Looking for a steampunk read? How about one that comes with its own recipe???
Hey folks! I have an extra special treat for you this week. I’m a smidge late on this one, but I am helping out to spread the word for a brand new steampunk release, The Alchemyst’s Mirror by Liz Delton! And even extra special, this post comes with a recipe from the book so you can have some delicious bites to eat as you read!
And there’s also a Facebook launch party coming up on November 10, so head on over for some fun and festivities!
First, let’s hear a little about the book itself.
Petra and Maisie Everturn just want to run their family’s tea shop, but when their explorer brother Jiordan goes missing while looking for an alchemycal artifact, none of them are safe.
The sisters must enlist the help of another explorer in order to find Jiordan or the artifact—before the mysterious alchemyst society finds them first.
However, when one of the sisters stumbles into the clutches of the most dangerous alchemyst in the city, the race to unravel the clues becomes desperate. And when they discover the truth about the artifact, their quest to infiltrate the alchemyst’s secret society becomes a matter of life and death.
I love the idea of a tea shop in this story, and secret societies? Definitely sounds like a ride!
But I did promise you a recipe. And what better than some sandwiches fit for a tea shop themselves? I could picture settling in with this book, a whole plate of these delicate treats, and a nice big mug of Irish Breakfast (my favorite tea, currently).
And that recipe card is so cute! Feel free to print yourself a copy for your own recipe box. 🙂
The author herself also sent over a couple of delectable pictures so you can envision it for yourself. Check them out!
I hope I’ve inspired you to try out a new book, and maybe some tea sandwiches! The blog tour may be over now, but the book is just waiting for its next reader. 🙂
Liz Delton writes and lives in New England, with her husband and son. She studied Theater Management at the University of the Arts in Philly, always having enjoyed the backstage life of storytelling.
She reads and writes fantasy, especially the kind with alternate worlds. Liz is the author of the dystopian Arcera Trilogy, and the fantasy Realm of Camellia series, and the new steampunk novel, The Alchemyst’s Mirror. World-building is her favorite part of writing, and she is always dreaming up new fantastic places.
She loves drinking tea and traveling. When she’s not writing you can find her hands full with one of her many craft projects.
Iceland and a food-worldbuilding post?! Count me in!
Today I have the distinct pleasure of introducing author H.L. Burke and her brand new release, Ashen! Ashen is a fantasy Cinderella retelling inspired by Iceland, and, well… I’m sure you can see how I would be interested in that!
But if you’re new here, I write some fairy tale retellings of my own, and about two and a half years ago, my husband and I took our honeymoon in Iceland!
I fell in love with it then, and I honestly cannot get enough of it (we may or may not be slowly planning our next trip there… once it’s safe to travel again). At the time, I was dying for fiction set in Iceland, and now I finally have something!
(BTW, if you have other suggestions for fiction-preferably fantasy!-set in Iceland, please send them my way in the comments!)
And in other Selina catnip, today’s guest post by the author herself talks all about the role rood played in the worldbuilding! You may recall I even talked about food in worldbuilding a while back.
So without further ado and such, let’s get right on with this awesome glimpse into the world of Ashen!
Guest Post by H.L. Burke
Lizbete, the main character of Ashen, wouldn’t describe herself as artistic or creative. However, whenever I put her in a scene when she had to cook something, she was REALLY into it. Like, really, really, really into it. Food is Lizbete’s calling, and it plays a major part in the story and world of Ashen.
Lizbete’s home is an isolated fishing village in a cold northern country which I based on Iceland. The green interior is home to many shepherds, but the majority of commerce in town is from fishing. They eat berries they gather and vegetables they grow in their gardens and cliff pigeons … which are a bird I made up because traditionally people in Iceland sometimes eat puffins, but … I couldn’t stand to put one of those adorable things on a plate, even for authenticity.
Lizbete is a foundling with a strange secret curse. Unable to create her own body heat, she has to draw warmth from external sources. Unfortunately, this means whenever she touches another human being, she pulls heat from them, and if their contact is lengthy, her uncontrollable heat-draw can injure or even kill.
Because of this she needs to stay near heat sources, which usually means you can find her hiding in the kitchen of her adopted guardian’s tavern. Auntie Katryn taught Lizbete everything she knows about how to feed a crowd. Lizbete can make delightful soups out of scraps and bones. She roasts savory potatoes. Her sweet squash pie is fantastic, and her fish fry second only to Auntie’s.
In designing the food that I had Lizbete cook in the book I drew from three sources:
What was native to the country and climate I had chosen as a template (Iceland).
What would suit an isolated fishing village in a culture where most people have to work hard in the cold.
First off, I spent a lot of time looking into Icelandic food … by which I mean I found out that they had licorice flavored spirits that sounded amazing and looked seriously into whether I could get them imported before I realized that this was YA book and cocktails probably weren’t the research route I should go … and then I read up a bit on Icelandic cuisine. As I kind of expected, there was a decent amount of fish involved as well as lamb.
This also fit with my idea of an isolated village that had to be self-sufficient, fishing for most of their protein while shepherds treasured their flocks. I wanted the food to be hearty for people putting in a hard day’s work, and warm to chase away the cold wind coming off the frozen seas.
And finally, wish fulfilment.
From what I can tell apples are not historically a big part of Icelandic cuisine, but I had a great scene in mind where Lizbete and Brynar (her love interest and my prince stand in for this Cinderella tale) bond over peeling apples … so yeah, those are in there. Also something called “firewine” because it goes with my hot and cold theming.
So yeah, food is a big part of how Lizbete relates to the world around her, and I hope the descriptions of it help draw you into her world a little deeper.
(As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made through the purchase link on this page. However, I am sharing this book because I have enjoyed her work before, and I am truly excited for this release!)
Thank you so much, Heidi, for giving us a behind-the-scenes look at this world! I can’t wait to dive in (it’s already loaded on my ereader!).
Also, be sure to keep an eye on the blog for my upcoming review. It may be another month or so, but I plan to write a full review of the book as soon as I finish it!
And in one more bit of news, this month I released a prequel novella to my This Curse series! I’ve been trying to price match it everywhere free, but that’s taking a while. But you can get it for free just by signing up to my newsletter! (Don’t worry, you’re free to unsubscribe at any time.)
Sign up to get a free copy of This Cursed Light, This Curse #0.5!
No, really. I know that a lot of people love food, but really. I. Love. Food. I love the cultural identity that comes with it, the bonding experiences with people over meals, and of course the delicious flavors. I love food in cartoons, I love it in books, I love it in movies.
But did you know that food can also be part of worldbuilding? And that how you use and present food can help to define your world and character relationships better to readers?
And what better topic to discuss right before the US’s Thanksgiving holiday? So let’s dig right in!
Food lends an idea of place and time.
One of the beautiful things about food is that it’s incredibly diverse. A simple meal can tell a reader what kinds of crops are grown, what foods are accepted, what cultures may be involved, and the cooking capabilities of the time and place.
For example, many fantasy authors like to include feasts (more of a discussion on this can be found on the podcast Writing Excuses, season 14 episode 30, “Eating Your Way to Better Worldbuilding”). The foods are often what we see in medieval works like Lord of the Rings, including breads, meats (maybe even a whole stuffed pig), and cheeses.
But utilizing cultural foods, like saurkraut and bratwurst for example, can help the reader ground your world in a culture they may recognize. With a simple inclusion of one of these dishes, you can set a tone for what the reader can expect without overexplaining the culture.
Likewise, if you’re writing contemporary, think of what things you eat on a regular basis. Do you go to a taco truck? The cupcake stand on the corner? The fancy Asian Fusion restaurant on the other side of town?
The types of foods, and their preparation and presentation, can help readers picture your world more completely and set a tone for your world in a way that is unique to food culture.
Food can indicate a character’s condition and status.
In the same vein as the points above, the types and presentation of foods can help to solidify the conditions and status of your character. If they feast, they are in a time of plenty or they are rich and/or generous. If they’re scraping through the garbage to find a few potato peels, they’re in a pretty dire situation. How the character sustains themselves tells a lot to the reader about them.
As an example, I have a section in my first chapter of the R&R story where the younger sister is smelling what the older sister is cooking: a stew with a healthy portion of meat. The younger sister can’t help but feel angry and bitter, as the older sister is preparing meat for no reason other than to impress her peers, and they have limited amounts until the rainy season ends, not to mention how expensive it has become to purchase. She comments that they should be saving it for a feast day.
Just by this exchange, I am showing that the family has limited supplies, as does the village, and that some foods are precious and reserved for important days. It helps me establish the status of the sisters (scraping to impress the rest of the village) and the setting, as in the first point (the rainy season, a season of famine, restricted access to expensive foods).
Food can be used to strengthen a relationship.
Just like setting the tone, setting, and character status, food can also be used for building relationships. Do your characters often cook together? Is it bonding time? Do they eat out together often? Is one of them responsible for the cooking? Do they eat alone in the living room or as a family in a formal dining room?
Here’s another example from my R&R book. In a tense time, when the younger sister suddenly has expanded magic, she worries that her sister has reported her to the village officials (magic is not okay to them). When her sister gets home, they cook together in a way that is natural, indicating they’ve worked together to keep the house for years, but is full of unspoken tension masked by everyday tasks. It’s a way to show the older sister’s real actions…and reveal that she also has magic. It builds on their normal by throwing in something unexpected, something they have to discuss.
Think of a romance. How many movies and books have scenes of the male love interest cooking the woman a meal or vice versa? Or of them cooking together? It shows the amount of care they have for being together and for each other, and it can be used as a cute moment to give readers all the feels.
Food is such a handy tool for relationships!
A final word of caution
As I mentioned above, I love food. And because of this, I tend to have a lot of comfort eating scenes or cooking etc. in my stories. IT IS POSSIBLE TO OVERUSE THIS TOOL. Instead of focusing just on food or having an overabundance, make sure that each scene involving food serves a purpose. Know what that purpose is, and consider if there are any better ways to show it. Ask your beta readers for input. Be intentional.
But also don’t be afraid to pig out now and then on this powerful worldbuilding element. 😉
And of course, keep writing. (And Happy Thanksgiving, friends!)