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

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, 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.


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. :)

Thursday, February 22, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome David Hogan, Author of The Last Island

Modern Greeks start discussing dinner after the first bite of lunch and start discussing the next day’s lunch at dinner. For the unwitting visitor or in-law, like myself, there is a single escape from this circle of culinary obsession: breakfast. In the morning, you’ll find yourself on your own, consuming some undiscussed but tasty yogurt, granola or figs.

This preoccupation with food separates modern Greeks from their ancient counterparts -- by very little. The works of classical Greece are teeming with meals, menus, and recipes. Here’s Antiphanes (408-334 B.C.) on how to prepare some choice dishes:

“Sea bass?”
“Bake whole.”
“Boil with fresh chopped herbs.”
“Salt, oregano, water.”
“A slice of tuna?”
“Bake it.”

What if you haven’t acquired the ingredients? What if you have to boldly venture to the agora in order to acquire them? In that case, Lynkeus of Samos (early 300s B.C) is your man; he tells you all you need to know in his aptly titled masterpiece, Shopping for Fish. (Spoiler alert: scorn the desired fish and fishmonger so contemptuously that you frighten off all the other buyers and then start bargaining.)

Fortunately for the Boston fireman who relocates to the poor and remote Greek Island in The Last Island, the people he encounters are overwhelmingly kind and generous, and he has no need to insult fish or fishermen. He’s offered syrupy cookies by a widow on the day he arrives and soon after learns how to ‘sun the octopus.’ With his stomach full, it’s his heart and conscience that need repair. That’s when he meets, Kerryn, an animal rights activist, who believes dolphins possess consciousness, intelligence and souls. But as his relationship with Kerryn deepens, her passion and convictions lead her to make a fatal decision that changes the island and both their lives forever.

The island will indeed change, as Greece itself is now changing. What will remain is the food, the delicious and simple meals of fish, vegetables, olive oil and wine that Homer, Aristotle, Antiphanes, and Lynkeus enjoyed, and which a lonely Boston fireman and you and I can still enjoy, and which for thousands of years have filled body and soul.

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

You can find David here:

David Hogan is the award-winning author of screen and stage plays as well as a novel.  His stage plays include the NPI award-winning Capital, Samoan America, and No Sit – No Stand – No Lie, which opened the ‘Resilience of the Spirit’ Human Rights Festival.  His screenplays include The Tractor King, Free Radical (with Frank D’Angeli) and Stranded (with Frank D’Angeli).

His debut novel, The Last Island, published by Betimes Books, was a Finalist in the 2014 San Diego Book Awards, an Amazon Contemporary & Literary Bestseller in the U.K. and reached #1 in Fiction at Amazon Australia.  Click here to order.

Friday, February 16, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Brittany Hawes, Author of WICKED

In the land of Esperance lived a Cursed Three:
A princess, a misfit, and Death’s small prodigy.

Though some have perished in this cherished land,
Awaiting final judgment, the Three are forced to stand.
Yet Esperance’s gnarled and withering hands
Still shall welcome you within.

To the Underworld’s depths we first must descend,
Plunge into liquid darkness at life’s end,
To find the little girl that Death has claimed,
Zenobia, princess of nothing, is now her given name.

Pulsating in the pitch black, her heart fights to beat,
Golden marionette strings tugging at her bare feet.
Follow after her to Death’s grand dining hall.
This is where we’ll witness Zenobia’s daily meal.

Picked by two guards made from yellowing bone,
Succulent berries rest on plates of precious stones.
Shimmering goblets of crystal are filled to the brim;
White wine aged for eons glistens by the rim.

Delicate pieces of meat jut up from a dish,
Picked clean of bones by bones sits the fish.
“These are the things on which a human must dine.”
Death’s orders must be dutifully followed by the line.

Now we go to a home coated by sugar and fear;
A home approached by none privy of who truly lives here.
Colorful gumdrops dot the brown wafer roof.
A sugary mansion calls to all with a sweet tooth.

Smooth licorice twists around pillars of fudge,
Taffy mortar makes sure that the house won’t budge.
Behind the rock candy sheets that are window panes
Lies a pair of great eyes wanting you to remain.

With nails and hair that all drip to the floor,
The Witch of the Woods hopes you’ll step through her door.
The price you must pay for a bite of her lair?
A trip to her cauldron after days of despair.

But if you are lucky and don’t see her house,
You still might be met by a girl like a mouse.
“Come see the treats that I have in store.”
If you follow, you’ll be seen nevermore.

So instead come with me to the castle of Livor.
Mind your step for there’s blood on the floor.
Chandeliers overhead and executions down below.
While their people run dry, the royals overflow.

Rounding a corner, we see a fine spread
On the long table surrounded by heads.
Here is where Princess Ruta and her father sit,
Picking away at the fallen, bit by bit.

Roasted pheasant and platters of spiced capercaillie,
Hot beef paired with mustard, butter, and honey,
Red wine spilling and surrounding the feast,
Bloodstained fingers maneuver with ease.

As you and the Wicked enjoy your grand meal,
Mind your manners lest you catch her steel.
The blade of the guillotine beckons from outside,
So be polite and open wide.

Finally, our frightening journey has come to an end.
Esperance bids you farewell—won’t you visit again?

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

You can find Brittany here:

Thursday, February 8, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Holly Jacobs, Author of STEAMED

Thanks so much for the invitation, Shelley!  I always love talking about books…and food!

I once had an editor tell me that my characters spent too much time eating.  As someone who enjoys cooking—and eating—I told her I didn’t think that was possible. 

Every book I write is a bit autobiographical.  I might not ever have run away from the world like my heroine in Just One Thing, but I have experienced loss.  I might not have ever given a child up for adoption like Pip in Carry Her Heart and Hold Her Heart, but I have discovered family I’d never met.  And I have never accidentally cleaned a murder scene, like Quincy in my Maid in LA Mysteries series (Steamed, Dusted, Spruced Up, Swept Up and this summer’s 5th book, Polished Off), but I do relate to her love of food.  And while I enjoy cooking, like Quincy I love having other people cook for me. 

I took a bite of the salad.
 “Wow,” I managed as I chewed.  This wasn’t head lettuce cut up in a bowl and slathered with ranch dressing.  This had greens, nuts and dried fruit, with some light dressing on it.
 Cal forked up his salad and didn’t seem overly appreciative as he chewed it, then asked, “What I want you to do is try to remember everything you cleaned, touched or moved at Banning’s house.”
 So, I tried to remember every step.  It was easier because I’d started going over all this for myself and my file.  I thought about telling him that.  After all, he’d made it clear he didn’t consider me a serious suspect.  But I still wasn’t positive I could trust him, so I simply worked at recreating the list, from picking panties off the ceiling fan, to steam cleaning footprints off the carpet.  When I mentioned the Mortie, Cal perked up.  “What was on it?”
 I shrugged as I swallowed another bite of the salad.  “No idea.  It was sticky and a sort of rusty brown color.  It was all over the base of it.”
 “I don’t think so, though I’ve never seen dried blood on a Mortie before, much less cleaned it off.  I polished the award, and then I put it on the mantle.  It was on the couch when I came in,” I added.
 Cal made a groaning sound and made a call on his cell.  “Test the Mortie for trace evidence of blood.”
 He waited and I ate undisturbed.  
 I’d moved from my salad to a plate of pasta that Big G brought back.  It was just as good.  I was trying to decide what all was in the simple red sauce when Cal’s phone rang.
 He picked it up, listened and said, “Okay.”  Then he clicked the button and set his phone down.
 He turned to me.  “It’s official.  You cleaned the murder weapon.”
 All I could think of was a wrinkled unicorn tattoo.

Poor Quincy.  She spends the first book, Steamed, in the (soon-to-be) five book series worrying she’s going to go to prison for accidentally cleaning a murder scene.  She’s worried that she’ll have to get a prison tattoo and realizes tattoos don’t always age well…which explains that wrinkled unicorn tattoo comment.  But she does meet Cal, who despite his frustration finds Quincy as intriguing as she finds him.  And she does visit her friend Honey (whose daughter is named Trixie…and all you Trixie Belden fans will recognize the pair) who’s also a cook, and is introduced to Big G and goes to Pattycake’s Pancake House.

So maybe that editor was right…there’s a lot of food in my books.  But there’s a lot of food in my life as well!  I just did a new Cooks and Books video.  It’s an ongoing, sporadic series I post online.  The newest one is about my easy-peasy Mexican Lasagna ( and how I tricked my young hockey-fan dinner guests into eating it.

Yes, I do the Cooks and Books videos because for me, food and books go together! Quincy feels the same way!

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

You can find Holly here:

Friday, February 2, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Cathryn Hein, Author of The Country Girl

Have you ever fallen down the rabbit hole that is food blogging on the internet? It’s a marvellous place, filled with stunning pictures of mouth-watering recipes, and clever people creating new dishes or adding interesting twists to old favourites, who usually have much tidier kitchens than mine.

The heroine of my latest release The Country Girl is one of these people, but Tash is a born and bred Australian farm lass. She doesn’t go in for over-styled food or ingredients no one has ever heard of. Her recipes are wholesome and hearty, and loaded with comfort. Which is just as well, because The Country Girl’s hero Patrick is a man loaded with heartache. He needs every ounce of comfort she can give, and give is what Tash does.

As she says to Patrick, “Cooking for other people makes me feel good. And here at The Urban Ranger we smother goodness like we smother butter – thick and with great pleasure.”

Tash has returned home to the family farm to write a cookbook and take her blog in a new direction, showing off not just new recipes but where the produce comes from. At first Patrick thinks it’s a bit of a joke, but he soon learns Tash’s business is serious. Especially when he begins to try her dishes.

There are curries and crème brulees, tarts and terrines, pies and pastries, salads and soups, and all cooked with great gusto by Tash because cooking is her passion and her life’s philosophy:

There are those who believe it’s just something we need to live, and that’s true, but food is more than a necessity. I truly believe food—the preparation of it, the sharing, the way it brings people together—can be a powerful symbol of compassion and love.

One of the first dishes of Tash’s that Patrick tries is a mini ricotta cheesecake with currants soaked in sherry. For a bit of fun, I’ve shared the recipe in this video. Enjoy!

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

You can find Cathryn here:

Friday, January 26, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Steve DeWinter, Author of Forgotten Girl

I want each of you to take a deep breath and savor it. The atmosphere inside this gondola is the last breath of free air you will ever taste.

As soon as this airship departs the station you will never set foot on civilized land again, not that any of you deserve it.

There are two indisputable facts about the Outcast Zone. Number one, it is the most inhospitable place you will ever visit. And number two, it will be the place where you will die.

My lieutenant is handing out burlap sacks. This is the only assistance we will provide to you to help you adjust to life inside the Outcast Zone. In it you will find a loaf of bread and a wedge of cheese. 

Now, you can eat the bread and cheese which should allow you to survive for a few days.

Or, you can use what we have provided you to lure in rats, which are an excellent source of protein and are quite abundant. That should give you about a month before your bait runs out.

Or, you could use the rats you trap to attracting larger prey who, while they may put up a bigger fight, just may give you enough to live on and possibly even trade with your new neighbors.

How long you survive is entirely up to you and the decisions you make.

But then again, your decisions up till this point brought you here, so I would not wager on any of you surviving for very long.

Hi, I am Steve DeWinter, the author of the eight book Steampunk OZ series, starting with the #1 Amazon Steampunk Bestseller, Forgotten Girl.

What you just experienced was the warden's introductory speech given to incoming inmates right before they were sent into the Outcast Zone. It is into this kind of place Dorothy willingly goes in search of her father with nothing more than a garbled radio message as proof that he may be somewhere in OZ, a continent-sized prison with but one purpose.

No one gets out alive.

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

You can find Steve here:

About Steve DeWinter: I am a #1 Bestselling Amazon Action & Adventure Sci-Fi Author who also co-authored two fantasy novels with Charles Dickens.Yes! That Charles Dickens. My books hit #1 on the Amazon Children’s Action & Adventure Sci-Fi Bestseller list, #1 on the Amazon Steampunk Bestseller list, and my adult thrillers reached as high as lucky #13 on the Amazon Action & Adventure Bestseller list. I can also boast the unique distinction of  having 9 books in the Top 20 of the Amazon Children’s Action & Adventure Sci-Fi Bestseller list all at the same time.

I love writing fiction and with 40+ books (and even some short stories) published to date, my total published word count is well beyond the million-word-mark with some of my more popular books translated into languages other than English. I also wrote/directed a 90-minute direct-to-video action-thriller movie and wrote/directed a full-cast radio play podcast that has been downloaded nearly 70,000 times – not that I’m bragging ;-)

Thursday, January 18, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Ellis Shuman, Author of The Burgas Affair

When Detective Boyko Stanchev of the Bulgarian State Agency for National Security sits down for lunch at a roadside cafe, he is furious that his partner is an inexperienced data analyst from Israel. Ayala Navon has just flown in from Tel Aviv to join the investigation of a bombing at Burgas Airport which took the lives of five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver. Ayala has never previously been to Bulgaria and Boyko feels she will interfere with his work on the case.

The waiter brings their lunch:

There is the ubiquitous shopska salad—finely cut wedges of tomatoes and cucumbers topped with grated salty white cheese. Next to it were small ceramic bowls of potato salad and the so-called Russian salad, which was nearly the same, except for the addition of carrots and peas. A colorful tomato salad and one made from peppers were also quite appealing; they were served on traditional Bulgarian plates. Off to the side was a bowl of yogurt spotted with drops of green.

“Snezhanka salata,” Ayala said, dipping in her spoon to help herself.

“How do you know its name?”

“It’s because,” she began, but then she shrugged, smiling to herself. She recalled the occasions during her childhood when her father had asked to include Bulgarian dishes in their meals, a request stated so frequently that her mother had given in to his tastes, despite their being so different from the cuisine with which she was familiar.

“Because?” he asked, waiting for an answer.

“I just know the name.”

“Was it part of your research for coming to Bulgaria? Is this what the Mossad teaches you—the names of local food so that you can fit right in with the population and not stick out?”

“Don’t make fun of me,” she said, glaring at him.

When there is no progress in the joint Bulgarian-Israeli investigation of the bombing, Ayala is reassigned to a desk job in Tel Aviv. To her surprise, Boyko arrives in Israel. “Detective Stanchev will serve as liaison to our intelligence-gathering efforts. The Bulgarians, like us, have a very keen interest in getting to the bottom of the Burgas bombing,” her boss informs her. And then he asks Ayala to arrange home hospitality for their Bulgarian guest. Reluctantly, Ayala brings Boyko to her parents’ home for a home-cooked Shabbat meal.

After her father recites the traditional blessing over the wine, Ayala blesses the challah and serves a piece of the braided bread to Boyko. Ayala’s mother rose from the table to serve the soup. She ladled out four bowls and placed the first one in front of their guest:

“Chicken soup, with a bit of lemon squeezed in, like the Bulgarian custom.”

The Burgas Affair, a crime fiction thriller set in both Bulgaria and Israel, is based on a very real terrorist attack. On July 18, 2012, a deadly explosive rocked a tourist bus at Burgas Airport, killing five Israelis and their Bulgarian bus driver. The terrorists responsible for this murderous attack have never been brought to justice.

Teamed up together, Boyko and Ayala should be conducting a routine investigation, but shadows of the past keep interfering.

Boyko’s interactions with a crime boss pursuing a vendetta against him threaten to throw him off track. Ayala’s pursuit of the terrorists and their accomplices brings up painful memories of a family tragedy.

Boyko and Ayala form a shaky alliance, one that evolves into growing cooperation and affection as they desperately race against time to uncover who was behind the Burgas bombing.

Suspense and procedural detective work aside, The Burgas Affair also portrays the cultural differences, and similarities, between Bulgaria and Israel. Unlike many other novels in the genre, the characters in the book are portrayed as real, flawed individuals. Despite the urgency of their investigation, they still must take breaks to eat. They go to sleep at night and yes, they even need to use the rest room from time to time as well.

When Boyko joins Ayala in Tel Aviv, she regards him with a curious look in her eyes:

Here he was—the officer with whom she had spent many hours driving around the Bulgarian countryside as they investigated various aspects of the case. They had argued, nearly bickering as they discussed suspects and leads. They had joked; they had laughed. They had eaten together, drinking rakia as he told her tales of his country. He had charmed her unexpectedly to the point that she had seriously considered inviting him into her hotel room. Here he was, present in Tel Aviv, again assigned to work with her. She didn’t know exactly how she would handle this unforeseen change in circumstances.

“Shall we get started?” Boyko said, a wide smile on his face.

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

You can find Ellis here:

Ellis Shuman is an American-born, Israeli author, travel writer, and book reviewer. He served in the Israeli army; was a founding member of a kibbutz; and has worked in the hotel industry and online marketing. His writing has appeared in The Times of Israel, The Huffington Post, The Jerusalem Post, The Oslo Times, and Israel Insider. He is the author of The Virtual Kibbutz and Valley of Thracians. Shuman lived for two years in Sofia, Bulgaria, and today resides with his wife, children, and grandchildren on Moshav Neve Ilan, outside Jerusalem.