Thursday, October 18, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome John FD Taff, Author of Little Black Spots

Food for though, huh?  Listen, I'm an author who's fat.  Or perhaps I'm a fat man who happens to be an author.  Whichever.  But I will acknowledge that food plays an important role in my life, probably too important a role.  And as with many parts of my life, my love for food plays an important role in my writing.  I spend some time in many of my works talking about what the characters eat and drink.  I'll talk about a few of them with you.

In my short story "Shug," appearing in the anthology Shadows Over Main Street 2, the setting is a farm in the years right after World War II.  The main character, Vesta, has lost her husband in that conflict and lets the farm fall into decrepitude.  Along comes Shug, and he helps her get the place back into shape so that he can plant some…well, you'll have to read the story to find out exactly what he plants.  But there are plenty of scenes of eating, all good, 1950s farmhouse stuff—fried chicken and mashed potatoes, split pea soup, okra and plenty of vegetables right out of the garden, strong coffee, bacon and eggs.  She even makes a strawberry cake with boiled icing, just like my grandmother used to make.

But food figures even more prominently in two of my other stories.  And here's where it's vital you understand that I am a horror writer, and these stories might be (should be!) disturbing.  The first we'll talk about is "The Mellified Man," which appears in my collection Little Deaths: The Definitive Edition.  The story concerns sweets.  Candy.  I wrote it with my brother Robert in mind.  He had a notorious sweet tooth growing up, and I wanted to explore the idea that a sweet tooth could get you into plenty of trouble.

I'd read somewhere about this concept of a mellified man.  In either ancient Arabic or Chinese medicine (I can't remember which), there was a sort of legendary practice of steeping a dead body in honey for a long, long time until the honey saturated the flesh.  This honey-steeped corpse was then cut into small pieces and doled out to people suffering from various maladies.  To eat.  Let me emphasize this point: patients were given chunks of a dead person's honey-macerated flesh to eat.  Yum.  Or not.

A more recent story of mine is called "Purple Soda Hand."  It appears in my latest collection Little Black Spots.  I wrote the story for bestselling author Josh Malerman.  I had this image of an unlabeled bottle of grape soda found by a kid on a hot day.  Sealed tightly, its cap unbroken, it lay on the side of the road.  No label.  But, man, did it look refreshing.  So, the kid unadvisedly cracks the soda open and take a few healthy swigs.  It's the most delicious, grapey grape soda he's ever tasted.

The problem is—and isn’t there always a problem with these things?—that there's also a tiny, amputated human hand in the soda bottle, too.  Does this change his mind about drinking more of the soda?  Would it with you?  You'll have to read the story to figure out what happens.  But I can assure you, it's not good.

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

You can find John here:

Thursday, October 11, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Beth Kander, Author of Original Syn

Dishing It Out, Dystopian-Style

Original Syn is a dystopian epic where our world has become totally unrecognizable… or maybe not so much, if we just squint a little. Fifty years after an epic event called the Singularity, the entire world is divided into just two categories: The powerful, age-defying Syns ("synthetic citizens," human-computer hybrids with extraordinary enhancements) and the dying, oppressed Originals (those who did not merge their bodies with machines). A decades-long war between Original and Syn is almost at an end, because after an attack on their reproductive systems, the Originals are on the verge of extinction.

But then Ere, one of the world’s last teenage Originals, meets a beautiful, powerful Syn girl called Ever, and suddenly questions everything he’s ever been told about his lifelong enemies. Meanwhile Ever realizes there’s a dark side to the world she’s always taken for granted. And unbeknownst to either of these star-crossed lovers, there’s a revolution at hand…

Okay—but what are they eating?!

In the Originals’ world, food isn’t glamorous. They eat canned goods and whatever they can find and forage. But gathering water and preparing and eating food brings them together, uniting them even when the meals themselves are nothing special.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, the Syns can eat anything they like. Food, as with everything else, is something they can stockpile and perfect and enjoy… but as with so many other things, having hoarded all of the resources doesn’t always turn to joyful ends. With the ability to eat anything at all, selective withholding of food or manipulation of menus becomes a tool of domestic warfare for Syns at odds with one another. Take Marilyn Hess, wife of the most powerful man of the Syn world, ageless and privileged but constantly feeling victimized, overlooked, and powerless. She’s always at odds with both her husband, Dr. Felix Hess, and her daughter, Ever (who has been seventeen for fifty years, so you can imagine the drama). Marilyn can’t go up against her husband—at least, not yet. But she can find small ways to torture her daughter, and food is one of the ways she does so, as in this scene:

     “Mrs. Hess?” Angela is standing in the doorway, drying her hands on her apron. “I got the message about Ever, coming back. Shall I fix something for dinner she’ll like? Greek, maybe? I have some grape leaves. Maybe some dolmas would be nice. She loves my dolmas. If it’s something she likes, maybe she’ll eat.”
     Marilyn takes another slow, punitive sip as she considers Angela’s words. Then she sets down the cursed cup, knowing Angela will clear it away for her. She stands, smoothing the invisible wrinkles from her dark, form-fitting dress, and shakes her head, as if making a regrettable but necessary decision. 
     “I’ve been craving salad nicoise. Make that for tonight.”
     “Salad nicoise?”
     “Salad nicoise,” Marilyn says firmly.
     Both women know how much Ever despises salad nicoise. Selecting it for dinner is an easy way to rile the girl, to make Marilyn’s anger evident, right on the plate. Ever will refuse to eat, giving Marilyn an excuse to chastise her, and the endless cold war will continue.
     “If that’s what you want,” Angela says carefully.
     “It is,” Marilyn snaps. “And this coffee is terrible.” 

Even in a world of advanced technology and big ideas, details matter. Food can still unite or divide us, depending on what we have and how we choose to share or deny it. For more dystopian drama – and food feuds – check out Original Syn, now available wherever books are sold.

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

You can visit Beth here:

Friday, October 5, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Barbara Stark-Nemon, Author of Hard Cider

Why Hard Cider?
By Barbara Stark-Nemon

Several lifetimes ago, at the beginning of a career and the end of a marriage, I spent a year living in England. I worked at my first job as a speech and language therapist, and teacher of English as a Second Language at the American Community School in London.  At 27 I had taught English for two years in America, then gone to graduate school.  I had traveled to Europe several times, and even studied in Austria for a summer, but I’d never lived and worked outside the 50 mile radius of where I’d been born, grew up, attended university.

I worked hard all week, but on weekends I explored London and then traveled farther afield.  I loved the culture of pub life in big cities and small hamlets.  Nothing ever seemed to taste as good as a ploughman’s lunch after a morning’s country walk. Thick slabs of local cheese slathered with chutney or mustard, piled with butter lettuce and tomato and sweet pickle on a crusty roll. I never tired of trying each pub’s variations.  My only problem was that I was raised on German and American beer, and just couldn’t get used to English ale. Casting about for another local drink, I started to notice hard apple ciders on menus.  All I knew about apple cider was that I had enjoyed the sweet fruity juices accompanied by donuts from the local cider mill in the autumns of my childhood in Michigan.  But here was a sparkling drink made from apples and fermented somehow to produce a variety of sweet to dry drinks capable of packing a serious alcoholic punch.

I had become a gardener by then, and I can’t imagine a better country to learn about gardens and landscapes than England.  Many of my weekend and vacation sojourns included places with formal gardens and orchards.  Among the most memorable were times spent in Somerset and Devon.  There the apple growing industry is both longstanding and historically interesting, not to mention filled with the beauty of orderly orchards, quaint villages, and a pub on every corner.  It’s where I cut my hard cider chops, and began my fascination with the drink and its production.

Fast forward 30 years- a long satisfying career, a different marriage and a family and a cementing of that interest in growing things. I became a Master Gardener through a university extension service in cooperation with our local county. As a family, we’d begun to explore the northern lake country in the northwest corner of Michigan’s lower peninsula as a regular vacation destination.  Lo and behold, in addition to having the most drop dead beautiful forest and lakeshore, the area is known for its orchards, and vineyards.  Add the last ingredient. I was given a copy of Michael Pollans’ The Botany of Desire, The alchemy of tracing the history of certain plants and their impact on the humans whose destinies the plants determined worked its magic on me and my developing novel, and provided the inspiration for Hard Cider’s major subplot.

Then came the research. I reviewed the sections of my master gardener training having to do with fruit tree growing and maintenance.  I’d begun to hear about the burgeoning hard cider industry in the U.S. I knew that Prohibition and later the commercial beer industry had usurped the prominent place of home brewed cider that dated back to colonial times in this country.  But hard cider was experiencing a renaissance and I read the new bible, Cider Hard and Sweet, by Ben Watson. I then explored local orchards and cider makers in Michigan, and leading apple growers and cider makers in New Hampshire and Vermont.  The people who know it best were kind enough to let me interview them and tag along on a tour and a cider pressing.  Needless to say, I tasted a lot of excellent cider! (See below for a list of a few of my favorites and where I found them..)

My main character in Hard Cider, Abbie Rose, embarks on her dream of producing hard apple cider along the shores of the dunes and lake that she loves in northern Michigan.  She learns as I did, and writing Abbie’s scenes in the orchards and cider making facilities were some of the most enjoyable writing I did in the book. And yes, I may have once wanted to get into the cider business myself.  But writing Abbie through the achievement of her dream is a close second!

Cider Favorites:
From Tandem Ciders in Suttons Bay, MI, I love Farmhouse, Smackin-tosh and Pretty Penny
From Taproot Cider House, Traverse City, MI - Northern Natural Lavender or Elderberry
From Farnum Hill Ciders  in Lebanon, NH, try Farnum Hill Semi-Dry (Sparkling)

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

You can find Barbara here:

Barbara Stark-Nemon is the author of the novel Hard Cider, just released by She Writes Press, as well as the award-winning first novel, Even in Darkness. She lives, writes, cycles, swims, does fiber art, and gardens in Ann Arbor and Northport, Michigan. After earning her undergraduate degree in English Literature and Art History and a Masters in Speech-language Pathology from the University of Michigan, Barbara enjoyed a teaching and clinical career working with deaf children. Barbara writes novels, short stories, and essays. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Mary Strand, Author of Livin' La Vida Bennet

Lydia Bennet, the youngest (by six minutes) of five sisters who had the terrible misfortune to be named after the five Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice, stars in the fourth and last book of my modern-day Bennet Sisters YA series: Livin’ La Vida Bennet.

Freshly sprung from a year’s stay at reform school, Lydia is tough, unpredictable, and shocked at both her return to her old life and the fact that her old life no longer really exists. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her but gets a kick out of living down to everyone’s expectations of her.

Food-wise? She’s a senior in high school in Woodbury, Minnesota, her mom is the world’s worst cook, and no one else in the family bothers. So she’s stuck with cafeteria food, takeout, and eating at the Mall of America and other local hangouts.

One interesting writing aspect of my YA series: making each of the five sisters act and sound different in every way possible. Even the twins, Lydia and Cat, are different in myriad ways: for one thing, Cat is a vegetarian and Lydia loves meat, meat, and occasionally seafood. (I’m with Lydia on this.)

Lydia is also the only sister fierce enough to stand up to their sister Liz. Although it’s a new experience for Liz, she gets a kick out of it. In this excerpt from Lydia’s book, Liz calls Lydia on a dull Friday night, inviting her to grab dinner with Liz and their sister Jane.

     “Join us. We were going out for Chinese first, but we could do burgers or pizza.” She mumbled something to someone else, probably Jane, before getting back to me. “Jane doesn’t care as long as she gets Cold Stone ice cream for dessert, even though I pointed out that Milk Duds during the movie are the only dessert a girl needs. Am I right?”
     “No.” As usual. “It’s all about the popcorn.”
     “Another thing you have in common with Jane.”
     Wrong again. I had nothing in common with Jane, the world’s most perfect girl, and not just from a parent’s perspective. If it weren’t for the fact that she never tried to bug me, unlike Liz, I might even find her annoying.
     “Whatever. Hey, I’m at the Mall of America.” I might as well admit it. Knowing Dad, he’d installed a GPS tracker on the Jeep. “Why don’t we catch dinner and a movie here?”
     More background mumbling before Liz spoke into the phone. “Meet you in twenty minutes at Chipotle?”
     “No, Kokomo’s. Across from Cold Stone.”
     “Chipotle is close to Cold Stone, too.”
     “Good. You can wave to Chipotle from our table at Kokomo’s.”
     Liz actually laughed, surprising me. “I’d argue, but Kokomo’s is Jane’s first choice, too. Luckily for both of you, they have a wicked chocolate cake for dessert.”
     “I thought you planned to eat Milk Duds for dessert.”
     “That was before I knew we were eating at Kokomo’s. I try to be flexible.”

Now you know where I usually eat at the Mall of America: Chipotle, Cold Stone, and occasionally Kokomo’s. Oh, and Milk Duds during a movie are the only dessert a girl needs.

Besides the Mall of America and a made-up pizza joint in Woodbury, there’s also a Dairy Queen where I often sent the Bennet sisters. (In case you think you now know all about where I like to eat, at least when I’m not at the Mall of America, I’m actually a Five Guys and Punch Pizza girl!) Lydia and Liz can’t even agree on Dilly bars: Liz loves cherry, Lydia chocolate.

To my surprise, I wound up really identifying with Lydia in this book. But when it comes to cherry vs. chocolate Dilly bars, I’m with Liz all the way.

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

You can find Mary here:

Thursday, September 20, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Sheryl Steines, Author of Black Market

Realism, Make Believe and Deciding What They’ll Eat for Dinner

As a writer, the joy of writing Urban Fantasy is in creating new worlds. While we can make things up for the fun of it, the real success in making the world believable is thinking through each detail no matter how mundane, whether it’s the clothing the characters wear, the language they speak or the food they eat.

I had very clear goals for my Wizard Hall Chronicles series. I was after realism, to have the reader suspend their disbelief and accept the world with magic as fact, at least for an afternoon.

In Black Market, Annie Pearce is a wizard guard, a magical police officer. Her career offers some familiarity in the magical world, as there’s a level of government and law and order. However, she fights magical crimes, chases demons, vampires, and evil wizards; mixes potions and uses crystals to scry for suspects and discover magical trace evidence.

To drive the realism home, Annie Pearce and her fellow wizard guards dress in modern fashion, (unless attending traditional magical functions), live in non-magical neighborhoods, speak the languages of the countries in which they live, roam through Chicago’s landmarks and yes, they eat what we eat. Annie grills steaks, eats salad, drinks coffee and eats greasy sausage sandwiches from the restaurant around the block.

While I sprinkle traditional wizard elements like clothing, magical history, spells and potions throughout my series, I made a conscious choice about food when I imagined what the world would be like if magic existed. It’s no different than the choice JK Rowling made in Harry Potter when characters drink pumpkin juice and butterbeer, and eat chocolate frogs that hop from the package. In Star Wars they drink blue bantha milk and in Star Trek, the food from the replicator is colorful, irregular blobs of foam rubber. These creators wanted the reader and viewer to believe their make believe worlds were completely separate from the “real” world.

I however, want the magical and non-magical worlds to have a delicate co-existence, dependent on each other.  One of the recurring themes in my series is the fear of exposure and the necessity to keep magic hidden. To do that my characters blend in, and have become in so many ways, just like their non-magical neighbors, only they have amazing, magical gifts.

So yes, my food choices may seem standard and boring, however, in my defense, they’re crafted and conjured by elves, fairies and witches, sometimes by scratch and sometimes with magic.

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

You can find Sheryl here:

As a self-proclaimed television junkie and an avid reader, Sheryl Steines writes what she loves. From the character/relationship story from one of her writing inspirations (Judy Blume), to the fantastical world of magic and mayhem in another inspiration (J.K. Rowling), to the strong female character of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Sheryl uses the world of magic and mystery, mashed with a bit of detective work, to weave a story of women who face challenges, overcoming them with dignity and honesty, using her own challenges as inspiration.

Sheryl has written two books in her Wizard Hall Chronicles series (The Day of First Sun and Black Market) and working on a new series, The Empaths (Gracie Madison Feels the World). Both series introduce the reader to young women battling demons of the supernatural kind and the personal kind, each fighting to find their way.

Sheryl Steines has been writing since she was seven years old, since she picked up her first Nancy Drew novel and hasn’t stopped. When she’s not reading or writing, she can be found tooling around in her convertible, supporting causes and raising her kids, dealing with extra ordinary challenges. 

Thursday, September 13, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Back Laurie Boris, Author of The Call

Living the Dream; Eating on the Cheap

Life isn’t easy for anyone chasing the professional baseball dream. It especially isn’t easy for minor league umpires. In my novel The Call, Margie Oblonsky gets her start in the minors as an umpire in the early 1980s. Aside from the challenges of being one of the first women behind the mask, low pay and constant travel means cheap food, as Margie can find it.

Fortunately, her family has always been humble, so she’s thankful for whatever’s on the table—usually Mom’s hamburger casserole or spaghetti and meatballs with homemade marinara. Luxury was steaks on the grill and ice cream for dessert. This is what Margie dreams of when she’s on the road. This is what brings her comfort when she visits her mother during the winter, during the long, nail-biting months while she’s waiting to see if she’ll still have a job in the spring.

During the season, she makes do with mac and cheese, ramen noodles, and maybe a burger or the daily special at a diner. She takes full advantage of dollar beer night, hunting all her pockets for spare change.

Even when she goes on a date that’s not a date, because he’s a player and she’s not supposed to fraternize with players, Margie picks the cheapest pizza joint in town:

Fussy fancy restaurants made Margie itch. She never knew which fork to use, and sometimes she knocked over water glasses and couldn’t pronounce the dishes on the menu. She didn’t want Dan spending that much on her. Since it couldn’t be a real date, anyway. Nobody went to this place on real dates. If anyone saw them in there, they’d think nothing of it. A couple friends grabbing a slice. So why had she worn her best underwear?

After the toughest season of her career, Margie can’t wait to get home. She doesn’t want to talk to the reporter who’s been a thorn in her side since she started. Who just happens to show up at the house, right before one of those steak dinners. He thinks doing a feature story on “the lady ump” might be good for her image. Her mother sort of agrees. So begrudgingly, Margie invites him to stay.

She never thought the sound of three people eating could be so loud. Her mother bit into her corn in a way that set Margie’s nerves on edge.

“Thank you for dinner, Mrs. Oblonsky,” he said. “Best steak I’ve had in years.”

Margie eyeballed him. Like he never had steak in New York, among all those sports guys he rubbed elbows with. They probably lived on steak. She would, if she had the money.

“It’s the marinating,” Margie’s mother said. “A little teriyaki sauce, a little lemon…easy-peasy. I could write it down for you.”

Maybe one day Margie will dine on steak every night. But for now, she’s biding her time and pinching her pennies. Because everyone on the field is living the dream.

Thanks for stopping by to share your food for thought again, Laurie!

You can find Laurie here:

Thursday, September 6, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Deanna Sletten, Author of Miss Etta

Good Old-Time Homestyle Cooking 

With a novel set during the years of 1895 to 1912, you can expect that the characters would eat simple, homestyle cooking. That is the case with my new novel, Miss Etta. The main character, Emily Pleasants, has lived two separate lives. Her current life (1911) as Emily, a small-town schoolteacher, and her past life as Etta Place, the wife of the famous outlaw, the Sundance Kid. She’s dined on rabbit, fish, and venison while living on the run, and she’s also dined in the finest restaurants in San Antonio, New Orleans, New York City, and Buenos Aires. She’s also enjoyed the most basic and delicious foods in a homestyle restaurant in her new town of Pine Creek, Minnesota.

While with Sundance and Butch Cassidy in Robbers’ Roost the winter of 1896, the group celebrated Christmas with a meal of venison steaks, potatoes, gravy, and green beans. In 1911, celebrating Christmas with her new friends in Pine Creek, they dined on roast duck, sweet potatoes, glazed carrots and pumpkin pie for dessert.

In her new life in Pine Creek, Emily eats daily at Evy’s Restaurant enjoying a variety of foods made by the warm, friendly Evy Townsend. Breakfasts consist of eggs, bacon, fried potatoes, biscuits, and strong coffee or tea. Dinners are roast beef, ham, or chicken, potatoes, a variety of vegetables, and often homemade apple pie.

During the story, Emily helps a friend who is very sick during her pregnancy. Emily makes her a special tea with ginger root and brings her muffins sprinkled with cinnamon to help alleviate her morning sickness. Before modern medicines, herbs, spices, and food were often used as remedies for illness. Emily uses this knowledge to help her friend.

While visiting old friends at Hole-in-the-Wall in Wyoming, Etta enjoys a delicious steak dinner (they raise beef cattle) and fresh carrots and potatoes. Potatoes were a staple in those days. They filled a person up and were inexpensive—or free if you grew them yourself.

In Miss Etta, we follow Emily Pleasants in her new life in 1911, but also see her past life through flashbacks from 1895 to 1908. She lived in a time when meals were simple, yet she sometimes also lived a high life enjoying the best cuisine. I invite you to follow Miss Etta on her journey in the past and see what becomes of the elusive Etta Place.

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

You can find Deanna here:

Deanna Lynn Sletten is the author of  Maggie's Turn, Finding Libbie, One Wrong Turn, Night Music, and several other titles. She writes heartwarming women’s fiction and romance novels with unforgettable characters. She has also written one middle-grade novel that takes you on the adventure of a lifetime. Deanna believes in fate, destiny, love at first sight, soul mates, second chances, and happily ever after, and her novels reflect that.

Miss Etta: A Novel

Historical Women’s Fiction
Release Date: September 4, 2018

Book Description:

She rode with the most famous outlaws of her time. Then she vanished.

In the fall of 1895, Etta Place falls in love with Harry Longabaugh, alias the Sundance Kid. She gives up everything to follow him and his partner-in-crime, Butch Cassidy, in their outlaw life across the continent and beyond. Breathtakingly beautiful and every inch a lady, Etta can also ride and shoot as well as any man. As their fugitive life begins to crumble, she finds herself alone and living in a convent with her newborn son. Knowing she can’t hide away forever, she moves halfway across the country to begin anew. Etta prays her past won’t catch up with her.

In 1911 Emily Pleasants steps onto the train station platform of Pine Creek, Minnesota with a teacher’s contract in hand and a secret life she’s fled. A young widow with a small son, she’s searching for a safe place to raise her child where no one will recognize her. She meets Edward Sheridan, a successful merchant and bank owner, who quickly falls for her beauty, intelligence, and kindness. Still, she worries her notorious past will threaten the one thing dearest to her—her son. 

From the deserts of Texas to the sweeping vistas of Wyoming, the refinement of New York City to the lush valleys of Argentina, Etta followed the outlaw men she loved so dearly. And then, she disappeared. 

One woman, two separate lives. What became of the elusive Etta Place?

Available at these online stores:

Amazon Kindle:

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Apple iBooks:

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Thursday, August 30, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Jolene Stockman, Author of The Jelly Bean Crisis

The author is generously giving away FIVE ecopies of this novel for Kindles!
Enter to win the random drawing by commenting on this post below.

How do you eat your jelly beans? Randomly? The best ones first? Or last?

Poppy has a system. She arranges her jelly beans by color and flavor, then eats them in order: saving the best for last. It’s how she eats her jelly beans, and it’s how she lives her life. Until now.

My contemporary YA fiction, The Jelly Bean Crisis, follows a straight-A student who pulls out of school for 30 days to try and find her true passion.

Whether you’re sixteen or sixty, the world is full of possibilities. I love the idea of taking a time-out to redefine what happiness is for you. And then going for it!


I’d used jelly beans to make decisions since my tenth birthday. My uncle in New York sent me a huge bag full of them, and a matching birthday card. The colors bounced off each other; reds, greens, whites, oranges. Before eating a single one, I spread them all out on the kitchen table, arranging them into candy pictures. Jelly bean mosaics of flowers, birds, and spirals. Then a rainbow, thick with each color: red, orange, yellow, green… and once the flavors were separated I could breathe them in, one at a time. Vanilla, raspberry, lime. So beautiful that I couldn’t suck in my breath long enough.

Finally, I began tasting them all. Learning the flavors, choosing my favorites. The best jelly beans were red, definitely red. The orange ones were so-so, like blues and whites – good for chewing on, but not as delicious as cherry red. The greens were the yucky ones, so I quickly siphoned them off into their own pile. That way, when Mom instructed me to share with my little brother, I would angelically allocate Tyler a handful of greens. He would grin, and gobble them greedily. I loved that he was unknowingly eating my scraps.

After I ate all the red jelly beans, the purple grape ones were the next best. Then pink, then orange, blue and white. After that, black, then yellow and green. It was like my own personalized rainbow. As the days went on, and I worked my way through the bag, it became more depressing. With all my favorite jelly beans gone, there were just yellow and green left. They sat in the bottom of the bag, on a shelf in my room, taunting me. I wished I’d left a red one for the end, or even a pink. Something to take the edge off.

Dad found me moping and was quick to cut in, “Stop that pouting, Poppy. You should’ve left some red ones for the end. You’ll just have to remember to do that next time.”

And that’s when I decided on the Jelly Bean Theory: Jelly beans have reputations. The pink ones are better than the green ones, the purple ones are better than the yellow ones, and the red ones taste the best. So, save the red ones for last. If you eat the best ones first, there’s nothing but green and yellow in your future. You should build on the flavors, knowing that they’re only going to get better and better.

I wondered if the theory would work on other things, so I tested it out that night. Mom made her cheesy chicken parmigiana, with golden potatoes, and baby peas. Normally, I would jump right into the chicken first, cutting up a perfect triangle of moist meat, and smothering it with bright red sauce. Then, after I’d finished the chicken, I would push the peas around, forcing them down one by one. Finally I’d give up and bury them underneath the potatoes. So, that night, I ate my meal Jelly Bean Theory style: baby peas first (green jelly beans), followed by potatoes (oranges, blues, and whites), finishing with cheesy chicken deliciousness (red jelly beans!). Eating my food this way made the whole experience different. Suddenly, the peas weren’t so bad. Because I knew that eating them brought me closer to the chicken. Then, when I ate the chicken, I could enjoy it completely because I didn’t have to feel guilty about the upcoming peas.

Turns out the Jelly Bean Theory worked on a lot of things. I started brushing my teeth before letting myself read at night, I would finish my homework before watching TV. The theory has worked for home, and for school… but now, standing at the podium, I can’t see how it’s worked for me.

For me, food tastes different depending on the order I eat it (it’s the whole delayed gratification thing :)). Candy is big in my world, and big in my writing – it’s all about little things that bring you joy!

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

You can find Jolene here:

Jolene Stockman is an ultra-enthusiastic, multi-award winning writer from New Zealand. She is the author of three young adult books: Total Blueprint for World Domination, The Jelly Bean Crisis, and Jawbreaker. She is driven by themes of identity, neurodiversity, and world domination!

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 CafĂ© 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

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:

BONE MUSIC: The Legend of Genghis Khan by Katherine Roberts
is published by Greystones Press:

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: