Thursday, May 17, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Ashley Sweeney, Author of Eliza Waite



If cooking on a 19th century woodstove isn’t your cup of tea, how about adding living alone for three years on an almost uninhabited island in the Pacific Northwest? In 1898? Eliza Waite, our hearty protagonist, is largely self sufficient, although she rows (yes, rows) four miles across a strait to another island once a month for supplies.

Eliza’s a baker, first by avocation, and later by vocation. She measures by teacups and uses what she has on hand to create sweet and savory concoctions. All the 33 authentic pioneer recipes imbedded in the novel were gleaned from 19th century newspapers. Good thing I had friends vet them all; errors in six of the recipes rendered them unpalatable.

Here’s what one reader wrote about Eliza’s Johnny Cakes:

I grew up with grandparents who called cornbread "Johnny Cake" and who served it with black-eyed peas, sautéed greens, grits and hominy. This was NOT my grandma's Johnny Cake.

The recipe went together easily though I questioned the exclusion of fat such as lard or butter and thought it seemed a little heavy on the corn meal ratio. I "soured" some milk with lemon and added the mixed ingredients to an oiled cast iron skillet, which went into the stove for 20 minutes.

The result was . . . interesting. My husband called it “Johnny Particle Board.” 

It looked nice and rustic in the pan, smelled good in the oven, but was dry as dust in the mouth. The first thing my husband asked was: "Didn't you add yogurt or chilis or creamed corn?" which are ingredients commonly used in our corn bread. I responded (hands on hips): “WOULD ELIZA HAVE HAD THOSE ITEMS IN HER CUPBOARD?!”

In this example, I amended the recipe to use lard, and my, what a difference! Delish. My favs are the Pecan Tarts, Country Apple Pie, and Marionberry Coffee Cake. But I’ll let you off the hook—you can use your gas or electric oven.

Bonus points for using a woodstove!


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



You can find Ashley here:







Photo Credit: Karen Mullen Photography

Friday, May 11, 2018

FOODFIC: Luckiest Girl Alive - Jessica Knoll



I immediately connected with heroine Ani FaNelli for the same reason I snort/cry-laugh at certain comedians* – her/their observations are just so true.

Ani gets me right away by sharing her contempt for her future wedding china. No bride wants to hear the ugly truth that she is going to end up with six bread plates, four salad plates, and eight dinner plates and then one day will take it upon herself to complete the set, only to discover the pattern will have been discontinued years ago. (Trust me, if not for Replacements.com, I would’ve quit searching Lenox warehouses, smashed one of my perfect little saucers, and used it to cut myself to stop the madness.

But back to Ani, who keeps me with her decision to snap out of this dreary future montage by going for a slice of the Patsy’s pizza she’s been fantasizing about since last Thursday – the comfort-food craving certainly exacerbated by the restrictive pre-wedding diet she, like any proper bride-to-be, has been enslaved by.

Her fiancé, Luke, on the other hand, turns me off instantly by announcing that he is not even hungry. Huh? What kind of guy isn’t hungry for pizza? From Patsy’s? I’m quickly seeing why Ani had to fight off the urge to stab him with the Shun back at Williams-Sonoma!

And then – then! – he goes on to criticize her drink choice (Montepulciano)! He’s not hungry for pizza, he thinks it’s too hot for red wine…at this point, I’m ready to red Sharpie the next page and wave it in Ani’s face. We’re only on page 3 and all I want is an invitation to this imaginary wedding so that I can jump up and object at the “forever hold your peace” part.

Okay, maybe I’m being a tad extreme. Perhaps Luke does have some (though probably not food-related) redeeming qualities. And perhaps this pizza-loving, wine-guzzling heroine isn’t all that perfect herself. I mean, if she really is like me, she’ll turn out to have a list of flaws longer than a Jersey diner menu. But my gut tells me I’ll be much forgiving of her faults than his. It also tells me to take this book and catch the next train to 69th Street…


*Do not read into this observation that Ani is funny. Or that this novel is. Neither is true. Trust me.

Friday, May 4, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Beverley Jones, Author of Where She Went



You might never look at family mealtimes the same way again once you’ve witnessed what goes on at the kitchen table in Where She Went.

The ‘heroine’ of the book is news reporter Melanie Black who just happens to wake up dead one morning. Yes, that’s right, she wakes up dead in bed, next to a man she doesn’t recognise and realises no one can see or hear her. Trapped in the house with Peter and his family she has to piece together the story of her own disappearance and death.

As you can imagine, career girl Mel is more than a bit annoyed at being bumped off and at being forced to endure the dull day-to-day domestic routine of Peter, his wife and their little boy Adam. Mel couldn’t be more different to obedient Eve and watching the little homemaker behave like the perfect 1950s housewife is a sort of cruel and unusual torture in itself.

Some of the key action takes place around the kitchen table where Peter exercises his own type of unpleasant control over his eager-to-please wife. For him, mealtimes aren’t just an opportunity to eat, they enforce his idea of how an ideal family should behave and how a devoted wife should act. Mel, of course, has nothing but scorn for Eve’s carefully prepared breakfasts with their perfectly boiled eggs and loose-leaf tea in a teapot, or for Eve’s beautifully made sponge cakes and brightly hosted lamb shank dinners.

Peter punctuates mealtimes with subtle acts of psychological abuse, his little ‘pass or fail’ tests where a soft-boiled egg that’s just a little bit too hard for a toast soldier dip is a careless symbol of a wifely failure that deserves punishment.

Anxious Eve is forced to smile through these endurance events while, out in the world, the news of Mel’s disappearance has made the headlines and a police search gets underway.

As Mel’s memory returns, and she begins to remember the last night of her life, it becomes clear that Peter’s capable of much more than petty acts of emotional violence. But Mel herself is no angel and she’s not above playing a few little games herself, while she kills time before she decides on her method of revenge. Imagine an invisible and uninvited guest at your kitchen table with an axe to grind– that’s Melanie – and she likes to whisper things in your ear, even if you don’t realise it. Now that’s probably enough to make anyone lose their appetite!


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

And look for her new ebook - HALFWAY - out May 10th. 



You can find Beverley here:





Friday, April 27, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Dana Griffin, Author of COERCED



Kyle Masters, the protagonist in my airliner thriller, Coerced, loves food, but his tastes are simpler. A burger and fries would satisfy him as much as filet wellington with mixed vegetables.

Since he has to travel a lot in his occupation as the training manager for his airline, he often eats whatever the airport hotel he’s staying at has to offer.

Being divorced and sharing custody of his teenage son, Travis, with his ex-wife, he and Travis usually have dinner at Scrimp’s, the restaurant I created in his hometown, The Woodlands, a suburb of Houston.

I described it as having a family atmosphere, which I pictured similar to an Applebee’s or Chili’s, but a locally owned restaurant. A place where one could get a decent steak, a salad, or mac and cheese for their children. Where the wait-staff knows the regulars’ names and their usual drink. The kind of place when you walk in you can smell the meat cooking on the grill, the grease from the fryer, and the aroma of the vegetables being cut.

Later in the novel Kyle, Travis, and Kyle’s love interest, Lori Almond, an NTSB investigator, end up on the run from some bad guys and hole up in a hotel and have to order room service. They might not have minded eating with a tray in their laps while stretched out on the bed watching TV, except they were worried the waiter delivering the food might be a goon sent to silence them.

You’ll have to read the book to see if Kyle and Travis got to eat their eggs and bacon, and Lori enjoyed her oatmeal and fruit.


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



You can find Dana here




Thursday, April 19, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome David J. Kirk, Author of Stone Signs



In the 3070s the world is certainly a much different place. Centuries before a global natural disaster had reduced the population to nearly 10% of its former number. This led to two-thirds of the United States being left uninhabited.

In this setting main character Dan Kelley, a young history professor, unintentionally discovers prehistoric cave symbols carved into the back of a uniquely crafted paving stone. The stone was created by a mysterious mason who years earlier buried similar stones mapping a peculiar course across the unpopulated prairie. Following these clues Dan was able to retrace his parents path and uncover details of their disappearance, which had left him orphaned at age four.

Does this new discovery offer any insight into his parents’ demise? What do these symbols mean? Does the stone map lead to their interpretation? What is the message?

To follow this buried stone path, Dan and his colleagues must venture out into the uninhabited prairie. In order to sustain themselves, they must hunt, gather and prepare their food out on the trail. The expedition members hunt for meat, gather roots and gather fruit to cook all on an open wood fire. They even discover stone ovens, left by indigenous peoples, to roast whole turkeys. It was your basic campfire cooking.

The role of food in Stone Signs is not what they ate, but the manner in which they did. The evening meal was not only a bonding experience, but a time to make decisions for the next day such as route of travel and possible hazards they would encounter, all leading to the exciting conclusion. Therefore, I frequently described their meals and mealtime conversations in detail in the story. Gathering, preparing and eating were communal and social activities. One might describe them as tribal. The expedition was dealing with ice age symbols and their meaning. This activity supported the metaphor of stepping back in time, to solve an ancient mystery by living and thinking like an ancient.


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


You can find David here:






Thursday, April 12, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Richard Gazala, Author of Blood of the Moon



This is an interesting exercise, to write about how food impacted the writing or characters in my international conspiracy thriller, Blood of the Moon. I’ve thought about it a lot since I was graciously invited to contribute to this blog. I’m a good cook and an adventurous foodie. So it puzzled me all the more that in the exquisite mayhem I’ve forced upon characters in Blood of the Moon and my other writing, none of it has been comestible. After due contemplation, I deem this was more than simple oversight. It was error.

One of a novelist’s critical tasks is making fictional characters resonate with fleshly readers. Characters are people. Real people eat, or they die. Sometimes they die because they eat. If a picture tells a thousand words so does a person’s favorite dish, or the one he’d rather starve than eat. Whether it’s in survival or pleasure, food is refuge. Without it there’d be neither writers nor readers. Accordingly, it’s due more respect than I’ve afforded it in my work.

This is particularly so given what food sustains. Everyone’s relationship with food, whether healthy or otherwise, is fraught with meaning far deeper than mere mastication. I’m not the only one of us perpetually umpiring internal infernal battles between eating to live and living to eat. And I’m not just writing about my daily bread in this instance, so the symbolism is potent. Food is not just fuel to propel us from station to station in the mundane world. Like any other power or privilege, food is as dangerous as it is divine.

Though the movie was but a loose adaptation of Ian Fleming’s novel of the same title, a scene at the end of the 1971 film Diamonds Are Forever sprang to mind when I was approached to write a piece for this blog. After he saves the world from another of Blofeld’s abominable plots, James Bond relaxes with Tiffany Case in post-coital déshabillé in their suite on board the SS Canberra cruise liner. Posing as ship’s stewards, assassins Kidd and Wint wheel into Bond’s suite an opulent meal—Oysters Andaluz, shashlik, tidbits, prime rib au jus, and Salade Utopia. The wine is a bottle of Château Mouton Rothschild ’55. And for dessert, says Mr. Wint, “…the pièce de résistance… La Bombe Surprise.”

     “Mmm! That looks fantastic. What's in it?” asks Case.
     Wint replies, “Ah, but then there would be no surprise, Madame.”

The surprise was the dessert’s secret ingredient—an actual bomb. Murder, concealed beneath a luscious coating of creamy custard ice cream.

Food is temptation. It’s luxury. It’s power. And it’s danger.

I’m currently working on Blood of the Earth, the sequel to Blood of the Moon. Beneath all the conspiracies, throbbing under the action and the chaos and the vengeance, the heart of Blood of the Moon is about faith and betrayal. It’s about the lies that hide in truth, and vice-versa. So too is its sequel, and much else of what I write.

Thanks to this exercise, as I write Blood of the Earth I’ll be mindful of the truth and lies in every morsel we eat. I’ll remember that every chef can charm with a fork as easily as he can kill with a spoon. That food giveth, and food taketh away. Primal stuff.

After all, Eve wasn’t evicted from the Garden until she bit the forbidden fruit.


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



You can find Richard here:







Copyright 2018, Richard Gazala


Friday, March 30, 2018

FOODFIC: Discovering Vintage New Orleans - Bonnye Stuart




Because I lived in NOLA for so many years, I can never pass up a chance to read what others recommend that visitors see and do in The Big Easy. Must-sees, must-dos, must-eats; I have to know each compiler’s picks. Of course, I’m most interested in which restaurants and bars top each list. #FoodFact. Or #FoodOpinion? Hmm. I’ll leave that here for digestion. ;)

Anyway, this guide points out all the old favorites, which makes sense as Stuart has chosen to focus on the “vintage” spots. Not surprisingly, I found I’d been to most (if not all) of the eateries and drinkeries and visitories she describes. I checked off everything from lunch at Commander’s to climbing Monkey Hill to drinks at the Old Absinthe House.

I’ve not, however, actually had absinthe. Yes, the popular depictions of “the green fairy” as “psychoactive” and “hallucinogenic” seem reason enough not to imbibe,  but the bigger issue was its illegality. Since I hadn’t been actively following absinthe’s “status,” it came as a surprise to me to read here that the Old Absinthe House is indeed now selling its namesake drink.

Now, it’s not exactly the same stuff – thujone, a naturally-occuring chemical in wormwood, must now be strictly limited, leading many folks to call it “absinthe refined.” But the essence of the spirit remains the same, as, apparently, does its flavor. “Anise” and “fennel” are not my usual go-tos for cocktails, so you won’t find me rushing out for a bottle, but the next time I’m in NOLA, I might have to make my way down to Bourbon Street to give it a shot. ;)

Friday, March 23, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Brooklyn James, Author of Jolie Blonde



Brianna Bentley Castille (aka Jolie Blonde) fancies lobster and lots of it, the more clarified grass-fed butter in which to dip the succulent sea fare all the better. As a hard-pressed prosecutor for Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, the fork and veggies will have to wait. Just keep the protein-packed, vitamins/minerals-loaded lobster and butter coming, she’ll lap up the energizing essentials with one hand while the other works through cases and codes. Oh, and if you have a Sazerac, a Big Easy favorite, she favors it, too. Though keep the lemon peel for someone who has time for ‘garnish.’ If you’re interning at the firm, Café Du Monde is not a luxury but a morning necessity—two beignets and one café au lait heavy on the chicory, please.

Jolie Blonde, a nickname given her by her childhood sweetheart’s father, would invite you over for a bayou feast of gator, po’ boys, etouffee and sweet sun tea. Relaxed and at home she is, only when in the company of that childhood sweetheart.

This story of an average girl and the one twist of fate that made her extraordinary, Jolie Blonde is reinvented, an entirely new identity as Detective Gina DeLuca, at the wily hands of a hematologist, finding herself engulfed in a mysterious world of super blood (though a sci-fi/action-adventure tale, there are no vampires—i.e. no drinking/eating/ingesting of blood…blech) and super powers. Detective DeLuca doesn’t concern herself with beignets when a donut goes down just fine. And what grown woman, pray tell, needs milk in her coffee? Preferring it black and with the grinds, one may think she’s Greek! Finicky only about pizza, it’s nonnegotiable—margherita. Oh, and a beer—any beer—to wash it down.

In a series (The Vigilare Series) featuring aliases and identities, of course there is an alter ego, too. Vigilare—the one who watches over—who is she and why does she exist? The question both Brianna and Gina must answer to find themselves. Food’s good and all, but our antihero Vigilare subsides on retribution, her favorite dish to dole up…a kick-ass portion of just deserts!


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



You can find Brooklyn here:








Brooklyn James is an author/singer/songwriter inspired by life in the Live Music Capital of Austin, Texas. Her first novel, The Boots My Mother Gave Me, has an original music soundtrack and was chosen as a Quarter Finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards.

When she is not writing books, she can be found playing live music around Austin as part of an acoustic duo. Brooklyn has been in a Weezer video, met Harry Connick Jr. as an extra on the set of When Angels Sing, appeared in Richard Linklater's Boyhood for all of a nanosecond, and she was Mira Sorvino's stand-in on Jerry Bruckheimer's Trooper pilot for TNT. She most enjoys being a wife and mother, reading, dancing, working out, and a good glass of kombucha.

Brooklyn holds an M.A. in Communication, and a B.S. in both Nursing and Animal Science. Her nursing career has seen specialties in the areas of Intensive Care and Postpartum. She serves as a Guest Speaker with a focus on awareness and prevention of Domestic Violence and Suicide.

Subscribe to her YouTube channel for music video releases. You can also find her music on Amazon, iTunes, iHeartRadio, SoundCloud, CDBaby, and Pandora.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Karen Ann Hopkins, Author of EMBERS





There are descendants of angels walking among us. Ember is one of them.

Embers is an epic paranormal adventure/romance about a girl who discovers that she’s immune to fire and any other injury when she’s in a horrific car crash that kills her parents. Following a violent episode with her aunt’s boyfriend, Ember flees Ohio to live with an old relative in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Ember’s exuberance at escaping a bad home life soon turns to trepidation when she learns that she’s a Watcher, a descendant of angels.

While Ember is instructed about her heritage and the powers that go along with it, she strikes up friendships with two teenagers who live inside of a frightening walled compound in the forest. Inexplicably drawn to one of the young men in particular, an impossible romance develops. But it’s cut short when Ember discovers that her new friends are fighting on the opposite side of a war that’s been raging between two factions of Watchers for thousands of years. When the compound’s inhabitants threaten the townspeople, Ember takes action, sealing her fate in the ancient battle of good versus evil, and the grayness in between.

When Ember isn’t getting to know her neighbors, learning about her newly discovered powers, or battling creatures from darkness, she goes to the local high school and rides her horse on mountain trails. But she also spends a lot of time with her “Aunt” Ila, being taught how to live off the land. Ila is a Watcher with incredible powers and even though she could live in luxury anywhere in the world, she chose to settle down in a small cabin in the Appalachian mountains, where she grows all her own food. Respecting her ties to the earth and the animals that she exists with, Ila is also a vegetarian, so meat is off the menu in little valley surrounded by hills.

Ember has never eaten so healthy before, and she must adjust to a diet consisting of vegetables, fruit, nuts, grains, eggs, and goat’s milk. Ila shows Ember how to tastily live off the land, introducing her to homemade wheat pancakes, omelets loaded with vegetables, a variety of casseroles filled with pasta, beans, squash and potatoes, and scrumptious tomato sandwiches. Ember leans how to grow, harvest, and can the fruits and vegetables from Ila’s gardens. And Ila’s storeroom is stocked full of their bountiful hard work. One of Ember’s favorite pastimes is sitting on the front porch with her mentor, sipping fresh grape juice, and listening to Ila’s stories. Luckily, Ila also has a sweet tooth and her grandest treat is a special chocolate cake that even a demon and a growler can’t resist.

For all of her growing appreciation for healthy eating, Ember is still a teenager and enjoys snacking on soda, french fries, and cheeseburgers when she gets the chance. And that’s not a bad thing. With the end of days approaching, she’s going to need all her strength for the battles to come.


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



You can find Karen here:






Karen Ann Hopkins is the author of the urban fantasy/dystopian YA series, The Wings of War, along with a mystery/crime thriller series, Serenity’s Plain Secrets, and the YA Amish-themed romantic Temptation series. 


Friday, March 9, 2018

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Connie Hambley, Author of The Charity



Food and the Art of Cooking Up Characters



All Irish are born with a love of a cuppa. Right? The deep rosy tones of Irish Breakfast tea are supposed to give respite in a hectic day and provide a moment of clarity where all ills can be cured and all problems solved.

Yeah, right. Guess again.

The “Irish Love Tea” is a broadly held stereotype many readers hold. Turning an assumption upside down allows me to surprise a reader and have some fun in the process.

My recently completed trilogy’s main character is Jessica Wyeth, a world-class equestrian with Irish roots. She was raised in the States, so her attitudes are distinctly American. She is strong, assertive, and independent. Oh, and she craves a great cup of coffee.

I’ll confess to playing on stereotypes, too with that old “Irish Love Pubs” assumption that flirts with cliché. Instead of drunken sots weeping into their whiskeys, I placed characters having crucial political conversations in back rooms or families enjoying a night of lively music together. Mining that cliché for details and facts and bringing depth to my scenes helped me avoid two-dimensional characters but, in the process of researching facts and settings, something surprising happened.

My story had layers I didn’t anticipate, but once I saw them, I knew I had to bring them to life.

I didn’t start out thinking I was going to write a trilogy, but each book had one little fuse that, when lit, exploded into another story. The Jessica Trilogy unfolds the story of a woman who uncovers the money behind a Boston-based cell of the Irish Republican Army. Each book encapsulates one distinct stage of her discovery. The Charity shows what happened, The Troubles explores why it happened, and The Wake answers how the characters move forward in a world turned upside down.

The Charity started as a love story, but the worlds surrounding my characters complicated their relationship . . . and that’s an understatement. I live in Boston, where generations of wealth impact politics and society in seen and unseen ways. Money and power drive good people to do bad things and I wanted to create a story where you questioned which characters are good guys and which ones might lure you with a cuppa then slice you with a dagger.

How readers view a conversation held over a cup of tea or one held in the back room of a pub colors their perception of the characters. Food, and the settings in which it is consumed, help me weave a web of deception.


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



You can find Connie here:








CONNIE JOHNSON HAMBLEY grew up on a New York dairy farm and all would have been idyllic if an arsonist hadn’t torched her family’s barn. Bucolic bubble burst, she began to steadfastly plot her revenge against all bad guys, real and imagined. After receiving her law degree, she moved to Boston and wrote for Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Nature and other wonky outlets as she honed her skills of reaching readers at a deep emotional level with great research, laser-sharp focus on detail, and persuasive writing. Her high-concept thrillers feature remarkable women entangled in modern-day crimes and walk the reader on the razor’s edge between good and evil. Connie delights in creating worlds where the good guys win–eventually. Her short stories, Giving Voice and Black Ice won acceptance in Best New England Crime Stories: Windward (2016) and Snowbound (2017), respectively, published by Level Best Books. The third book in The Jessica Trilogy, The Wake, joins The Charity and The Troubles. Connie is a two-time winner of Best English Fiction literary award at the EQUUS International Film Festival in New York City. She is Vice President and Featured Speaker of the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime.

LOG LINES:

The Charity: Witness to a gang-style slaying, a young woman is hunted to stop her from exposing the money and the people behind a Boston-based terrorist cell.

The Troubles: Deceived by her family, a rebellious woman seeks to unearth how Northern Ireland’s Troubles are buried in her mother’s secret past.

The Wake: A shattered heiress’ family secret is exploited by her spurned lover to blackmail her into engaging in international terrorism.