Thursday, October 28, 2021

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Virginia McCullough, Author of The Jacks of Her Heart

What’s Today’s Special at Jack’s Both Sides Now Café?

If you lived in my fictional town of Capehart Bay, Wisconsin, you wouldn’t let a week go by—or maybe even a day—without treating yourself to a trip to Jack Young’s nostalgia café, Both Sides Now. It’s the only restaurant around where ‘60s and ‘70s music is on the menu. Jack’s open-early/close late café is the heart of the town, and of my novel The Jacks of Her Heart.  

Lorna Lindstrom, widowed for over a year now, has always been a big fan of Jack’s menu, especially the “California Dreamin’ Salad.” Others prefer the crowd pleasing “Wild Thing Burger.” As for dessert, Jack’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door Brownies” melt in your mouth, but many stop in because they crave the “Nights in White Satin Chocolate-Marshmallow Sundae.” 

Lorna knew Jack, at least to wave to, but that changed fast when they end up on the same tropical cruise with a group from town. Jack asks Lorna to dance, and that’s all it took to spark the magic between them. Soon they’re sipping champagne and strolling on the deck in the moonlight… Oops, did they really get married in the Dominican Republic? 

The Jacks of Her Heart is a lighter-side romance with a touch of what I’ve dubbed “middle-age revenge.” Enter the grown kids, two for her, one for him. These three don’t hold back their disapproval. Come on, Mom is a professional organizer and lifestyle coach. Spontaneity isn’t her style—and neither is Jack. As for Jack, his divorce papers are barely dry, and his daughter was counting on Mom and Dad’s blissfully reunion. (She hasn’t been listening to Mom and Dad.) Come to think of it, Jack’s dad and Lorna’s mom aren’t jumping for joy, either. Only Jack’s baby granddaughter doesn’t have an opinion. (Can you tell I love to write multi-generational stories?) 

Through it all, the rollercoaster of disputes, discovering a few hard truths, coping with real family concerns, and many tender moments, Jack’s café is a constant, always offering the comfort and warmth of good coffee and equally terrific food. Even the breakfast fare draws smiles—Jack’s dad rolls his eyes but concedes “A Whiter Shade of Pale Egg White Omelet” isn’t half bad. On the other hand, Lorna goes for the “Mellow Yellow Banana Smoothie.”

Both Sides Now is the best spot in town for people of all ages, including the students from the college down the street, to meet for coffee. (They get a kick out of Jack’s annual Bob Dylan Lookalike Contest, too, and root for their friends who enter.) Almost no one can resist Jack’s famous muffins. Can you guess what kind of muffins match these songs: “Brown-eyed Girl,” “Black Magic Woman,” and “Here Comes the Sun?” 

 Readers often ask where I got the idea for Jacks, and I think it came from having a burger in a ‘50s nostalgia diner that struck me as a little ho hum. Wasn’t it time for an update? Around the same time, Jack and Lorna tapped my shoulder to get my attention. Madly in love, this sandwich generation duo was extremely persistent—and apparently hungry!  

So, enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner at Both Sides Now Café. If you can think of new menu items, I’m all ears. And send me an email and I’ll send you a playlist of the songs used in the book. 

Wait! I almost forgot…how did you do with Jack’s muffin names? Here are the answers: “Brown-eyed Girl” is Raisin Bran; “Black Magic Woman” is Pumpkin-Chocolate Chip; and, “Here Comes the Sun?” is Orange Walnut.  

A toast to good food, good coffee, good music, and books we love! 

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

You can find Virginia here:

Twitter @VEMcCullough

BookBub Listing

Books on Amazon

Virginia McCullough writes romantic women’s fiction (Greta's Grace, Island Healing) and series romance for the Harlequin Heartwarming line. Her seventh Heartwarming novel, The Rancher's Wyoming Twins is scheduled for release in April 2022. Virginia also writes nonfiction books and is a writing coach, editor, and ghostwriter. She currently lives in Green Bay, Wisconsin, where she’s enjoys hanging out with her writer friends and drinking great coffee at local cafés. 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Nina Mansfield, Contributor to Where Crime Never Sleeps

When I think of a trip to the zoo, I think of ice cream. I think of popcorn. I think of hot dogs, and hamburgers, and hot pretzels. I also think of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich I might pack for myself to avoid eating overpriced and unhealthy food.

I think of “Do Not Feed the Animals” signs, which always make me wonder, Aren’t I also an animal? Don’t I need to be fed? And nothing makes me hungrier than strolling around a zoo on a warm spring or summer day, with the sun beating down, trying to see as many exotic animals as I can. There’s usually a moment, long after my water bottle has been drained, when I realize my PB&J won’t be enough. And then I cave into my cravings and get that buttery popcorn that has been calling to me, and maybe, just maybe, follow it up with some soft serve ice cream.

In my short story, “An Act Prepares,” a high school drama teacher takes a group of teenage acting students to the Bronx Zoo, a place where I’ve indulged in many an ice cream cone.

On the bus trip down, the teens eat candy. What is it with kids and candy? How was it that in my youth I could put away a bag of Skittles or M&Ms without the least bit of guilt, or immediate impact to my well-being? Doing so these days, I imagine that both I, and my drama-teacher narrator, Ms. Slutzkaya (pronounced Sloozkaya), would feel just a teensy bit ill.

Toward the end of my story, my characters find themselves waiting in the Dancing Crane Cafe, which is located not far from the flamingos, and just a hop, skip and a jump away from Congo Gorilla Forest and the Butterfly Garden, two other locations featured in the story. While a recent murder might have killed their appetites, maybe a few of my characters would choose to eat something. Items on the menu of the Dancing Crane include chicken tenders (and fries), double cheeseburger (and fries), and two hotdogs (and fries).

My murderer might have ordered a personal pizza.

Ms. Slutzkaya would have opted for the veggie panini. Ok, maybe a double cheese burger. After all, it had been a long day.

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

You can find Nina here:

Twitter @NinaJMansfield

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon


Nina Mansfield is a Connecticut based playwright, fiction writer and educator. Her short mystery fiction has appeared in a variety of publications including Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Mysterical-E,, and anthologized. Her most recent short story, “Windy Willows,” was published in Justice for All, Murder New York Style 5 (Level Best Books, 2021), the anthology of the NY/Tri-State Sisters in Crime. Nina’s plays have received over 100 production throughout the United States, and internationally, and are published Smith & Kraus, YouthPLAYS, Original Works Publishing and One Act Play Depot. Antigone: 3021, her full-length adaptation of the Sophocles classic, was published by Stage Partners last year, and is scheduled for multiple productions around the globe. Nina is a member of The Dramatists Guild, Mystery Writers of America and The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is a co-vice president of the NY/Tri-State Sisters in Crime.

“An Actor Prepares” was published in Where Crime Never Sleeps, Murder New York Style 4 (Level Best Books, 2017), the anthology of the NY/Tri-State Sisters in Crime, edited by Elizabeth Zelvin.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Paul Levinson, Author of The Silk Code

Dr. Phil D’Amato – NYPD forensic detective, protagonist in my Phil D’Amato series, of which The Silk Code is the first novel – orders a refill of his large glass of orange juice, when Tesa Stewart, a professor of anthropology at New York University and an expert on Neanderthals, joins him for a crucial breakfast meeting at a bistro in Greenwich Village.

It’s too early for most people to drink anything with alcohol anyway, but Phil would have ordered the orange juice or some other non-alcoholic beverage even if this meeting were in the evening. His brain was his most effective weapon in his fight against crime and unclear perils, and he liked keeping it as clear and sharp as possible.

He would have ordered organic orange juice, if the bistro had it, but at least this was fresh squeezed, a delicious influx of instant energy. Tesa barely poked at the breakfast she had ordered, teasing at the edge of her poached egg with her fork. The case she was discussing with Phil was too disconcerting for her to eat.

But Phil drank his orange juice and smacked his lips. He found frightening things and the attempt understand them “among the most exhilarating feelings in this world”. And the liquid energy orange juice fueled his exhilaration and his confidence.

My daughter Molly, 12 years old when she first read The Silk Code, which I had accidentally left on the kitchen table overnight, said, “Daddy, Phil is just like you!”

Certainly true about the love of orange juice.

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

You can find Paul here:

Twitter @PaulLev

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

Friday, October 8, 2021

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Cynthia Kuhn, Author of The Study of Secrets

While the English-professor-turned-amateur-sleuth in the Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries isn’t much of a cook, she does have her share of happy food encounters. But I’m going to confess something here: I don’t always know at first why certain foods are in there. Some details that emerge when I’m drafting the novels are unexpected but reveal their place or purpose eventually.

For example, in the fifth book in the series, The Study of Secrets, Lila is on sabbatical in Larkston, away from her Stonedale University campus, and when she meets other characters from the new town at a local diner, they insist that she order the house specialty, a slice of pie. It’s so incredibly good that the next time she is at the diner, she’s the one who makes her two visiting friends order the pie, and they have a conversation about what makes the item so magical. 

Someone once asked me if I was hungry for pie when I wrote it. (I wasn’t.) But while I was writing the first draft, the pie showed up and once it was there, it felt right in both scenes. Lila’s initial pie appreciation establishes a sense of bonding with a new group of people, then later when she is the one who pushes the pie, it tells us something about her developing connection to the new community.

Elsewhere in the novel, there is a town tradition involving chocolate-dipped candy canes, something people feel so passionate about that they get into a shouting match during a holiday party planning meeting. I don’t know where that came from. I have never had a chocolate-dipped candy cane. But they popped up during the drafting and ultimately added a small but helpful sense of tension to the chapter, which I deepened in other ways during the revision phase.

These are very sugary examples, but please don’t worry—sometimes the characters have salads too!

Thanks for stopping by to share you food for thought, Cynthia!

You can find Cynthia here:

Twitter @CynthiaKuhn

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

Cynthia Kuhn writes the Starlit Bookshop Mysteries and the Agatha-Award-winning Lila Maclean Academic Mysteries. She lives in Colorado with her family and serves on the national board of Sisters in Crime. 

Friday, October 1, 2021

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Dale Manolakas, Author of Hollywood on Trial

On a cruise across the Atlantic, an elegant chandeliered dining room hosts not only gourmet meals day and night—but also a serial murderer. In Death Sets Sail a group of writers on their awards cruise vie in a three-dimensional chess game of whodunit as writers die one by one.

In Death Sets Sail the amateur sleuths collide with death in raucous, fun, and gastronomically delightful crime solving antics. Through international waters and despite storms, jealousies, and corporate cover ups, body bags are filled and stuffed into the ship’s refrigerator. With the South Hampton landing looming, the murderer gets desperate.

In all my books, I take pride in describing the geographically unique and character-specific lifestyles, restaurants, wines, and foods. From Bakersfield Basque restaurants in The Gun Trial: A Legal Thriller to Los Angeles haute cuisine where elite attorneys expense account rare wines and gourmet meals in The Russian: A Legal Thriller and Lethal Lawyers: A Legal Thriller. 

In Hollywood on Trial: A Legal Thriller, there is a dynamic industry party at a Malibu estate on the ocean cliffs. It has gourmet food stations and bars where the party goers enjoy miniaturized portions from appetizers to deserts. In the swirl of holiday foods festivities, security fights with a stalker who accosts a starlet on the cliffs edge. 

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

You can find Dale here:

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

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