Friday, December 2, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Ann Jacobus, Author of The Coldest Winter I Ever Spent



My mom died a few years back and my siblings and I took turns caring for her at home near the end, along with medical and hospice support. It was difficult of course, but to my surprise we all spent a lot of time sharing old stories and laughing heartily, often over food. I then wrote a novel about a troubled 18-year-old tending to her beloved guardian Aunt Fran who has recently been diagnosed with cancer. It’s called The Coldest Winter I Ever Spent (out March 7, 2023)

The story is fueled by good food. Aunt Fran is a wonderful cook from Dallas, Texas and she’s been teaching main character Delilah. Her specialties include: buttery Jalapeño cheese grits, buttermilk biscuits and fried chicken, pimento cheese, proper southern cornbread (not sweet), and a mean cheese straw-- those crisp, savory, flakey treats dusted with cayenne pepper—that feature in two scenes. One scene is funny and involves a Labrador Retriever. The other shows just how much ground Aunt Fran is losing.

You see, Aunt Fran’s cancer is a virulent strain, not unlike the one that took my mom too quickly. And Delilah fears that losing this woman who has meant so much to her, might cause her to lose her life too. Yes, it’s irrational, but what, you’re rational all the time?

During the course of Fran’s illness, friends bring over spinach quiche, seven-layer bean and salsa dip, and a macadamia tunnel-of-fudge Bundt cake. A later scene in the story involves Delilah, her estranged father, and a weakened Aunt Fran, all sitting down to dinner together over a crab casserole (more cheese!) delivered by a friend, and an arugula and spring-mix-from-a-bag salad with a Dijon-vinaigrette that Delilah makes. Dad contributes a crisp white French Chablis, and a German chocolate cake with coconut-pecan frosting—Fran’s childhood favorite. Despite the family’s many tensions it’s a gentle, warm reunion, and they don’t know it at the time, but it’s their last meal together.

The story’s set in San Francisco, so naturally great local food figures: North Beach coffee house Lattes, burgers and fries, Ghirardelli hot fudge sundaes, fish tacos and beef burritos, and eggplant and Brie sandwiches on whole grain. And Delilah and her father talk turkey, coming to a new understanding over fragrant, take-out green curry chicken, red rice, and shrimp-packed Tom Yum soup.

As you and I know, food is inextricably tied up with family dynamics, history, and culture, not to mention nostalgia and comfort. It’s what sustains us emotionally as well as physically, especially in times of loss. Novels are almost always about struggle and loss of some sort. How can a writer not include heaps of memorable food?


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



You can find Ann here:


Twitter @AnnJacobusSF

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon



Ann Jacobus is the author of YA novels The Coldest Winter I Ever Spent (March 7, 2023), and Romancing the Dark in the City of Light. She teaches writing at Stanford Continuing Studies, is a long-time suicide crisis line volunteer, and a mental health advocate. She gravitates to Tex-Mex and BBQ.

Thursday, November 10, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Dan Scanlan, Author of The Hacker



The enjoyment of great food and good company is one of life’s familiar pleasures. Including these kind of scenes in a novel can create the same relaxed enjoyment for the reader as the meals themselves. In a thriller they can be used to create the opposite feeling by stressing the absence of normal opportunities to rest and reenergize, keeping tension high. Pressure is created for the reader by keeping the characters sweaty, stressed and always on the move. In The Hacker, investigators race to find a master cybercriminal using the avatar, Dantalion. Any minute they delay is more opportunity for him to wreak damage. Their compulsion to run him down overrides all other aspects of life.

Eating becomes more of a refueling effort than dining, stopping just long enough to bolt sufficient food to keep going and return to the chase. This, combined with scant sleep for time or anything else places the reader in the head of the investigators and I hope, enables the reader to feel the tension as the characters do. But what are they eating?

Late at night in the lab:

Peering towards the door to ensure she was alone, she stopped to root through Tim’s desk and pirate a pair of granola bars from his bottom drawer. She munched on a bar without tasting it as she settled back into her chair.

Even when they do actually stop to eat, the case is always on their minds:

Tim nodded, waiting to speak as their food arrived. Their mouths watered at the smell of the thick burgers and double-fried chips. After a few huge bites, he leaned back. “I can start working on the material, but there’s an angle to all this we’re going to need to deal with before we go to a judge.

Using deprivation as a mechanism to create tension emphasizes the very few times in the book, when the lead investigator, Ericka Blackwood, slows down enough for introspection, to let herself feel what the chase is doing to her:

They faced each other over the antique table, set with cream, sugar, toast and the old woman’s own marmalade, the comforting scent of breakfast blended with the small, potted flowers near the window. The well of strength that had brought her back while she was suspended. The old woman had moved in below Ericka’s top-floor condo, helping her fill the days and quickly becoming her confidante and counsellor. Mrs. Donnelly’s eyes narrowed as she sipped, the rising sun’s glow on the horizon in the window behind her.

Part of what I hope to bring to the reader in The Hacker is a sense of just how much must be sacrificed in an active police investigation, particularly in the cyber world. I have tried to leverage my three decades as a prosecutor, working with police and seeing the effects their work has on them to bring home to the reader the unyielding stress they deal with in the middle of a big investigation. My hope is that it engages the reader in the chase, making each step they take more compelling as the story unfolds. Food is part of that narrative.


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



You can find Dan here:

DanielScanlanAuthor.com

Twitter @DanielMScanlan

Facebook Page

Books on Amazon

Thursday, November 3, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Stacey Pierson, Author of VALE

 


Vale is a Young Adult bayou murder mystery, unique and one of a kind, like a fresh batch of crawfish. And so is the food the characters put into their mouths, and how the food they eat is their personality.

Charles is the plain bagel in the story. He lives with Epilepsy, and with each seizure is like a sprinkling of Everything But The Bagel, which adds another layer to his ever-growing character arc. Layer by layer, bit by bit, Charles add tries new seasonings.

Simple, quick bites represent Leigh. She once was a charcuterie board before she left with different flavors and tasty snacks. Her personality was crunchy like the crackers and crispy like her snappy, sarcastic saying. Now, after her return, she’s silent and missing like the food on the tray.

Truly, I know she is a Trix bar. One of two amazing halves, but once one is gone, you either save it or inhale it, never really tasting the sweetness before it’s too late and leaving you wanting more. But what happens when you break it in half? Do you want to share it? I can tell you that you won’t, especially because of the poison-laced inside.

Max is delicate and darling. He savors each bite with a smile then the heat like jalapeno pepper wrapped in bacon hits. He always goes back for more, even though he’s getting burned, and never reaches for the water to cool off because he enjoys it.

Carmel is exactly what her nickname is. She has always loved caramel apples, but there’s a part of her that chips her razor-sharp teeth on the red glossy, and hard candy surrounding the caramel goodness she sees that no one else does. Like her thoughts, the core of the apple is rotten.

Audrey and the Leeches are the same. Sinister with a twist of flavor like beefy jerky. At first, everything seems great, and they are friendly. But once you take a bite, the peppery taste catches you off guard, and you might choke.

Jace and his football teammates like playing on the field, they are spaced out and ready for one another when it comes to Xs and O’s – like a Valentine’s Day candy you give to your arch enemy as a joke. Funny, but with dire consequences. They look yummy, but the aftertaste is sour and could make you green with envy as their selfishness engulfs you.

Peyton is one who is a mix of sweet and sour. She loves to get in the middle of things but prefers a sour apple Blow pop. She loves to break the hard candy shell down like shredding layers of people’s insecurities and sinking her teeth in the gum inside, like blowing up people’s lives with a smile.

Dark Horse is unique as can be, like black licorice. He’s not everyone’s favorite and not tasty. It’s an acquired taste that comes over time. But it leaves a coating of revenge and truthfulness that most people see as a threat when it’s justice. Horrible, sinister, dark, and deadly justice, you can’t win them all.

Each character in Vale is unlike the other. They look, act, and want to be the same. But they are far from it. One thing that will keep anyone wondering is how many maggots and rot really is inside of them as they bite into their favorite foods.


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



You can find Stacey here:

Author Site

Twitter@SuperStacey318

Facebook

Books on Amazon

Friday, October 21, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Michelle Tanmizi, Author of Late Dawn



Food in the year 4848 

I come from a culture that reveres food and the ritual of eating. Passed around like a fortune cookie is the saying that ‘One lives to eat, and not eat to live.’ But what happens when food becomes scarce in the far-future, dystopian world of Late Dawn, in the year 4848? That is the timeline of my novel.

 It is so far in our timeline, it lies on the other side of the horizon of perception where eyes and minds cannot yet reach. I chose such a far timeline for a good reason. I wanted to project an image of a transformed Earth, where climate change had ravaged and damaged it, and where Earthlings (wildlife, nature and insects included) who survived, are living through yet another global disaster. It is a world where humans are no longer Mother Nature’s favourite children.

In this world, we are no longer the apex predator because animals have taken over our territories, and our domestic meat source, like chickens, cows, ducks, etc., have perished. So, for those who crave flesh protein, it becomes necessary to find an alternative solution to animal meat. In the world of Late Dawn, people eat Bio-Meat, a government, laboratory-produced protein. But it creates long term illnesses for those who consume it, side effects from non-natural food products. I believe in eating only fresh, unaltered food, and so it is normal I would write this into my novel. Today, the once popular trend of Genetically Modified foods has lost advocates as people are realising it is healthier to eat natural, unaltered products.

The focalising character of the story, Marra, belongs to an environmental and animal protection agency whose members are all vegans. I am an advocate of eating vegetables because it helps the planet and for me, it also helps the animals. Since January 2021, I’ve become a vegetarian myself and loving it. Environmental issues interest me and like the protagonist of Late Dawn, I believe in trying to help the planet as much as I can.

So, while Late Dawn is not so much about food, it is about wildlife protection and what happens when we ignore the fact that we share this planet with other living beings.


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



You can find Michelle here:

MichelleTanmizi.com

Twitter @MTanmiziAuthor

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon


Friday, October 14, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome MK Schultz, Author of Kassius Kanex



Kassius Kanex Culinary 101


As a consumer of stories, I frequently reflect on the ingredients that are consistently present in the ones I love. Sure the story has to be interesting, but how is that achieved? The story has to be good. Well, yes! The story has to take the reader on a trip of the mind. Of course it does! The scenes must contain all, or at least some of the genres of action, comedy, drama, suspense and horror. The story must intrigue, interest, bewilder, sadden, anger or cheer the consumer, regardless of the medium - film, score, theatre, audiobook or the written word. How does it achieve this? What is that most important ingredient - the holy grail of story, or so to say? Character investment! The viewer, the listener and the reader must become invested and they must come to care about what happens to the characters. They must laugh at their jokes, they must cry when they suffer and they must cheer when they succeed. There are an endless multitude of ways readers become invested in characters. One of those ways can be answered by the question, “But what are they eating?”

Enter the protagonist, Kassius Kanex. This sci-fi / thriller / horror story begins with the main character’s realization of his inability to continue spending so much time and focus on a job that does not bring him fulfillment. One of his many coping mechanisms is the preparation of his lunches for the week - all five prepared ahead of time. The simpleness and controlling nature of these lunches seem insignificant at first, but they provide a link to the ongoing theme of the coexistence of the simple and the complex as the preparation and contents of the lunch is explained in detail. The ingredients for the lunch are tuna, hot sauce, almonds, yogurt, and cottage cheese. A breakfast is also described, but then there is the fruit.

His search for the destiny he believes to be out there begins very suddenly, following a mysterious call for help. Without knowing why at the time, he intuitively places four pieces of fruit in the palm of his left hand while alone at work. The fruit - two apples and two oranges, are stacked in a pyramid form and as he walks to his desk, he ritualistically holds the fruit pyramid, outstretched as far and as high as he can in front of him, as a kind of plea to whatever god or force that may be out there. Remarkably, this call for help is answered and a path to his destiny comences.

As his new involvement with a secret organization begins to replace his current work life, the regular part of him - his family life, must continue. This is where the complex is joined with the simple. As Kassius becomes overwhelmed with his new experiences, he takes refuge in his joy of cooking in order to cope.

When he begins to question the changes he is experiencing, he starts the prep for a homemade pizza that he will cook on time for when his family comes home. In this long and therapeutic scene of the chopping and organization of the ingredients into a neat row of containers on the counter, he finds peace of mind to ponder all that is happening. The beer helps too. When his family arrives, he assembles the pizza for them and cooks it on an outdoor grill while enjoying their company. Every single step of the prep, assembling, cooking instructions and serving is explained like a cookbook, further emphasizing how food is therapy for Kassius as he struggles with change.

The food references don't stop there. Throughout the trilogy, Kassius and other characters seem to possess a love of all things culinary. From award worthy breakfasts, to homemade subs, pizzas and burritos, the theme of the simple alongside the complex continues. There are fresh caught fish prepared over a bonfire, the agave fruit, pirozhki and pineapple chicken skewers basted with bbq sauce. There is a mind blowing quiche, hot dogs, poutine, burgers and even supernatural garlic that affects time.

There are food and drink parties, breakfast meetings, family suppers and friends meeting at pubs. There is also Rock’s amazing microbrewery which provides a steady supply of the most amazing beers on the planet!

In the Kassius Kanex series, food provides a backdrop of simplicity to anchor the reader in a comfy chair to view the danger, chaos and complexity constantly unfolding around them. This chair comes with a seat belt, so buckle up because it’s one hell of a ride!


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



You can find MK here:

MKSchultz.com

Twitter @Makemali

Instagram

Books on Amazon


MK Schultz is the Canadian author of The Kassius Kanex trilogy. A father of two young adults, he lives in a wooded area in the outskirts of Ottawa. He and his wife are avid outdoor enthusiasts in all seasons. Although formally educated in Architecture, his true passion is writing. Schultz is currently writing a new, stand-alone novel in a different genre.

Thursday, September 29, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Claire Polders, Author of A Whale in Paris



Chantal and Papa live in Paris during the Second World War. Nazi forces occupy the French capital and steal crops from the surrounding farms to feed the German soldiers. Parisian citizens, like the characters in A Whale in Paris, invent new ways to find food and fill their stomachs. Chantal and Papa fish for salmon in the Seine at night.

Unfortunately, they’re often unsuccessful. Most days Chantal eats nothing but stale bread for breakfast. She must get by without the things she once thought essential, such as hot croissants and hazelnut macarons. But sometimes the stars align. Sometimes she and Papa catch a large fish and take it home in a bucket. Sometimes the priest of the Notre Dame gives Chantal an armload of zucchinis as a reward for working in his vegetable garden. Sometimes Papa has enough ration tickets left to buy flour and butter. Sometimes Aunt Sophie trades on the black market and brings them fresh eggs in a bundled handkerchief.

And then… then Papa bakes his super-delicious salmon quiche—Chantal’s favorite dish. The full recipe-spectacle is in the book, but let me serve you a taster here:


Papa makes the crust with flour and water, rubbing the butter in with his fingertips while singing. Singing helps the dough stay pliant and moist.

He pats the crust into a round tart tin and trims the overhanging dough with a letter opener or other object of sentimental value that doesn’t belong in a kitchen. He lights the gas oven and says, “Voilà!” like a vaudeville magician.

He bakes the salmon filet in a pan for fifteen minutes, but not before thanking the fish for jumping onto the hook. He also sautés the zucchinis with salt and herbs de Provence. The smells that circle up from the stove into Chantal’s nostrils are warm like love.

Whistling, Papa cracks the eggs into a bowl and whisks them with an eggbeater. He removes the salmon from the oven, forks it into soft steamy flakes, tastes a bite or two or three, adds pepper, and sneezes.

He stirs everything together, the salmon and zucchinis and eggs, pours the mixture into the crust, and bakes the dish for another twenty-five minutes. When the super-delicious salmon quiche is finally done, he serves it with a flourish, as though he’s created something magical.


He has. Chantal and Aunt Sophie already sit waiting around the kitchen table when Papa cuts the quiche into six pie slices. Chantal first consumes the steam coming from her plate, breathing it in; the nose must be fed before the belly. Then she eats her slice as slowly as possible, savoring every bite.

Does this make you hungry? Please read the book for more!


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


You can find Claire here:

Twitter @ClairePolders

Facebook

Books on Amazon


Thursday, September 22, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Jacopo della Quercia, Author of License to Quill



I've always been more interested in what James Bond eats instead of what he drinks. The latter is pretty scripted, after all: "shaken, not stirred." I'm more intrigued by what he orders for breakfast, lunch, and dinner while crisscrossing the world. (To my surprise, Ian Fleming wrote that Bond's favorite meal was breakfast.)

This interest compelled me to pay close attention to the foods featured in my second novel, License to Quill, a spy-thriller that follows William Shakespeare as a secret agent during the Gunpowder Plot. Since the story took place during the English Renaissance, I devoured every book and video I could find on food, drink, sweets, snacks, and even breath-fresheners in Shakespeare's London. Tavern fare was particularly important for me to know since so many clandestine meetings in the book were held in pubs. 

However, I also wanted to depart from the Bond films and novels by featuring a more international menu appropriate for the book's many settings. In one chapter, for example, one of the book's major characters is treated to an elaborate Turkish breakfast at Venice's Fondaco dei Turchi. I had a delight researching that scene with the help of a next door neighbor who was a restaurant owner and Turkish. I am particularly indebted to him for making sure that I got my spelling right!


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


You can find Jacopo here:

JacopodellaQuercia.com

Twitter @Jacopo_della_Q

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

Thursday, September 15, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Laura Greenwood, Author of Pumpkin Spice



What if someone had never tried ice cream before? It certainly wasn't the question I thought I'd be asking myself when I was considering what a cute date would look like for Willow and Azíl in the second book of my Cauldron Coffee Shop series, but it was the one I was faced with when I realised that as a three-thousand-year-old warlock who'd been stuck in a teapot, Azíl would never have tried ice cream. And if he had, it certainly wasn't going to be of the modern variety. 

Having a character as old as Azíl is, especially one who hasn't eaten in a long time, has certainly proved interesting when it comes to the approach of writing food into scenes. When someone comes to the modern world, it's easy to remember that they'll be surprised by modern appliances, including cars, fridges, and showers, but it's sometimes more difficult to remember that they'll also be able to try food that they've never experienced before, which is something I tried to capture within the Cauldron Coffee Shop series. 

Trying and discovering new food, flavours, and cuisines is something my partner and I try to do regularly, as well as introducing one another to the tastes of our childhoods, and it is that sense of adventure and discovery that comes across in the characters. While Azíl gets a chance to discover new things, Willow (a witch in her late twenties), gets to share the things she loves with him. And more importantly, choose some of the flavours she thinks he will love with him, even if they're not her favourite. It makes for an interesting partnership, with the two of them growing closer over the food - and the experiences they share while eating it! 

As an interesting (at least to me!) side note: I did end up researching ice cream in ancient times, and it turns out that they would save the frozen cream from the sides of storage containers and eat that like ice cream, though it doesn't have the same taste or texture as the frozen treat we enjoy!


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



You can find Laura here:








Laura is a USA Today Bestselling Author of paranormal, fantasy, urban fantasy, and contemporary romance. When she's not writing, she drinks a lot of tea, tries to resist French macarons, and works towards a diploma in Egyptology. She lives in the UK, where most of her books are set. Laura specialises in quick reads, whether you're looking for a swoonworthy romance for the bath, or an action-packed adventure for your latest journey, you'll find the perfect match amongst her books!




Cauldron Coffee Shop is an urban fantasy romance series featuring coffee shop-owning witch, Willow, as she tries to unravel the mysteries of a teapot sent to her by her best friend. 


Book 1 (Pumpkin Spice And All Things Nice) Blurb: 

When coffee shop owner, Willow, receives a mysterious teapot from her best friend, her charmed life is turned upside down.

Between the cursed warlock who thinks he's still in Ancient times, the cat who insists on coming through her window and making herself at home, and a new employee, Willow has her hands full.

Can she unravel the mess she's found herself in? And can she do it without losing her heart?


Pumpkin Spice and All Things Nice is book one of the Cauldron Coffee Shop Series, a witchy modern fantasy series with a romantic sub-plot, a mysterious teapot, and a cat who might be up to no good.

Friday, September 9, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Leigh Podgorski, Author of Desert Chimera



Desert Chimera is the first book in the Stone Quest Series, and introduces recluse, tracker, and reluctant young psychic Luke Stone and his paranormal universe. After escaping his dark nemesis, fleeing the loss of his beloved mentor crossing the country from the north woods of Michigan on foot, Luke has spent countless days in the Mojave Desert. How did he survive?

Luke is a tracker and a survivalist. He knows how to live off the land. What plants to eat, and which are poisonous. Yet the last three days, as storms raged and visions plagued him, Luke grew ragged, frayed, gaunt. Staggering out of the wind-swept, rain-soaked Panamint Mountains, Luke lurches into Eppie Falco’s Desert Inn and Café:


She knows him. The young psychic is wary, as skittish as an unbroken colt. Other people are gathered, two young women who are guests, an older man, Eppie’s handyman. They stare at him as if he is a phantasm, an eccentricity blown in by an ill will. Eppie approaches him cautiously, her hand out, palm up. She asks him if he’d like something to eat. Eggs. Toast. Coffee. The exhausted young man with a voice as raspy as sandpaper replies, “Yes, please.”

“What happened to you?” Eppie asks. Luke remains unsettled. Though seated, sipping on water now, his cobalt blue eyes never rest. “I ate something. In the desert. Something I gathered.” Eppie, startled, replies, “But how is that possible?”


Who is this woman? How does she know these things about him. Eppie pours him coffee. Hot. Black. Strong. Food is set out, and though it is obvious Luke is near starvation, he stands back, serves himself last. Eggs. Sausage. Home fries. Toast. More coffee. Manna from heaven. Food. It is as if the ravages of his flight, of the storm, of the Panamint Mountains slide away with each bite, each taste, with the comfort, the extraordinary healing power of the nourishment set before him.


Thank you for stopping by to share your food for thought, Leigh!


You can find Leigh here:



Thursday, September 1, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Perry Prete, Author of The More Things Change


Although Ethan Tenant is a fictitious City of Ottawa Paramedic, the career and the circumstances I placed him in were not. One of the situations that Ethan and his partner Tom had to deal with was how they ate while working shifts or between calls. Most Paramedics today spend very little time at base and don’t always have access to a microwave, stove, or even a fridge.

Paramedics carry their food with them unless they really enjoy take-out. Ethan and Tom would pack a lot of non-perishable foods in a soft cooler with an ice pack and stow it in a outside compartment, away from patient contact. Easy and quick food usually means processed foods or something a Paramedic can eat on the go, between calls or even while driving. Take-out food for a Paramedic is risky. As a seasoned 40-year veteran, I can’t count how many meals I paid for and never got to enjoy because we were dispatched to an emergency and the food wasn’t ready or I didn’t have time to eat and it spoiled on the floor of the rig.

Ethan’s go-to food was a granola or energy bar: quick energy, easy to open, easy to eat, even while driving through downtown traffic. Tom was more concerned about his health; he stuck to fruit and veggies in re-sealable containers. Both enjoyed a lot of coffee, with the proverbial pitstops getting in the way. Bottled water was also a necessity. If they bought sandwiches, it was something that wouldn’t go bad like a P.B. & J. And they never ate tuna fish or egg salad in the rigs.

Imagine you and friend are on a long road trip that could last twelve hours. What do you bring? Now imagine that twelve-hour road trip is at night - not a lot open, not a lot of choices. That’s what today’s Paramedics must deal with every shift. They didn’t always have time to stop and grab a healthy lunch or snack. That’s when anything easy to eat helps to calm an empty stomach.

Many readers didn’t consider some of the calls Tom and Ethan would attend, tended to kill an appetite, regardless of how hungry they were. If you want to read about those calls, pick up one of the books featuring Ethan Tenant.


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



You can find Perry here:

Twitter @PerryPreteBooks

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon