Friday, March 25, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Linda Mims, Author of The Neon Houses

The Neon Houses, set in 2071, depicts two worlds. One world shows a food desert where food is genetically modified, dehydrated, plant-based and powdered, if there’s food at all. The other world is a cornucopia of real animal meat, vegetables, poultry, eggs, fish, and fruit.

The main character, Noel Kennedy, has her feet planted in both worlds and is unapologetically sympathetic to the needs of citizens who have barely enough to eat. In fact, when we first meet her flying her autoplane to the family home of a recently murdered girl, she’s leaning out the passenger window yelling bloody murder at a thief who has just snatched a bag of groceries from an old man.

Back home at the annual barbeque she and her husband host, we see disks laden with platters of smoked meats, grilled vegetables, desserts, and other delectables, sailing through the air. Guests use remote controls to land a disk, or they summon humanoids to take their orders.

This scene is two-fold, lavishly contrasting the two societies, and setting the stage for the next murder.

Heroine Noel goes up against Warren Simpson, a cunning and ruthless villain, who rules the land on the outskirts of her city. He is a murderer, thief, and the purveyor of illegal goods. Yet, when his nephew is set up as a murderer, Warren discards that theory. The kid isn’t like him, and murder is the farthest thing from the kid’s nature. 

Simpson gathers his family around the dining room table to debate murder, set-ups, and surveillance. Readers see dishes of roast beef, whipped potatoes and gravy, green beans, fresh tomatoes, and warm bread spread out on a snowy tablecloth. Warren’s wives, their children, and his wayward nephew surround him. When the food isn’t served quick enough, his nephew makes smacking sounds and salivates over the mashed potatoes and gravy. Simpson cuffs him lightly. The scene is normal, almost endearing, and allows us to see the human side of the villain. 

In undeniable New Chicago tradition, soy-dog stands, and taco stands dot the area near downtown. When a call comes over the radio warning Noel that crooks have spotted her and her husband scouting the primary suspect, they’re eating at a taco stand under the on-ramp of the Kennedy Expressway. Before they hightail it out of the area, my heroine takes a moment to wipe taco sauce from her husband’s mouth.

It’s 50 years into the future and the world has changed, but food, family, and gatherings remain the same—maybe more for my sense of normalcy than the characters’.

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

You can find Linda here:

Twitter @boom_lyn

Goodreads Page

Thursday, March 17, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Elizabeth McKenna, Author of The Great Jewel Robbery

In real life, food and drink often set the mood and enhance the memories of any moment in time. When I think of my teen years, I remember eating french fries and drinking diet coke with my girlfriends at the lake when we were supposed to be in class. For my twenties, it’s greasy breakfast food at a dirty diner after bars. In my thirties, it’s me sweating over the menu for family gatherings that will please both adults and toddlers. (By my forties and fifties, I was too exhausted to care, but that’s another story!)

And just like in real life, authors incorporate food and drink to enhance a scene. Besides describing the physical setting, what the characters eat or drink can help the reader better connect with the characters and, thus, the story. In my cozy mystery, The Great Jewel Robbery, what my characters eat is a deliberate decision on my part and often shows a part of their personality.

Emma, the main character, and Grace, her sidekick, have been best friends since college despite being from different worlds. Emma grew up with her mom in a modest home, while Grace grew up with the super-wealthy of Chicago. Edging toward their late-twenties, they are both reporters for the Chicago Tribune, though Emma covers Sports and Grace writes for the Life & Style section of the paper. They are spending the weekend at a lakeside mansion so that Grace can cover a black-tie charity event hosted by a good friend of her parents. Everyone is having a great time until the last item to be auctioned off—a multimillion-dollar necklace—is stolen.

Grace’s boyfriend was initially supposed to be her date for the weekend, but Emma became her plus one due to the couple breaking up. Emma frets over going because, though she loves Grace like a sister, she isn’t comfortable at fancy parties. The reader first sees this when the women stop at a mini-mart to buy snacks for their hotel room. Emma plans to buy a glazed donut, but another customer buys it first. When she complains to Grace, her friend is confused:

“Emma,” she said in her best schoolmarm voice. “You realize that Chef Porter will be laying out a whole table of luscious desserts for us to gorge ourselves on tonight?”

I did, but I didn’t know how to tell Grace that sometimes the frou-frou desserts of her people turned me off. Sometimes a girl just wanted a glazed donut. It was safe and comforting, and right now, I needed all the comfort I could get.

I also use food in my cozy mystery to show the conflict between two siblings. Edward Braun, a frequent name in the Business section of the Trib, is the host for the charity event and owner of the newly restored 1901 Bedford limestone mansion. Unfortunately, his younger brother Walter has not found the financial success that Edward has. Walter owns over thirty hot dog stands in Chicago but has never been embraced by high society. He openly resents the snub, and the brothers rarely pass up an opportunity to insult one another. 

During a scene before the gala is to begin, Walter criticizes Chef Porter’s cooking and predicts that the charity event will be a disaster. Edward can’t resist putting Walter in his place:

Edward tapped a finger on his lips and pretended to be in deep thought. “Chef Porter, do you have any yellow mustard? Maybe that will satisfy my little brother’s epicurean taste.”

Minor characters also interact with food to enforce their personalities. Edward’s son Jackson has brought Charlotte as his date. She’s beautiful with a perfect figure and also dismissive of everyone around her. Despite several buffet tables of gourmet food, Jackson brings her a small plate of raw vegetables. Charlotte is like the food she prefers—cold and hard.

If you like cozy mysteries, I hope you will give The Great Jewel Robbery a try. The series continues with Murder Up To Bat, where Emma and Grace need to prove their best friend didn’t kill a local softball coach. Book 2 will hopefully be available in 2022. 

Please visit my website or Amazon Author page to see the other books that I’ve written. If you like romances or mysteries, you might find your next great read!

Thank you for having me on your blog, Shelley!

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your food for thought, Elizabeth!

You can find Elizabeth here:

Twitter @ElizaMcKenna

Facebook Fan Page


Books on Amazon

Elizabeth McKenna’s love of books reaches back to her childhood, where her tastes ranged from Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys to Stephen King’s horror stories. She had never read a romance novel until one Christmas when her sister gave her the latest bestseller by Nora Roberts. She was hooked from page one (actually, she admits it was the first love scene).

Her novels reflect her mercurial temperament and include historical romances, contemporary romances, cozy mysteries, and dark mysteries. With some being “clean” and some being “naughty,” she has a book for your every mood.

Elizabeth lives in Wisconsin with her understanding husband and Sidney, the rescue dog from Tennessee. When she isn’t writing, reading, editing, or walking the dog that never tires, she’s sleeping.

Friday, March 11, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Shannon Grogan, Author of From Where I Watch You

In my YA thriller From Where I Watch You (Soho Teen), two food items are mentioned frequently: Sugar Cookies with Royal Icing, and split pea soup.

My protagonist Kara uses her passion for baking to escape two people: her crazy but grief-stricken mom--who thinks her split pea soup will save the world--and the stalker leaving her creepy notes.

Kara is an aspiring baker who decorates (and would eat, though I don’t think I really mentioned it in the story) fancy cookies. Her world is sugar, butter, flour, Royal Icing, and trying to figure out who is stalking her.

My own love of baking, learned in childhood from my three grandmas and my mom, has been comfort and stress relief, as well as influencing so much of my life and my writing. In college, baking was always a stress reliever in the middle of homework, or maybe it was the cookie dough eating! My own favorite thing to bake is pie, although for the last 15+ years I’ve had to convert to gluten-free baking which is not as easy.

My favorite memories of being a kid are tied to food, mostly baking, and being together with family. So naturally, I haven’t written a thing in my life that doesn’t have baking in it. I have a couple of drawer novels that are heavily set in bakeries and cafes.

I think this might be a writerly thing or a book lover thing or both, but my dream store would be a bookstore/espresso shop/bakery. I always thought it would be a pretty awesome store to own, or even a food truck version. The closest I ever got to commercial baking is in the deli where I worked when I was in college, where nightly we set out frozen croissants to bake in the morning. Yeah that is not really baking. But I do wish someone would figure out how to make a gluten free croissant!

I am a kindergarten teacher by day. It is so important to me to offer experiences they might not get at home, like baking, that I have a little oven in my classroom. A coworker’s daughter is currently in a pastry chef school and I find myself sort of jealous of that. But then all it takes is a December full of cookie baking and how much it hurts your back to make me change my mind!

Baking is love and joy. Cookies, bread, cupcakes, pies, etc. Baking and baked goods are forever tied to wonderful holiday memories of family and being together. I think that is true for so many, and across cultures. If I’d written my book as an adult novel, I likely would’ve had more scenes where people were eating and I would’ve gone into detailed descriptions. For a young adult novel, it probably would’ve bogged down the pacing.

If you want to bake up some fancy cookies, there is a great sugar cookie recipe in the back of From Where I Watch You. I have mastered how to make them gluten free now and no one can tell the difference!

Thanks for reading! :)

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your food for thought, Shannon!

You can find Shannon here:

Twitter @ShannyWriter

Facebook Fan Page

Books on Amazon

Thursday, March 3, 2022

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Kevin McLeod, Author of The Viking's Apprentice

I love food, I love cooking. I love sharing the experience with my daughters. We cook together, we bake together, and we eat together. Every day we sit down for at least one meal, it’s a chance to catch up, and importantly, to reconnect. 

In my books whenever there is food there is always family. In the Viking’s Apprentice series when people eat it is a time for connection and for storytelling. Often the food is forgotten as the story becomes the centre of attraction, however it’s the food that brought them together. 

My daughters and I like to make homemade pizza. We use puff pastry and roll it out, leave about 1cm border around the edge and then prick the pastry with a fork 100 of times. Ever since she was 6 Ellie has insisted on making her own, doing everything herself. She is 12 now. Rachael is 15 and likes to get involved. 

Ellie will make a three-cheese pizza with a tomato base. She doesn’t spare the cheese and piles it on that pastry base after squeezing the tomato puree on there. Rachael likes to be a bit more adventurous. You will still find the 3 cheeses, however there will be tuna or chicken entwined in there somewhere, oh and a barbeque sauce instead of a tomato. 

I like to make a chicken and ham pizza. We put them in the oven and watch the pastry border rise then the smell of that cheese and pastry cooking hits you. It’s hard to wait the 15 minutes as those smells drive you wild. 

When it’s time we carve up our own pizzas add them to a big dish in the centre of the table and we sit and eat and chat. It’s perfect family time. Family is important to me, and I hope that comes across in The Viking’s Apprentice. Mealtimes should always be family times. 

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your food for thought, Kevin!

You can find Kevin here: