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.