Thursday, January 20, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Steve McEllistrem, Author of The Devereaux Dilemma

My characters – in The Devereaux Dilemma and its sequels – reside in the future, where food is both better and worse than it is here in the present. There’s nothing like a good flavor enhancer to deliver pleasure to the palate, but one must be careful. Sometimes that delicious food comes with a bit of a kick.

At one point, Doug is offered a sandwich that looks unappealing:

He bit tentatively into the bread, hoping not to gag. But it was delicious, almost melting in his mouth. “Wow, this is fantastic.” Taking a huge bite, he chewed slowly, savoring the rich mushroom and bean flavor, commingled with onion, garlic and some spices he could not identify. He realized he was famished. As he ate the sandwich, a warmth slowly spread through him.

“Thanks for makin’ me try it,” he said to Zeriphi. “I’ve never tasted anything like it. You’re a marvelous cook.” The Escala exchanged glances and smiles. Doug felt the need to explain his hesitation. “It just looked awful. Can I have another one?”

Zeriphi moved her chair closer to Doug’s and prepared another sandwich for him. While he ate, she continued to stare at him and he found it increasingly difficult to turn his attention away from her: her blond hair, high cheekbones, rounded face and dark brown eyes, large and luminous. They pulled at him, drew him in until he saw nothing else. As they gazed at each other, he felt like he was under a spell, finally broken by Quekri’s voice:

“Zeriphi will keep you company tonight.”

Zeriphi nodded. “Eat,” she said as she lifted the remainder of the sandwich to his mouth.

Should Doug complain at being drugged with an aphrodisiac that gives him an unquenchable desire to sleep with Zeriphi? After all, she’s a beautiful woman. And pleasure does in fact ensue. Still, there might be a good lesson to take away from it all: one may want to hesitate before accepting food from a stranger.

At least Doug is perhaps doing better than Colonel Truman, who’s getting processed meat and cheese on bread that has no flavor enhancements added, all while enduring the sanctimonious musings of Attorney General Gray Weiss.

In addition to providing sustenance and the occasional opportunity to drug one’s guests, meals are a fine way to pass information, to absorb opinions and beliefs, to get to know people better. And a meal shared is almost always better than one eaten alone. Because it’s very often not about the food.

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

You can find Steve here:

Friday, January 14, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Wendy McLeod MacKnight, Author of The Copycat

Ali Sloane has a lot going on in her life.

Like moving all the time because her parents struggle to hold down job.

Having a difficult time fitting in at all the new schools she’s forced to attend.

Dealing with her dad’s low moods.

That would be a lot for any kid, but there’s this other thing: her dad’s side of the family are Copycats, which means they can basically change into any living thing.

But now that she and her parents have moved in with her great-grandmother, Gigi, maybe things will be (hopefully!) normal, or at least normal-ish.

But like her father Digger, who’s been known to turn into a bat at the breakfast table, and makes pies when he’s worried about something, Ali has a complicated relationship with food, and definite rules about what she likes and dislikes.

According to Ali:

Vegetables are not your friends.

Raisins are an unwelcome surprise.

Mushy bananas are gross!

Always cut the toast on the diagonal.

The cinnamon and sugar should not be mixed in advance when you make cinnamon toast.

If you’ve never eaten it before, do NOT agree to try it.

Like Ali, I used to be furious when my parents chopped the vegetables so finely there was no way to eat around them. And I had definite views on what I would and would not eat. It drove my parents around the bend!

Trying new things — including food — is an important part of growing up. I really wanted my readers to see that for Ali, food was the one place where she could exert some control over the things that were happening in her life. For some kids, that kind of control can lead to eating disorders; in Ali’s case, it’s led to becoming a picky eater.

But as Ali makes friends and discovers the real her, she starts to think of food differently, focusing on what she likes instead of what she hates.

And guess what? I think by the time she gets to be my age, she may change her mind about the things on the list above. Except the raisins, she will never love raisins! 

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

You can find Wendy here:

Twitter: @WendyMacKnight

Instagram @wendymcleodmacknight

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

Wendy McLeod MacKnight is the author of three middle grade novels, all of which are set in New Brunswick: It’s a Mystery, Pig Face! (2017), The Frame-Up (2018), and The Copycat (2020), which was a Rocky Mountain Book Awards finalist. She’s represented by the LKG Agency in NYC and has received the 2017 Atlantic Booksellers’ Emerging Author award, called One to Watch by Quill and Quire magazine, and been reviewed in the Wall Street Journal. Her last two novels were named best books by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. The Frame-Up has also been published in Taiwan and will be published in French by Bouton d’Or Acadie in the coming year.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Rosemary McCracken, Author of Safe Harbor

One of the highlights of my journalism career was a stint as a restaurant reviewer for the Calgary Herald. Reviewing restaurants wasn’t my full-time job at the newspaper. I still had my regular duties reporting on events in Calgary, a city in western Canada, but once a week, I’d eat dinner with a friend at one of the better restaurants in the city or its outlying areas. Then I’d write it up for the next weekend’s newspaper.

I wasn’t a gastronome by any means, but the Herald prided itself on being a family newspaper, and wanted reviews to reflect the experience of ordinary diners. I got to eat some great meals, and I began to see restaurants as an integral part of a city’s culture.

Flash forward two decades. I am now living in Toronto, Canada’s largest and most culturally diverse city. I am now writing fiction, and—surprise, surprise—I set key scenes of my novels and short stories in restaurants. Dining out is what Torontonians love to do, so when COVID-19 shut down restaurants for several months in 2020 and 2021, we were bereft.

All four novels in my Pat Tierney mystery series involve eating out, but more so in Safe Harbor and Uncharted Waters—the first and the fourth books in the series—because these two mysteries are set in Toronto. More than 50 per cent of Toronto’s residents belong to visible minorities, and the city is famous for its ethnic eateries. Restaurant settings allow me to showcase Toronto’s diversity. Food from all over the world is being served in Toronto restaurants and bistros and market food stalls, and Pat Tierney, my financial planner protagonist, makes a point of sampling as much of it as she can. With her clients, with her friends and with her family.

Pat heads to Milos, the Italian eatery in her neighborhood, when she needs a break from cooking for her family. She visits Baraka, a Hungarian restaurant in the theater district, for goulash and schnitzel; Volos, a Greek restaurant near the opera house, for calamari, saganaki and rosemary lamb; Yitz’s, a mid-town delicatessen, for melt-in-your-mouth smoked meat and vinegar slaw; and Cedars, a Lebanese restaurant near her office in the Annex neighborhood, for hummus, tabbouleh and roasted eggplant. And just across the street from Pat’s office, Giorgio’s diner serves up to-die-for butter tarts; key scenes in Uncharted Waters take place at Giorgio’s.

Some of these eateries are imaginary; others are based on actual Toronto restaurants and diners, but I’ve given them new names and locations.

And as a tribute to my restaurant reviewing days, I wrote a short story a few years ago with a restaurant reviewer as its central character. “Dining Out” (published in Malice Domestic’s 2019 anthology, Mystery Most Edible) is the tale of Oliver Townsend, a bent restaurant reviewer who has the audacity to demand payments from restaurant owners for his newspaper reviews. Oliver is a fictional character, of course!

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

You can find Rosemary here:

Twitter @RCMcCracken

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

Thursday, December 9, 2021

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Marie Lavender, Author of Blood Instincts

Someone just stumbling across my paranormal romance/urban fantasy novel with a futuristic angle, Blood Instincts, might not suspect that part of it is actually down to earth, at least when it comes to culinary elements. Sure, there are vampires, fairies, witches, and a werewolf in the mix, but the food is just what you would come to expect from the Baltimore, Maryland area. 

Our heroine, Myah Sullivan, is a pescatarian by preference alone. She eats seafood, healthy grains, eggs, dairy products, and plenty of vegetables. But no red meat. Ever. Her supernatural nature, which she later discovers, will challenge her beliefs about the world she knows, and especially what she tends to consume every day. But let’s not get into vampire cravings for blood. We’re here to talk about food, right? 

Whether eating out or enjoying a simple meal at home, Myah is a foodie. So, that’s rather apropos for this blog. She is a decent cook, and even reminisces about some of the meals her father used to prepare when she was a child. In the book, she prepares “tuna and rice mixed with Italian salad greens on a whole wheat pita” for herself and the guy she’s dating. 

They go to a restaurant at one point during the story, and Myah orders a tomato and mozzarella appetizer, and then truffle mac ‘n’ cheese with a side of asparagus for dinner. Oliver gets lobster and crab cakes for a starter, butternut squash bisque, and sea scallops with wild mushroom risotto for the meal. He chooses French beans with heirloom tomatoes on the side. For dessert, they decide to share a small piece of flourless chocolate espresso cake. I know, it sounds like a lot! But I promise that they take some of that food home, anyway. 

Yum…sounds scrumptious. Sign me up! How about you?

Yet, Oliver King is good in the kitchen as well. He even surprises her with breakfast in bed – pancakes and eggs. It’s no wonder he is so capable on multiple levels, considering his artistic nature.

Myah’s big comfort food, which she enjoys later in the story at her grandfather’s house, is vegetarian lasagna. That dish is prepared by her Aunt Jenny. The house is like another home for Myah, and the people there are soothing in times of distress. Still, her vampiric appetites will lead her to a final confrontation that no one could anticipate.

But that’s a story for another day. 

There are other culinary delights to be discovered in Blood Instincts. However, it looks like we’ve run out of time. While I wrote this book, my mouth was watering as I researched Baltimore cuisine, not to mention all the pescatarian options. I’d just love to visit that beautiful city sometime. Fingers crossed!

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

You can find Marie here:

Twitter @MarieLavender1

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon


Multi-genre author of Victorian maritime romance/family saga, Heiresses in Love. Marie Lavender lives in the Midwest with her family and two cats. She has been writing for a little over twenty-five years, with more works in progress than she can count on two hands. Since 2010, Marie has published 21 books in the genres of historical romance, contemporary romance, romantic suspense, paranormal romance, romantic comedy, dramatic fiction, fantasy, science fiction, mystery/thriller, literary fiction and poetry. An avid blogger on the side, she writes adult fiction, published one story for children, and recently started some YA fiction. She also contributed to several anthologies. Though Marie has standalone titles on the market, there are six current published series, with many others planned. The start of her Victorian maritime romance series, Heiresses in Love, has returned, and the sequels in the trilogy will also be released under her new publisher, Foundations Books. 

Fan mail email:

Enter the Other World at your own risk…

Myah Sullivan believes she is in a relatively normal, safe world. That could not be further from the truth.

Suddenly, she’s living a nightmare. There are Others in this place – dangerous, supernatural creatures that make her mind spin and cause her to question the reality she’s always known. 

Oliver King is her savior, a vampire who tries to show her the way. Throughout her journey, she learns far more than she ever thought she would about herself, and about the past. Soon, she discovers that there is so much more to meeting Oliver than mere happenstance. The stakes just might be too high, after all.

So, what would you do if you found out that you weren’t exactly…human?

Universal Reader Link:

Add to Goodreads or BookBub bookshelf:

Thursday, December 2, 2021

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Karen Albright Lin, Author of Mu Shu Mac & Cheese

I’m a Midwest girl who married into an always-hungry Chinese family. As the first Caucasian interloper, there were many adjustments to make. Culinary differences were the most fun. What better way to show off than to cook for the dozen-strong eager eaters. But when I broke the spaghetti noodles so they’d fit in the pot there was a literal gasp. Breaking the long-life noodles was tantamount to wishing early death upon hubby’s parents.  And this was only the beginning of my personal subplot. 

Most of what I write features Chinese culture and food as subplots. My first book, ethnic family saga American Moon: A Chinese Immigrant Story, even includes recipes for the foods eaten by the characters.

Food is love, sharing, East and West coming together. In my second novel, Mu Shu Mac & Cheese, Elaine is not only a culinary instructor. She’s the recipe developer for a Blue Apron-style company and the subject of a reality show filming in her home. Her family is sliced and diced when her mother-in-law arrives for a “lucky 8-day” visit. Ma turns their household topsy-turvy from rearranging furniture to insisting Elaine’s son wear garish Chinese robes to prom.

Day one dinner: Elaine makes Indian lamb curry. As she cuts, the blood oozing from the bone reminds her of the red of Chinese luck, but also the red of stop signs and dangerous tides.   


Ma challenges Elaine with a critique of the kitchen, starting with a “tsk tsk” over the lack of a mirror behind the stove-which doubles your luck apparently. The cleanup sounds less like luck, more like a degreasing nightmare.

Elaine makes complicated pork and sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves. A small victory, her steamed zongzi are a hit with Ma.   



Less admired is the next day’s beef stroganoff. Its bland color on the plate inspires a fung-shui lecture. A meal must have many colors, many textures, many tastes and levels of heat. But Elaine creates a happy turn in the conversation when she remembers her wedding reception. She shares with her boys the Midwest relatives’ shock over unknowingly enjoying jellyfish salad and the cost-saving Kmart cake.

The book’s title comes from the surprising joy among them all when her sons create "Mu Shu Mac & Cheese," a starch-heavy melding of East and West cultures.

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

You can find Karen here:

Sisters of the Quill

Writing From the Peak

Read more about Elaine’s family food-fun trials:

And dip into food-rich American Moon: A Chinese Immigrant Story, "a hard-luck story about a determined family battling poverty, communism, corruption and their own fateful decisions, makes for an emotional and uplifting read." - Publishers Weekly:

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.