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?

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