Thursday, March 23, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Merry Jones, Author of Child's Play

Don’t get it wrong: Child's Play is not a children’s book. Nor is it a book about games and toys, or the importance of either.

No, Child's Play is a dark and shadowy thriller that begins in an elementary school. And however slightly, food plays a part in the story.

Since the main character, Elle Harrison, is a second grade teacher, the first and foremost food item on the book’s menu is peanut butter sandwiches. Even though in reality, some classrooms forbid peanut butter due to student allergies, Logan Elementary is a fictional school. Peanut butter is the number one favorite sandwich of the kids who go there.

They also like ice cream. Ice cream man Duncan Girard parks his truck at the edge of the school yard. Kids line up there every day, eager for treats.

 Beyond ice cream and peanut butter, food plays an important part in depicting the characters in the book. For example, protagonist Elle. She is recently widowed, her house for sale. For her, food is a reminder of meals shared with her husband. Cooking and eating have become excruciatingly lonely. So she doesn’t cook, doesn’t even keep food in her house. When her friends come over, one complains that she has only stale crackers and a half empty jar of peanut butter in her pantry, only a hard block of cheese, mustard and mayo in the refrigerator.

Even if there’s not much food in Elle’s house, she has an abundant supply of wine. Pinot, Cabernet and, her favorite, Shiraz. Wine, she finds, eases her loneliness and softens her moods.

Unlike Elle who is indifferent to food, her friend Jen is continuously ravenous. She’s someone who never stops eating and never gains an ounce. Food is always on her mind, and usually in her mouth. If all she can find is a stale cracker and some peanut butter, then that’s what she’ll eat. Jen is married to a man with similar hunger, but his is aimed at accumulating wealth rather than calories. Jen enjoys the fruits of his efforts, but possibly not as much as she enjoys actual fruit.

Another of Elle’s friends, Susan, is the opposite of Elle when it comes to food. She is a cook, a nurturer, a mother. When Elle is upset about a colleague’s murder, Susan offers to bake banana bread. What could be more comforting than warm fresh-from-the-oven banana bread? When her friends get together, Susan always whips up a meal from whatever odds and ends she has on hand—like a last minute yummy frittata of eggs, onions, red pepper, tomato, mushrooms and cheeses. Even when she and her friends end up eating at Elle’s, Susan is in charge of food. After a traumatic day in the emergency room with Elle and Jen, Susan makes sure they are well fed on Chinese: General Tso’s chicken, Moo Shoo pork, shrimp and broccoli, and hot and sour soup.

In Child's Play, the relationships characters have with food reflect who they are and how they live. One character uses coffee as a friend, a crutch, an energy boost. Elle uses wine much the same way. Food shared makes a community, enhances the bonds of friendship. Food taken in solitude can reveal an insatiable neediness in Jen’s character, a reminder of loneliness in Elle’s.

Having said that, sometimes it’s not the characters relationships to food, but the food itself that offers meaning. For example, when against all advice, Elle goes to a deli with a convicted killer who’s suspected of serial murders, readers are clued in that he might not be such a bad guy. Why? Because he orders an ice cream soda.
I suppose, in reality, serial killers might drink ice cream sodas. But in my book, ice cream sodas are synonymous with honesty, decency and kindness. They scream innocence.

If he’d been guilty, the guy would never have ordered an ice cream soda. He’d have had to go with the Devil’s food cake.

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

You can find Merry here:

Friday, March 17, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Joni Parker, Author of Gossamer

In Gossamer, Lady Alex attempts a daring rescue of her grandmother and her friend who are being held hostage by rebel soldiers and uncovers a plot of betrayal and deception that reaches to the very pinnacle of power in Eledon.
But what are they eating, you ask?  I’ve never had anyone ask before.
Alex is one of those lucky people who can eat almost anything and doesn’t have to worry about her weight.  She’s as comfortable eating at the table of her cousin, Prince Darin, as she is around a campfire.  The menu for her lunch at the Prince’s table includes roasted squab and potatoes, pea soup, tomato salad, bread and butter as well as a piece of cake.  A girl needs her nourishment before embarking on a difficult mission.
Alex also depends upon her cousin to provide provisions for her mission.  She fills her backpack with a map and essential food items, enough to last for a few days—bread, cheese, dried meats, and fruits both dried and fresh.  She supplements her diet by foraging for food, finding sweetpods growing underground in caves.  In addition, she temporarily gains a new sidekick, the caretaker’s son, who shares his family’s leftover lamb slices and freshly baked bread with her.
Later in the story, she camps out in the wild with a group of handsome soldiers and they serve her supper: fresh caught fish grilled over a campfire with beans and bread on the side.  What else could a girl ask for?
At home, Alex eats whatever her grandmother cooks.  Lentil soup or fish.  It’s good, but her grandmother is hardly a gourmet cook.  Her argument with the King had left her on a strict budget, not enough to hire servants, especially a cook.  But Alex can handle it.  Her tastes are simple and she loves coney stew, her favorite dish of all time.

Gossamer is the third book in the Chronicles of Eledon series.  It can be read as a single entrée, but it’s better as part of a full meal deal.  The first book is called Spell Breaker and the second is The Blue Witch.  The fourth book, Noble Magic, is still in the kitchen being prepared.   

Bon Appetit!

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

You can find Joni here:

Thursday, March 9, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Pendred Noyce, Author of The Cryptic Case of the Coded Fair


In the House of Wisdom, the scholar and mathematician al-Kindi offers Ella and Shomari refreshment. The year is 841 CE, and the city is Baghdad, center of culture and government for the caliphate. The two time-traveling middle-schoolers are visiting to learn from the master about how to decode a secret message. Food puts them at ease.

The teenagers drink cardamom coffee and fruit juice. They nibble on apricots, nuts and dates from Persia as al-Kindi discusses his theories on the origin of the universe, the benefits of trade and the importance of religious tolerance. Finally, he shares his method to decode any substitution cipher. The food and conversation contrast with the menacing behavior of the guards who swarmed Ella and Shomari on their arrival.

In book six of Tumblehome Learning’s Galactic Academy of Science series, The Cryptic Case of the Coded Fair, four friends work together to outwit the evil Dr. G, who is scheming to undermine the international science fair with cheating and “alternate facts.” The kids meet after school at each other’s houses to plan their approach to breaking the secret code Dr. G uses to send orders to his corrupt judges. Then one pair travels through time to gather information from cryptographers of the past – from Julius Caesar to Thomas Jefferson to Whitfield Diffie – while the other pair stays home to work on computer programs.

Food reflects culture and personality, and every G.A.S. book is multicultural as well as historical and scientific. In Coded Fair, the snacks served at the different kids’ houses tells us something about their culture and their parents. Shomari’s father serves the kids healthy cider and vegetables with vegetable dip, but his mother sneaks in later to offer them cupcakes. Anita’s mother serves sopapillas, but then on the spur of the moment invites everybody to stay and eat chicken casada with Anita’s large and fluid Dominican family.

Now if only we knew more about what Julius Caesar ate, or in the Italian Renaissance of the grumpy mathematician Gerolamo Cardano. Unfortunately, neither of those hosts was welcoming enough to offer food to his visitors. But on the way, we got interested enough in the history of food to explore it a lot further in book nine, The Contaminated Case of the Cooking Contest, which is all about food poisoning on a cruise ship.

Food. We should really put a lot more of it in children’s books!

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

You can find Penny here:

Thursday, March 2, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Pete Morin, Author of Half Irish

In 1993, I was fined a trivial sum by the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission for allowing a friend of mine to pay for my Osso Buco (and a few martinis as well). I had no idea at the time that would become the focal point of a novel I would write sixteen years later:

“What is ‘osso buco’?”
“Braised veal shank. It’s a northern Italian staple. Delicious.”

While the novel represented a radical fictionalization of events surrounding the federal indictment of that friend (he was just as generous to many others), the novel’s treatment of gastronomie is as true as I can tell it, as are the two following sequels, Full Irish and Half Irish.

I cannot say I did this consciously. The vast majority of Diary of a Small Fish I wrote merely as a scribe for a bunch of characters who evanesced in my imagination and dictated to me like I was paid a penny a word. Apparently, they liked food, too. This leads me to suspect that they are all alter egos, at least as it comes to the culinary arts.

But there in the opening chapter of Diary of a Small Fish, the first food reference: “a well-aged New York strip.” A staple of my upbringing.

Diary, Full Irish and Half Irish, follow the saga of Paul Forte, ex-politician, lawyer, griever of life’s losses, and gourmand, and his passionate love interest, Shannon McGonigle. Shannon was one of the grand jurors before whom Paul was compelled to testify against his friend. She intrigued him from the outset, but he was hooked on their first social meeting: a long afternoon of beer drinking and chain smoking (with a little fried calamari) at Boston’s venerable old institution, Brandy Pete’s. What hooked him? She drank Harpoon, an “ale with attitude. To match the mouth.”

The characters continued to insinuate their food tastes into pivotal scenes. After their relationship was consummated (in an edible paint scene), Paul and Shannon have post-argument sex in the kitchen (“fresh linguine, vine ripe tomatoes, olives and a half-duck, already roasted”), leading to what I still think is two of the best lines in any of my novels:

But Shannon is a resourceful woman, and she distracted me further with a deft raising of skirt and removal of underwear, and we used the prep table for a wholly unintended function which I suspect debilitated the structural soundness of its legs.

After such an experience, it is impossible to eat pasta and duck naked without giggling like a fool, and there is always the sense that the taste is just a little different.

Later on, as they share dinner in one of Boston’s iconic bistros (Hammersley’s), Paul and Shannon share some deeply personal observations about themselves, interrupted by the waiter:

Rinaldo showed up at the wrong time again, using cake and port as his weapons. But even he couldn’t break the spell. Shannon paid him no mind and he flounced off.

“We can never come back here again, you know.”

She flicked her fork into the cake, slipped it under a morsel of black gooiness and slid it between her lips. “He’ll get over it.”

There is also a lot of good booze in these novels. The 95 year-old mother of my friend sent me an email after reading Diary. She said, “if you drank as much as Paul, you’d never have finished the novel.”

Paul and Shannon’s adventures continue in Full Irish and Half Irish, as they gambol through the taverns, pubs and bistros of Ireland and Boston.

All of this focus on food and drink was not for everyone, of course. I received an unusually harsh 1 star review from a Goodreads reader, who complained:

It's kind of like the author couldn't decide whether he wanted to write a political thriller or just a really long story about rich people enjoying expensive food and wine (which he goes to staggering extremes to explain in every detail during almost every scene). I read books for interesting character and plot development, not to hear how often they eat fancy food and drink expensive alcohol.

Clearly, this reader grew up on canned hash.

There are reasons (I came to understand) why these characters dictated this singular focus on food. Paul is a man of unusual privilege and upbringing, stuck in a circumstance over which he has no control. Faced with the death of his father, the loss of his ex-wife and the prospect of prison, it would be understandable for him to resort to anger, self-pity, effrontery, as so many in his station might have. But Paul is a sensitive soul, full of observations about the human condition, and he faces his crucibles with a sense of humor and appreciation for the complexities of life. That his lover happens to be a child of a broken Southie family emphasizes that, despite Paul’s upper class upbringing, his soul is close to the street. Still, she is no fan of the cauldron of steamers (“smells like shit,” she says).

Food serves as a means of distinguishing his persona, of illustrating his sensitivity to taste, smell, his joy in the social aspects of food preparation and consumption. In one earlier scene of Diary, alone, drunk and bereft on Christmas Eve, Paul wanders into a Chinatown restaurant. It is late, and the restaurant is empty (as empty as his heart), except for the host family who are eating together before cleaning up to go home. He asks if they have any dim sum left. They make a place for him and the father instructs his children to bring Paul food. Chicken feet. The father gestures to the gray patches on Paul’s temples and says, “Your heart weak.” Paul learns from the man the miraculous properties of Chinese ingredients in the healing of the body and soul. At home late that night, he makes a chicken soup with ingredients gifted to him:

Perhaps it was the soup, but I muddled through Christmas day without once entertaining the thought of jumping off the roof. It’s so obvious why people do that sort of thing at this time of year.

Food brings people together, it induces and facilitates dialogue, it incorporates the milieu and provides scenery, attitude and mood. It is a rich source of metaphor. Like music, art, a hobby or skill, it provides the reader more than a glimpse into the souls of the characters.

I shall finish with two disparate examples of food’s ubiquity in the arts and humanities.

In Hilaire Belloc’s The Mercy of Allah (1922), as the protagonist travels through the countryside, he is offered food and drink by a local citizen. He observes, “the prospect of refreshment at the charges of another is an opportunity never to be neglected by men of clear commercial judgment.”

The other appears throughout Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, Frenzy, where Inspector Oxford and his wife discuss the serial murders as she serves him a continuing array of grotesque “gourmet” dishes, including pig feet (“Pieds du Porc”) and fish stew (head on). A comic counterpoint to the lurid details of sexual perversion.

And aside from its role in the plot, there are truths within food that transcend the banalities of daily life. As Raymond Hannah observes in the opening line of my short story, Club Dues, “Osso buco is a dish never to be interrupted.” He is 100% correct!

Diary of a Small Fish is available FREE! on Amazon. If you enjoy it,
you’ll enjoy the two sequels. Just don’t read any of them on an empty stomach.

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

You can find Pete here:

Thursday, February 23, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome June McCullough, Author of On the Other Hand

It wasn’t that long ago that if asked to compare her life to food, Nina Andrews would have described it as rich, enticing, and fulfilling. She would have gone on to recite the menu. Begin the meal with escargot covered with a rich garlic butter.  Next a Caprese salad which consists of ripe tomato and fresh mozzarella cheese, sprinkled with just a drizzle of olive oil. For the main course veal fillet cooked perfectly in a Port wine sauce and a bottle of Pinot Noir to enhance the succulent flavours. And, to complete the meal, a variety of cheeses and fruit served with a coffee.

If asked that same question now, her response would be tasteless and empty.  Her meal, when she had one, was a frozen dinner picked up at her corner grocery store and the closest she came to having fruit these days was the grapes used to make the bottle of wine she drank each night.

On the Other Hand is the story of one woman’s journey after being suddenly widowed. Nina Andrews loved her life and considered it to be close to perfect. She and her husband, Mike were empty-nesters, still very much in love, and looking forward to retirement and a life of leisure.

Suddenly everything changes when Mike dies leaving Nina behind. Her overwhelming grief soon turns to anger and then depression. She tries to live outside her grief, but the next step seems impossible. Just when Nina thinks she is learning to endure, she crashes.

Crushed by her grief, Nina carefully plans her suicide but just as she is about to carry out her plan, there is a knock at her door. The visitor she finds on the other side will change her life in ways she never dared dream.

I wrote this novel for personal reasons, but for comments like: “You got it. I didn’t think anyone knew what I was going through.” or “On the Other Hand is an inspirational story that will touch your heart and have you both laughing and crying.” or “My mother and sister couldn’t understand what I was going through. I had them read your book and now they know.” and then there’s “You know it was a good book when, three weeks later, you find yourself worrying about the main character and wondering how she is doing.” that I am forever grateful.

On the Other Hand was written a few years ago and I want to thank Shelley for re-introducing me to it in such a fun way on a wonderful venue that exists to connect readers and authors.

I hope you pick up a copy and that it touches you the way it has so many others.

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

You can find June and her books here:

Thursday, February 16, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Maria Murnane, Author of Perfect on Paper

What is it about Waverly Bryson and Dino’s Pizza?

In my first two novels, Perfect on Paper, and It’s a Waverly Life, Waverly Bryson and her two best friends frequently get together at Dino’s Pizza, located in the heart of the Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco. While Waverly is not a real person, Dino’s is a real restaurant, and I have many fond memories from the years I spent living around the corner.

Brooklyn is my home these days, but my parents and sisters are still in the San Francisco suburbs, and I visit them often. Whenever I’m in town I usually drive by Dino’s at least once, and I inevitably feel a sense of nostalgia not just for my own past, but for Waverly’s too. The backdrop of her life is based on mine (I like to say that her life is my life if my life were more exciting), and when I see Dino’s I remember the days when my girlfriends and I would plop down at a table, order a pizza and a pitcher of beer, and wonder out loud when we were finally going to figure out our lives. Be it problems with boyfriends or work or family, there was always some sort of drama swirling around, and talking through our angst at Dino’s always made us feel better, even if we rarely came up with any answers. Dino himself was often working when we ate there, and I loved that he would stop by our table to say hello. It made me feel like a part of a small community within a large city.

Fast-forward a few years, and I’ve now written eight novels, all of which I realize share a similar theme: No one really has it all figured out! We’re all just people trying our best, trying to get by, trying to be happy, trying to get the most out of this magical and mysterious experience called life. My characters, like myself, may never know without a doubt that they’re headed in the right direction, but one thing they do know for sure is that with good friends by their side the journey is much easier—and a lot more fun.

Throw in some pizza and beers from Dino’s, and it’s even better! J
 -Maria Murnane

p.s. My new book, Bridges: A Daphne White Novel, is coming out this spring. I hope you will check it out!

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

You can find Maria here:

Friday, February 10, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Gemma Mawdsley, Author of The Paupers' Graveyard

The most frustrating thing that was said to me as a budding writer was, “write what you know.” This one sentence made me stop short and realise that I didn’t know very much and certainly nothing that anyone would want to read about. Another thing they tell you is to find your voice. How I struggled to find a genre where I would fit in until giving up on the standard ones and combining history with horror. My first novel, The Paupers' Graveyard, dealt with a very important time in Irish history, the time of the Great Famine. As I wrote, I began to realise that food, like most things in life, only becomes important when there is a shortage of it. Even before the famine, those who worked on the land were poor and their diet lacked all the nutrients we have come to take for granted. Potatoes were the mainstay, and on rare occasion’s pieces of dried fish, but this was for the man of the house, as he was the breadwinner. It seems such a meagre thing, a piece of dried fish, but to hear twelve-year-old Timmy describe it, it was mouth-watering:

Timmy watched as his mother studied her husband, and when she was sure he wasn’t looking, she took bits of the flaked fish in her fingers and fed them to the younger children. Rose and Tom opened and closed their mouths soundlessly, reminding Timmy of the fledgling in the trees beside their cabin. He would have loved some of the dried fish and, licking his lips; he tasted the salt from the potatoes and pretended it was from the fish.

It is hard to imagine the pleasure derived from such a small morsel, or the pleasure a young boy would have found in it. Once the blight hit and the potatoes failed, within a year most of Timmy and his kind would have nothing and many were reduced to eating grass!

On the opposite scale, the gentry who remained in the country fared just as badly. Like Elizabeth, the lady of the manor, now reduced to the status of the poor relation. After the untimely death of her husband, her failure to produce a male heir means she is now at the mercy of her brother-in-law. At the height of the famine she flees with her three, young daughters to the nearest port, in the hope of a passage to America. Despite selling her jewels she only has enough to send her three daughters and must return alone to the home she once loved, but will now be her prison.  Heartbroken, she wandered for days before reaching home and on her arrival describes the feast waiting there:

She sipped at the soup, savouring every mouthful. The butler had placed a large platter containing a joint of roast beef on the serving trolley nearby. The smell made her mouth water and she felt guilty at what she saw as a betrayal of her sorrow. A plate was placed in front of her, filled with the carved beef, carrots and bread. Once she tasted the food she wanted more. Nothing had ever tasted that good. The juices trapped within the fleshy meat leaked out, bathing and caressing her tongue. In her hurry, she swallowed chunks that momentarily stuck in her throat. The butler refilled her plate twice, and she blushed at her lust for food. Once, when she inadvertently caught Carey’s eye, he winked and remarked, “Hunger makes sweet sauce. Doesn’t it, Elizabeth?” 

Despite the horror of the famine, a friendship blossomed in the unlikeliest of places. Amidst the squalor of the workhouse, a fugitive lady of the manor and a young farm labourer rescue orphaned children and do their best to save them from the fate of a paupers’ graveyard.

Still, today, Ireland is a land dotted with reminders of a time of famine. From the paupers’ graveyards, many overgrown and hidden among the weeds, to the abandoned ruins of villages; left behind by those fleeing from its horror. These places exists and have becomes stories that old women whisper about around winter fire to wide-eyed children and cross themselves in fear. Though over a hundred-and-fifty years have passed, the memory of a time when the crops failed and famine spread over the land like a dark shadow, is still fresh in the minds of those who fear it still.

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

You can find Gemma here:

Thursday, February 2, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Lee Bice-Matheson, Author of the Paige Maddison Series

Food is essential, it’s delectable, it’s a chance to be social and discuss over a favourite meal what’s important in our characters’ lives. Food provides fuel … energy for our mind, body, and soul. At least that’s what our teen heroine, Paige Maddison, believes.

In our new release, Shine Your Light, Paige reveals in detail the meals or the snacks she’s eating. Paige is a lightworker: a soldier, fighting for good on behalf of humankind. She is passionate, rambunctious, and spontaneous … but she knows the importance of keeping up her energy to fight evil that seems to present itself at the most inopportune moments.

In one of the first scenes, Paige finds herself and her friends trapped in a run-down cottage. They are snowbound with no idea of how they’ll be rescued. Her friend, Allan Brewer, his step- daughter Trixie, and BFF Carole try to calm Paige down and comfort her … with ‘what’s to eat.’ In a childlike voice, Trixie declares: We have ‘granola bars, mixed nuts, juice boxes, and lots of bottled water.’ Paige settles down and smiles.

Sometimes, we make or bake a favorite recipe or type of food to apologize. In a very emotional scene (Paige had been hospitalized for a week), the family caregiver, Hannah, greets Paige with the announcement she’s made her faves – blueberry muffins and wafts the smell to her. This scene is integral as Paige had put herself in jeopardy to travel to the cottage and Hannah let her go that day when the weather was unpredictable. She uses the moment to ‘make-up’ to Paige and admits as the ‘adult’ she should never have let her leave.

In a hilarious scene, Paige’s Dad relays the story of her mom eating seafood in Italy. It wasn’t what her mom thought it would be. It provides a cultural culinary lesson that her parents bonded over. Paige’s dad explains life in Italy: “Well … the look on her face …” Dad laughed, glancing at Mom as he relived the memory. “The fish still had its head, tail, and everything in between, and the platter came with octopus and calamari with no breading, no deep-frying like we’re used to here. Your mom could barely look at it, let alone eat it.” This scene is based on our family trip to Monterosso al Mare, Cinque Terre, Italy. It’s great to draw upon our own life experiences.

A writer sometimes includes comic relief in a series where many emotional issues are touched upon from family estrangement, betrayal, unconditional love, strength of friendships, inner strength, anger, unwavering loyalty, and many more themes. The O’Brien family – Paige, her mom, Lori, and her grandparents, Ted and Helen, decide to make pickles. It is a touching, comical, bonding moment. “Paige, did you know that Cleopatra, the last reigning pharaoh of Egypt, loved pickles? Apparently, it goes back centuries, this need to make the best sour pickles. You are a fearless fermenter, dear.”

In one of the final scenes with an upcoming epic battle on All Hallows’ Eve, Paige sneaks into the kitchen to gather nourishment: Before dawn broke, I crept up to the secret chamber room one last time. I brought snacks that I knew would give me lots of energy on this hell-raising day. Nuts with coconut pieces, beef jerky, dried dates, and carrots would have to sustain me.

We cannot survive without rich soil to grow crops so we can eat, as we cannot survive without good air, or pure water. The Paige Maddison Series draws attention to environmental pollution throughout the novels. Let’s hope our decisions today affecting the growth of crops, research on global warming, and the study of water and air pollution bring us a hopeful future.

Thank you again, Shelley, for hosting us. :) It is an important topic and ingenious blog.
Have a Healthy and Happy 2017.

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

You can find Lee and the books here:

Paige Maddison Series: Written by Mom-Son coauthors J.R. Matheson and Lee Bice-Matheson 
Wake Me Up Inside, Book One, won a literacy award from the Readers’ Advisory Panel, Orillia Public Library, and is included in The Battle of the Books, Simcoe County, a literacy program.
Destiny’s Gate, Book Two, is also included in the literacy program, The Battle of the Books.
Shine Your Light, Book Three, is our new release and a best-selling novel. We are forever grateful., paperback edition for Teens and Young Adult Ghost Stories. It was also #2 Hot New Release and one behind Stephenie Meyer’s new release of the Twilight Saga.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Bernadette Marie, Author of The Three Wives of Adam Monroe

I had never been asked to write about the food in my books before. Quite a unique twist, I thought. When an author works on a story, character development is crucial. We think about their eyes, their hair, how they walk, and what they do for a living. However, a key element in who they are is building the world around them—including what they eat and how.

Each of the books in my The Three Mrs. Monroes series is titled after the character followed in the story—Amelia, Penelope, and Vivian.

Amelia Monroe, a martial artist who trains soldiers, is fit and loves a good meal. When she meets Sam, a lawyer, they find comfort in sharing meals. For a woman who loves to eat, and is very fit, a huge steak (on the rare side!) with all the fixin’s is just her style. Part of the fun with Amelia was her no excuses attitude. Sam watches her devour the steak and wash it down with beer. No dainty manners there, okay, not that she was disgusting, just comfortable with herself. When they meet for breakfast, she’s enticed by the promise of huge cinnamon rolls, but let’s be clear, she’s going to run that off with a six-mile run.

Penelope Monroe is the polar opposite of Amelia. Fragile in personality and pregnant to boot, she’s been lucky to survive on carry-out and frozen dinners. However, when she meets Brock, who comes from a solid family and homemade meals, she pours herself into a meal of spaghetti and meatballs to impress him. After all, the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and it’s a fairly hard meal to mess up.

Vivian Monroe has been playing happy homemaker for years. The mother of two young girls, food is made to appease her children. When she becomes involved with Clayton, who also has two young daughters, you can bet they bond over pizza and chicken nuggets. When the girls are not present, an adult beverage is in order. Of course, the promise of biscuits and gravy is sometimes the surefire way to a man’s heart. It doesn’t have to be homemade to be a comfort food either.

Throughout the trilogy, as Amelia, Penelope, and Vivian bond and solidify their friendship, food and drink play a huge roll. There are many meals shared between the strangers who become friends, but drinks might be a better guide through their bonding. Drink is a fantastic way for people to enjoy the company of others. Coffee plays a huge roll in the formation of the relationship between the women. Everyone is calmer when there’s a hot beverage in their hands, right? From coffee when presented with bad news, to meeting at a coffee house, or the warm cup of Joe in a friend’s kitchen, coffee can bring people together.

When friendships are developed, wine certainly plays a roll. Women who have bonded are comfortable around each other sit and sip wine, and that was key in showing their relationship grow. Of course, celebrations call for a little bubbly as well, and each book certainly spotlights a celebration as each woman grows as a person on her own.

Food and drink will forever bond people. It is a great way to introduce characters and their special characteristics to readers, as it is a common bond we can have with them.

Thanks for hanging out with me today. And thank you Shelley for having me. So here’s me lifting my coffee mug to you all, cheers! I hope you’ll visit Amelia, Penelope, and Vivian with your favorite beverage and bond with them as well.

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

Friday, January 20, 2017

FOODFIC: Please Welcome Gale Martin, Author of Don Juan in Hankey PA

Good Food Still Abounds in Hankey, PA

Though once a thriving small town, Hankey, Pennsylvania, became part of the Pennsylvania Rust Belt when the steel mill closed and the ranks of high-paid executives and managers moved away in 2005. As a result, most of the finer restaurants and eateries closed, too.

Who can afford to dine at the Colonel Hankey Inn anymore, with entrees like Drunken Lamb, braised in porter and priced á la carte at $25 a plate?

Okay, maybe Richard Rohrer, the retired dermatologist and former chair of the Hankey Opera Guild springs for fine dining frequently. Oh, and his girlfriend Vivian Pirelli, the bipolar ketchup heiress, whose family made their fortune pulverizing tomatoes. Compared to a decade ago when the economy was robust, only a handful of Hankeyans are keeping the Colonel Hankey afloat.

Deanna Lundquist, the current chair of the Opera Guild, prefers to entertain the rest of the guild in her beautifully appointed home. She is busy burning through her divorce settlement faster than you can say, “replacement trophy wife.” Deanna adores a menu of heavy hors d’oeuvres paired with fine wines, such as Duck Confit which she serves with an Australian Shiraz, or goat cheese crostini with a crisp Napa Valley Sauvignon. It pains her to spend good money on all those gluten-free options for Vivian, who has every food allergy known to womankind, and definitely not Deanna’s favorite person. But Deanna is nothing if not a gracious hostess (with designs on a lead gift from Vivian’s family foundation to keep the opera guild in the black), so gluten-free wins out over full flavor every time Vivian is on the guest list.

While the Colonel Hankey Inn no longer fits most folks’ budgets, the Steel City Diner with their $1.99 week day breakfast special is the perfect option for everyone and as popular as ever with displaced workers, cheapskates, and Belgian-waffle lovers of every economic stripe.  That diner must use half a can of real whipped cream on each perfectly golden, berry-bedecked waffle.

For big celebrations like opening night parties, the Opera Guild relies on Luigi’s Italian Trattoria for tasty yet affordable receptions, like the one they threw after the premier of their new production of Don Giovanni, featuring the Argentine sensation Leandro Vasquez singing the title role. Sometimes Luigi even throws in the cannolis—on the house—provided the guild orders three entrees or more for the buffet.

If productions keep selling out like Don Giovanni, perhaps the guild can move their opening night receptions back to the Coloney Hankey Inn someday soon. Their calamari with spicy tomato dipping sauce tops Luigi’s pedestrian marinara every time.

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

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