My July Blog Series is Coming–you won’t want to miss it!

Welcome Readers!

Where I live, the summer months take their sweet time to arrive, and once they do, it’s fleeting. I wait all year for these few glorious months, and I relish them. Throughout the year, I read a LOT. Sometimes my reading list is client-based, as I prep manuscripts, submissions and proposals with clients. And sometimes my reading time allows for me to read the books of published authors. My tastes in reading for pleasure is varied, but I will say, that since Covid, I have been craving books that allow me to escape these crazy times. And for that, I found myself drawn to what I call “Summer Reads.”

To me, a “Summer Read” often has some or all of the following qualities:

  1. Travel
  2. Locales which take me away to someplace different
  3. A breezy vibe, letting me escape and relax for a bit
  4. A love story

Beginning on July 3, 2022 and continuing through the entire month, I will be launching my next blog series: Fave Summer Reads. I am super excited about this series. During the series, I’ll be featuring three “Summer Reads” books, and interviews with the authors who wrote them. I’m so fortunate that I was able to connect with the authors of these books which meant a lot to me, especially during these uncertain times.

Special thanks to the authors who’ll be featured:

Jenn McKinlay

Abby Jimenez

Robinne Lee

I hope you’ll join me for this very special blog series!

Drop a comment below…I love to connect with my readers!

Novel Noshing Blog Series Part 3: Jen Gilroy

Welcome back to my Novel Noshing series! Today, for the third and final post of the event, I am featuring Jen Gilroy, author of The Sweetheart Locket, dual timeline historical women’s fiction.

Author Bio

Jen Gilroy writes sweet contemporary romance and dual timeline historical women’s fiction—warm, feel-good stories to bring readers’ hearts home. 

A Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® finalist and shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon award, Amazon named her third book, ‘Back Home at Firefly Lake,’ a ‘Best Book of the Month: Romance’ in December 2017.

A dual British-Canadian citizen, Jen lived in England for many years and earned a doctorate (with a focus on British cultural studies and social history) from University College London. 

Returning to where her Irish family roots run deep, she now lives with her husband, teenage daughter and floppy-eared rescue hound in small-town Eastern Ontario, Canada.

When not writing, she enjoys reading, ice cream, ballet and paddling her purple kayak.

About the Book/InspirationJen’s own words!

What if the key to your present lies in the past? 

From England and France in the Second World War to San Francisco 2019, “The Sweetheart Locket,” is a dual timeline historical women’s fiction story of love, loss & family secrets, intertwined with courage & hope. The family heirloom locket at the centre of the story is inspired by the “sweetheart jewellery” men serving in the armed forces during the war gave to loved ones at home. 

Filled with heart, heroism and humanity, reviewers have called the book “a beautiful tale…[of] friendship, love and loss…[and] how three generations of women come full circle and find happiness.” 

The Victoria Sponge or Sandwich Cake is a popular and traditional British cake. It’s also my own favourite which I have fond memories of sharing with English family and friends. As part of a book that’s my love letter to Britain, I included references to this cake in “The Sweetheart Locket,” my first primarily British-set story. 

When Willow, the American heroine of the contemporary storyline arrives in England for a work trip, she’s also determined to find out about her British grandmother, Maggie’s life, including what she did in the war. 

When Willow meets an historian at London’s National Portrait Gallery they have afternoon tea, a special British ritual. 

“Willow took a forkful of cake, white with a jam and cream filling…called a Victoria Sponge.” 

And as Willow discovers Maggie’s past, including her work as an undercover secret agent in 1940s France, Willow’s life also changes. 

As expressed via my fictional Maggie and Willow, one of the book’s core messages is this one: 

“Even if it wasn’t in a war, everyone had to fight some kind of battle what mattered is that you came out the other side.” 

Recipe

Victoria Sponge/Sandwich Cake (Traditional British recipe)* 

Ingredients:

170g (6 oz) butter or margarine

170g (6 oz) caster sugar

3 eggs, lightly beaten

170g (6oz) self-raising flour, sieved

Jam and sieved icing sugar to fill and decorate 

Method:

Base line and grease two 19cm (7 1/2 inch) sandwich tins

Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees Celsius / 350 degrees Fahrenheit / Gas mark 4

Beat together the margarine and sugar until the mixture is light in colour and fluffy in texture. 

Add the eggs to the creamed mixture a little at a time beating thoroughly after each addition. 

Add the flour and fold in carefully with a metal spoon. 

Divide the mixture equally between the prepared tins. Smooth the top so that the mixture is fairly level. 

Bake for 25-35 minutes (or until well risen, golden brown and firm). 

Leave in the tins for two to three minutes to cool. 

Turn out onto a wire rack. 

When cold, sandwich the two cakes together with jam and dust the top with sieved icing sugar. 

*This recipe comes from ‘Church House Recipe Book: Love and Charity: Cake Recipes from Hughenden Parish Church, Church House Teas.’ High Wycombe, England: Fairprint, 2004, p.37 (Christine Rose). 

For those in the US & Canada, a comparable recipe, using North American measurements, can be found here:  https://www.christinascucina.com/victoria-sandwich-traditional-british-afternoon-tea-cake-recipe-for-us-kitchens/

I have got to say…this Victoria Sponge looks so elegant and delicious…seriously! If you make this recipe, or have a similar one that you love, please tell us in the comments.

Book Links

“The Sweetheart Locket” is currently available in ebook (most vendors) with a paperback following later this year. http://mybook.to/TheSweetheartLocket

Author Jen Gilroy is on Social Media! You can connect with her here:

Website: https://www.jengilroy.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JenGilroyAuthor

Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/JenGilroy1

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jen.gilroyauthor/

Thank you so much for stopping by my writer’s block! I had a blast meeting these three authors, and learning about their latest releases. I can’t wait to try all these recipes!

Next month, July, 2022, I will be featuring a series on some of my favorite summer reads, including interviews with amazing authors who wrote the books. I hope you will join me here on my Writer’s Block for that!

Please leave comments below…I love to connect!

Novel Noshing Blog Series Part 2: Kate Chambers

Welcome Readers!

Thank you so much for stopping by! My Novel Noshing blog series is up and running. It’s a series where a different author is invited to guest post for the week, featuring their latest work, and discussing a food and recipe associated with it. This week on my Novel Noshing blog series, I am featuring author Kate Chambers! Kate has a novel-in-progress, a RomCom, SOMEWHERE ONLY WE KNOW.

Author Bio

Kate is a rebel librarian, glitter covered crafter, and lifelong storyteller who wrote her first full story at ten. She also writes fan fiction, but that’s another story. When she’s not writing or reading, Kate can be found watching her Atlanta Braves with her handsome husband and adorable little girl.

About the Book/Inspiration (In the author’s own words!)

SOMEWHERE ONLY WE KNOW features tons of food, as you would expect of a novel about a baker and chef, from pastries to pasta, but this is the first dish Jane, our heroine, makes for her professional chef celebrity crush, Lincoln. Jane admits that while it’s one of her favorite meals her grandmother made in her childhood, and one of the first things she ever learned to cook on her own. she’s never made it for anyone else before. 

The inspiration for this recipe is my Nonnie’s stroganoff, which is my favorite food in the world, and she used to make it for me, even packing up leftovers for to take back to college. It’s pretty simple, but it’s so warm and cozy, it just fills up your soul.

Recipe-Kate’s own!

Stroganoff

Ingredients:

1 16 oz bag extra-wide egg noodles

8 oz stew beef

8 oz sliced white mushrooms

1 10.5 oz can cream of mushroom soup

¼ cup beef broth

¾ cup sour cream

3 TBs canola oil

2 TBs butter

Salt and pepper to taste

Prepare noodles according to package (you can do this simultaneously with the rest of your prep) and salt and pepper beef.

In a large skillet, heat oil until shimmering, then brown beef. Remove from the skillet. 

Return the skillet to heat, add mushrooms and butter. Saute until golden. 

Add mushroom soup and stir to combine. Add beef broth, stir to combine, and allow to come to a bubbling simmer. 

Return beef to skillet and add sour cream. Return to a bubbling simmer and let simmer for five minutes.

Serve over cooked egg noodles and enjoy!

Thank you so much, Kate, for sharing about your book, and for the delicious Stroganoff recipe!

Readers, you can connect with Kate! Check out her social media links below:

Social Media

Twitter: @the_librarygirl

Goodreads: the_librarygirl 

I’d love to hear from you!

If you try Kate’s Stroganoff recipe, tell me about it in the comments. I love to connect through my blog, so if you have any questions for Kate or me, reach out! If there is a novel you love, where food is featured somehow, I’d love to hear about it. Share the info in the comments!

Next week, I will be featuring author Jen Gilroy. I hope you’ll stop by again to learn about her latest novel, and food inspired by it!

Novel Noshing Blog Series Part 1: Darby Baham

Welcome Readers!

I am so excited to begin this blog series. My Novel Noshing posts are often some of my favorites, because it brings together authors, their books, and the foods that are featured within their novel’s pages. This time around during my Novel Noshing series, I will be featuring three authors, beginning today, with author Darby Baham, author of Bloom Where You’re Planted from Harlequin Special Edition (2022)

About the Book/Inspiration (In the author’s own words!)

Bloom Where You’re Planted is the second book in my Harlequin mini-series, the Friendship Chronicles. It tells the sexy but introspective story of Jennifer Pritchett, a young Black woman who lives in Washington, DC, loves her boyfriend, ’90s R & B, and her friends—but lately, not much else. In the beginning of the book, Jennifer finds herself comparing her life and relationship to that of the people around her, and unfortunately she feels that every part of it is lacking. The job that she has is secure, but she wants more from it; her relationship is three-years in but has seemingly lost all fire; and her friends are leading exciting lives with grandiose stories while she’s often stuck in a classroom cleaning up crayons or on the sofa watching her boyfriend who has fallen asleep on the latest TV show they were supposed to be watching. Throughout the story and the mini-series, readers get an intimate viewpoint of how a group of close knit friends provide the comfort and foundation each woman needs as she navigates the ups and downs of her life, career, and relationships, figuring out along the way what truly makes her happy. One major activity among these friends is a weekly meet-up that they lovingly call “Nacho Thursdays,” even though it doesn’t always happen on a Thursday. During these weekly meet-ups, they may go to a restaurant, but more often than not, they are gathering at someone’s place, making their own nachos, and spending time together laughing, sometimes crying, and generally helping each other get through life.

My inspiration for this food & friendship connection probably comes from my cultural background of being from New Orleans. Often, family & friend gatherings are based around some type of significant meal, whether it’s gumbo at Christmas or a seafood boil in the summer. That tendency to gather with friends & food has certainly stayed with me even as I’ve lived in DC and New York. My friends and I love to meet up for brunch, for example! And more specifically–I simply just love nachos. So, I figured if the group of friends were going to commit to eating any meal once every week, nachos were the best option. They are shareable, you can change them up constantly so you don’t feel like you’re eating the exact same thing, and you don’t need a ton of ingredients to make them taste amazing.

Nachos Recipe-Straight from Darby!

As I mentioned earlier, I think the beauty of nachos are that you can change up the ingredients all the time. You may want vegetarian nachos one day or shrimp the next, and each can be just as tasty. However, the last chapter of Bloom Where You’re Planted starts with a simple ingredient list for not only a delicious pan of nachos, but specifically Nacho Thursday nachos. Here it is: 

– an overwhelming amount of tortilla chips

– ground beef sautéed with taco seasoning

– strips of chicken

– chopped tomatoes

– green onions

– shredded Mexican cheese

– fresh salsa or pico de gallo

– sliced limes 

– black beans

– lots of laughter

– and even more love

+ tequila and margarita mix

Instructions (for at least 2 separate pans of nachos):

Instructions (for at least 2 separate pans of nachos):

1. Preheat oven at 350 degrees.

2. In separate containers, season ground beef and uncooked chicken with Tony’s Chaceres Creole seasoning. (This is my personal preference, but others can use salt and pepper and season to their desired level of spice.)

3. In two separate frying pans, brown the ground beef and sauté the chicken on medium-high heat for approximately 10 minutes if these are about 1b each, stirring the ground beef and turning chicken on both sides.

4. Drain ground beef and add taco seasoning + 1/4 cup of water, cooking on medium-low heat for approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Then, cut the cooked chicken into smaller pieces as needed.

5. Sit both pans of meat aside.

6. Line two separate baking pans with foil, then add your base layer of tortilla chips in each.

7. Spread a layer of black beans on top of and in between chip pockets.

8. Then add your meat of choice to each baking pan.

9. Add tomatoes and green onions to both.

10. Finally, add as much shredded cheese as your heart desires.

11. And place the baking pans in the oven uncovered. Bake for approximately 15 minutes.

Author Bio

Darby Baham (she/her) is a writer/editor who has had personal blog posts appear in The Washington Post’s relationship vertical, Blavity, Femi magazine, and more. She’s also worked in the communications industry for more than two decades. Now residing in New York, the New Orleans native previously lived in the Washington, DC area for fifteen years. There, she cultivated a beautiful, sprawling shoe closet and met some of the best people in her orbit. Her debut novel, The Shoe Diaries, was released in January 2022. The follow up, Bloom Where You’re Planted, was released on May 24, 2022.

Book Links

Recently, Darby read directly from her book, live! You can check out her video, here.

Direct purchase links to Bloom Where You’re Planted are available at www.darbybaham.com/books.  This includes all major retailers and a link to access indie booksellers by zip code.

Connect with Darby Baham via her social media links below!

Social Media

Website: http://www.darbybaham.com

Twitter: @darbybaham

Instagram: @darbybaham

Thank you so much for joining us for part one of Novel Noshing! Next week, I will be featuring author Kate Chambers…Come back again and check out her novel and inspired recipe!

I’d love to hear from you!

If you try Darby’s Nacho recipe, let me know! And let me know if you read Bloom Where You’re Planted. Finally, if there is a novel you love, where food is featured somehow, I’d love to hear about it. Share the info in the comments!

Coming Soon! Novel Noshing: A Summertime Blog Series

strawberries on brown wooden bowl

Welcome Readers!

Food and Books: Two of my favorite things!

I am so happy to announce that I am going to be hosting a blog series during the month of June, called Novel Noshing. During June, I will be featuring three authors, who will tell us about foods that have been inspired by, or featured in, their novels!

During the month, you will be hearing from authors Darby Baham, Kate Chambers, and Jen Gilroy. I can’t wait for you to hear all about their books and the recipes they feature!

Darby Baham

Kate Chambers

Jen Gilroy

I hope you’ll join us for the series…the first installment drops June 5, 2022!

As always, I’d love to hear from you! Have you read any novels which featured specific foods? Also, have you been inspired to make any of the featured foods from novels? Tell me about it below!

Author Interview: Lauren Baratz Logsted- EXACTLY what I needed to read!

Welcome readers!

I hope everyone is well, and staying safe in this unprecedented time.  As a blogger, writer, and literary agent, I have the thrill of finding great books…and I love to talk about them!  Seven years ago, I discovered Lauren’s book, THE BRO MAGNET, which is an absolute gem.  As I recall, I had just received my very first e-reader, a Barnes and Noble Nook, and one of the first books I read on that device was The Bro Magnet.  My post about that can be found here: https://smnystoriak.com/2013/03/09/the-bromantic-comedy-of-lauren-baratz-logsted/ The Bro-Magnet (The Johnny Smith Novels Book 1)

And recently, upon recommendation, I read her book, THE OTHER BROTHER, which I review here:  https://wordpress.com/post/smnystoriak.com/3575

Once I finished reading it, I reached out to Lauren, and she was kind enough to do an interview with me here on this blog.  Sit back, relax, and enjoy this little chat with one of my favorite authors!

S.M. Nystoriak:  It’s been 7 years since I last interviewed you on this blog.  Welcome back, Lauren!  Tell us:  What was your inspiration for THE OTHER BROTHER? The Other Brother

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  Several years ago, I was on an online forum for readers – remember forums? – and someone mentioned Chris Jagger. Now, I’d always known Mick Jagger had a younger brother, who was also a singer/musician, but I’d forgotten about it. Suddenly, my mind began wondering: ‘What would that be like?’ Those of us with siblings, I’m sure are familiar with the competition of family holiday dinners. No matter how much you love each other, there’s always a bit of measuring against each other, isn’t there? Now, imagine you’re a singer/songwriter, and you’re even making a living at it, but your brother happens to be the frontman for “The Greatest Rock ‘n Roll Band in the World”? And then, being me, I began wondering what it would be like to be married to the less-famous brother…and then I began to write. To be clear, the characters aren’t the Jaggers – none of the characters in the book are real people – but that was the inspiration.  

S.M. Nystoriak:  This was a really fun, yet surprisingly deep story.  I found myself connecting with Mona, big time. As a teen, I can remember feeling the same excitement she did with rock stars, and as an adult, and a mom, I found her to be incredibly real.  Is there a character in THE OTHER BROTHER which you most identify with?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  Mona. I feel like she’s trying to do the right things, trying to make things right for other people. Yet she doesn’t always understand what her own motives are for doing certain things, and I think that’s true of a lot of us. One of the big themes in the history of literature involves the tragedy of the human condition: the inability to ever truly know another human being. But Mona ultimately raises the question, and I raise the question: Can we ever truly know ourselves? 

S.M. Nystoriak:  It is often said that writers should write what they know.  How closely tied are you to the happenings in THE OTHER BROTHER?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  I am not one of those people who say “write what you know.” If I tried to put that into practice for myself, all my books would be about a woman alone in a basement, writing books. That’d hardly be gripping on the page for 50K-100K words, would it? OK, that’s an exaggeration of “write what you know,” but I still find that classic bit of advice to be too facile and too easily open to misinterpretation. So the advice I would give people is: Write what you *want* to know. Write about the things you’re dying to explore. 

S.M. Nystoriak:  That’s an excellent perspective!  Well said!  When I was growing up, my family listened to a lot of classic rock.  The Stones, The Beatles, David Bowie, Elton John.  I also admired and followed the music of several 80’s pop stars, mostly British.  Duran Duran was an absolute fave when I was in my teens, but there were many others.  Have you always been a fan of rock and roll music?  Did you have any music idols growing up?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  My brother is two years older and when I was fairly young, he got a monthly subscription to some record club. So the first albums I was exposed to were all rock bands, like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple. I definitely enjoyed getting my pop fixes from the radio, but my brother’s taste set the template for my taste. Then, when I was 12, a close friend turned me on to the breadth of Rolling Stones music. In terms of idols, the usual ones for my era: Mick, Robert Plant, Roger Daltrey – British men with great hair and distinctive voices. 

S.M. Nystoriak:  How about now?  What kind of music are you streaming these days?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  HA! You’re confusing me with someone who streams music – I still have a flip phone! I listen to CDs at home and in the car: lots of classic rock; music from earlier eras than that, lots of Sinatra and some Billie Holiday; and – don’t judge! – “The Music of Nashville,” i.e., the TV show.

S.M. Nystoriak:  You crack me up!  As a musician myself, I can attest that those are some fabulous artists and genre’s!  OK…I have noticed a recurring setting in your books:  Connecticut.  What is the significance of Connecticut?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  I’ve lived my whole life in Connecticut, even went to college instate, so I guess that part of my writing really is, at least in part,  “write what you know.” But plenty of my books do take place in other states or countries, reflecting my own travels and interests.

S.M. Nystoriak:  Another connection:  In THE OTHER BROTHER, Mona and her family are from England, and they travel to Connecticut for a holiday.  I noticed you have another book which takes place in England, about a commoner marrying a British royal.  Have you ever lived in Britain, or traveled there?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  And I’ve written several other books that take place in England! In addition to the two you’ve mentioned, if my math is right, there are six others that take place in England. I’ve only been there once, for eight days in 1993, but after a lifetime of reading a ton of British books and watching an insane amount of Masterpiece Theatre”… What can I say? I’ve never stuck to any single genre or time period for my writing – I just write the stories I want to write and then set them in the time and place that the story dictates.

S.M. Nystoriak:  Nice!  Obviously, I have some more reading to do!  And, I also follow the mantra,”Write the book you want to read”.  I began writing seriously about ten years ago, after the stress caused by local and world events got the better of me.  My writing output increased dramatically during that time.  Do current events have an effect on your writing output?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  Short answer: yes. Longer answer: I’ve been writing for over a quarter of a century and for the overwhelming majority of that time, I could write through anything, good or bad, that was going on in my life or in the world. These past few months, though, with this tsunami of things going on, I’ve had to set my expectations for myself a bit lower. I just can’t work straight through like I used to. I mean, Twitter alone – when I first started writing, there was no Twitter. But now? It’s too easy to leave that open and before you know it, you’re taking a quick break from writing that turns into: ‘Wait – what did he say now?’ – or “What did they do?’ and that quickly turns into ‘Well, I’ve got to say something about this, I can’t just keep silent.’ Before you know it, well, there’s another hour gone. 

S.M. Nystoriak:  So true.  Alright…Last item!  Tell us about any other projects you might be working on.  What can we expect to see?

Lauren Baratz-Logsted:  Ooh, thank you for asking! This coming February 9, 2021, my 20-year-old daughter Jackie Logsted and I have a book coming out from Penguin Random House that we wrote together. It’s an adult comedic romance called JOINT CUSTODY. It does *not* take place in Connecticut but it is about – and written from the point of view of! – a border collie named Gatz. When Gatz’s beloved owners, The Man and The Woman, split up, Gatz resolves to do everything in his power to get them back together. But when New Man appears on the scene, well, complications to Gatz’s plans ensue. It’s a lighthearted book about happiness and what it really means to love. Here’s hoping readers have as much fun reading it as we had writing it. Thanks for having me!   

S.M. Nystoriak:  That sounds amazing!  It would be so wonderful to collaborate like that on a book!  You are fortunate, for sure!  Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions, Lauren!  As always, it’s a pleasure to dive into your books!

For more information, Lauren can be found:

Twitter

Facebook

Amazon

I cannot recommend Lauren Baratz Logsted’s books enough.  They are always, exactly what I need!

Let’s Connect!  Have you read any of Lauren’s books?  What authors do you read that always write “exactly what you need”?  I’d love to hear about it…Chime in below!

 

Novel Noshing: Foods Inspired By Our Novels and Characters, Part 4

october-cutting-board

Welcome Back!  Today’s headlining picture makes me think of my favorite thing about autumn baking…apples and cinnamon.  Here in the North Country, Autumn is in full swing.  Cool, crips nights, and sun-shiny days illuminate the colorful trees here in the Adirondacks.  It’s the season for steamy drinks, comforting casseroles, warm breakfasts to get us started in the morning.

Which brings me to our featured author of the week.

For this fourth installment of my series, I present to you author Melody Winter, and her soon-to-be-released novel, INIQUITY.  Here is Melody, with a bit about her upcoming release.

melodywinter

Village life for my characters in Iniquity is hard. Food is limited, and meat scarce. But the one meal that’s made every morning is a hearty bowl of porridge. The men need a filling breakfast to see them through a day working at the fields, and the women usually eat their fair share as well. The weather is cold, miserable and it often rains, hence a stomach full of warm porridge is a good start to everyone’s day.

oliver-twist

Athena mentions having to soak the oats overnight. This was a traditional way of making porridge. For each serving, the equivalent of 50 grams of oats was added to a mix of 300ml water and goats milk if it was available. The following morning it was cooked in a large metal pot over hot coals, stirring constantly until it boiled, and then stirred again for a further ten minutes.

Unfortunately, in Iniquity there isn’t much else you can add to the porridge as fruit and other plant growth is severely hindered by the lack of sunlight. The villagers only grow the necessities.

INIQUITY is due for release on the 25th October, available through amazon, or a signed paperback direct from Melody. The ebook is currently available for pre-order at a special discounted price on amazon:

Amazon.com: Link to Iniquity on amazon US  

Amazon.co.uk: Link to Iniquity on amazon UK

Email Melody: melodywinterbooks@gmail.com

About the author:

Growing up, Melody showed a natural ability in art, a head for maths, and a tendency to write too long English essays. Difficult to place in the world when she graduated, she pursued a career in teaching, but ended up working in finance. Melody is convinced the methodical times she spends working with numbers fuel her desire to drift into dream worlds and write about the illusory characters in her head.

Melody Winter lives in York, North Yorkshire, England with her husband and two sons. When not dealing with football, rugby, and a whole plethora of ‘boy’ activities, she will be found scribbling notes for her stories, or preparing for another trip to the nearby beaches at Scarborough and Whitby. With an obsession for anything mythical, Melody revels in reading and writing about such creatures, and creating her own.

 

Website Goodreads Facebook Twitter Pinterest

Novel Noshing: Foods Inspired by our books and Characters, Part 1

gatsby-pic

Welcome, Readers!

The photo above, shows a Great Gatsby-inspired meal.  From the website, it states: Waldorf Salad in a lettuce cup, and deviled egg, photographed in Walnut Creek, Calif., on Wednesday, April 24, 2013. http://www.denverpost.com.  I think it’s a great photo, and really sets the tone for what this blog series is about.

Today begins a month-long series, where some of my writerly friends and I will be sharing a little bit about our books, and recipes and foods which are inspired by them.  I intend to share a new post each week of October, highlighting an author or two, each time.

Planning this series was meaningful to me.  Foods and customs help to shape who we all are.  When writing, it’s important to include those types of things, because it helps create character depth, and brings a more intimate knowledge of the story to light.  When I read a novel, I want to feel like I live with those characters for a while.  This blog series is an attempt to bring you, the Reader, closer to living within the pages of our novels.  Join us!

For the first post in the series, I introduce you to J.M. Frey, the author of The Accidental Turn Series.  Here she is, posting in her own words.

 

jmfrey_sears1

 

Bevel Dom’s Questing Cuisine

by J.M. Frey

One of the most fun parts of world building is figuring out the cuisines of the world. What grows in this climate? What is their staple grain? How often do they go to market? What kind of growing season do they get? Do they trade with neighbors, or neighboring counties, or neighboring countries? Do the highborn eat the same foods as the peasantry? Who gets to hunt on what land, and what sort of creatures do they consider food-animals over pet-animals?

For my novels and novellas in The Accidental Turn series, I firmly established a world where bread, cheese, European-style fruits and root vegetables, and farmed meat were the standards of faire. But my rogue and roving heroes – Kintyre Turn and Bevel Dom – were more likely to live off the land. Venison, eel, dried fruit and nuts, and foraged potatoes were more their speed. And in a world were exotic spices were non-existent and everyone – everyone human that is – had a kitchen garden filled with the same herbs, Bevel kept a string of cylindrical tins attached to his sword belt, and the spice blends he’d wheedled out of centaur chefs and night elf kitchen maids were his greatest treasure.

In his seventeen years as a roaming sword-for-hire, Bevel developed several clever and ingenious ways to serve up road-rations and just-caught creatures to make them palatable to two hungry Heroes. Here is one of them:

Bevel, trying to break through the heavy atmosphere, hands one of the leaf-wrapped packages to me, and the other to Kintyre. Wordlessly, Kintyre holds it out to Pip, and Pip, equally wordlessly, takes it. I take my own from Bevel, accepting the temporary truce, and it is still hot; it singes my fingertips a little. It steams as I unwrap it, and I am pleased to see that it is a sort of roll made up of meat wrapped around dried fruit. It is juicy and delicious, and I realize how hungry I am on the first bite.

“We’ve been doing this part of adventuring wrong,” Pip moans around her own mouthful.

Bevel pinks again. “I’ve had a long time to practice. Luckily, Kin was willing to put up with my experimentation.”

 “And I’m lucky Bevel actually enjoys cooking and was willing to experiment,” Kin says around a mouthful. “We got sick of standard travel fare pretty quick.”

 

BEVEL’S SWEET MEAT ROLLS

  • Venison, pounded flat (rehydrated from salted jerky is fine, if you have the time to soak it for a few hours), at least the size of your hand.
  • Dried berries – plums, cranberries and raisins preferred – rehydrated by soaking them in whatever liquor you happen to have to hand. Soak them for at least an hour.
  • Some dried nuts, roasted in a pan over your cookfire, if you like.
  • Large, thick, non-poisonous leaves – an acceptable equivalent in the Overrealm would be Banana leaves. Tinfoil would also be acceptable.
  • A Centaur Sweet and Savory Spice Blend – the Overrealm equivalent would be cinnamon, nutmeg, sage, sea salt, white pepper, and thyme blended to taste.

 

Build up your camp fire in advance so that by the time you’ve prepared your rolls the embers are hot and cherry red.  Pour three handfuls of dried fruit into your travel cup and soak it with liquor – whiskey, sherry, or brandy work best. Wait until all the liquid has been absorbed into the fruit; while you’re doing that pound your cuts of meat flat and lay them on the leaves. Muddle and chop the fruit and nuts together, and spread a thin layer over the meat. Sprinkle with your spice blend. Roll the meat and fruit mixture like a scroll, fold the leaf around it (making sure to tuck in the edges to the fire doesn’t crisp them), and secure all with a bit of string soaked with water. Place the whole package on the edge of the fire, and leave for upwards of an hour, until the meat is at your preferred cooking level, or your companion is complaining of hunger. Serve with a trencher of bread if you have any. Potatoes, baked in the fire, work just as well.

Or, I suppose y0u could do it on the Barbeque, if you want to cheat.

*

J.M. is a voice actor, SF/F author, fanthropologist and professional smartypants on AMI Radio’s Live From Studio 5. She’s appeared in podcasts, documentaries, and on television to discuss all things geeky through the lens of academia. She also has an addiction to scarves, Doctor Who, and tea, which may or may not all be related. Her life’s ambitions are to have stepped foot on every continent (only 3 left!) @scifrey | http://www.jmfrey.net/

You can find out more about Bevel Dom and The Accidental Turn series here.

 

I’ve Got a Cover To Reveal! Who’s curious?

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A little less than three months from now, Without Benefits will be showing up on doorsteps and in e-readers! But today we get a first look at the amazing cover, designed by Ashley at Cardboard Monet! Ashley even did a special photoshoot just for this cover. So check out the cover and make sure you scroll down to the giveaway below!

Here’s a bit about the book:

Emma will always be a New Yorker at heart, even though she has a perfect life in Seattle. She has a prestigious job fundraising for the Seattle Symphony, a handsome boyfriend who adores her, and a Belltown apartment with views of the Sound. It should be more than enough to keep her pain from not playing the piano, and her 9/11 nightmares, away.

But when her old college crush, Owen, comes back into her life, it’s more than just spending time with him that’s causing cracks in her picture-perfect life. As she steps back on stage, and back into the spotlight, her connection with Owen and his world, dredges up old memories that Emma worked hard to forget.

Emma’s past comes back to haunt her, forcing her to face the truth about more than just her fears of returning back to New York. As her once perfect life begins to burn down, Emma is forced to figure out what she really wants: her fundraiser and cocktail party-filled life with her boyfriend, or forging a new future with the one thing, and one person, she’s ever loved–even if it means returning to New York.

Without Benefits is a beautiful and moving exploration of modern relationships and family written in the vein of Taylor Jenkins Reid and Renee Carlino.

So here it is…

The moment we’ve been waiting for…
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Isn’t it gorgeous? Pre-order your copy today!
 

About the author:

Nicole Tone is a freelance editor, MFA student, traveller, pet collector, binge-watcher, and a self-proclaimed coffee snob. She lives in Buffalo, NY with her husband, three cats, and two very large dogs, but spends as much of her time in Seattle as possible. You can like her page on Facebook, @ her on Twitter, swoon over dream houses together on Pinterest, and add Without Benefits on Goodreads.

Book Review: Hide The Elephant by Jonathan Dunne

EXTRA, EXTRA!!!  HIDE THE ELEPHANT RELEASES TOMORROW!!!

It’s not every day that this North Country Girl is afforded the opportunity to read an advance copy of one of her favorite author’s upcoming novels, so when Jonathan Dunne, author of Balloon Animals, Living Dead Lovers and The Nobody Show, asked me if I would be willing, I jumped at the chance.  I have interviewed Mr. Dunne a number of times (just click on the book titles just above for more information about him), and our conversations always have surprises in store.

What follows is my review of HIDE THE ELEPHANT, the upcoming release from dark humorist Jonathan Dunne.  I hope you keep an eye out for it.  It’s a real gem!

HIDE THE ELEPHANT by Jonathan Dunne: Expect The Unexpected

Any fan of Jonathan Dunne will come to expect certain things when he releases a new novel.  They will expect to be entertained.  They will expect to be startled at its many oddities.  And they will expect a dark humor that only Jonathan Dunne can deliver.  But if his new book has proven anything to me, it is that with Jonathan Dunne, the reader has to expect the unexpected.

I am a fan of Mr. Dunne’s novel’s.  I have been from the first moment I read a single page of his first book.  From Balloon Animals, to Living Dead Lovers, to The Nobody Show, I have grown accustomed to his dark yet unbelievably funny scenarios that split my sides from the laughter.  But in his latest work, HIDE THE ELEPHANT, Mr. Dunne shows us a side to his writing that I believe will further cement him in my arsenal of writer’s whose works are not to be missed.

Like his previous novels, Jonathan Dunne artfully pulls the reader into the world of his main character.  He does this by addressing The Reader directly in the text from time to time, which may seem taboo, but I find it charming.  You become part of the story in this way.  Also, like his other works, the setting is often something from way out in left field, but always in Ireland.

HIDE THE ELEPHANT has something different, though, in that the plot was incredibly sweet, almost heart-wrenching at times.  Our hero, Mick Munroe, is a zoo keeper, spending the better part of forty years caring for an Indian Elephant at the zoo.  When Altzheimer’s Disease begins to take its toll on Mick’s memory, he is forced into early retirement.

HIDE THE ELEPHANT tells the story of Mick and his elephant, Sinbad, as they escape from captivity; Mick’s captivity, in the form of senility, and Sinbad’s, in the form of literal bars.  With nothing to lose, they take off on an adventure across Ireland to find freedom.  And this Reader found herself admiring the way that Mr. Dunne mirrored Mick’s life with that of Sinbad’s.  It was beautiful to see how the two captives leaned on each other for support, through all of the tough times, lucid or otherwise.

This is not to say that humor is lacking in HIDE THE ELEPHANT.  There are plenty of places where poor Mick struggles just to get through the crazy thing his life has become, oh, mercy!  And his Snicker’s-eating elephant is quite delightful at times.  To put it bluntly, this book has something for just about everyone.

Not to be overlooked is my other favorite thing about Jonathan Dunne’s novels, which are his references to the places and character’s from his previous novels.  I really like the cameo of Arthur Lawless from The Nobody Show, as well as the mentions of other citizens of Old Castle and Limerick City.  These references pull The Reader further into the world of Dunne’s mind.  Brilliant.

In my previous reviews for Mr. Dunne’s books, I encourage the readers of my reviews to check out his work.  But this time, I would also mention that Jonathan Dunne has now shown that he is a writer who is evolving, embracing more sensitive issues, and doing so with finesse.  I look forward to my next Jonathan Dunne read, although after this one, I really can’t imagine what to expect from him next!