Monday, December 31, 2018

FOODFIC: Book Menu for 2019

Aaand maybe some old ones, too. ;)

No, I didn't fulfill my 2018 Reading Resolution, but that won't stop me from creating a new menu for the new year!

Here's the jist of what I ordered, finished, and left on the table:

STATUS: Started, Didn't Finish
STATUS: Never Started

STATUS: Started, Didn't Finish

STATUS:Started, Didn't Finish

STATUS: Never Started

STATUS: Finished!

STATUS: Finished!

STATUS: Never Started

So I'm going to keep those undigested reads on my list for 2019, as well as add these tasty new morsels:

People Kill People – Ellen Hopkins

Rich People Problems – Kevin Kwan

Her Fearful Symmetry – Audrey Niffenegger

The Friendship Test – Elizabeth Noble

Please let me know what's on your 2019 book menu,
and good luck to us all in our reading endeavors!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Rose Montague, Author of JADE

About 6 years ago I was working at BAM and developed some back problems. It caused me to wake up in the middle of the night and I would make some coffee and sit at the computer for several hours, waiting for the pain to die down so I could go back to bed. It was so quiet! I finally decided to put that quiet time to good use by writing my first book. I had written a few stories when I was a teenager then life got in the way and I just didn't come back to it. I have always loved books and working at both a library and a book store just fed that passion. The first book I wrote was Jade. It was rough and ragged and pretty silly but overall it was a great story with a lot of action and plenty of humor. Jade was a mix of supernatural creatures and because of that there were only a few things her stomach could handle. If you did a word search of Jade you would find coffee mentioned twenty times, espresso eleven, chocolate thirteen times, and wine thirty-nine (Too funny). I have always loved reading books featuring strong female characters and the three main characters in Jade would all eventually have their own book.

As I was writing Jane, I introduced a young teen witch named Jewel and my beta reader Hans Markus told me he would love to see more of her. I decided to do a teen series spin-off at that time and actually wrote and published two books in the Norma Jean's School of Witchery series before I went back and wrote book three in my first series (Jill). I love reading young adult books that feature kick-butt female leads. The only thing that bugs me sometimes is the indecision and lack of confidence they sometimes display. You won't find that with Jewel.

I hope you take a look! There is also a Facebook event running now through December 24:

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

You can find Rose here:
Twitter @RoseMontague
Facebook Fan Page
Books on Amazon

Rose has worked both in a library as well as several bookstores. Rose lives in Elon, NC and is currently working on a Sci-Fi/Urban Fantasy book called Wiznewski James.

My Goal: To have fun writing fun books to read.
My Writing Style: Not much pretty prose or flowery fluffiness, pretty much non-stop action and fun.
My Dream: To be able to write full time.

Reading Order: The chronological order is Jade, Jane, & Jill, followed by the Norma Jean's School of Witchery series, Jewel and Ghost School. Jill bridges the gap between the Three J'Amigos and Norma Jean's School of Witchery. The way I have written these books, however, you can start with Jewel & Ghost School and then read the Three J'amigos series to get the back story on Jewel's adoptive parents, Jade & Jane as well as her Godmother, Jill.

Friday, December 14, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Gayle Trent, Author of Killer Wedding Cake

Daphne Martin is a cake decorator with an enormous problem in Killer Wedding Cake - her oven is on the fritz. With her mind consumed with finding somewhere else to do the baking for her business, she isn’t very concerned with eating. When her sister Violet agrees to let Daphne commandeer her oven, Daphne orders pizza and breadsticks to feed herself and Violet’s family of four.

Still feeling guilty for taking over Violet’s kitchen, Daphne awakes early the next morning to make breakfast. Eyes lighting up at the sight of pancakes, Daphne’s nephew Lucas hugs her and invites her to move right on in. Besides pancakes, she prepares eggs, toast, and sausage—plenty of comfort food for the baker who’s not only dealing with a broken oven but also with the return of her abusive ex-husband…the week before her wedding! Oh, and did I mention that the night after he visited Daphne, her ex was found murdered?

When Daphne’s family arrives to help, and Daphne realizes the wedding planner she hired is a con man, her meddlesome mother only manages to ratchet up Daphne’s stress level. Desperate to escape her house, Daphne asks her fiancĂ© to take her to the store to buy cocoa. At the grocery store, Daphne and Ben buy the not-really-needed cocoa along with steaks, potatoes, macaroni, rolls, tomatoes, and bagged salad.

As you can imagine, our girl is under a world of stress. She eats a lot of comfort food throughout Killer Wedding Cake. If the holidays have you on edge and you’d like to make and eat a little comfort food of your own, below is a yummy recipe for chocolate pistachio cake you might enjoy.

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

You can find Gayle here:

Chocolate Pistachio Cake


1 pkg. white or yellow cake mix
1 pkg. pistachio pudding mix
½ cup orange juice
½ cup water
4 eggs
½ cup oil
¾ cup chocolate syrup


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Combine cake mix, pistachio pudding mix, orange juice, water, eggs, and oil in large mixing bowl. Blend to moisten and then beat for two minutes at medium speed with electric mixer.

Pour approximately ¾ batter into well-greased and floured Bundt or tube pan. Add chocolate syrup to remaining batter. Mix well. Pour over batter in pan.

Bake for about one hour.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Francesca Varela, Author of The Seas of Distant Stars

But What Are They Eating on Deeyae?

My science-fiction novel, The Seas of Distant Stars, tells the story of a human girl—Agapanthus—who’s abducted by aliens and grows up on Deeyae, a red-rocked, watery planet in another solar system.

It may not have the same name in real life, but Deeyae is a real planet. It bears the stoic title of Gliese-667Cc, and it’s known to scientists as an Earth-like exoplanet. That means it’s close to its home star, and could potentially harbor liquid water—and complex life—on its surface.

Gliese-667Cc revolves around a red dwarf star (named Imn in my book), which tinges everything on the planet with a pink-red glow. Red dwarf stars aren’t as warm or as bright as yellow giants like Earth’s sun, so I imagined that life wouldn’t be based around a sun-fed food chain.

Here on Earth, everything starts with plants, but, on Deeyae, the food chain revolves around hydrothermal vents, and the so-called “extremophile” bacteria who thrive in such environments. From there on, each step of the food chain is carnivorous. Aside from seaweed-like water plants, there’s no vegetation on Deeyae. And, because of that, all meat is eaten raw, even by the sophisticated and human-like Deeyans who Agapanthus is raised by. I mean, think about it—no plants, no trees, no wood, no fire.

Blobs of raw meat are the main fare on Deeyae. Much of it comes from the “asasd fish” raised in the fisheries, while some comes from the monstrous “red-breasted spers” and “w’rrs” that are hunted in the inner plains. Deeyae is home to many different species, and the Deeyans are undeniably at the top of the food chain. Agapanthus is lucky that she was brought from Earth as a toddler and doesn’t remember her home planet, because, by Earth standards, Deeyan food is disgusting!

Maybe someday we’ll know if Gliese-667Cc/Deeyae is anything like I’ve imagined. But, for now, it remains science-fiction, and the strange and exciting setting of The Seas of Distant Stars, available now wherever books are sold.

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

You can find Francesca here:


Friday, November 30, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Clayton Smith, Author of APOCALYPTICON

In Post-Apocalypticon, the world ended six years ago, and no one was prepared. The Flying Monkey bombs came out of nowhere, and boy, it’s a hard fact of life that the apocalypse brought a whole host of problems: roving marauders, trigger happy survivalists, strange and life-threatening weather patterns, the occasional flesh-hungry zombie. In the face of such ever-present danger, it can be easy to view food as a necessity instead of a culinary art…but there’s no reason to lose our humanity just because humanity has been completely and totally lost.

But to be clear, humanity has been completely and totally lost.

When it comes to post-apocalyptic mealtime staples, your best bet is obviously going to be beans. Packed with protein and loaded down with preservatives that were once decried as dangerous but now praised as pure brilliance, most canned beans are still good, even now, six years after the end of the world. They’re probably reaching the end of their shelf lives, though, so now’s the time to tuck in! If you have some compromised cans, you might find your beans a little moldy or mealy. If that’s the case, you can brighten them right up with a little bit of ground sassafras root or wild onion. And you can always mush them up with creek water to make a tasteless-but-mostly-nutritious paste! Just make sure the water isn’t from a source that’s been spoiled by death.

Of course, the more enterprising survivors will cultivate their own vegetable farms! This is an especially good option if you happen to come across a carefully protected seed vault, in which case, you’ll almost certainly come up against a bunch of other survivors willing to slit a whole lot of throats to keep the seeds for themselves, so bring your sharpest sticks!

If you do decide to plant your own seeds, you’ll want to pay careful attention to which part of the country you live in. Not everything grows well in every climate! For example, since the Flying Monkeys fell, Florida reaches an average yearly temperature of 68 degrees, while Minnesota only gets up to an average of 64 degrees. That could be the difference between growing beets and growing marginally-less-flavorful beets. Generally speaking, zucchini, tomatoes, and potatoes are reliable crops, but you will want to check your soil for Monkey dust before eating anything that grows from it. If the dust seeps into the soil, it won’t necessarily kill you, but it will almost definitely give your skin a light-greenish hue.

Which is still a pretty small price to pay for not starving to death.

And, of course, if you have no qualms with eating meat, even after watching the zombie hordes tear apart your loved ones with their strangely well-preserved teeth, there are some animal species that seem impervious to the Monkey dust, and are therefore safe to eat. Buffalo, for example, make for a great jerky snack! Tigers are also reputed to be in tip-top shape following the end of the world, but good luck finding one in the wild on this continent. Oh, and domesticated cats also seem particularly resilient where the disease is concerned, but please always remember, you’re supposed to be the hero of your own story, not some ALF-like horror-monster.

When all is said and done, culinary options aren’t quite as plentiful or palatable in the post-apocalyptic world, that’s true. But on the bright side, when literally every single second of every single day is a struggle for survival, flavor takes on a somewhat diminished importance. So peel open those beans, set a trap for that buffalo, and grow those sickly tomatoes, friend! You’ve survived the last six years, so like it or not, it looks like you’re in it for the long haul.

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

You can find Clayton here:

Friday, November 23, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Alan McDermott, Author of Run and Hide

Food was never the first item on the menu when I sat down to write a novel.  Action, yes, intrigue, definitely, but characters taking time out to enjoy a steak at a posh restaurant never really crossed my mind.  The people I wrote about were more comfortable facing enemy fire than perusing the menu of an Italian eatery.  In my first novel, Gray Justice, the closest anyone got to a decent meal was when six members of the SAS got together on a canal barge and sheared sausages, bacon and eggs!  Oh, and there were the endless tins of Spam.  Never forget the Spam!

That changed in my seventh title, Trojan.  It’s a spin-off from my Tom Gray series and features MI5 operatives Andrew Harvey and his girlfriend Sarah Thompson. When not saving the country from terrorists, they like to out-do each other in the kitchen.  Harvey kicks things off with a delicious seafood dish, and Sarah responds with lamb three ways.  I didn’t go into much detail on the preparation (though I do believe one of the ways was a lamb ballotine) because I try not to bog down my work when there’s action and adventure to be had!

My most recent works introduce a new character Eva Driscoll.  She’s a CIA assassin forced rogue to investigate her brother’s murder, and as in the Gray series, she hasn’t got much time for eating.  She does manage to throw a burger and plate of fries down her neck at one point in Run and Hide, but the rest is sandwiches whenever the bullets aren’t flying.  In the sequel, Seek and Destroy, she does get one last hot meal before the big finale, but thankfully she makes up for it in the third book (tentatively titled Crash and Burn).  Steak dinners, lobster, Chinese noodles all come into play as she takes on her nemesis at the ESO and tries to shut down another deadly organisation.

In short, if you want action-packed, fast-paced thrillers, pick up one of my books.  Just be aware that you’ll have to bring your own sandwiches!

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

You can find Alan here:

Friday, November 16, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Nick Cook, Author of Cloud Riders

Jake Stevens is one lucky teenager because his mom, Sue Stevens, runs the famous Twister Diner, the best place for food this side of anywhere and favoured haunt for storm chasers. So what might Sue be serving her patrons that has made her so famous?

A day in Twister Dinner might start with an Eye of the Storm breakfast, a stack of smoked bacon on silky scrambled eggs, with that essential stack of pancakes, the best maple syrup and fresh strawberries on the side, and all arrange in an inverted tornado shape. One of Jake’s favourite meals is his mom’s slow cooked chill with its melt in the mouth meat with just the right hit of spice tang to tickle your taste buds. Then of course to finish there’s the baked cheese cake that storm chasers have been known to cross the state to grab a slice.

Cloud Riders also deals with parallel worlds. In Breaking Storm, Jake journeys to Floating City, a place that’s literally constructed from hundreds of thousands of airships. I had a huge amount of fun creating the ultimate noodle bar, a place called called Ramas. Think steampunk themed restaurant with food delivered to the tables via a pneumatic system and you’ll get the general idea. However, when Jake tries his first ever bowl of Sanfire Noodles, he makes the huge mistake eating the spiced leaf on top of the noodles and that nearly blows off the top of his head! This was actually based on a real life incident… When I visited San Francisco a long time ago, I tried sushi for the very first time. How was I to know that wasabi shouldn’t be eaten like a green been? The look on my colleague’s face was priceless as I swallowed it whole and she too late tried to stop me. As a man who enjoys spicy food I will never forget that intense wasabi heat travelling all the way down to my stomach and burning all the way. Think of that when you’re reading that sequence with Jake!

I always notice references to food in novels and I find it easy to tell if it’s written by someone who actually cooks or not…and just so you know cooking is a huge passion of mine much to the joy of my wife. In stories food is another strand of world building that helps bring texture and bring life to a story. And sometimes food is there for the joy of it. I mean who wouldn’t want to experience a banquet at Hogwarts under a roof with a moving celestial sky on it? Yes, J.K. Rowling definitely cooks!

In my latest Fractured Light trilogy, food once again is there taking a central role at times. Food is life, so why not reflect that in one’s writing? And coffee, there always has to be great coffee!

So to conclude, I do love great food and it seems, having read this back to myself, so do my characters!

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

You can find Nick here:

Thursday, November 1, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Cyndi Tefft, Author of BETWEEN

A blog focused on books and food - brilliant! It’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who notices what characters are eating and drinking.

Between, the first book of my series of the same name, references one of my favorite family dishes: ‘taties and eggs’. The cheesy breakfast scramble becomes something of a link between the present and the past for the main characters, so finds its way onto the page multiple times.

In fact, I even got a request for the recipe, so posted it online for my readers to make at home!

The scene when Lindsey first makes taties and eggs for Aiden takes place in a log cabin, where she’s cooking in an iron skillet on an old-fashioned wood stove. And while I’ve never met an 18th century Scottish Highlander, I can tell you the setting is pulled straight from my memories of a family cabin. Thinking back on it, I can practically smell the sharp tang of the cheddar cheese and taste the buttery, crisp potatoes. Ahhhh… It’s no wonder he falls in love with her (oops- spoiler alert!).

To me, food has a magical quality that can take me back to a place and time, that can make memories come alive, like a song or a scent. It’s a bridge between people, a way to remember your connection with loved ones even when they’re far away. Taties and eggs will always hold a special place in my heart, and if you decide to give the recipe a try, I hope you and your family love it, too!

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

You can find Cyndi here:

Thursday, October 25, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Ann Swann, Author of Stutter Creek

She went looking for an old flame and found a serial killer instead.

When Beth lost her father to cancer and her husband to another woman, she didn’t know where to turn. So she pulled herself together and headed for their old family cabin in the mountains of New Mexico for some comfort and some comfort food at the historic Drugstore CafĂ©.

Like a lot of us when we are hurting, we automatically attempt to retreat to a happier time in our past. For Beth the happiest times were the summers she’d spent at the cabin with her dad, a single parent. She distinctly remembered helping him in the tiny kitchen, chopping vegetables while he cooked. They’d had a very special relationship.

 And then she’d met eighteen-year-old John, her very first crush. She’d thought he would always be there, every summer, but then he had joined the military and disappeared. No way he could be back on the mountain, could he? That had been years earlier.

 She couldn’t wait to find out. Unfortunately, on the way to the cabin—looking forward to a comforting late-night snack of pan-fried toast with a smear of peanut butter and a dab of grape jelly—Beth accidentally crossed paths with a serial killer. Suddenly her trip to the past took a dark turn endangering not only her safety but also the safety of a young boy and a teenage girl. Would they survive, or would her search for comfort lead to the destruction of them all?

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

You can find Ann here:

Ann Swann is the author of numerous romantic suspense novels (and ghost stories) published by 5 Prince Publishing. She has also written several award winning short stories.  Ann lives in West Texas with her husband and their rescue pets.  She loves libraries and book stores and owns two different e-readers just for fun.  Her to-be-read list has grown so large it has taken on a life of its own.  She calls it Herman.

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:

Barnes & Noble Nook:

Apple iBooks:

Google Play:


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!