Friday, January 26, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Steve DeWinter, Author of Forgotten Girl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No one gets out alive.

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

You can find Steve here:

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

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

Thursday, January 18, 2018

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

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

The waiter brings their lunch:

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

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

“How do you know its name?”

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

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

“I just know the name.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find Ellis here:

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

Thursday, January 11, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Tony Piazza, Author of Murder is Such Sweet Revenge

Dining with Tom Logan, Hollywood’s Premier Private Investigator

They say an army marches on its stomach. The same could be said about a private detective, especially during these hard times ushered in by the Great Depression. The 1930s was not the best era to be out of work. However, that was exactly my situation after being cashiered out of the Los Angeles Police Department on a trumped-up charge of police brutality. Nevertheless, with some help I was able to get my own private investigation business going in Hollywood, but not without sacrifices.  Times were lean, and I had to cut corners where I can, and that included my meals.

My earlier detective jobs (Murder Will Out) had me munching on hamburgers and sipping on rich, black coffee, usually from some greasy spoon. During the odd times, I would get an opportunity to get a free meal as a perk of my investigation, like during the case where I was protecting a Chinese girl from the mob. Her friends had a restaurant in LA's Chinatown. Here I sat down for a sumptuous lunch of Egg Drop soup with steamed buns, and later a dinner of roasted duck with Mandarin orange sauce, fried rice, and stir-fry vegetables.

Again, a meal like this was an exception. During another case later in 1930 (Anything Short of Murder), it was back to grilled cheese or pastrami sandwiches and five cent Cokes at a local drug store or deli. It wasn’t until a slinky blonde with a million dollar figure and a bank book to match approached me with an offer to protect her from a killer. She had received a note threatening death unless she kept her mouth shut. The trouble was, she had no idea what it was all about. She was a movie actress working on a film. Did she see or hear something she wasn’t supposed to? In any case, that was my job to find out, and with the payola from that case, my dining habits became more in tune with the Vanderbilt’s. How much may you ask?  By the end of the case, I was sitting at the Cocoanut Grove with my special lady enjoying a feast amongst movie actors and the who’s who of Hollywood, all gathered to dance to the scintillating music of The Gus Arnheim Band and listen to a new crooner called Bing Crosby.

Dinners at the Grove didn’t come cheap. An appetizer of lobster cocktail followed by fresh thick turtle Soup, and an entrée of braised northern goose with red cabbage, applesauce, finishing with a dessert of caramel pecan custard pie and coffee could run you as high as four dollars! It was a night to remember.

During the late summer of 1931 (A Murder Amongst Angels) I was sitting pretty thanks to the cash earned in that earlier case. Enough in fact that I was able to get a bigger office, hire a receptionist and start frequenting some better eateries. Places like Musso and Frank’s Grill on Hollywood Boulevard, the Pig N’ Whistle, and the best French dip sandwich west of the Pecos at Philippe’s. This famous sandwich was made of prime-cut roast beef served on a freshly baked French roll which has been dipped in the natural gravy. I usually ordered homemade potato salad, a hard-boiled egg pickled in beet juice, and a large kosher style sour dill and pig’s feet to accompany the sandwich.

In this particular case, a famous movie actress/comedian was found murdered behind a café she had co-owned with her producer, lover. A California style adobe building on the beach in Malibu. It was a classy joint, and as such, attracted the unwanted attention of a big mob boss who wanted to turn the third-floor storage area into a casino. She wasn’t interested, and this may have been the ticket to her demise… or was it?

By 1933 life had changed for me (Murder is Such Sweet Revenge). I found myself with a new wife and a Cocker Spaniel, and it was off with the two of them on a honeymoon that we were likely never to forget. We’d booked a suite at a Victorian beachfront hotel on Coronado Island. First, there was a storm that left us isolated, then murder, which the management coerced me into investigating. It was indeed no way to spend a honeymoon. There were distractions galore, including a nosey woman mystery writer and a resident ghost who haunted the halls of this establishment.

The hotel, however, did have its benefits. Like the Crown Room, where my bride and I enjoyed our meals. For example, at dinner, I began with a shrimp cocktail followed by a consommé royal soup, hearts of iceberg lettuce sprinkled with French dressing, and for my entrée, Supreme of Halibut in caviar sauce accompanied by California asparagus and whipped potatoes.

By the end of our ruined honeymoon we were given a chance for a “do-over.” A stay at the honeymoon suite at the El Tovar on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. The dining room menu caught my eye, and one particular entrée caught my fancy. A hand-cut grilled natural Black Angus New York Strip Steak topped with a smoked mushroom compote, served with roasted fingerling potatoes and seasoned vegetables. But, alas, dinner may have to wait. I’d like to deck the clown who’d said that lightning doesn’t strike the same place twice. A person was discovered dead, lying on a ledge along the canyon wall, and guess who the management approached to see how it got there.

So, it’s time to tighten my belt, for dinner’s going to be late, because I’ve got a crime to solve!

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

Friday, January 5, 2018

FOODFIC: Reading Menu for the New Year!

Okay, the book stack by my bed is now officially making it hard to navigate my side of the room, so my New Year's Resolution MUST be to read it down. In the spirit of staying reasonable (and with the admission that several of the titles were on LAST year's list), I have moved 10 tomes to the top. 

So this is what I will be reading in 2018, come Hell or high comforter:

Please let me know what's on YOUR 2018 TBR list!