Friday, August 3, 2018

FOODFIC: Tilt-a-Whirl - Chris Grabenstein




Admission #1: I only found this novel because I was requesting Grabenstein’s Lemoncello Library series online from my local library for my kids. If I hadn’t scrolled all the way to the bottom of the search results, I might never have known he’d also written books for adults!

Admission #2: After 13 years of New Jersey living, I have never been “down the shore.” Every summer I say I’ll make at least a day trip, but I never do find the time to get away. L

Well, this story stole my last bit of motivation to hit the beach! Not because it’s a bad book, but because it’s a clear depiction of a place that frankly holds no appeal. Beginning with the introduction of annoying tourists and their bratty children, moving on to psychotic vagrants and drug paraphernalia peppering the sand, and, closing out the trifecta, murder on a boardwalk ride! Clearly not much here screams “vacation.”

But just when I’m about to write off Sea Haven and all its sister cities, I read about the tomato, mozzarella, and basil on a baguette. Hmm. Now I’m wondering (hungering?): Is there actually a “Good Earth” on Ocean Avenue? I might just have to take a drive and find out. ;)

Thursday, July 26, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Mary Elizabeth Summer, Author of Trust Me, I'm Lying



Being a con artist, and on pretty much everyone’s most-wanted list, Julep Dupree doesn’t think about food very often. But there is a certain beverage that she cannot live without…



“I like my froofy drinks froofy and my blue-collar brew as bitter as burned oven scrapings.” ~Julep Dupree

Her favorite haunt is Café Ballou, a coffee shop within walking distance of St. Agatha’s, the fancy Catholic private school she attends. She’s at the Ballou more often than not, especially once her father goes missing and her apartment turns not as safe as it used to be.

As a con artist, though, it would be against her moral code to pay for coffee. So, in the interest of seeing a master at work, let’s watch her con her way into a cup of her favorite fuel.

     It takes me longer than most people to order coffee, because I’m chatting up the cashier to finagle a free drink. It’s not hard. Especially at a chain, which is more likely selling the coffee-shop experience than the coffee. But even indie-shop baristas are given a lot of leeway. All I have to do is determine what pushes the buttons of the person who pushes the buttons, and bingo—all the macchiatos I can drink. But it does take a little more time than fishing for cash. 
     “You new?” I ask as I step up to the counter. 
     I’m a regular at the Ballou, so I know all the baristas. I’ve never seen this guy before, so I already know he’s new. It doesn’t really matter whether you’re a regular or not, though—just have a spiel handy for either possibility. 
     “First day,” he says. 
     Stocky and bald and built like a linebacker, the forty-something man looks more like he should be on the set of an action flick than wearing a barista apron. 
     “Like it so far?”
     “Manager’s nice enough.”
     “I’ll have a triple soy caramel macchiato, please.” The please is essential when angling for a free drink. “My name is Julep,” I continue, offering a hand while flashing him a dimpled smile. 
     “Mike,” he says as he shakes my hand. 
     “I know all the baristas’ names,” I tell him. “Have to put something next to their numbers on my speed dial. You never know when you’re going to have a caffeine emergency.”
     He laughs and starts making my drink without charging me first, as he can see that I’m winding up for a full-on conversation. 
     “Have you been in the barista game long?”
     “My first time, actually,” he admits with a smile. On him, it looks like a piece of granite cracking in the middle. “Tell me if I mess it up and I’ll try again.”
     “Oh, I’m easy,” I say. “As long as it’s got loads of caramel, I’m a happy camper. Besides, you look pretty confident back there. I’m sure you’ve got it down.”
     Compliment, compliment, compliment. But keep it focused on the job at hand. Telling him he looks great in that shirt sounds like you’re flirting rather than impressed with his handiwork. Flirting has its place, for sure, but not in this situation. You need generosity, not a date. 
     “That’ll be four-fifty,” he says, putting the cup of caffeinated sugar rush on the counter in front of me. 
     I rummage around in my bag. “Oh, jeez. Looks like I forgot my wallet. I guess I should cancel the drink order.”
     “Might as well take it since I already made it,” Mike says, pushing the drink toward me. “Call it practice.”
     “You’re a gem, Mike. You have no idea how much I need this coffee.”
     “I’ve been there,” he says, smiling and wiping his hands on a caramel-smudged cloth.


So, there you have it, folks! Julep Dupree’s foolproof method for conning yourself into free coffee. (Don’t tell anyone, but I tried it myself and it actually worked. O.o)


For more nefarious tips and tricks, check out Trust Me, I’m Lying and the sequel Trust Me, I’m Trouble.


Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought, Mary Elizabeth!


Mary Elizabeth Summer contributes to the delinquency of minors by writing books about unruly teenagers with criminal leanings. She has a BA in creative writing from Wells College, and her philosophy on life is "you can never go wrong with sriracha sauce." She lives in Portland Oregon with her partner, their daughter, their two dogs and two cats. Check out the inner workings of her devious mind at www.mesummer.com


You can also find Mary Elizabeth here:



Thursday, July 19, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Lori Ann Stephens, Author of Some Act of Vision




I’ve never thought about the food in Some Act of Vision, but what a great question to ask about characters: But what are they eating? I suppose the title of Chapter Two is most appropriate for today’s guest post: “Eat Something.” Jordan Walker is a ballet dancer, and as a former dancer, I can attest to the strange relationship that dancers have had (historically) with food. I think it’s getting better now, but when I was a teenager, food was a topic fraught with anxiety and wish-fulfillment. I was always hungry—I loved food, and especially sweets—but my anxiety about the way my body was supposed to look according to magazines and other dancers made me love-hate food. I’d love whatever it was I was eating, but later “hate” that same food when around my friends. Thankfully, things have changed since the 80s, and we’re raising girls and boys with smarter approaches to body image.

Jordan Walker’s father reminds her to eat something—anything—as he stands at the counter and wolfs down his morning oatmeal and coffee. Jordan doesn’t struggle as mightily as her fellow dancers do; except for one friend who dared to eat half a muffin, Jordan’s friends don’t eat on recital days even though their dance teacher reminds them to eat well.

But food isn’t the enemy in Some Act. In fact, one of Jordan’s favorite smells is watermelon Jolly Ranchers, which is her little brother Ethan’s favorite candy. When he blows on her wet mascara as her tiny make-up assistant, his breath smells like watermelon Jolly Ranchers. There’s something magical and powerful about the way food—and the aroma of food in particular—can attach itself to a person, becoming a characteristic as important as his nose or her laugh.

Once the fracking disaster occurs and fundamentally changes Jordan’s body, food is the one thing she no longer needs. What are we without our bodies? What if we can no longer dance or eat our comfort foods or physically do all the things that have shaped our identity? This is the question Jordan must figure out. I faced this question when my feet were too damaged to dance. We face it when our favorite foods are banned from us. (Am I still the chocoholic of the family if I can no longer eat chocolate?) Do you identify with a particular food or drink, even if it’s something you can no longer have?



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



You can find Lori here:




Thursday, July 12, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Christopher Minori, Author of Little Idiots



Samm is like every other detective tracking their target. That is, if every other detective is a demon banished from Hell and their target is an escaped rabid soul! At its heart, the comedy-fantasy world of Little Idiots is a detective novel where demons are the good guys, humans are ridiculous and angels have bad attitudes. Samm is nothing more than a horned Sam Spade, and like any hard-boiled detective, food never touches his lips; he subsides on cigarettes and booze.

And man, does the booze ever flow. Alcohol is Samm's solution to all problems - get beat up by demon mafiosos? Have a drink. Angel trying to assassinate you? Have a drink. Your apprentice bringing home Cerberus' stray puppies? Have a drink. And put newspapers down on the floor. Lots of newspapers. The main location in the novel is set in the bar of the recently deceased Evil Moe, which supplies not only Samm with ample drink, but also the characters around him, from human detective Barney Little (Scotch on the rocks), witch-in-training Adesina (vodka cranberry), to Jude (grain alcohol and gasoline).

Much to Samm's chagrin, everyone's drinking, but nobody's paying. To Samm, "free" is the ultimate dirty word, right next to "bath". Villians pause their beatings to grab a free beer or two, cultists are swiping Southern Comfort by the gallon. Even Samm's best mate and fellow demon is walking away with the stuff:


Jude grabbed two more bottles of grain alcohol. Samm raised an eyebrow.

“Consider it an advanced payment for this job.”

“I wasn’t planning on paying you,” Samm declared.

“Then it’s a good thing I’m here to correct your mistakes.”


Where does this obsession with drinking come from? Granted, a detective story without cigarettes, booze, and dames is like... well, like a detective story without cigarettes, booze, and dames; but there's a personal reason as well. Twenty years ago, I realized I was in a battle with alcohol and I was losing. I worked through my personal demons and stopped consciously drinking. Five years later, I stopped unconsciously drinking. Samm's alcoholism reflects my own. He gets to indulge in the thing that I crave, but cannot have. Mo matter how fantastical their characters, writers sprinkle bits of themselves in them. And Samm is all me. Or I'm all Samm; I forget which. Being able to view alcohol through the eyes of my wise-cracking demon helps me to put the kibosh on my own secret desires.

Four decades ago, a demon came into my life and wound up being the best sponsor I've ever had. I admire his tenacity. I respect the humanity that slips through his demon facade. Most of all, I like him. I think you will too. Pick up a copy of Little Idiots on Amazon. And when you're done laughing at Samm and the gang's adventures, take in an AA meeting. You'll need it.


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



You can find Christopher here:




Thursday, July 5, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Karen Rose Smith, Author of Murder with Cinnamon Scones



What are my characters eating in Willow Creek, Pennsylvania, deep in the heart of Amish country? Anything sweet or hearty that will accompany tea.

Daisy Swanson and her Aunt Iris co-own Daisy’s Tea Garden in Willow Creek. Many of the foods my characters enjoy are based on Pennsylvania Dutch cooking.  Daisy at the tea garden tries to give them a twist, as does her kitchen manager, her best friend from high school, Tessa Miller.  Daisy’s Tea Garden offers sweet and savory items from potato and leek soup, carrot-grape-pecan salad to lemon tea cakes and cinnamon scones that are involved in solving the murders in this small community.  In each novel I include at least three recipes that have appeared in the mystery.

Daisy’s teenage daughters Jazzi (Jasmine) and Vi (Violet), have their own favorites.  Both girls enjoy whoopie pies—soft chocolate cookies with peanut butter cream or vanilla cream centers as well as their mom’s lemon pepper tomato mozzarella salad.

Frequent visitors to the tea garden have their own favorites. Jonas Groft, a former Philadelphia detective, owns a woodworking shop WOODS down the street from Daisy’s. Although, after her husband died, she decided never to need a man again, she feels something electric whenever Jonas is in the same room. He has a protective attitude that sometimes rankles, but with his help, she finds herself solving murders! His favorite soup is beef barley.

A friend from high school, Cade Bankert, is another frequent visitor to the tea garden. Cade had escorted Daisy to her high school prom.  He is a real estate agent who found Daisy and Aunt Iris the tea garden property as well as the old barn Daisy had renovated into a home for her and her daughters.  His favorite tea is orange pekoe and he’s fond of Daisy’s cookies.

When Daisy visits her Amish friend Rachel Fisher, she is invited to share a slice of shoo-fly pie with Rachel and her family.  Rachel and her husband Levi own and run the shop, Quilts and Notions, across the street from Daisy’s Tea Garden.

If you enjoy tea, desserts, salads, and soups, as well as murder-mystery with a touch of romance, stop in to Daisy’s Tea Garden for a visit.


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



You can find Karen here:





Thursday, June 28, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Gabi Stevens, Author of The Wish List




Food doesn’t play a huge role in my book The Wish List, but there is a quirky food item in it. Confession time, because I pulled it out of my own life: My heroine likes to eat Chocolate Chipless Cookies. What are they? As the name says, they’re chocolate chip cookies minus the chocolate chips.

I’m not a huge chocolate fan in real life. I will eat it, but it has to have something in it—nuts, peanut butter, butterfinger filling. No fruit. I will eat brownies, but prefer them with vanilla ice cream on top, no chocolate sauce. I prefer white cake to devil’s food, vanilla pudding to chocolate, and plain glazed doughnuts over chocolate ones. I wish they made eclairs without the chocolate covering the top. Oh, and it has to be milk chocolate. I hate dark chocolate. I think most of my tastes are that of an eight year old. You should see my drink choices.

When I make chocolate chip cookies, I leave out the chocolate chips. I love the cookie part, all buttery and soft, but the chocolate ruins it. And for my family, I meticulously place a few chips in strategic spots so they can have the chocolate. A bag of chips lasts me several batches.

In writing, it’s always fun to give your characters a quirk. Ron Weasley is afraid of spiders, Yoda speaks backwards, and Sheldon Cooper has too many to list. In The Wish List, I needed to give my character a quirk, something that made her a little more interesting, and I had one ready-made. Chocolate Chipless Cookies.

As I said, not much food in The Wish List, but what there is is special to me. If you want to read a book with more food in it, try the next one in the series, As You Wish. My heroine owns a bakery in that one.



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



You can find Gabi here:




Thursday, June 21, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Back Katherine Roberts, Author of Bone Music



My novel Bone Music tells the story of Genghis Khan’s rise to power in 13th century Mongolia. The book is part legend, but the food and drink in its pages is real enough, and many of the same foodstuffs are still eaten (and drunk) in Mongolia today.

Genghis Khan’s people ate a lot of meat. This would have come both from the herds that travelled with the clans - oxen, horses, camels, yaks, sheep, goats - and also from the wild animals they hunted on the steppes, such as deer, marmots and squirrels.

At the start of the book, the boy Temujin (young Genghis) is living in exile with his family after an ambitious chief stole his dead father's people, and must find a way to feed his little brothers:

I knew we’d be in trouble if we couldn’t hunt for meat. So I struggled to master Father’s huge bow, hidden by the tall pines where the river raged loud enough to hide my grunts of frustration. My arrow-making skills improved (they had to, since I kept breaking the stupid things). But, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t draw that string far enough to send my arrows after a deer – or even, most times I’ll admit, hit the trunk of whatever tree I’d chosen that day to take the place of Chief Fatface. – Bone Music, Temujin’s story.

Meat was often dried to preserve it for longer, and when they were on campaign Genghis Khan’s soldiers would keep a strip of dried beef under their saddle to chew on as they rode. But the young Khan's favourite meaty snack must have been the traditional meal of tough mutton he and his sweetheart Borta chewed on their wedding day:

Our wedding turned into the biggest Red Circle feast I’d seen, with buckets of airag for every family and ten whole oxen roasted for the occasion, as well as the tough old sheep whose meat we had to chew in public to show our marriage would be strong. – Bone Music, Temujin’s story.

As well as meat, all the herd animals provided the clans with milk in the spring when they had their young, and some of this milk was turned into yoghurt, cottage cheese, curds, and other produce. This led to the Mongolian summer being known as “the white season”, because that is when the people of the steppes process soft milky foodstuffs to eat after a long winter of increasingly tough, dried meat.

Fruit and vegetables must have been in short supply on the steppe in Genghis Khan’s time, when the clans led a nomadic existence that meant no farming. But the Khan’s people would have foraged for roots and berries when these were in season, and before Temujin learnt to bend his bow, his mother apparently kept her young family alive by feeding them on wild onions.

Medicines were made from various leaves and roots gathered from the forest. The girls were usually sent out to gather these, no doubt a welcome escape from the smoky yurts. When the Khan’s sweetheart Borta rides into the forest with her half-sisters, she thinks they are going foraging, but it is really an excuse for the other girls to ask her to use her shaman powers to find out who they are going to marry:

We packed food for several days and a rolled-up deer hide to make a shelter at night… It was good to be out in the mountains, away from the shaman’s choking smoke for a few days. Remembering our excuse for the outing, I pulled my digging stick out of my pack and began to search for roots, but my half-sisters showed no rush to get started. ‘So!’ Orbei said brightly. ‘What do you learn in the shaman’s tent, then?’ –  Bone Music, Borta’s story.

No meal is complete without something to drink, so what was Genghis Khan’s favourite tipple?
The most common alcoholic drink on the steppe is 'airag', the Mongolian word for fermented mare’s milk. This was made by filtering the milk through a cloth into a leather bucket or wooden vat and stirring it over a period of several days. It is a fizzy, mildly alcoholic drink of about 2% or 3% proof with a varying taste dependant on the method of production, and can be distilled further to make a fierce milky vodka called ‘Arhi’, which is 16% proof or more. The Khan and his men would have enjoyed airag on feast days, although it was apparently responsible for poisoning his father, Yesugei the Brave, who had stopped at a rival camp on his way home from taking young Temujin to meet his future bride and made the mistake of accepting the traditional bowl of airag offered to travellers on the steppe.

Genghis Khan's men also drank their horses' blood when they needed sustenance on a long march - the wound would heal quickly, and then they would ride on. Here, Temujin drinks blood for the first time on his way across the steppe with a friend to rescue his family’s herd of silver-bay geldings, which were stolen by raiders while he was a captive in the fat Chief Kiriltuk’s camp:

We slept rolled in our blankets under the stars, and on the way Boorchu showed me a warrior’s trick for survival when crossing a barren steppe – how to drink my horse’s blood. You make a small hole in the vein at the throat with your knife, and then suck out the blood before the wound heals. The warm, sweet liquid filled my mouth and coated my tongue. I could feel it clotting on the way down, filling me with strength. – Bone Music, Temujin’s story.

Sometimes the blood was mixed with water or milk... so how about a cup of blood mixed with airag to finish your 13th century Mongolian meal?


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


You can find Katherine here:







More about modern day Mongolian food and drink can be found here:
www.toursmongolia.com/mongolian-food-and-drinks

BONE MUSIC: The Legend of Genghis Khan by Katherine Roberts
is published by Greystones Press:
http://www.katherineroberts.co.uk/the-legend-of-genghis-khan

Thursday, June 14, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Back Nancy Lynn Jarvis, Author of The Two-Faced Triplex



Regan McHenry and her husband, Tom Kiley, will eat anything, and in the Regan McHenry Real Estate Mysteries series, they’ve had a variety of in-home and in-restaurant meals. Regan even cooked an authentic Columbian meal to try and catch a killer in A Neighborly Killing and has been known to burn dinner because a clue occurred to her as she cooked.

In her most recent adventure, The Two-Faced Triplex, Regan explains her plan for getting information about a possible killer out of a reluctant witness to Tom over samosa avocado chat at an Indian restaurant, using her fork to punctuate her thoughts.

Fortunately for Regan and Tom, Santa Cruz, California, where they live and work, is a tourist community and has excellent restaurants that run from upscale French to vegan Mexican with everything in between. And there are as many Thai restaurants in the community as there are Starbucks in most urban settings.

Regan likes to cook and even has an herb garden so exotic ingredients are ready for the picking. Tom is an accomplished griller, especially of beer chicken, but other times when he cooks, it’s frozen pizza for him.

As Realtors, Regan and Tom keep frozen mysterious chocolate chip cookie dough in their freezer ready to be thawed out and baked at open houses to make properties smell “homey.” You can pick up a copy of it at goodreadmysteries.com/recipe.htm.


Thanks for stopping by to share more food for thought, Nancy!



You can find Nancy here:





Thursday, May 24, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Gwen Mayo, Author and Short Story Writer




Looking at the cover of Strangely Funny you might think that knowing what’s on my character’s plate could make you ill. So, let me assure you that I’m not writing a monster.

In A Proper Job for a Lady, Atalanta Wilde is an attractive monster hunter with a keen fashion sense. Above all she is a lady. After all, one doesn’t have to look or smell like a monster to catch one.

In truth, Atalanta doesn’t have a lot to eat in the story. She is at the Wilde-Woods Inn because there is danger afoot. She believes a monster from long ago has returned and nobody will be safe until she finishes the work her ancestors began.

A nice cup of spiced tea and some of her cousin’s fresh baked bread do restore her spirits after a long dangerous trip.
 
Cousin Constance also provides her with trail rations before she sets out to find the monster. She doesn’t specify what those rations are, but knowing her cousin, they will be a delightful surprise for Atalanta.

Nothing bad comes from the kitchen at Wilde Wood Inn. Tall, stunning, Atalanta might turn every head in the room but they won’t stay turned when Constance fills the room with the aroma of her cooking.


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


You can find Gwen here:





Thursday, May 17, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Ashley Sweeney, Author of Eliza Waite



If cooking on a 19th century woodstove isn’t your cup of tea, how about adding living alone for three years on an almost uninhabited island in the Pacific Northwest? In 1898? Eliza Waite, our hearty protagonist, is largely self sufficient, although she rows (yes, rows) four miles across a strait to another island once a month for supplies.

Eliza’s a baker, first by avocation, and later by vocation. She measures by teacups and uses what she has on hand to create sweet and savory concoctions. All the 33 authentic pioneer recipes imbedded in the novel were gleaned from 19th century newspapers. Good thing I had friends vet them all; errors in six of the recipes rendered them unpalatable.

Here’s what one reader wrote about Eliza’s Johnny Cakes:

I grew up with grandparents who called cornbread "Johnny Cake" and who served it with black-eyed peas, sautéed greens, grits and hominy. This was NOT my grandma's Johnny Cake.

The recipe went together easily though I questioned the exclusion of fat such as lard or butter and thought it seemed a little heavy on the corn meal ratio. I "soured" some milk with lemon and added the mixed ingredients to an oiled cast iron skillet, which went into the stove for 20 minutes.

The result was . . . interesting. My husband called it “Johnny Particle Board.” 

It looked nice and rustic in the pan, smelled good in the oven, but was dry as dust in the mouth. The first thing my husband asked was: "Didn't you add yogurt or chilis or creamed corn?" which are ingredients commonly used in our corn bread. I responded (hands on hips): “WOULD ELIZA HAVE HAD THOSE ITEMS IN HER CUPBOARD?!”

In this example, I amended the recipe to use lard, and my, what a difference! Delish. My favs are the Pecan Tarts, Country Apple Pie, and Marionberry Coffee Cake. But I’ll let you off the hook—you can use your gas or electric oven.

Bonus points for using a woodstove!


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



You can find Ashley here:







Photo Credit: Karen Mullen Photography

Friday, May 11, 2018

FOODFIC: Luckiest Girl Alive - Jessica Knoll



I immediately connected with heroine Ani FaNelli for the same reason I snort/cry-laugh at certain comedians* – her/their observations are just so true.

Ani gets me right away by sharing her contempt for her future wedding china. No bride wants to hear the ugly truth that she is going to end up with six bread plates, four salad plates, and eight dinner plates and then one day will take it upon herself to complete the set, only to discover the pattern will have been discontinued years ago. (Trust me, if not for Replacements.com, I would’ve quit searching Lenox warehouses, smashed one of my perfect little saucers, and used it to cut myself to stop the madness.

But back to Ani, who keeps me with her decision to snap out of this dreary future montage by going for a slice of the Patsy’s pizza she’s been fantasizing about since last Thursday – the comfort-food craving certainly exacerbated by the restrictive pre-wedding diet she, like any proper bride-to-be, has been enslaved by.

Her fiancé, Luke, on the other hand, turns me off instantly by announcing that he is not even hungry. Huh? What kind of guy isn’t hungry for pizza? From Patsy’s? I’m quickly seeing why Ani had to fight off the urge to stab him with the Shun back at Williams-Sonoma!

And then – then! – he goes on to criticize her drink choice (Montepulciano)! He’s not hungry for pizza, he thinks it’s too hot for red wine…at this point, I’m ready to red Sharpie the next page and wave it in Ani’s face. We’re only on page 3 and all I want is an invitation to this imaginary wedding so that I can jump up and object at the “forever hold your peace” part.

Okay, maybe I’m being a tad extreme. Perhaps Luke does have some (though probably not food-related) redeeming qualities. And perhaps this pizza-loving, wine-guzzling heroine isn’t all that perfect herself. I mean, if she really is like me, she’ll turn out to have a list of flaws longer than a Jersey diner menu. But my gut tells me I’ll be much forgiving of her faults than his. It also tells me to take this book and catch the next train to 69th Street…


*Do not read into this observation that Ani is funny. Or that this novel is. Neither is true. Trust me.

Friday, May 4, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Beverley Jones, Author of Where She Went



You might never look at family mealtimes the same way again once you’ve witnessed what goes on at the kitchen table in Where She Went.

The ‘heroine’ of the book is news reporter Melanie Black who just happens to wake up dead one morning. Yes, that’s right, she wakes up dead in bed, next to a man she doesn’t recognise and realises no one can see or hear her. Trapped in the house with Peter and his family she has to piece together the story of her own disappearance and death.

As you can imagine, career girl Mel is more than a bit annoyed at being bumped off and at being forced to endure the dull day-to-day domestic routine of Peter, his wife and their little boy Adam. Mel couldn’t be more different to obedient Eve and watching the little homemaker behave like the perfect 1950s housewife is a sort of cruel and unusual torture in itself.

Some of the key action takes place around the kitchen table where Peter exercises his own type of unpleasant control over his eager-to-please wife. For him, mealtimes aren’t just an opportunity to eat, they enforce his idea of how an ideal family should behave and how a devoted wife should act. Mel, of course, has nothing but scorn for Eve’s carefully prepared breakfasts with their perfectly boiled eggs and loose-leaf tea in a teapot, or for Eve’s beautifully made sponge cakes and brightly hosted lamb shank dinners.

Peter punctuates mealtimes with subtle acts of psychological abuse, his little ‘pass or fail’ tests where a soft-boiled egg that’s just a little bit too hard for a toast soldier dip is a careless symbol of a wifely failure that deserves punishment.

Anxious Eve is forced to smile through these endurance events while, out in the world, the news of Mel’s disappearance has made the headlines and a police search gets underway.

As Mel’s memory returns, and she begins to remember the last night of her life, it becomes clear that Peter’s capable of much more than petty acts of emotional violence. But Mel herself is no angel and she’s not above playing a few little games herself, while she kills time before she decides on her method of revenge. Imagine an invisible and uninvited guest at your kitchen table with an axe to grind– that’s Melanie – and she likes to whisper things in your ear, even if you don’t realise it. Now that’s probably enough to make anyone lose their appetite!


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

And look for her new ebook - HALFWAY - out May 10th. 



You can find Beverley here:





Friday, April 27, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Dana Griffin, Author of COERCED



Kyle Masters, the protagonist in my airliner thriller, Coerced, loves food, but his tastes are simpler. A burger and fries would satisfy him as much as filet wellington with mixed vegetables.

Since he has to travel a lot in his occupation as the training manager for his airline, he often eats whatever the airport hotel he’s staying at has to offer.

Being divorced and sharing custody of his teenage son, Travis, with his ex-wife, he and Travis usually have dinner at Scrimp’s, the restaurant I created in his hometown, The Woodlands, a suburb of Houston.

I described it as having a family atmosphere, which I pictured similar to an Applebee’s or Chili’s, but a locally owned restaurant. A place where one could get a decent steak, a salad, or mac and cheese for their children. Where the wait-staff knows the regulars’ names and their usual drink. The kind of place when you walk in you can smell the meat cooking on the grill, the grease from the fryer, and the aroma of the vegetables being cut.

Later in the novel Kyle, Travis, and Kyle’s love interest, Lori Almond, an NTSB investigator, end up on the run from some bad guys and hole up in a hotel and have to order room service. They might not have minded eating with a tray in their laps while stretched out on the bed watching TV, except they were worried the waiter delivering the food might be a goon sent to silence them.

You’ll have to read the book to see if Kyle and Travis got to eat their eggs and bacon, and Lori enjoyed her oatmeal and fruit.


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



You can find Dana here




Thursday, April 19, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome David J. Kirk, Author of Stone Signs



In the 3070s the world is certainly a much different place. Centuries before a global natural disaster had reduced the population to nearly 10% of its former number. This led to two-thirds of the United States being left uninhabited.

In this setting main character Dan Kelley, a young history professor, unintentionally discovers prehistoric cave symbols carved into the back of a uniquely crafted paving stone. The stone was created by a mysterious mason who years earlier buried similar stones mapping a peculiar course across the unpopulated prairie. Following these clues Dan was able to retrace his parents path and uncover details of their disappearance, which had left him orphaned at age four.

Does this new discovery offer any insight into his parents’ demise? What do these symbols mean? Does the stone map lead to their interpretation? What is the message?

To follow this buried stone path, Dan and his colleagues must venture out into the uninhabited prairie. In order to sustain themselves, they must hunt, gather and prepare their food out on the trail. The expedition members hunt for meat, gather roots and gather fruit to cook all on an open wood fire. They even discover stone ovens, left by indigenous peoples, to roast whole turkeys. It was your basic campfire cooking.

The role of food in Stone Signs is not what they ate, but the manner in which they did. The evening meal was not only a bonding experience, but a time to make decisions for the next day such as route of travel and possible hazards they would encounter, all leading to the exciting conclusion. Therefore, I frequently described their meals and mealtime conversations in detail in the story. Gathering, preparing and eating were communal and social activities. One might describe them as tribal. The expedition was dealing with ice age symbols and their meaning. This activity supported the metaphor of stepping back in time, to solve an ancient mystery by living and thinking like an ancient.


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


You can find David here:






Thursday, April 12, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Richard Gazala, Author of Blood of the Moon



This is an interesting exercise, to write about how food impacted the writing or characters in my international conspiracy thriller, Blood of the Moon. I’ve thought about it a lot since I was graciously invited to contribute to this blog. I’m a good cook and an adventurous foodie. So it puzzled me all the more that in the exquisite mayhem I’ve forced upon characters in Blood of the Moon and my other writing, none of it has been comestible. After due contemplation, I deem this was more than simple oversight. It was error.

One of a novelist’s critical tasks is making fictional characters resonate with fleshly readers. Characters are people. Real people eat, or they die. Sometimes they die because they eat. If a picture tells a thousand words so does a person’s favorite dish, or the one he’d rather starve than eat. Whether it’s in survival or pleasure, food is refuge. Without it there’d be neither writers nor readers. Accordingly, it’s due more respect than I’ve afforded it in my work.

This is particularly so given what food sustains. Everyone’s relationship with food, whether healthy or otherwise, is fraught with meaning far deeper than mere mastication. I’m not the only one of us perpetually umpiring internal infernal battles between eating to live and living to eat. And I’m not just writing about my daily bread in this instance, so the symbolism is potent. Food is not just fuel to propel us from station to station in the mundane world. Like any other power or privilege, food is as dangerous as it is divine.

Though the movie was but a loose adaptation of Ian Fleming’s novel of the same title, a scene at the end of the 1971 film Diamonds Are Forever sprang to mind when I was approached to write a piece for this blog. After he saves the world from another of Blofeld’s abominable plots, James Bond relaxes with Tiffany Case in post-coital déshabillé in their suite on board the SS Canberra cruise liner. Posing as ship’s stewards, assassins Kidd and Wint wheel into Bond’s suite an opulent meal—Oysters Andaluz, shashlik, tidbits, prime rib au jus, and Salade Utopia. The wine is a bottle of Château Mouton Rothschild ’55. And for dessert, says Mr. Wint, “…the pièce de résistance… La Bombe Surprise.”

     “Mmm! That looks fantastic. What's in it?” asks Case.
     Wint replies, “Ah, but then there would be no surprise, Madame.”

The surprise was the dessert’s secret ingredient—an actual bomb. Murder, concealed beneath a luscious coating of creamy custard ice cream.

Food is temptation. It’s luxury. It’s power. And it’s danger.

I’m currently working on Blood of the Earth, the sequel to Blood of the Moon. Beneath all the conspiracies, throbbing under the action and the chaos and the vengeance, the heart of Blood of the Moon is about faith and betrayal. It’s about the lies that hide in truth, and vice-versa. So too is its sequel, and much else of what I write.

Thanks to this exercise, as I write Blood of the Earth I’ll be mindful of the truth and lies in every morsel we eat. I’ll remember that every chef can charm with a fork as easily as he can kill with a spoon. That food giveth, and food taketh away. Primal stuff.

After all, Eve wasn’t evicted from the Garden until she bit the forbidden fruit.


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



You can find Richard here:







Copyright 2018, Richard Gazala


Friday, March 30, 2018

FOODFIC: Discovering Vintage New Orleans - Bonnye Stuart




Because I lived in NOLA for so many years, I can never pass up a chance to read what others recommend that visitors see and do in The Big Easy. Must-sees, must-dos, must-eats; I have to know each compiler’s picks. Of course, I’m most interested in which restaurants and bars top each list. #FoodFact. Or #FoodOpinion? Hmm. I’ll leave that here for digestion. ;)

Anyway, this guide points out all the old favorites, which makes sense as Stuart has chosen to focus on the “vintage” spots. Not surprisingly, I found I’d been to most (if not all) of the eateries and drinkeries and visitories she describes. I checked off everything from lunch at Commander’s to climbing Monkey Hill to drinks at the Old Absinthe House.

I’ve not, however, actually had absinthe. Yes, the popular depictions of “the green fairy” as “psychoactive” and “hallucinogenic” seem reason enough not to imbibe,  but the bigger issue was its illegality. Since I hadn’t been actively following absinthe’s “status,” it came as a surprise to me to read here that the Old Absinthe House is indeed now selling its namesake drink.

Now, it’s not exactly the same stuff – thujone, a naturally-occuring chemical in wormwood, must now be strictly limited, leading many folks to call it “absinthe refined.” But the essence of the spirit remains the same, as, apparently, does its flavor. “Anise” and “fennel” are not my usual go-tos for cocktails, so you won’t find me rushing out for a bottle, but the next time I’m in NOLA, I might have to make my way down to Bourbon Street to give it a shot. ;)

Friday, March 23, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Brooklyn James, Author of Jolie Blonde



Brianna Bentley Castille (aka Jolie Blonde) fancies lobster and lots of it, the more clarified grass-fed butter in which to dip the succulent sea fare all the better. As a hard-pressed prosecutor for Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, the fork and veggies will have to wait. Just keep the protein-packed, vitamins/minerals-loaded lobster and butter coming, she’ll lap up the energizing essentials with one hand while the other works through cases and codes. Oh, and if you have a Sazerac, a Big Easy favorite, she favors it, too. Though keep the lemon peel for someone who has time for ‘garnish.’ If you’re interning at the firm, Café Du Monde is not a luxury but a morning necessity—two beignets and one café au lait heavy on the chicory, please.

Jolie Blonde, a nickname given her by her childhood sweetheart’s father, would invite you over for a bayou feast of gator, po’ boys, etouffee and sweet sun tea. Relaxed and at home she is, only when in the company of that childhood sweetheart.

This story of an average girl and the one twist of fate that made her extraordinary, Jolie Blonde is reinvented, an entirely new identity as Detective Gina DeLuca, at the wily hands of a hematologist, finding herself engulfed in a mysterious world of super blood (though a sci-fi/action-adventure tale, there are no vampires—i.e. no drinking/eating/ingesting of blood…blech) and super powers. Detective DeLuca doesn’t concern herself with beignets when a donut goes down just fine. And what grown woman, pray tell, needs milk in her coffee? Preferring it black and with the grinds, one may think she’s Greek! Finicky only about pizza, it’s nonnegotiable—margherita. Oh, and a beer—any beer—to wash it down.

In a series (The Vigilare Series) featuring aliases and identities, of course there is an alter ego, too. Vigilare—the one who watches over—who is she and why does she exist? The question both Brianna and Gina must answer to find themselves. Food’s good and all, but our antihero Vigilare subsides on retribution, her favorite dish to dole up…a kick-ass portion of just deserts!


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



You can find Brooklyn here:








Brooklyn James is an author/singer/songwriter inspired by life in the Live Music Capital of Austin, Texas. Her first novel, The Boots My Mother Gave Me, has an original music soundtrack and was chosen as a Quarter Finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards.

When she is not writing books, she can be found playing live music around Austin as part of an acoustic duo. Brooklyn has been in a Weezer video, met Harry Connick Jr. as an extra on the set of When Angels Sing, appeared in Richard Linklater's Boyhood for all of a nanosecond, and she was Mira Sorvino's stand-in on Jerry Bruckheimer's Trooper pilot for TNT. She most enjoys being a wife and mother, reading, dancing, working out, and a good glass of kombucha.

Brooklyn holds an M.A. in Communication, and a B.S. in both Nursing and Animal Science. Her nursing career has seen specialties in the areas of Intensive Care and Postpartum. She serves as a Guest Speaker with a focus on awareness and prevention of Domestic Violence and Suicide.

Subscribe to her YouTube channel for music video releases. You can also find her music on Amazon, iTunes, iHeartRadio, SoundCloud, CDBaby, and Pandora.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Karen Ann Hopkins, Author of EMBERS





There are descendants of angels walking among us. Ember is one of them.

Embers is an epic paranormal adventure/romance about a girl who discovers that she’s immune to fire and any other injury when she’s in a horrific car crash that kills her parents. Following a violent episode with her aunt’s boyfriend, Ember flees Ohio to live with an old relative in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Ember’s exuberance at escaping a bad home life soon turns to trepidation when she learns that she’s a Watcher, a descendant of angels.

While Ember is instructed about her heritage and the powers that go along with it, she strikes up friendships with two teenagers who live inside of a frightening walled compound in the forest. Inexplicably drawn to one of the young men in particular, an impossible romance develops. But it’s cut short when Ember discovers that her new friends are fighting on the opposite side of a war that’s been raging between two factions of Watchers for thousands of years. When the compound’s inhabitants threaten the townspeople, Ember takes action, sealing her fate in the ancient battle of good versus evil, and the grayness in between.

When Ember isn’t getting to know her neighbors, learning about her newly discovered powers, or battling creatures from darkness, she goes to the local high school and rides her horse on mountain trails. But she also spends a lot of time with her “Aunt” Ila, being taught how to live off the land. Ila is a Watcher with incredible powers and even though she could live in luxury anywhere in the world, she chose to settle down in a small cabin in the Appalachian mountains, where she grows all her own food. Respecting her ties to the earth and the animals that she exists with, Ila is also a vegetarian, so meat is off the menu in little valley surrounded by hills.

Ember has never eaten so healthy before, and she must adjust to a diet consisting of vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains, eggs, and goat’s milk. Ila shows Ember how to tastily live off the land, introducing her to homemade wheat pancakes, omelets loaded with vegetables, a variety of casseroles filled with pasta, beans, squash and potatoes, and scrumptious tomato sandwiches. Ember leans how to grow, harvest, and can the fruits and vegetables from Ila’s gardens. And Ila’s storeroom is stocked full of their bountiful hard work. One of Ember’s favorite pastimes is sitting on the front porch with her mentor, sipping fresh grape juice, and listening to Ila’s stories. Luckily, Ila also has a sweet tooth and her grandest treat is a special chocolate cake that even a demon and a growler can’t resist.

For all of her growing appreciation for healthy eating, Ember is still a teenager and enjoys snacking on soda, french fries, and cheeseburgers when she gets the chance. And that’s not a bad thing. With the end of days approaching, she’s going to need all her strength for the battles to come.


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



You can find Karen here:






Karen Ann Hopkins is the author of the urban fantasy/dystopian YA series, The Wings of War, along with a mystery/crime thriller series, Serenity’s Plain Secrets, and the YA Amish-themed romantic Temptation series. 


Friday, March 9, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Connie Hambley, Author of The Charity



Food and the Art of Cooking Up Characters



All Irish are born with a love of a cuppa. Right? The deep rosy tones of Irish Breakfast tea are supposed to give respite in a hectic day and provide a moment of clarity where all ills can be cured and all problems solved.

Yeah, right. Guess again.

The “Irish Love Tea” is a broadly held stereotype many readers hold. Turning an assumption upside down allows me to surprise a reader and have some fun in the process.

My recently completed trilogy’s main character is Jessica Wyeth, a world-class equestrian with Irish roots. She was raised in the States, so her attitudes are distinctly American. She is strong, assertive, and independent. Oh, and she craves a great cup of coffee.

I’ll confess to playing on stereotypes, too with that old “Irish Love Pubs” assumption that flirts with cliché. Instead of drunken sots weeping into their whiskeys, I placed characters having crucial political conversations in back rooms or families enjoying a night of lively music together. Mining that cliché for details and facts and bringing depth to my scenes helped me avoid two-dimensional characters but, in the process of researching facts and settings, something surprising happened.

My story had layers I didn’t anticipate, but once I saw them, I knew I had to bring them to life.

I didn’t start out thinking I was going to write a trilogy, but each book had one little fuse that, when lit, exploded into another story. The Jessica Trilogy unfolds the story of a woman who uncovers the money behind a Boston-based cell of the Irish Republican Army. Each book encapsulates one distinct stage of her discovery. The Charity shows what happened, The Troubles explores why it happened, and The Wake answers how the characters move forward in a world turned upside down.

The Charity started as a love story, but the worlds surrounding my characters complicated their relationship . . . and that’s an understatement. I live in Boston, where generations of wealth impact politics and society in seen and unseen ways. Money and power drive good people to do bad things and I wanted to create a story where you questioned which characters are good guys and which ones might lure you with a cuppa then slice you with a dagger.

How readers view a conversation held over a cup of tea or one held in the back room of a pub colors their perception of the characters. Food, and the settings in which it is consumed, help me weave a web of deception.


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



You can find Connie here:








CONNIE JOHNSON HAMBLEY grew up on a New York dairy farm and all would have been idyllic if an arsonist hadn’t torched her family’s barn. Bucolic bubble burst, she began to steadfastly plot her revenge against all bad guys, real and imagined. After receiving her law degree, she moved to Boston and wrote for Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Nature and other wonky outlets as she honed her skills of reaching readers at a deep emotional level with great research, laser-sharp focus on detail, and persuasive writing. Her high-concept thrillers feature remarkable women entangled in modern-day crimes and walk the reader on the razor’s edge between good and evil. Connie delights in creating worlds where the good guys win–eventually. Her short stories, Giving Voice and Black Ice won acceptance in Best New England Crime Stories: Windward (2016) and Snowbound (2017), respectively, published by Level Best Books. The third book in The Jessica Trilogy, The Wake, joins The Charity and The Troubles. Connie is a two-time winner of Best English Fiction literary award at the EQUUS International Film Festival in New York City. She is Vice President and Featured Speaker of the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime.

LOG LINES:

The Charity: Witness to a gang-style slaying, a young woman is hunted to stop her from exposing the money and the people behind a Boston-based terrorist cell.

The Troubles: Deceived by her family, a rebellious woman seeks to unearth how Northern Ireland’s Troubles are buried in her mother’s secret past.

The Wake: A shattered heiress’ family secret is exploited by her spurned lover to blackmail her into engaging in international terrorism.

Friday, March 2, 2018

7-Year Blogiversary!



Year 7 was a lucky one for me, as so many terrific authors stopped by to share their food for thought:

Jeffrey Beesler – Speed Demons
Eldritch Black – The Book of Kindly Deaths
Jenn Brink – Silver Bells
Carole Brown – The Redemption of Caralynne Hayman
Peggy Chambers – The Apocalypse Sucks
Jeff Chapman – The Black Blade
Debra Chapoton – Sheltered
Caroline Clemmons – The Texan's Irish Bride
April Michelle Davis – A Princess in Disguise
Steve DeWinter – Forgotten Girl
Brittany Hawes – Wicked
Cathryn Hein – The Country Girl
David Hogan – The Last Island
Holly Jacobs – Steamed
Jessica Knauss – Awash in Talent
Deborah Lawrenson – The Lantern
John Mefford – IN Doubt
Assaph Mehr – Murder in Absentia
A.G. Moye – Cronicles of the Marauder
Luke Murphy – Wild Card
Patricia Obermeier Neuman & Rosalind Burgess – Lethal Property
D.H. Nevins – Wormwood
Cory Putman Oakes – Witchtown
Laurence O'Bryan – The Cairo Puzzle
Jean Knight Pace & Jacob Kennedy – Grey Lore
Stephen Penner – A Lack of Motive
Tony Piazza – Murder is Such Sweet Revenge
Jodie Pierce – Vampire of Brazil
Rachel Rawlings – The Morrigna
Juli D. Revezzo – House of Dark Envy
Tony Riches – The Tudor Trilogy
Holly Robinson – Folly Cove
Patricia Sands – Drawing Lessons
Dina Santorelli – Baby Grand
Jack Scott – Perking the Pansies
Deborah Shilan & Linda Reid – Dead Air
Tricia Shiu – Please Hold
Ellis Shuman – The Burgas Affair


Then I dug into:

The Ice Maiden  Edna Buchanan
The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs

With so many great guests this year, I didn’t get to blog about every book I read. And, to be fair, not every read lends itself to a good FoodFic discussion, either because the food in the story doesn't jump out at me, or my schedule’s already full for the year, or a book’s subject matter is too dark or serious for me to lightly chat about here.

Anyway, below are some of the better books I read over the past year that weren’t reviewed here at BWATE?

And, as always, please feel free to suggest some great reads for me in the coming year. :)