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.