Thursday, November 18, 2021

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Tracy Lawson, Author of Counteract

It's a Small Price to Pay for Safety

Tommy Bailey’s got a high school football player’s appetite. He’d happily inhale anything that isn’t red-hot or nailed down.

But it’s not up to him what, or how much, he gets to eat.

In Tommy’s reality, domestic terrorist attacks are so common that grocery stores have been shuttered in the name of public safety. With few businesses licensed to carry food products, you can’t just stop at a gas station’s quick mart and pick up a soda and a bag of chips. The Essential Services Department, created by the government to protect the U. S. food supply against tampering, makes weekly food deliveries and dictates what everyone gets to eat.

Sure, it’s a big job to handle food distribution for the entire country—but when Tommy wants tuna salad, he’s got to make it with Thousand Island dressing, and he wonders why he never seems to get peanut butter, jelly, and bread at the same time.

It’s not just a food problem. People have lived with the threat of terrorism so long they’ve given into fear and stopped protesting the myriad government-mandated Restrictions that supposedly protect them. Nearly everyone works from home. Shopping centers, movie theaters, and malls are closed. Pro sports teams play in empty stadiums. Schools have state-of-the-art security, and they’re in the process of phasing out extracurriculars and team sports.

Yet the terrorist attacks continue. 

Tommy’s got bigger problems than trying to create meals like he’s on an episode of Chopped. He’s down to his last dose of the government-issued antidote that protects him from the effects of a lethal terrorist gas-strike, yet he takes pity on Careen, whom he’s just met, and shares with her. 

Without enough antidote, the teens expect to die. Instead, they go through harsh withdrawal symptoms and come to realize the terrorist attack was a sham. The antidote was never meant to protect them—it dulls their thoughts and makes them easy to control. As they search for the truth, Tommy learns his parents, who recently died in a car accident, were leaders of an underground resistance group that’s fighting to overthrow the government. Will Tommy carry on his parents’ crusade and try to expose the truth—even though he could be the next target? 

It may sound like this series is meant to mirror the events of 2020—but I started writing the first book in the series in 2010 and released the fourth and final volume in 2017. My vision of what would happen if people gave into fear and begged the government for protection proved eerily accurate. The food shortages that plague the nation in the second and third books in the series are just some of the parallels you’ll find.

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

You can find Tracy here:

Twitter @TracySLawson

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

Friday, November 12, 2021

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Shirley McCann, Author of The Morgue


I love staying at motels, hotels or bed and breakfasts. Although I’m widowed, my daughter, son-in-law, and two grandchildren live with me. I love having them here since I hate being alone at night, but it’s still nice to get away once in a while.

Cooking has never been my thing, so anytime I don’t have to do it is a huge treat for me. I always take plenty of tea bags (for hot and cold) and make my own brew in the room. There’s also plenty of late-night snacks in my arsenal.

One of my favorite places to visit is The Crescent Hotel in Eureka Springs. Not only is the place reportedly haunted, but they have a restaurant inside as well as a bar. For breakfast I usually sit at a corner table, eat my biscuits and gravy (who doesn’t like biscuits and gravy?) and peruse the room for one of the famous apparitions I’ve heard about.

Dinner is usually a pizza from the bar, which I’ll take back to my room and watch television while I eat.

I just finished a Writers Conference in Eureka Springs, where I shared a room with two other writer friends. We ate most of our meals at the motel restaurant, which is famous for its Possum Pie. Thankfully, it’s not actually a possum pie. Just a super-rich chocolate dessert that is to die for.

My friends and I are always on the lookout for places to eat. At least once a month, we get together for lunch to talk about our lives and writing. Although Covid stopped that for a time, we’re back at it and having the time of our lives.

A new favorite we just discovered is in Marshfield, Missouri. It’s a small-town restaurant with a friendly, welcoming staff. Grillos, you’re #1 in my book right now.

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

You can find Shirley here:

Twitter @ShirleyMcCann

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

Thursday, November 4, 2021

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Tonya Macalino, Author of Into the Hare Wood

In The Gates of Aurona series, every meal is a secret code for young Hannah and Cameron Troyer as they navigate a world of grown-up worries they don’t fully understand.

When I was a kid, the code told you who had money by how processed their sack lunches were. Nobody talked about it, but everybody knew that the kids with Kraft and Quaker tattooed on their snacks had cash. And the rest of us didn’t.

Now food signals are a little more complicated.

At the opening of Gates, the Troyers have just come off a long period of unemployment and the family is still really struggling. On one hand, Mom can’t make her homemade mac and cheese, but they can afford the stuff in the blue box. On the other, they can’t afford store-bought snacks and gummies, so Mom makes peanut butter and honey dip for their carrots and celery.

After a run-in with a dragon, Starbucks is a major splurge that makes Hannah and Cameron just as nervous as the dragon did.

And when their tormentor, a cranky Bronze Age sorcerer strikes too close to home, the kids know things are serious because absolutely nothing in the grocery bag next to the brand-new camping gear in the trunk is homemade.

If they were scared before, now they know their parents are, too, and that’s even more terrifying.

Every meal is message about the state of their newly tumultuous, magic-riddled lives, but it’s also embedded with a more important meaning:

I love you and I will always take care of you…

no matter what life throws at us,

no matter how bad things get.

No matter what.

And that’s a message we can all use sometimes.

If you are craving comfort food, each book in The Gates of Aurona comes with a free mini cookbook for members of my Reader Group (Sign Up HERE). From the neighborhood’s multi-ethnic potluck to the Troyer’s campfire specialties, readers can recreate the magic from this completed chapter book series! (Recommended for grades 2-6.)

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

You can find Tonya here:

Twitter @TonyaMacalino

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

Tonya Macalino lives in that space Between—where the crossroads of past and present tease the senses, taunt the almost-memory. Haunted by story, she seeks it in the shadows of the landscapes of history and in the blinding glare of what-may-come, both alone and with her family of children's book authors: Raymond, Damien, & Heléna Macalino.

For adults, Tonya's national award-winning supernatural thrillers, The Shades of Venice series, combine the mythic surrealism of Pan's Labyrinth with the thrill ride that is Lara Croft: Tomb Raider.

For children, Tonya's highly acclaimed urban fantasy adventures, The Gates of Aurona series, remind readers of the magical family secrets from Spiderwick Chronicles as well the legendary call to heroism of Chronicles of Narnia and the Dark Is Rising.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Virginia McCullough, Author of The Jacks of Her Heart

What’s Today’s Special at Jack’s Both Sides Now Café?

If you lived in my fictional town of Capehart Bay, Wisconsin, you wouldn’t let a week go by—or maybe even a day—without treating yourself to a trip to Jack Young’s nostalgia café, Both Sides Now. It’s the only restaurant around where ‘60s and ‘70s music is on the menu. Jack’s open-early/close late café is the heart of the town, and of my novel The Jacks of Her Heart.  

Lorna Lindstrom, widowed for over a year now, has always been a big fan of Jack’s menu, especially the “California Dreamin’ Salad.” Others prefer the crowd pleasing “Wild Thing Burger.” As for dessert, Jack’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door Brownies” melt in your mouth, but many stop in because they crave the “Nights in White Satin Chocolate-Marshmallow Sundae.” 

Lorna knew Jack, at least to wave to, but that changed fast when they end up on the same tropical cruise with a group from town. Jack asks Lorna to dance, and that’s all it took to spark the magic between them. Soon they’re sipping champagne and strolling on the deck in the moonlight… Oops, did they really get married in the Dominican Republic? 

The Jacks of Her Heart is a lighter-side romance with a touch of what I’ve dubbed “middle-age revenge.” Enter the grown kids, two for her, one for him. These three don’t hold back their disapproval. Come on, Mom is a professional organizer and lifestyle coach. Spontaneity isn’t her style—and neither is Jack. As for Jack, his divorce papers are barely dry, and his daughter was counting on Mom and Dad’s blissfully reunion. (She hasn’t been listening to Mom and Dad.) Come to think of it, Jack’s dad and Lorna’s mom aren’t jumping for joy, either. Only Jack’s baby granddaughter doesn’t have an opinion. (Can you tell I love to write multi-generational stories?) 

Through it all, the rollercoaster of disputes, discovering a few hard truths, coping with real family concerns, and many tender moments, Jack’s café is a constant, always offering the comfort and warmth of good coffee and equally terrific food. Even the breakfast fare draws smiles—Jack’s dad rolls his eyes but concedes “A Whiter Shade of Pale Egg White Omelet” isn’t half bad. On the other hand, Lorna goes for the “Mellow Yellow Banana Smoothie.”

Both Sides Now is the best spot in town for people of all ages, including the students from the college down the street, to meet for coffee. (They get a kick out of Jack’s annual Bob Dylan Lookalike Contest, too, and root for their friends who enter.) Almost no one can resist Jack’s famous muffins. Can you guess what kind of muffins match these songs: “Brown-eyed Girl,” “Black Magic Woman,” and “Here Comes the Sun?” 

 Readers often ask where I got the idea for Jacks, and I think it came from having a burger in a ‘50s nostalgia diner that struck me as a little ho hum. Wasn’t it time for an update? Around the same time, Jack and Lorna tapped my shoulder to get my attention. Madly in love, this sandwich generation duo was extremely persistent—and apparently hungry!  

So, enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Both Sides Now Café. If you can think of new menu items, I’m all ears. And send me an email and I’ll send you a playlist of the songs used in the book. 

Wait! I almost forgot…how did you do with Jack’s muffin names? Here are the answers: “Brown-eyed Girl” is Raisin Bran; “Black Magic Woman” is Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip; and, “Here Comes the Sun?” is Orange Walnut.  

A toast to good food, good coffee, good music, and books we love! 

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

You can find Virginia here:

Twitter @VEMcCullough

BookBub Listing

Books on Amazon

Virginia McCullough writes romantic women’s fiction (Greta's Grace, Island Healing) and series romance for the Harlequin Heartwarming line. Her seventh Heartwarming novel, The Rancher's Wyoming Twins is scheduled for release in April 2022. Virginia also writes nonfiction books and is a writing coach, editor, and ghostwriter. She currently lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she’s enjoys hanging out with her writer friends and drinking great coffee at local cafés. 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Nina Mansfield, Contributor to Where Crime Never Sleeps

When I think of a trip to the zoo, I think of ice cream. I think of popcorn. I think of hot dogs, and hamburgers, and hot pretzels. I also think of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I might pack for myself to avoid eating overpriced and unhealthy food.

I think of “Do Not Feed the Animals” signs, which always make me wonder, Aren’t I also an animal? Don’t I need to be fed? And nothing makes me hungrier than strolling around a zoo on a warm spring or summer day, with the sun beating down, trying to see as many exotic animals as I can. There’s usually a moment, long after my water bottle has been drained, when I realize my PB&J won’t be enough. And then I cave into my cravings and get that buttery popcorn that has been calling to me, and maybe, just maybe, follow it up with some soft serve ice cream.

In my short story, “An Act Prepares,” a high school drama teacher takes a group of teenage acting students to the Bronx Zoo, a place where I’ve indulged in many an ice cream cone.

On the bus trip down, the teens eat candy. What is it with kids and candy? How was it that in my youth I could put away a bag of Skittles or M&Ms without the least bit of guilt, or immediate impact to my well-being? Doing so these days, I imagine that both I, and my drama-teacher narrator, Ms. Slutzkaya (pronounced Sloozkaya), would feel just a teensy bit ill.

Toward the end of my story, my characters find themselves waiting in the Dancing Crane Cafe, which is located not far from the flamingos, and just a hop, skip and a jump away from Congo Gorilla Forest and the Butterfly Garden, two other locations featured in the story. While a recent murder might have killed their appetites, maybe a few of my characters would choose to eat something. Items on the menu of the Dancing Crane include chicken tenders (and fries), double cheeseburger (and fries), and two hotdogs (and fries).

My murderer might have ordered a personal pizza.

Ms. Slutzkaya would have opted for the veggie panini. Ok, maybe a double cheese burger. After all, it had been a long day.

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

You can find Nina here:

Twitter @NinaJMansfield

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon


Nina Mansfield is a Connecticut based playwright, fiction writer and educator. Her short mystery fiction has appeared in a variety of publications including Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Mysterical-E,, and anthologized. Her most recent short story, “Windy Willows,” was published in Justice for All, Murder New York Style 5 (Level Best Books, 2021), the anthology of the NY/Tri-State Sisters in Crime. Nina’s plays have received over 100 production throughout the United States, and internationally, and are published Smith & Kraus, YouthPLAYS, Original Works Publishing and One Act Play Depot. Antigone: 3021, her full-length adaptation of the Sophocles classic, was published by Stage Partners last year, and is scheduled for multiple productions around the globe. Nina is a member of The Dramatists Guild, Mystery Writers of America and The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is a co-vice president of the NY/Tri-State Sisters in Crime.

“An Actor Prepares” was published in Where Crime Never Sleeps, Murder New York Style 4 (Level Best Books, 2017), the anthology of the NY/Tri-State Sisters in Crime, edited by Elizabeth Zelvin.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Paul Levinson, Author of The Silk Code

Dr. Phil D’Amato – NYPD forensic detective, protagonist in my Phil D’Amato series, of which The Silk Code is the first novel – orders a refill of his large glass of orange juice, when Tesa Stewart, a professor of anthropology at New York University and an expert on Neanderthals, joins him for a crucial breakfast meeting at a bistro in Greenwich Village.

It’s too early for most people to drink anything with alcohol anyway, but Phil would have ordered the orange juice or some other non-alcoholic beverage even if this meeting were in the evening. His brain was his most effective weapon in his fight against crime and unclear perils, and he liked keeping it as clear and sharp as possible.

He would have ordered organic orange juice, if the bistro had it, but at least this was fresh squeezed, a delicious influx of instant energy. Tesa barely poked at the breakfast she had ordered, teasing at the edge of her poached egg with her fork. The case she was discussing with Phil was too disconcerting for her to eat.

But Phil drank his orange juice and smacked his lips. He found frightening things and the attempt understand them “among the most exhilarating feelings in this world”. And the liquid energy orange juice fueled his exhilaration and his confidence.

My daughter Molly, 12 years old when she first read The Silk Code, which I had accidentally left on the kitchen table overnight, said, “Daddy, Phil is just like you!”

Certainly true about the love of orange juice.

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

You can find Paul here:

Twitter @PaulLev

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

Friday, October 8, 2021

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Cynthia Kuhn, Author of The Study of Secrets

While the English-professor-turned-amateur-sleuth in the Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries isn’t much of a cook, she does have her share of happy food encounters. But I’m going to confess something here: I don’t always know at first why certain foods are in there. Some details that emerge when I’m drafting the novels are unexpected but reveal their place or purpose eventually.

For example, in the fifth book in the series, The Study of Secrets, Lila is on sabbatical in Larkston, away from her Stonedale University campus, and when she meets other characters from the new town at a local diner, they insist that she order the house specialty, a slice of pie. It’s so incredibly good that the next time she is at the diner, she’s the one who makes her two visiting friends order the pie, and they have a conversation about what makes the item so magical. 

Someone once asked me if I was hungry for pie when I wrote it. (I wasn’t.) But while I was writing the first draft, the pie showed up and once it was there, it felt right in both scenes. Lila’s initial pie appreciation establishes a sense of bonding with a new group of people, then later when she is the one who pushes the pie, it tells us something about her developing connection to the new community.

Elsewhere in the novel, there is a town tradition involving chocolate-dipped candy canes, something people feel so passionate about that they get into a shouting match during a holiday party planning meeting. I don’t know where that came from. I have never had a chocolate-dipped candy cane. But they popped up during the drafting and ultimately added a small but helpful sense of tension to the chapter, which I deepened in other ways during the revision phase.

These are very sugary examples, but please don’t worry—sometimes the characters have salads too!

Thanks for stopping by to share you food for thought, Cynthia!

You can find Cynthia here:

Twitter @CynthiaKuhn

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

Cynthia Kuhn writes the Starlit Bookshop Mysteries and the Agatha-Award-winning Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries. She lives in Colorado with her family and serves on the national board of Sisters in Crime. 

Friday, October 1, 2021

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Dale Manolakas, Author of Hollywood on Trial

On a cruise across the Atlantic, an elegant chandeliered dining room hosts not only gourmet meals day and night—but also a serial murderer. In Death Sets Sail a group of writers on their awards cruise vie in a three-dimensional chess game of whodunit as writers die one by one.

In Death Sets Sail the amateur sleuths collide with death in raucous, fun, and gastronomically delightful crime solving antics. Through international waters and despite storms, jealousies, and corporate cover ups, body bags are filled and stuffed into the ship’s refrigerator. With the South Hampton landing looming, the murderer gets desperate.

In all my books, I take pride in describing the geographically unique and character-specific lifestyles, restaurants, wines, and foods. From Bakersfield Basque restaurants in The Gun Trial: A Legal Thriller to Los Angeles haute cuisine where elite attorneys expense account rare wines and gourmet meals in The Russian: A Legal Thriller and Lethal Lawyers: A Legal Thriller. 

In Hollywood on Trial: A Legal Thriller, there is a dynamic industry party at a Malibu estate on the ocean cliffs. It has gourmet food stations and bars where the party goers enjoy miniaturized portions from appetizers to deserts. In the swirl of holiday foods festivities, security fights with a stalker who accosts a starlet on the cliffs edge. 

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

You can find Dale here:

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

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Friday, September 24, 2021

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Jane Ward, Author of In the Aftermath

My maternal grandmother immigrated to the United States from Edinburgh and worked for years as a baker in the Boston University dining halls. When summer arrived, she would leave her husband and three daughters behind and pick up seasonal baking work in vacation resorts on Cape Cod. 

During my childhood, when her career baking days were behind her, Nana often visited our family, and at the drop of a hat would whip up a batch of what she called “girdle scones,” a quick bread that has nothing to do with foundation garments and everything to do with being cooked on a hot pan—a girdle, in Scots English—on top of the stove.

Years later, confident in the baking skills I learned from watching her, I followed in her footsteps and took a job as weekend baker at a neighborhood bakery. My day would begin at 2 a.m. with baking muffins and scones, and end between 10 and 11 after I pulled my beloved loaves of challah and white sandwich bread out of the ovens. It was a physical job that put my sleep schedule at odds with weekend family time. But I loved that job; I loved watching happy people head home with the delicious pastry I had made. 

In the Aftermath opens in April 2008, just as the Great Recession is about to do its worst to many homeowners and small business owners. These are the people whose stories I would tell. As I brainstormed small business settings for David and Jules, the husband and wife at the center of the novel, I began picturing them moving around a bakery similar to the one I had worked at years before. Yes, it was an environment I could write about with authority, but my decision was about more than choosing something familiar. I write to explore the nature of human connections, and the origin story of bread is also one of community.

Before the first brave souls looked at wild, grassy wheat and came up with the idea of grinding it into flour, turning that flour into dough with water and airborne yeasts, shaping this concoction into a cake, and then sticking it into fire, people roamed—rootless—and foraged to live. 

Once bread caught on as a reliably available food source, people were able to stop moving to find nourishment. They became farmers, bakers, consumers; they settled close to each other. Communities grew and people thrived. Around bread. Because of bread. 

In Jules and David’s fictional bakery community all those eons later, customers would have eaten good, crusty bread and everything else that owes its existence to society’s first humble loaf: scones and muffins, danish and croissants, cookies and brownies and cakes. In their best times, these bakers touched lives—sending sustaining food into people’s homes and bringing them joy. It is this same longing for connection - through work, through relationships – that guides the characters in In the Aftermath as they move through difficult times into a brighter future.

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

You can find Jane here:

Thursday, September 16, 2021

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Real Laplaine, Author of Deception People

Betrayed by Apple Pie

Deception People was inspired in the wake of 9/11, where literally hundreds of engineers and investigative professionals from around the world, people who had no bias or other agenda, objectively examined the attack, and concluded that the two planes did not, and could not possibly, under any circumstances, have brought down the Twin Towers with such precision. What they did discover was ample evidence showing that demolition style explosives had been secretly placed in the support columns of both buildings, and then carefully detonated to make it appear otherwise, bringing both structures down in their footprint, without touching another building; and moreover, that a 3rd building, 47 stories high, across the street, not even struck by a plane, also crumbled with perfect-demolition style, shortly thereafter, an incident which was explained away by the government, and yet, which few questioned or even challenged.

Deception People, while a thriller in of itself, presents a disturbing scenario, where another group of senior officials and their backers decide to repeat an act of terrorism, but this time, one that completely disrupts the nation through its digital platform – all of which seems relatively harmless until one realizes that airplanes will be crashing into one another or onto runways, financial systems will cease to operate, that tens of thousands will die in hospitals where equipment has failed, where transport services will cease thereby causing all manner of road and train collisions, and more.

One man discovers their plot and tries to expose it. Troy Evans, an unassuming graphic designer living in Minneapolis, has a special ability, one he has honed over the years. Surviving a near fatal accident as a young boy, Troy experienced his first out-of-body experience, and went on, over the years, to experience many, many, more. Now, as an adult, and still practicing his outings in secret, he happens across a hotel hundreds of miles away, and overhears a bizarre conversation where men are planning a massive terrorist attack on the nation.

Troy immediately reports the matter to Homeland Security, but soon finds himself under attack by the very people plotting the terrorism, people in high positions of government and the military-industrial establishment employed by the U.S. government, all of whom will benefit from the debacle.

Locked away as delusional and dangerous, Troy convinces his psychiatrist he is telling the truth, and together they run, trying to find someone who will listen, while evading a lethal team who are tracking them down, to silence them before they can speak up. At one point, they stop at the “Shack”, a diner in South Dakota, a seemingly safe haven where American apple pie could have been born, but unfortunately their presence there is soon discovered, and the net is tightened around them.

The question is, who will listen to what sounds like mere conspiracy theory coming from two fugitives on the run, and if anyone does, will it be in time to stop the attack?

While many choose to believe that 9/11 was entirely the work of Islamic radicals, Deception People presents another picture – those with an agenda, sociopaths who couldn’t care less if 3000 people, or 100,000 are killed, providing it aggrandizes their power and their bank accounts.

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

You can find Real here:

Twitter @Real0Laplaine

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon