Sunday, January 24, 2021



Felicity Koerber has had a rough year. She's moving back to Galveston Island and opening a bean to bar chocolate factory, fulfilling a dream she and her late husband, Kevin, had shared. Craft chocolate means a chance to travel the world, meeting with farmers and bringing back beans she can turn into little blocks of happiness, right close to home and family. She thinks trouble has walked into her carefully re-built world when puddle-jump pilot Logan Hanlon shows up at her grand opening to order custom chocolates. Then one of her employees drops dead at the party, and Felicity's one-who-got-away ex-boyfriend - who's now a cop - thinks Felicity is a suspect. As the murder victim's life becomes more and more of a mystery, Felicity realizes that if she's going to clear her name in time to save her business, she might need Logan's help. Though she's not sure if she's ready to let anyone into her life - even if it is to protect her from being the killer's next victim.  For Felicity, Galveston is all about history, and a love-hate relationship with the ocean, which keeps threatening to deliver another hurricane - right into the middle of her investigation. Can she figure it out before all the clues get washed away?

Book Details:
Title: Grand Openings Can Be Murder
Author: Amber Royer
Genre: cozy mystery

Series: The Bean to Bar Mysteries, book 1

Publisher: Golden Tip Press (February 2, 2021)

Print length: 266 pages



If you could step back into a moment or day in time, where would you go?
I’ve done a lot of research about food, for several different projects, and you find that there aren’t always definitive answers as to how culinary techniques came about.  People can get quite passionate about their theories. (Want to start an argument? Try asking if the Chinese or the Italians invented pasta first.) But sometimes it comes down to individual chefs, and individual dishes. Which means, back in the distant past, someone stole someone else’s idea. It happened with eggs Benedict. Both Delmanaco’s Steak House and the Waldorf Hotel both lay claim to having invented it for a specific customer in the 1920s. The stories of who those customers were are very different. Both Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club lay claim to having invented Minneapolis’s famous Juicy Lucy burger – and you don’t have to be in town for more than a day to realize the locals have passionate—and somewhat split—feelings about who actually did.

But I’d like to take a step farther back into history. In Paris (because if you’re going to explore culinary tradition, what better place could you be?) in the Belle Epoch.  Onto Rue Bourdaloue. Where there are multiple bakers who have shops creating cutting-edge desserts. You have Mr. Fasquelle, Mr. Lesserteur, and Mr. Coquelin. And on this day, one of them is inventing a cake that will be perfected and adapted, first with apricots, and then other fruit until it eventually becomes the ubiquitous Bourdaloue Pear Tart. I would like to step into right bakery that day, and discovery which one of those bakers I would be looking at.

If you could time travel for an infinite period of time, where would you go?

I was just go back to pre-COVID when travel was still a thing. I’d go to some of the places I’ve been but not had time to explore as much as I would like. I would take a cruise ship from California to Hawaii, then from Hawaii to Japan. One year, I did a series of lectures for one of the cruise lines, but I wasn’t able to take enough time off from real life to do something that extensive. But I have never slept so well as on a boat, gently rocking on the water.

California has some of my favorite beaches (Crystal Cove and Redondo beach), and there is nothing like the carne asada fries at the Taco Stand out near La Jolla Beach. Our friends in California live north of LA, so that’s the main area we’ve visited, though we did once take a drive to see the General Sherman sequoia. It would be nice to have time to drive to other areas of the state. The state parks and ski resorts have a reputation for being amazing.

And, of course, Hawaii has amazing beaches and food. I could basically live just on the fresh pineapple and POG (passion fruit, orange, guava juice) that seems to be on every breakfast table. We’ve only been to Maui, so I would love to see some of the other islands.

The one time we went to Japan, we were there for only two weeks, and that was barely enough time to explore part of Tokyo and Yokohama (the ramen museum there is one of the most amazing places I’ve even been). One of the YouTubers I follow does travel videos, mainly in the Sendai area. I would love to be able to visit some of the restaurants and parks he has featured.

And then I would show up the next day like I had never left.  And plan a trip back to Mexico . . . .

If you could choose a fictional town to live in what would it be and from what book?

I would live in Pickaxe, in Moose County, 400 miles North of Everywhere —from the Cat Who series by Lilian Jackson Braun. There just seems to be such an optimistic, friendly feel to the place—and the food there is obviously amazing. And because it’s fictional, and people don’t seem to be freezing all the time, the cold can’t really be as cold as the geography implies, right? Who wouldn’t want to be in a world where cats are harbingers of justice, people can go from rock bottom to respected members of society, and love and friendship come easy. As long as you can avoid getting murdered, it would be great.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where in the world would it be?
Hawaii.  I love the ocean, and the most fantastic place I’ve ever snorkeled in my life was Black Rock in Maui. The amount of marine life was astounding—especially the parrotfish, which would turn towards you as a group if they thought you had food. Hiking there was gorgeous as well, with rainbow eucalyptus trees with elegant multicolor trunks reaching for the sky.  Mountains—waterfalls—pretty much anything you could ask for, all in one small space. I love spending time in nature, and gardening and the climate there is perfect for both. Since I got into learning about chocolate, my husband and I have started growing cacao trees as houseplants (we’re in Texas, where it gets both too hot and too cold to grow them outside). The weather in Hawaii is perfect for cacao—and there are a number of farms that grow and process their own chocolate. It’s the only state where that’s popular. The soil is also great for most culinary herbs (I am a huge fan of kitchen gardens), and there are gorgeous hillside lavender farms.    

If you could meet any author for coffee, who would you like to meet and what would you talk about?

This requires time travel again, but I’d sit down for coffee with Agatha Christie. I’d want to ask her how to keep a series fresh and exciting when you have so many books starring the same sleuth. I’ve heard that she got sick of writing Poirot – but the public never did (I’m fairly certain Poirot’s the only fictional character ever to have an obituary in the New York Times). I’d also ask her if Ariadne Oliver really was her writing herself into the books, and if that made the fictional world feel more real to her? I think it would amuse me to write myself into my own work, though I’ve never done it. We’d discuss our mutual hobby of photography, and our favorite books, and how travel has affected our writing. I’d ask her about her experiences surfing during the Empire expedition in places like New Zealand and Australia, and tell her about the character in my book who surfs (something I’ve only done a couple of times). And then we’d talk about pets we’d had over the years, because who wouldn’t want to while away an afternoon talking to Agatha about her dogs?


5 things you need in order to write:
    •    coffee
    •    my laptop
    •    noise (music, television, coffee shop chatter)
    •    snacks
    •    coffee

5 things you love about writing:
    •    starting a project and brainstorming ideas
    •    building characters and getting to know their backstories and who they area as people
    •    the way I change/grow as my characters change/grow while I’m writing the story
    •    that feeling when I get to the end and everything feels right about how the story threads draw together
    •    when people tell me that something I’ve written has touched them in some way

5 things you never want to run out of:  
    •    friends
    •    love
    •    laughter
    •    story ideas
    •    toilet paper

5 things you always put in your books:   
    •    found family
    •    romance subplots
    •    second chances/reinvention/redemption
    •    literary/movie references
    •    food

5 favorite places you’ve been:   

    •    Charleston, South Carolina
    •    Samana,Dominican Republic
    •    Monterrey,Mexico
    •    White Sands,New Mexico
    •    Tokyo, Japan

5 favorite things to do:

    •    entertain
    •    cook
    •    hike/explore nature
    •    swim
    •    travel


What’s the loveliest sight you’ve ever seen?
When we were in Maui, my husband Jake and I took a bicycle tour where we rode down Mt Haleakala. But first, they drove us up to the top of the mountain to watch the sunrise over the clouds (we hadn’t packed parkas so we were miserable from the cold, since there are seven climate changes from the base of the mountain to the top).  But the spectacular view was worth it!

What’s your favorite vacation spot?

When I lived in Southeast Texas, my family went to Galveston a couple of times each summer. After all, it was just a ferry ride away. My husband and I did our honeymoon in Galveston, so it will always be an extra-special place to me. Now we live in the Dallas area, which means Galveston is a good six hours away, but it’s still the closest beach. Not to mention full of fascinating history, with a tall ship you can visit and a railroad museum, historic homes, and even an offshore drilling museum.  For a weekend getaway, it’s our favorite option. Is it any wonder that I set the Bean to Bar Mysteries there? There’s an element of wish fulfillment, as I’m here in landlocked Dallas, to be writing about Island breezes and toes on the sand—even if I have to put a dead body in the picture to make it cozy mystery worthy.

What’s your favorite dessert?
Jake will occasionally make a chocolate pear tart, using the sweet-dough crust recipe he got from his grandmother. You only need a tiny slice, but it’s amazing. There’s a version of the recipe in our cookbook, There Are Herbs in My Chocolate.  The cookbook started out as a pamphlet when we were doing presentations for the local herb society, but once my choc-centric novels came out, people asked us to bring it back into print—so we did!

What do you collect?
I collect coffee mugs and teacups/teapots. I regularly use 90% of the cups in my collection (I have a few things that area so old and fragile that I’m afraid hot liquid might be the end of them). Many of my mugs are thrift store finds or gifts.  I also look for mugs as souvenirs when I travel.

What’s one thing you never leave the house without?
My cell phone. I have no sense of direction, so I need it for the maps program alone. I also like to take photographs throughout the day, so having a decent camera on my phone is critical. I tend to lose paper, so I take photographs of anything people give me immediately. I believe writers need somewhere to record ideas, snippets of dialogue, research facts no matter where they are. I use a note-taking app to record all of this on my phone. I can also do preliminary video editing and post to social media from the same device.

What’s your favorite beverage?
Coffee. I have an espresso machine at home, because sometimes you need a cortado or two to get through the day. But I also love how coffee is such a global thing.  Coffee itself is grown in a number of different countries. Traditions in some areas include brewing the coffee with spices, such as cardamom-infused Turkish coffee or
Mexican café de olla, spiced with cinnamon, clove and anise. Other coffee cultures fuse ideas, such as Brazilian affogato, which take the traditional Italian dessert involving gelato drowned in espresso and substitutes fruit ice cream. And you can definitely see the French influence on Vietnamese coffee, which is brewed in something similar to a small French press.

What’s your favorite social media site?

One of my hobbies is photography, so I prefer Instagram. Since both of my published book series involve chocolate, you can expect to see a lot of that on my feed. And coffee pics, obviously. Most weeks, I do a #MugMonday post where I talk about how my writing week is going and invite others to check in. I’m also a writing instructor/author coach, so I do visual writing prompts using photos I’ve taken. It’s my way of answering the question, “Where do your ideas come from?” I choose pics that inspire me with the hope they will inspire you too.

What’s your favorite color?


What book are you currently working on?
I finished the first draft of the second Bean to Bar Mystery during NaNoWriMo. It still has some rough edges that need smoothing out, but I’m pretty happy with the basic structure. It develops some of the relationships introduced in the first book—and introduces a pet octopus that tries to steal the show.

What’s your all-time favorite place you’ve visited?
Once, my husband and I took a road trip from Texas to Santa Monica. (Interesting fact: the end of Route 66 is technically at the end of the Santa Monica Pier.) We stopped overnight at the Grand Canyon. We were at the South Rim, and just before sunset, we went out onto a viewing area that gave a clear 360 view of the sky. When the stars came out, it was like being inside a planetarium, and I was there with my favorite person. It was one of the most meaningful moments of my life.

What’s your favorite ice cream?
We sometimes make a cocoa nib, cinnamon, and bay ice cream. The recipe for that is in the cookbook too.
And I will share it here:
Cocoa Nib, Cinnamon, and Bay Ice Cream
1 ½ c. heavy cream
1 ½ c. whole milk
¼ c. cocoa nibs, plus 3 tbsp.
3 (3”) cinnamon sticks, crushed
2 bay leaves
½ cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt

Combine the heavy cream, milk, ¼ c. cocoa nibs, cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, sugar and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently until the sugar melts. Bring the mixture to a boil, then remove the saucepan from the heat. Cover the saucepan and let the liquid steep for half an hour. Strain the mixture (discarding solids) into the chamber of an ice cream maker, and place the chamber in an ice water bath. Freeze in the ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s direction. Add the 3 tbsp. cocoa nibs near the end of the freezing process. Transfer the soft ice cream to a lidded container. Harden for at least three to four hours before serving.

What’s your latest recommendation for:
If you’re ever in the Dallas, Texas area, go grab a dirty horchata (rice-based beverage plus a dose of coffee) from CocoAndre Cholocate and Horchateria. You can also have them make you a chocolate horchata (they make their own chocolate, from beans sourced from Chiapas, Mexico)—or if you want to be especially decadent, a dirty chocolate horchata.

Vance Joy mixes make for a good all-purpose writing soundtrack. And probably a good all-purpose reading soundtrack.

True Memoirs of an International Assassin. We haven’t been to the theater—obviously—so we’ve been catching up on movies we’d missed. This one stars Kevin James (yes, Paul Blart) as a writer who gets kidnapped and taken to Venezuela because everyone assumes he’s an actual spy. It feels like a modern update of Romancing the Stone.

Written Off by E.J. Copperman. I love anything meta, and this one did not disappoint. Mystery writer Rachel finds her protagonist has come to life—maybe. At least someone claiming to be him has shown up in connection to a real murder case. As a writer, I found myself thinking about this one weeks after I read it. If my characters came to life, what would they think of me?

Eat, Pray, Die by Chelsea Field. This one was quirky and funny, and the narrator did it justice. The protagonist is a modern poison taster, working for a clandestine agency that caters to the rich and famous. When a client dies, she gets drawn into solving the murder. The characters are larger than life (including a fun neighbor and a dangerous debt collector), and there’s a subplot romance.

Netflix/Amazon Prime:  

We just did a re-watch of Chuck on Amazon Prime. I love the mixture of relationship building (for the whole main cast) and spy/action elements. Plus, Adam Baldwin is in it, and he’s one of my favorite actors (ever since he was Jane on Firefly).

What books do you currently have published?

Free Chocolate
Pure Chocolate
Fake Chocolate
There are Herbs in My Chocolate 
Story Like a Journalist 


Amber Royer writes the Chocoverse comic telenovela-style foodie-inspired space opera series, and the Bean To Bar Mysteries. She is also the author of Story Like A Journalist: A Workbook For Novelists, which boils down her writing knowledge into an actionable plan involving over 100 worksheets to build a comprehensive story plan for your novel. She blogs about creative writing technique and all things chocolate. She also teaches creative writing for both UT Arlington Continuing Education and Writing Workshops Dallas. If you are very nice to her, she might make you cupcakes.

Connect with Amber:
Website  |  Blog  |  Facebook  |  Twitter  |  Goodreads YouTube  Instagram  |  Amazon

Buy links:
Amazon  |  Barnes and Noble  |  Kobo  |  Apple Books  |  Indie Bookshop

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