
4RV Publishing said…
I'm on wifi and my antique laptop in my hubby's hospital room and read recipes that make me hungry. They sound delicious.

I like how you used your life experiences and knowledge to add to your writing, Marja. Now, I'm hungry and want one of your books to read.

Holli said…
Your blog made Sharon Ervin want to bake, it made me want to eat!!! After I read your book of course! I keep thinking of tea rooms and finger sandwiches and scones...

Holli Castillo
Marja said…
Vivian, My best to your husband and you! I hope all is going well.

I was divorced mother for over thirty years and raised a child by myself, and I worked in law enforcement. I also have a family with some noteworthy ancestors. It's left me a lot to draw from for my stories, although it has only inspired the books. They're definitely fiction. Thank you so much for stopping in. I know this is a day when you've got your hands full.
Marja said…
Oh, Holli, I just wish we had a tea room in this little desert town I live in. I've been too lazy to make scone lately, but now you've got me craving them, too. :)
C.K.Crigger said…
Lovely interview, Marja. What an interesting life you've led! Your books sounds great and the recipes to die for. I'm a big fan of gingerbread, so I'll have to try this recipe for sure. Here's wishing you happy book sales.
Lesley Diehl said…
Oh, yum, gingerbread scones. I'll try the recipe soon. My husband and I have tea every afternoon, and we love scones. Our favorite is lavender scones best. it's a tradition we adopted from our German friends.
Marja said…
Thank you, Carol and Lesley. I mentioned that I put up the recipe for the gingerbread scones to my daughter, and she said, "You didn't!" Then she thought it over and decided that everyone should enjoy them.

Thank you for stopping in.

And, Mary, thank you very much for allowing me to visit today. Love your website.
Ellis Vidler said…
Hmmm. I love scones, and gingerbread's a new one for me. You have such an interesting background, Marja. I hope it's all reflected in your books.
Mary Martinez said…
What a pleasure it has been to host Marja and her friends.

Thank you to all for spending some time in the garden.
Jake said…
Marja your series keep me fully engrossed. Have enjoyed every mystery. Bogey series is reflective of your talent combined with humor. Will get the scones going while reading BOGEY NIGHTS. Looking forward to release in July of your "senior ladies" participation, laughing already. Thank you for mysteries I can share with friends. I still think title of number 1 fan is mine.
Anonymous said…
Loved your post. I know now that I was confused about the series. I didn't realize that the Bogey character originally came from your Sandi Webster series. Anyway, both series sound like my cup of tea, and I will do some Kindle downloads in June. I have no -- and I do mean NO --book money this month. Some months are like that!
(But they don't last forever.)
Pat Browning
Marja said…
Thank you, Jake and Pat, for your comments. It makes my day when I hear that someone is enjoying my books, or hopefully, about to enjoy them. You make all of the work worth it.
Jackie King said…
What a fun blog! And now I'm hungry for scones, tea, and Marja's mystery.
Marja said…
Thank you, Jackie! I think I've started something here with the scone recipes. Hope you all enjoy them.
Anne K. Albert said…
Fantastic article. Delicious recipe, and a great author. Thank you!
Mary Martinez said…
Thanks everyone for dropping by! I had fun interviewing Marja!
Marja said…
Thank you, Anne!

And, once again, thank you for letting me ramble, Mary. You have a great website.
Mary Martinez said…
Marja, please drop by any time! In fact everyone is welcome to drop by. I love to hear comments about everything I post.
Anonymous said…
Hi Marja,
Jake your #1 fan has sent me many of your books and I enjoyed each new book more than the last. Especially enjoyed Bogey Man and the wonderful character of Prudy. Love to read more about her. Good clean reading and fun to share around with family and friends.
L The B
Another mystery? LOL

Popular Posts