Thursday, November 19, 2015

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Milda Harris, Author of Adventures in Funeral Crashing

Imagine this: peanut butter, bananas, ice cream, and milk blended together to utter perfection. That's right. I'm talking about a peanut butter banana milkshake. Yum. No, actually that's not a good enough word to describe that miraculous blending of flavor. It doesn't quite do it justice. At least, that's how the heroine from my Funeral Crashing Mystery Series, Kait Lenox, feels. 

That awesome concoction is her favorite treat. She calls it heaven on earth. She likes her peanut butter banana milkshake from one place particularly, a coffee shop called Wired. Even a murder mystery can't deter her from them. She is that obsessed.

I'll admit it. I get cravings for a peanut butter banana milkshake every once in a while too and I had my own brief fixation with them. That's why it made its initial appearance. I was participating in the 3 Day Novel Contest when I started Adventures in Funeral Crashing and I was writing what I knew - that peanut butter banana milkshakes rock!

From that initial idea, the milkshake took on a life of its own in the story. Kait can't stop talking about them. It's her go-to comfort food and beverage of choice when it shows up on a menu. She even uses it to compare how great something is and the only thing that can beat the phenomenal bliss of a peanut butter banana milkshake from Wired is a kiss from her crush, Ethan Ripley. It must be true love then, right?    

Kait's love of the peanut butter banana milkshake has evolved, though. In Adventures in Funeral Crashing Kait gushes about them endlessly and drinks them whenever the opportunity presents itself, but in a later book, Adventures in Murder Chasing, you learn that there's more to the story than her love of a simple milkshake. She used to share her passion for them with her now ex-best friend, Ariel. It was their thing to go to Wired, drink them, and gossip...until their friendship ended. Their complicated friendship/ex-friendship spans the series and their dual love of peanut butter banana milkshakes is just a piece of their story.

So, now we have the milkshake's backstory. This brings up an interesting question. What will be the next chapter in the journey of Kait and her peanut butter banana milkshake love affair? What does the future hold? Will she be able to find one when she heads off to Paris in the next Funeral Crashing book or will a mystery get in the way? More importantly, who will be sharing that milkshake with her?

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

You can find Milda here:

Thursday, November 12, 2015

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Kim Hornsby, Author of The Dream Jumper's Secret

Maui Takeout and Home Cooking

I love to mention what my characters are eating in my novels. As an avid reader, I appreciate the mention of food in the storyline, especially if it gets me salivating. That’s the sign of a talented writer.

The Dream Jumper’s Secret, the second book in my Dream Jumper Series, begins on Maui in late May but the story soon goes to Carnation, Washington, a small town forty minutes east of Seattle, where May and June are customarily cool. There, meals are eaten at home, around a table, and menus are based on meat and potatoes. Both Jamey’s father and Tina’s parents have Anglo Saxon backgrounds and are over seventy-years-old, raised during a time when dinner included – meat, vegetable, starch—with little regard for cholesterol.

With the weather and the chef’s background factored in, here’s what Tina and Jamey eat in The Dream Jumper’s Secret:

On Maui we have Tina and Jamey (a brand new couple) eating teriyaki chicken, mango smoothies, cold beer, and mostly takeout. Tina has never had an interest in the kitchen as a business major and scuba shop owner, so she grabs food on the go. As a bachelor and a former soldier, Jamey is used to this too.

In Carnation, breakfasts consist of Canadian bacon, (I had to get that in there, because I was born and raised Canadian), fried eggs, and always coffee. Lots of coffee for Jamey. He’s a former Special Forces soldier! Lunches in Carnation tend to be cold cut sandwiches and homemade potato salad. Dinners are creamy clam chowder, stews, vegetable soup, or beef barley soup, all made from scratch. Jamey and his father sit at the old wooden table and slurp soup, using chunky homemade bread to clean their bowls afterwards.

At Tina’s family’s house, on Mercer Island, Washington, her mother and father eat meals in the formal dining room. The Greene’s have a housekeeper, Millie, who does the cooking. They dine on Chicken Cordon Bleu, Pot Roast with basted potatoes and carrots, and Roast Chicken. But, one night Tina goes to the local Chinese Restaurant and brings home Cashew Chicken, Fried Rice and Broccoli Beef, which is eaten informally.

When the story heads to Afghanistan, Tina finally shoves a hamburger and greasy fries with ketchup into her mouth. Then, she washes it all down with a chocolate milkshake from the Kandahar Airbase chow tent.

At the end of all my books, I include at least one recipe, and in The Dream Jumper’s Secret, I published Pops’ Seafood Chowder and Millie’s Pot Roast. It always makes me happy when a reader emails me to say they tried the recipe and loved it! Or, if I’m asked to speak at a Book Club and the hostess has made the recipe. I’ve had teriyaki chicken and mango salsa many times.

If you’re interested in The Dream Jumper Series, you can find my books at on Amazon, or comment below for the chance to win your choice of the 3 ebook Dream Jumper Series or my Christmas Box Set of 8 Books, Criminal Christmas, with Ann Charles and Alexa Grace.

Comment question: What’s the last thing you ate?

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

You can find Kim here:

Thursday, November 5, 2015

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Peter Golden, Author of Wherever There is Light

Here’s the truth, and I rarely share it with anyone. I’m one of those people who gains weight if he looks in a bakery window. I’ve been known to stare longingly at a carrot cake or pecan pie, then go home and try on a new suit, only to discover that, amazingly, the pants are now too tight in the waist.

How does this happen? I don’t know, but it’s been going on since childhood, and the result is that I’m on an eternal diet.

Except when I write—

For some reason, writing about food doesn’t seem to add extra weight, and because part of my new novel, Wherever There Is Light, takes place in Paris right after World War II, I let my imagination run wild. Here are a few excerpts:

          If, as les existentialists claimed, existence was meaningless, then it made sense to begin each day with dessert, a plan that Julian put into action by devouring a pain au chocolat at one of the busy cafés in the square outside the Sorbonne.

I especially enjoyed writing this sentence because my usual more fare is more like fruit and granola without sugar—or flavor, if you ask me. Ah, but one of those flaky, rich chocolate filled croissants...

Of course, after eating a breakfast more suitable for a parakeet, I’m a bit peckish by noon, so it’s downstairs I go for a—you guessed it—a banana.

Then I head up to my office and sit at the computer, where I indulge myself:

          In the rainy light the houses below the top of Montmartre were gray and brown with orange chimney pots, and after Julian commented that it looked exactly like the print of the van Gogh painting that Kendall had hung in her Greenwich Village apartment, it began to rain harder, and they ducked into a café for coffee and macarons.

Are you hungry yet? I am, and so it is time for my main characters, Kendall and Julian, to eat dinner.

          The dining area at Dans le Vent was redolent with cassoulet—a garlicky aroma rising from the bowls of sausage, confit of duck and pork shoulder, sweet onions, tomatoes, and plump tarbais beans that were slow-cooked under a crust of bread crumbs and tasted like the coziest starlit autumn night you could remember.

I enjoyed writing this passage. Not that I felt full, mind you, but I didn’t gain an ounce, and I’ve always loved to dream.

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

You can find Peter here:

Friday, October 30, 2015

FOODFIC: Queen Sugar - Natalie Baszile

Prosper Denton makes his boss eat dirt. And on his first day in her employ, at that.

Oh, it’s not as bad as it sounds. See for yourself:

Charley raised the dirt to her mouth. She sniffed: wood smoke, grass, damp like a sidewalk after it rained. She tasted: grit, fine as ground glass, chocolate, and what? Maybe ash? She closed her eyes as soil dissolved over her tongue, and slowly, slowly, almost like a good wine, the soil began to tell its story. She tasted the muck, and the peat, and the years of composted leaves, the branches and vines that had been recently plowed under, and the faint sweetness the cane left behind. She swallowed: a moldy aftertaste she knew would stay on her tongue for the rest of the afternoon.

Okay, so maybe the moldy aftertaste is that bad. But the lesson is invaluable.

You see, Charley Bordelon has just inherited an 800-acre sugar cane plantation in middle-of-nowhere Louisiana. The man she’s been paying to run it until she can relocate with her daughter from L.A. has not only not been doing his job; he then up and quits on her the day she gets to town.

So Charley finds herself a young, black, single mother from another state struggling to find a foothold in a town of old white men who’ve been there generations and would be more than happy to buy her out when she fails at this endeavor.

If Charley has any hope of succeeding (and putting all those jerks in their places), she’s going to have to dig in with both hands. Luckily, she’s not afraid of a little dirt ;)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Tamar Hela, Author of The Wrong Fairy Tale

What Do Aliens Eat?

If you were a dinner guest of magic-wielding aliens, what would they serve you? And, being that these aliens live in an enchanted forest, what type of food is available to begin with? Those were some of the questions I asked myself while writing my second book, The Wrong Fairy Tale. After a few brainstorming sessions, I came up with what I thought was the perfect answer—but we’ll get to that in just a bit.

Food can play a very important part in the setting of a novel. I think about Little Women, when the girls finally have quite the feast for Christmastime, but instead choose to give their bounty to a family in need. Or, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe comes to mind, where Edmund gorges himself on Turkish Delight when the queen uses it as a bribe. And who could forget Anne of Green Gables, who is so eager to try Raspberry Cordial and everything ends in disaster?

In my novel, The Wrong Fairy Tale, important information is given during mealtime. Our heroine, Alex, not only has to digest key details recently revealed, but foreign food as well. She and her friends have been miraculously transported to a magical forest filled with aliens (the Alfara) who look like elves. And in order to be a good guest and not offend her hosts, she must try the dish set before her: Prakova. Prakova, which I made up, of course, is an Alfaran delicacy. On the outside, it looks like a white, feathery crab, and on the inside, the meat is pink and tender. When Alex braves eating something alien, she is delighted to find that it actually tastes great—potential crisis avoided, thank goodness.

In our own lives, food plays an integral part of every day living. We often gather around the dinner table for holidays, celebrate a marriage at a reception with food and drink, or spend quality time with loved ones around a hot meal. Food brings us together. So, it’s only appropriate that food becomes part of a fictional story. I think that when used properly, the food a writer places in her story can actually make things more interesting. After all, as a reader, if I can smell and taste what the character is smelling and tasting, I can better relate to that character. I can put myself in their shoes and feel like I’m there. It’s a writer’s job to transport the reader, so why not use food as part of the process?

How about you? Do you like reading about food in a story? Does it help to give you a better visual, or is it simply unnecessary? 

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

You can find Tamar here:

Thursday, October 15, 2015

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Dianne Harman, Author of the Cedar Bay Cozy Mysteries

A Foodie’s Evolution From Reading About Food To Writing About It!
By Dianne Harman

Food, cooking, entertaining? Oh yeah! How does the song go? Something like, “These are a few of my favorite things!”

I started writing cozy mysteries a year ago as a way to integrate my love of food and dogs. I had previously written three books in the suspense genre, but I really couldn’t integrate the dogs and food much in them, although readers have told me that when they read Coyote in Provence, they gained ten pounds just from the food descriptions!

When I would mention that I was interested in writing cozy mysteries, people told me to stay in the suspense genre, and that it would really dilute my brand if I changed genres. My husband and I were at the Enchantment Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona a year ago. I’d had a wonderful breakfast in bed and made a few notes on my iPad. At that moment I decided to write what I really wanted to – books about food and dogs. I started Kelly’s Koffee Shop the morning after we returned and a year later I’ve published a book a month, all cozy mysteries and all having lots of food, recipes, and dogs. The three cozy mystery series, Cedar Bay, Liz Lucas, and the latest, High Desert, have really caught on. Evidently my readers have enjoyed the because each of the books has been a best seller in cozy mystery culinary books and animal books, plus Amazon has named me as on of their most popular authors for seven months.

Why food? I can’t remember a time I wasn’t interested in it. Cooking and trying out new recipes has always been one of my favorite things to do. I’ve been fortunate to have attended cooking classes and schools at a number of places here in the United States as well as in France, Portugal, Thailand, and Italy. In fact, one of the books, Murder at the Cooking School, is a loose rendition of the week we spent at a cooking school in Tuscany. The recipes in that book all come from that experience, but fortunately we didn’t encounter a murder!

My husband was a California Senator, and we entertained so much (read that as me cooking) that one of his advisors suggested we do fundraising dinners. I cooked five courses, and he charged $1,500 a person. They became so popular we had to do them back-to-back nights because we couldn’t accommodate all the people who wanted to attend. Trust me, that’s every politician’s dream!

One of my fondest memories of those times was when one of the guests who is a well-known California lobbyist asked my husband if he would give him the name of the caterer who had cooked the meal because he’d like to hire the person for his next event!

The recipes in my books are all from my personal collection and have been prepared by me for years. Many are from family members, because I’m not the only one in the family who likes to cook. Mother-in-law recipes, sister-in-law recipes, and my mother’s recipes are all in the books.

I’ve read that cooking for people is a form of showing love. I think that’s a charming thought and hope all of you are giving plenty of love!!!

Thanks for taking the time to read this and bon appetit!

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

You can find Dianne and her books here:

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.