Thursday, October 8, 2015

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Guido Henkel, Author of HUNTED

Food plays such an elemental part of our lives that I am often surprised how little of it is shown in fiction, and even in movies or TV shows. I mean, after all, didn’t we just have breakfast, and then lunch, and now we’re eating again? There are days when it feels that our entire being revolves around nothing but food. And the worst part is that after a few hours it is depleted, and the cycle starts all over again. For cooks it must be a devastating feeling to have labored over a good meal for hours, only to have it gobbled down in a few minutes without any further pay-off, knowing that it was a rather vain attempt to stop the hunger, because before long, we’ll be have to have at it again. In the real world, food is king, not money!

A while back my editor returned one of my manuscripts to me with the general comment “I love that Jason Dark and Siu Lin always have these conversations over food.” It was only then that I realized, yes, my characters do sit down to eat and talk about things. As a writer, for me, it’s always a nice set piece that gives me a backdrop that I can make as rich and detailed as I want to, or relegate it to the background if I desire.

While I have sit-downs in my stories where the characters eat sumptuous dinners—it seems to make Jason Dark’s deductive juices flow—I also use food as coloration. Like a throw-away line. He may just walk past a stall in a market place and grab an apple and share it with his companion Siu Lin, or he purchases fish and chips from a street vendor while being on the run to solve his current supernatural mystery. Naturally, rice dishes are also ever-present, as my character Siu Lin prefers her diet more Asian.

Drink is equally important, I believe. Not necessarily booze, but the general consumption of liquids. My Jason Dark mysteries play in Victorian England, so the generally accepted notion is that everyone drinks tea, but in a twist of fate—or was it just my imagination?—I decided to make Jason Dark a coffee drinker—a preference handed down to him by his father, like many other things. At the same time, as one would expect, Siu Lin is a tea drinker, though not of the British Earl Grey variation necessarily, she prefers the Lapsang and Jasmine teas of her homeland of China.

While I find that I never pick food scenes consciously, they seem to be part of my writing fabric. This is, perhaps, most noticeable in the series’ first book, Demon’s Night. When readers meet Jason Dark for the very first time, his introduction takes place at a breakfast table where he eats with his live-in sister in-law, as she points out a particular newspaper article to him, which ultimately leads to him investigating the case in question. As I said, I did not write this scene with the conscious desire of wanting to write a “food scene.” To me it simply felt natural. A beautiful morning, sunlight falls in through the window, fresh rolls on the table and a cup of steaming coffee, the aroma filling the air. It is homey, and the perfect counterpoint to what just happened on the previous page—yes, as you may have guessed, the previous chapter involved a few people getting killed by some strange creature.

Feel free to check out any book in my Jason Dark series, or give the latest release, Hunted, a try, and see how many food moments you can spot in the book.

Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Guido!

You can find Guido here:

Friday, October 2, 2015

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Kelly Hashway, Author of The Monster Within

In The Monster Within, Samantha Thompson isn’t your typical seventeen-year-old. She died of cancer and was brought back to life by her loving boyfriend, Ethan. Now they’ve run away together to keep people from finding out what they’ve done. Assuming new identities and living on their own means fending completely for themselves. They live off crackers and bottled water for a while because they don’t have much money. That is until they both get jobs at a local diner. There, Ethan learns to cook while Sam waits tables. But even though they are able to eat good food, they both still have their quirky tastes. Sam dunks French fries in her vanilla milkshakes, and Ethan dunks his soft pretzels in his chocolate milk.
They aren’t the only characters who have odd tastes. Nora comes to the diner every day but never orders anything other than coffee. She drinks cup after cup after cup. And since she and Sam get off to a rocky start, the bitter coffee fits Nora’s personality perfectly.
The other side to this story is that Sam didn’t exactly come back to life as the girl she was before. There was a side effect. She has a monster inside her and she has to feed it in order to survive. And all the monster wants is to drain the life from other human beings, so Sam literally feeds on the life force of others—or she’ll die.
I never realized how much of a role food played in this book, but it’s pretty much everywhere. Throw in some witches and their aversion to salt, and food can pack a real punch in this story.

Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Kelly!

You can find Kelly here:

Thursday, September 24, 2015

FOODFIC: Please Welcome R.S. Guthrie, Author of Honor Land

Though almost any food can arguably be freeze-dried, unfortunately the danger, fear, adrenaline, loss, honor, kinetic aggression, blood, and unavoidable death that accompanied each soldier in war could not. Still, the men in Delta Team Spiderman carried all of the above, freeze-dried or not.

Food in the middle of a hot war zone—and Delta Force troops, along with the Navy SEALs (Sea, Air, and Land Teams), were always in the most searing—could be found, if fortunate enough, in the form of standard issue MREs (Meals Ready to Eat—another arguable use of terminology).

The standard-issue, sealed number ten cans were filled with meat, vegetables, grain, breakfast, or dessert . Some examples of warfare delicacies were freeze-dried spaghetti, beef stew, stroganoff, and the infamous scrambled eggs that had the consistency of oatmeal (which was also available). There were also corn, rice, and a few more of the regular entrees, sides, and other necessities.

However, most MREs contained two-thousand calories, and Special Forces personnel required significantly more caloric intake to climb miles to acquire strategic positions in near-vertical, shale terrain, utilizing any object—a small conifer or rock or scraggly bush—to hide themselves on any given mission. Because of the risk of giving away such key, calculated locations, perilously bereft of cover, Special Forces teammates often survived mostly off super-calorie tubes of a Gatorade-like drink, a high-energy, high-calorie, pasty recovery concoction that could also be eaten silently from a tube, and (surprisingly enough) freeze-dried ice cream sandwiches, which unlike most MREs, could be eaten straight from the package (and were considered by all soldiers a delicacy). Fortunately they were also high in sugar and calories, so Special Forces teams always kept plenty on hand for mission deployment (and down-time eats).

In the Sheriff James Pruett novels (Blood Land, Money Land, and Honor Land), the hero is normally the protagonist, but Pruett takes a backseat in Honor Land as far as “heroes” are concerned. His godson and decorated Delta soldier, Kyle Yoder, has returned to the States to find he can only cope by living on the streets. Then, as if his post-war psychological problems aren’t ruthless enough on the Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, he’s eventually accused of a quadruple-homicide that occurs just shortly into the usual revelry of Cheyenne Frontier Days.

Before he’s arrested, however, Kyle is allowed to live behind a kind Vietnam veteran’s restaurant, and the owner brings him what in his situation would be considered a wide variety of excellent food—much better than the MREs they carried in the sand-blown wasteland of the Middle East and the rocky terrain of Afghanistan.

Even living on the street in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Kyle is served a hot plate of whatever he likes from Papa’s Place. Retired Sergeant Mick “Papa” Rourke never brings his “guest” leftovers, either, but freshly-cooked biscuits and gravy, properly-prepared scrambled eggs with peppers and bacon, lunch-time sandwiches or a warm cheeseburger, and then for dinner a rotating assortment of main dishes of cube steak with gravy, mashed potatoes, city-famous fried chicken, and a whole menu full of delicious food (none freeze-dried).

Yet though Kyle never says so, only thanking his friend and fellow veteran, he does miss the freeze-dried ice cream sandwiches.

Whether the county lock-up serves any kind of ice cream sandwich is unlikely, and the food will be considerably worse than that to which he’s grown accustomed. Whether it is better than the MREs, and whether or not Kyle will be found guilty of the capital crimes, waits for the patriotic hero in the future. For the latter, only his godfather, Sheriff James Pruett, can mobilize the effort to find the real killers.

Unless the real killer is already in custody.

Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Rob!

You can find Rob here:

Friday, September 4, 2015

FOODFIC: The Royal Diaries, Elizabeth I - Kathryn Lasky

I loved how this format gave the young heroine a big voice. This novel introduces us to Elizabeth I, daughter of the infamous Henry VIII and his scandalous 2nd wife Anne Boleyn. And through Elizabeth’s diary, we learn that she’s just like any girl in any century, longing for the love and approval of her father. This peeling back of layers to reveal a real person (where used to be only a printed name in a textbook followed by a few carefully chosen facts and dates) reminds me of Philippa Gregory’s work. I say all the time that if her books were in print when I was in high school, I’d have been a much better history student!

So for either – or both – series of books, what is it that so handily captures readers? Is it the writing? The girls’ voices? The female perspective?

Or could it be the food?

Okay, it’s not the food if we’re talking appeal, because, well, historic food is historically disgusting. In Anne’s case, her father’s favorites are goose, swan, rabbit, lamb, quail and lamprey eel. Blech. I have no idea if they sent royal fisherman to catch the eels in the wild or if they just hauled the suckers up out of the moat – not that it matters – but that eel actually lost to the swan in my grossest delicacy ranking when I read that they turned the swan’s neck into pudding. It’s just too much for my 21st century American stomach to handle.

Of course it gives me greater respect for Anne and her half-sister Mary and all the other women for whom such bad food was just the cherry on top of the sundae of crap dumped on them by the ruling men. Women were treated and traded like cattle – exquisitely, prize-winning cattle – with no choices socially, academically, and even gastronomically. Sadly, the meals are just one of many details of court life that leave a bad taste in our mouths, yet the stories of Anne and her peers make us hungrily read on.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Alisse Lee Goldenberg, Author of Bath Salts

Canned foods, freshly grown vegetables, arctic goose, caribou, and fish all caught and hunted by the characters are what is being eaten in the zombie novel Bath Salts. It is the middle of the zombie apocalypse and two women living in Toronto, Canada see the reality of the situation around them. They pack up friends and family and run off to the heart of Nunavut where they set up a compound built out of two tiny trailer houses surrounded by a metal fence.

There, they now have to focus on survival. Naturally, the subject of food comes up a lot. Food, is a basic necessity for a person to live, and as such, the characters don’t want to merely get by. They set up a hydroponics shed in which they grow their own vegetables and fruits, as well as whatever herbs they can to make what they manage to trap and hunt more palatable. They keep a couple of mating gorals as livestock to provide them with milk and cheese.

The character of Ali takes on the role of mother for the entire group. She sees there survival as being about more then just living. For her, survival is keeping the humanity of the group intact. As such, she focuses on making their meals about more than just food. It’s about finding a way to make a birthday cake out of old cake mix and goose eggs. It’s about marking the holidays with the appropriate feast, substituting goose and caribou for turkey and roast beef. She sees the food she prepares as comfort and familiarity; something for the group to cling to and keep their spirits alive.

In contrast, An takes on the role of the hunter. She goes out, armed and ready, killing zombies and animals for their meals with relative ease. She believes that survival means staying alive, no matter what. Her attitude is reflected in her actions, and while she is a part of the group, her beliefs keep her as somewhat apart from it all. She will partake in their meals and their attempts to keep the past alive, but her heart isn’t in it like the others.

With two differing viewpoints, how will this group keep together, when their survival against bandits, zombies, and the elements counts on them being a team? Find out in Bath Salts.

Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Ali!

You can find Alisse here:


Thursday, August 20, 2015

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Staci Greason, Author of The Last Great American Housewife

Kate, the heroine-in-training in my novel, The Last Great American Housewife, has a good life – a husband, two kids, and a house in the suburbs -but then her mother dies, and nothing is right. Her good life suddenly feels empty. She hunts, desperately, for something to satiate the hunger. At first, Kate shadows elderly women home from the grocery store. Making certain these women get home safely gives Kate a reason to get up in the morning. But then she is arrested and her days once again are void of meaning. She wishes she had a different life.

One night, over chips and salsa and too many margaritas, she meets a beautiful young college student and poet named Jeremiah. He looks at her the way her husband Nate used to when they were younger – filled with desire.

They meet in the middle of the afternoon at Norm’s on La Cienega. With their legs pressed against each other under the table, they share a slice of cherry pie. The sticky filling is too sweet, the crust, buttery and flaky, and the young man delivering the bite isn’t Nate. For that moment, the pie is all that Kate can taste. She is full. She is a different person - beautiful, carefree and daring. Not a wife and mother wearing elastic waistband jeans on the verge of forty. But after the last of the syrup has been scraped from the plate, all that remains is a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach.  The ardent suitor is just a young boy with long hair who writes poetry and can only be loved in another history. Kate is empty.

The question of what sustains us and what is sustenance is at the heart of The Last Great American Housewife.  Most of us live under the delusion that happiness lies somewhere outside. If only we had the perfect husband, the perfect kids, body, car, job, enough money, time, freedom (whatever we think would fill that hole) then our happiness would be fed.  Is our environment responsible for filling our need for self-love, confidence and happiness? Or must we learn to feed ourselves?

Eventually, Kate climbs a tree by the mall to save it from being torn down.  Living on the platform, she quickly learns which foods can be sustained from the heat, wind, cold, birds and squirrels.
Things a housewife can eat up in a tree while hiding from her family include:
Granola Bars
Dark Chocolate
Beef Jerky

That is, unless it rains.  Then she’s pretty much stuck with Gatorade and apples.
Forty feet above the earth, Kate finally discovers the best recipe for happiness:  facing oneself. And when she climbs down, she is no longer hungry.
Except for thin crust pizza with white sauce, fresh basil and sliced tomatoes. Served with a nice Chianti.

Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Staci!

Staci Greason starred on the daytime soap opera Days of Our Lives, as the late Isabella Toscano-Black. She created the hit weekly food column "Dishing" for MODE magazine, and was the author of the popular blog Anxiety: a Love Story as well as the novel The Last Great American Housewife (optioned by Rockinghorse Productions). When she isn’t writing or hiking, she loves to coach fellow scribes at The Write Muse (

You can also find Staci here:

Twitter @StaciGreason                    Facebook          

Thursday, August 13, 2015

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Katherine Gilraine, Author of the Index Series

How do people spell togetherness? What do they usually have on the sidelines while discussing anything in the world, from personal to politics? The answer is a four-letter word: food.

We don’t generally think about what part food plays within the story, but it’s something that we do need to consider as part of a matter of course in our writing. With all the time that we invest into building our worlds, building our characters, crafting the plots, we need to consider what sort of meals the people that we authors create use to come together.

Think of your everyday meals at work. Think of what a person would eat if they were traveling, or sitting down with family. What does one order on a date?

For myself, personally, the meal I love the most is seafood dynamite at this one sushi place I like. It’s a concoction of shellfish, topped with mayonnaise and cheese, and baked. Sounds very heavy, but it’s not; it’s an appetizer dish barely 4” in diameter. It is, however, delicious, and I love little more than hunkering down with it after a long week at work.

I’ve not quite paid attention to food as I wrote it in the books, but I always went with whatever seemed to be the most natural thing. A quiet, cozy dinner in a private dining room, just to friends and family - roast chicken and vegetables, red wine. Comfort food. A cozy private dinner, and yet to one of the characters, Kataria, who has never felt like she was part of a family, to feel as such was something new. For all the comfort of a family meal, she is not altogether yet part of the family that she was born into, and for all the comfort of everyone else at the table - her sister, the people who were right alongside with her sister - she is the one feeling like the odd girl out.

It brings the next part of the food equation into the table: drink. A lot of people drink. A lot of people drink different things for different reasons. Some don’t drink at all. But it’s just as important as the role that food plays.

So let’s take Kataria for an example. After the end of the fourth volume of The Index Series, Kataria is every bit as shaken up by the Battle of Earth as anyone else. Unlike her sister, however, she never felt like she had a safety net to work through the psychological after-effects of the battle. Her sister, Arriella, stops sleeping and barely eats, which directly impacts her work. Conversely, Kataria is determined to keep everything together, and this turns her to the well-known comfort of humans: alcohol.

However, regardless of how Kataria feels when she’s alone, which is evident by the lowball after lowball that she knocks back to dull out everything she doesn’t want to think about, there is always a place for her at her sister’s dinner table. Whether it’s exotic pear champagne from another world, or just simple chicken and veggies, she is welcomed and accepted - regardless of whether or not she feels as such. She, like anyone else sitting down at a new dinner table, just needs to be brave enough to take the first bite.

Katherine Gilraine, wishing a bon appetit. 

Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Katherine!

You can visit Katherine here: