Merry Monday at Crazy Creek

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Merry Monday, everyone! The holiday festivities begin in earnest this week, as I make food and do laundry in preparation for that most important and glorious Opening Day of Deer Hunting. Not me! My menfolk! I shoo them away and spend the weekend reading etc.
I won’t, however be reading “Crazy Creek Christmas” by that excellent author Lisa Lickel because I ALREADY READ IT! Here she is, talking all things Christmas and her latest book.

Welcome Lisa! Let’s jump right in with a pressing hypothetical situation. Your entire area has been temporarily quarantined because someone believes they saw a UFO. You can’t go home but the Center for Studying Strange Sightings will pay for you and your entire family to go anywhere in the world—make that universe—for Christmas. Where will you go and how will you celebrate?
Well we have to go visit Stella and her family (from Parhelion) on their secret Tau Ceti planet they escaped to after nuclear war threatened to destroy Earth. If we went for a little while, we’d be fine. Just for Christmas. Tau Ceti isn’t too different, but we’d have to get used to the chlorine-scented everything. Does pine and cinnamon cover that? We’d have our traditional caroling passed around in the bespeaking voice Ceticians use, as well as out loud. And food, of course—always must have a great meal after the meeting for worship. We can bring a ham to go with salad. Christmas and Christmas no matter where you go.

Ha! Did I ask the right question there, or what? For those of you who don’t know, “Parhelion” is Lisa’s science fiction novel. So there would be ham. Any other favorite dish to make for Christmas?
My new favorite is watching my daughters-in-law make Grandma’s crepes on Christmas morning while I play with their children.

Bless those daughters-in-law! Not everyone has ideal family situations. Leah and Noel have both come out of difficult and/or tragic family circumstances. How they handle what life handed them is completely different. What role does faith in a good God, or the lack of it, play in their transformations?
Good question. Leah is a nice person, just naturally a sweetheart but she wasn’t raised in a family of faith and never really thought much about church or salvation. She wouldn’t hurt a fly despite being taken advantage of, so she’s ripe for hearing the Word. It may take her a while to truly accept the gift of grace, but she’s already in tune with God when her new ranch family helps her understand what she’s missing. Noel was raised in a family that practiced charity and regularly attended worship services and youth group. Yet he ran from all of that. I think he believes that leaving the ranch also means shedding everything about his former life. When the chips are down and he has choices to make, though, the depth of his character formed through well-practiced faith shines through and it doesn’t even occur to him to blame others for his problems. His remorse proves he’s never outgrown or run far enough from doing the right thing.

Yet in spite of these heartbreaking circumstances, the story isn’t depressing! How do you walk the line between hope and melancholy?
That’s nice to hear. I don’t want my stories to be downers, but conflict has to rise from somewhere. I think the fact that the main event heartbreak takes place before the story begins, and the tragedy that Noel suffers are handled within the Kingdom of Hope and Possibilities by people who understand that God loves them no matter what helps a lot. It’s okay to have a pity party for a while, but how we rise above what happens is the real story.

Introduce us to Leah and Noel.
Leah is a daughter given up for adoption under circumstances which always eluded her. She was raised in a pleasant but busy foster home and when she aged out after high school took jobs waitressing and kept moving west until meeting a kindly couple running a diner in Crazy Creek, Wyoming. They had a heart for a special family of ranchers south of town and helped Leah hire on. Noel is the driven kid who just didn’t want to be a farmer like his dad. His sister loved their family ranch, so Noel lit out for the big city to become a property developer. He thinks that by selling his family ranch to a horse tourism outfit he’ll solve everyone’s problems. Little does he know he’s the only one on his side. Even the new cute cook thinks he has a stone for a heart.
It’s funny—last week I interviewed Susan Baganz, whose female protagonist in “Sugar Cookies and Street Lamps” is named “Noelle.” And this week I welcome you and “Crazy Creek Christmas”—whose male protagonist is named Noel! Yet depending on which syllable you emphasize, it is a very feminine or very masculine name. How much thought do you put into names of your characters?
Susan thought that was funny, too, and we didn’t collaborate. Last year three of us had Mistletoe titles. Names are important to set a particular tone. I also happen to think Noel Coward was a groovy playwright and actor and I’ve always had a secret yen to use that name.

You titled your chapters! I love that! Not too common anymore. What made you decide to do that?
It just seemed like a fun thing to do. I didn’t have numbers at first, but someone else made an executive decision. Quite often I use a little phrase describing a chapter to keep me on track when I’m writing, but this story came together so fast I didn’t even have time to think about it. I wanted to offer the reader a little glimpse of what to expect.

Who in “Crazy Creek Christmas” is your favorite character after Leah and Noel?
I’m honestly trying to answer, but every time I try to pick one, I think of something about one of the others that was fun to explore—Jorge’s children, Manny’s “love ya,” “Gil’s soulful woundedness, Tom’s contemplative silence, and Marty’s cantankerousness; even Sister’s patience, and of course Cupcake’s name.
Favorite Christmas song? Or, if you really like Christmas music, feel free to share more!
I do, I do like Christmas music. I love both old and new, and cry for different reasons. I have Amy Grant singing “Love Has Come” sparkling in my head—thanks a lot. That’s gonna be an all-dayer. Steven Curtis Chapman’s Christmas album is a fav, and “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.” Don’t why know.

Will you write more about the Rocking J Ranch and Crazy Creek?
So, you’re the third person to ask me that. I guess, if one more person asks, I’ll consider it. I sort of even have the start of an inkling of a possible potential plot.

Actually I think three times is a charm…Would you like to live on a ranch?
It’s a place I think would be nice to visit, but I’m past all the enormity of being involved in an operation like that.

How much are you like Leah? Different?
How about Noel? Men and women are obviously different but also are similar in many ways. Any characteristics you have in common with him?
I’m from the Midwest, and I enjoy cooking, and if someone plunks me in a house with dust, I have a compulsive itch to clean. But other than that…nope, this little plump short grandma has little in common with Leah, other than I, too, dislike interrupting. Something about Midwestern values. Noel? He’s got a big chip on his shoulder, doesn’t he? He really wants to help, he just stumbles around trying too hard. He needs a good helpmeet. I guess I like to “help” too, which doesn’t always fly in the right direction.

Sister is a pretty appealing horse. Do you like horses? Ride much?
I love to look at them from a distance. My neighbors use horses in their work and pasture them around us, but I agree with Leah: they are awfully BIG.

And the burning question: do you decorate for Christmas before or after Thanksgiving?
After, of course! My prudish Pilgrim people decorations would frown at my opulent mink-coated Santa. They might not even appreciate the ceramic Santa kneeling at Jesus’s manger.

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Blurb
Crazy Creek, Wyoming saves Leah Hanes’s life. Running on fumes and bald tires, she thanks heaven for Cookie and Jeanette Wimmer who send her to the Rocking J Ranch as a winter cook. Leah arrives to discover the ranch and the people need more than a cook.

Noel Johansen, heir of the Rocking J, happily left for the big city years ago. When he loses his family in a terrible accident, the best thing for everyone is to sell the place, ditch the memories, and move on. But his brother-in-law has other plans, and the beautiful new cook they’ve hired for the season threatens Noel’s desire to remain detached.

The ranch represents Noel’s future and selling it becomes more important than ever when one more tragedy leaves him with nothing. But memories can’t be bought and sold, nor can a broken conscience heal itself. Home, heart, and future are irrevocably tied in Crazy Creek.
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Bio
Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin author who loves books and dragons, she writes inspiring fiction. Besides writing inspiring fiction, she also writes short stories, feature articles, and radio theater, and loves to encourage new authors through mentoring, speaking, and leading workshops. She is an avid book reviewer and blogger, and a freelance editor. Find more at LisaLickel.com.

A Wednesday Recipe from the Tuesday Prude

Here they are. One of my top ten favorite cookies. Maybe top twenty. I do love cookies.

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And here, almost right away, before I tell you how much I love these cookies and the history behind them and why molasses is so good for you it may offset some of the superabundance of sugar—here is the recipe:

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They really are different than a regular ginger snap. No snap, lots of chew. When it says don’t over bake, it kids you not.

I would tell you about the history, and how I ran across this recipe, but that memory is lost in the mists of time. It was some time during my college years. Before the days when I subscribed to every Country Woman, Taste of Home and Quick Cooking magazine. All of those were just a twinkle in their creator’s eye when I ran across this recipe for Molasses Sugar Cookies.

The last line is part of the original recipe and I always include it because it’s a winsome little line. Since I have 50% sloth blood in me, I didn’t feel like typing out the recipe. So I took a photo from the Mulder Family Cookbook. Now you know why I don’t hyphenate my name.

If you ever make these, let me know what you think. And Happy Wednesday from the Tuesday Prude!

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(I just noticed the 3 little holes in the cookie on the right. It mystifies me. Too late for another photo. The cookies are long-digested.)

Merry Monday at the Tuesday Prude

 

 

SugarCookiesAndStreetLamps_prc5539_750It’s November, and you know what that means. Wampanoag and Pilgims, turkey, gratitude, and Christmas novella publicity. Authors of Christmas books write about all things holly and mistletoe around Easter, spend summers by their air conditioners polishing and proofreading the Christmas tree scenes, and cook their Thanksgiving turkeys while figuring out how else to publicize this story they’ve devoted whole sections of the year to getting published.
And all so you and I can spend December cozied up near our Christmas trees, sipping a favorite hot (or cold—we do understand Christmas is celebrated in hot climates also) beverage and reading as many Christmas stories as we can cram into 25 days.

I’ll be interviewing a few of my favorite authors about their contributions to make our Christmases merry and bright. Today I host my friend (and editor!) Susan Baganz. Her novella this year is Sugar Cookies and Street Lamps, a sweet-in-every-way story. (Pop over to Amazon to preorder )

Susan, welcome to the Tuesday Prude! Let’s jump in with a controversial issue.
Christmas: start celebrating and decorating before or after Thanksgiving?
I decorated this past Saturday which goes against my usual “don’t set up the tree till the day after Thanksgiving” policy. The variation this year is only because I’m due to have surgery and want to be able to relax and enjoy healing and the holidays without overdoing it. The lights might not be turned on until then, but no promises. We do love having a Christmas tree and if my kids, now teenagers, had their way, it would be up year round!
Which of the cookies in your book’s comprehensive list intrigued you enough to want to try your hand at baking—and eating?
The funny thing is, I will bake cookies but I’m not a big cookie eater myself, which is probably a good thing! I’ll taste one or two and then I’m done and leave the rest for my husband and kiddos. Having said that, raspberry Linzer cookies, baklava tassies, Irish cream delights and English cranberry orange shortbread, might be a few that would tempt me to bake and taste.

I am a cookie lover, so maybe I better not try my hand at any of those bits of deliciousness. Your sugar cookie recipe at the end of the book is tempting enough!

Give us a quick character sketch of Noelle and Rudy, your protagonists in “Sugar Cookies and Street Lamps.”
Noelle has a Christmas Eve birthday but doesn’t like Christmas. She’s trying to get an event planning business off the ground while working at the library. She’s strait-laced as far as her morals go and has great organizational skills.
Rudy’s ears and nose tend to turn red when he’s embarrassed. He does art and decorates as a hobby but works at an Investment Firm. He loves Christmas and the reason for the season.

HA! I love that Rudy’s NOSE turns red!

What inspired you to have the setting be a Dickens’ village party?
I started the book with a title and went from there. Street lamps. The lyrics to “Silver Bells” came to mind, the city sidewalks, busy shoppers and then I thought of the old-fashioned lights and bright colored store fronts that used to be part and parcel of the holidays and soon I had this quaint and magical idea for an event! Fun to write about, not sure I’d want the hard work of putting it together like Noelle and Rudy did.

That is part of the magic of writing—we can create something really beautiful without ever leaving our laptops.
Speaking of inspiration, what led to the title of the book?
I have written a few Christmas novellas and all of them have been historical. I decided to do something contemporary and put it in Milwaukee which led me to make it part of the Orchard Hill series although few characters from previous books appear. Given my penchant for titles involving food and traffic/road related words in the vein of Pesto and Potholes, Salsa and Speed Bumps etc…it seemed natural to do Sugar Cookies and Street Lamps.
It’s a delightful title! Something else delightful—last Christmas Day you were barely married to the love of your life. Are there any Christmas traditions you’d like to incorporate into your household?
That’s a great question and one I’ve not really found an answer for yet. Christmas is pretty laid back for us. We attend Christmas Eve service, just the two of us as the kids are with their father. Christmas day I fix a special brunch which has to include bacon. I let the kids sleep in. After brunch we open gifts. I’ve done this since the kids were little. Gifts appear under the tree as I purchase and wrap them, so they learned at a young age to be patient. We never told them Santa brought gifts. So they have learned to anticipate but not peek. The rule was if they tried to open something it got sent back and they didn’t dare test me on that! As the kids are older, there are fewer gifts and this year we are giving them a memory instead. There will still be some small things under the tree. Usually the rest of the day is relaxing, possibly watching movies, although the kids won’t do that with us. I might make something special for dinner later. It becomes a day of rest. Our big family celebration with my parents takes place on a different day.

I expect as the kids leave home that will change and then we’ll have to change with that, but I really like the low-key relaxing day.
Why is a faith message so important in your novels?
I believe I will stand before God for what I write. When I teach at conferences, I tell authors that we will be held accountable for the words we put on the page, and the theology we convey in our stories whether obvious or not. I firmly believe that. Even as an editor I won’t contract stories that violate key principles I believe in as a Christian. And we all need encouragement and a fresh reminder of the truth of the gospel. Story is a powerful vehicle for getting beneath the more obvious roadblocks people can put up to hearing the truth. What if someone didn’t know Jesus and read any of my books? Would they see Jesus there? Either in the actions of the characters or the dialogue? That’s always in the back of my mind. In many ways, writing is an act of worship for me.
Elements of faith, hope and love always seem to pop up in your stories. What else can we find when we read your books?
Faith, hope, and love… and the greatest of these is love. Sometimes humor creeps in although I don’t write comedy and admire people who can do it well. I like to write about the fact that even as believers, life can be difficult and that we need to grow spiritually and emotionally. You can’t have one without the other. Sometimes that process is hard and my hope would be that people can be encouraged to persevere to the other side. While I write happily-ever-afters, I’m fully aware that it is a moment in time, and troubles all come our way. We need to savor those joy-filled moments.

Any holiday besides Christmas that you think would be a good setting for a book?
Thanksgiving could be good as I think family dynamics can be as challenging then as they are at Christmas and gratitude is a good theme. Christmas just seems to hold its own magic though, don’t you think?
I know it does for me! Part of the magic comes from lights and decorations in our darkest month. Are there any memorably magical Christmas displays you’ve seen?
The Paine Art Center in Oshkosh does a wonderful Nutcracker theme at Christmastime which is cool. Fond du Lac, the city near where I live, has a fun light display set to music that is free out at Lakeside Park. I took Ben there last year and he was spellbound as he’d never seen anything like that. It was sweet to see that childlike awe as he watched and we listened.
If you were queen of the world, what would your ideal Christmas Day look like?
Ohhhh! I’d need a bigger house! I would have maids to clean and every room decorated—by someone else of course! And a wonderful feast around a large table with family and friends with holiday music playing in the background. Maybe board games after? Great conversations. Maybe gifts? I think being present with people is more valuable than material things.
When you are queen of the world, I will be angling for an invitation to those Christmas festivities. Just warning you.
Finally, tell us why we should read “Sugar Cookies and Street Lamps.”
It is a sweet story and our family’s favorite sugar cookie recipe is at the end of it. If you want a fresh reminder of the wonder of Christmas in the shadow of the cross, then hopefully this story will refresh you and make this season all the sweeter.

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Susan M. Baganz is living her own happily-ever-after with her husband Benjamin. She chases after two Hobbits, and is a native of Wisconsin. Susan writes adventurous historical and contemporary romances with a biblical world-view.

Susan speaks, teaches, and encourages others to follow God in being all He has created them to be. With her seminary degree in counseling psychology, a background in the field of mental health, and years serving in church ministry, she understands the complexities and pain of life as well as its craziness. Her favorite pastimes are lazy…spending time with her husband, snuggling with her dog while reading a good book, or sitting with a friend chatting over a cup of spiced chai latte.

You can learn more by following her blog http://www.susanbaganz.com, her Twitter feed @susanbaganz or her fan page, http://www.facebook.com/susanmbaganz.

The Dad in the Diary

(The rest of the story continues at Heartwings—link below—if you are interested)

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Last Sunday I went through one of Dad’s diaries. He’s been gone since 1999 and it’s taken me twenty years to be able to read things he wrote without getting teary-eyed. (much)

The one I chose to read covered1946-50, while he still lived on the family farm. He wrote a lot about the weather, (hot, cool, swell) how much onions went for at market, (never enough), how he hoped the US wasn’t getting into another war so soon after WWII. (but the US was)

I skipped to his entries from 1950. He’d decided to go back to college and was nervous and excited and wondering if he was crazy.
He moved from his little farming community on the east side of his state to a fair-sized city on the west side of his state. To be a college freshman. At almost 35 years old.

Follow the link to the rest of the story.

http://www.heartwingsblog.com/2019/10/the-dad-in-the-diary/

The Ratio of Ick to Glory

 

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I live in one of the American States in an area vaguely designated as the Upper Midwest. It’s not so northerly to suggest all Paul Bunyan all the time. And not mid-westernly enough to call up images of cornfields, wheat and the occasional soybean.

My state has so much to commend it!  Rolling hills. Picturesque farms. Colby Jack cheese. And many bodies of water.

The problem is this:
There are only two months of the year during which I can fully, without encumbrances, enjoy and participate in the Great Outdoors.

June is one. Many folks remain outdoors for the 30 days June hath.
With good reason. We seldom need buckets of citronella, pallets of Deep Woods Off
or thousands of dollars of homeopathic insect repellents. But that day comes soon enough.
Because a primary function of some bodies of water making my Upper Midwest state so appealing is mosquito hatcheries.
They perform it admirably, and from July through September, my fellow statesmen and I don Deet, erect screen houses, engage in the state dance (The Mosquito Swat, Slap and Sidestep) and cower indoors after dusk like the residents of Transylvania avoiding Count Dracula. Because often, mosquitoes don’t depart till October.

Speaking of October, it is the other month that beckons us upper Midwesterners
with open arms. “Come outside,” this tenth month calls. “Leave behind your insect repellent, your Uggs, your mosquito netting and your fuzzy mittens.”

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Isn’t October pretty?

Like June, it compels us to spend the entire month outdoors.
Because we know that the months of November through May often bring this:

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We are either anticipating the above dump of white, living through it, or cleaning up after it in those 7 months.

But we endure. Because we anticipate June and clasp memories of October to our hearts.

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Friends who may consider a move to the Upper Midwest, know this:
The ratio here of ick to glory is 10:12. That is 5/6th of a year we can’t head outside without layers of outerwear or layers of insect repellent.
Is it worth the struggle?  Mathematically the odds are against us.
But aesthetically it can’t be beat.

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Up ain’t pretty

Here’s one of my new life mottos:
Smug goes before the grunt.

In its expanded version the motto goes:
If we’re smug because we can sit down cross-legged on the floor at our age, (60+), we’re sure to be humbled to the dust when we grunt getting up.

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Oh yes. Once, maybe only a decade or so ago, my fellow 60+ers and I were able to perform a feat of beauty:
We could rise from a legs-folded-and-tucked floor position and STAND UP by merely rising. No arms needed.
Note: In our less culturally and politically woke days, this seated position was known as “Indian style” (but whether from Native Americans or Indian swamis, I can’t say).

Apparently, once we hit late middle age, this graceful upsweep of levitation has become more complicated for many of us.
As our cracking and creaking days increase, rising can involve several steps, including but not limited to:

flexing, shifting, rotating, bending, hoisting one’s backside, and praying. And grunting.
Sometimes all limbs, including both hands, AND a piece of sturdy furniture get involved.

Up ain’t pretty.

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People my age should build an additional forty seconds into our estimated time transitioning from the floor to wherever we’re headed after the floor.

To be fair, the process isn’t always this complicated. I can often go from cross-legged to a squat to a stand using only one hand for support. A sort of flash-tripod move. (Usually only accomplished with speed and precision when there is no one around to witness my two-step triumph.)

I say this not to brag but to encourage. Another of my life’s mottos is: If I can almost do it, almost anyone can.

To be fairer, just last winter I witnessed a woman— a scant 30 some months younger than I—perform the single-sweep elevation. But she’s a vegetarian, so there’s that.

I, however, am an omnivore, I’ll never see 60 again, creakiness is in my DNA, and I never remember to regularly take my glucosamine and chondroitin.

Right now I’m going to enjoy the fact that I can still sit on the floor. Great things happen there. Stories with grandchildren, circle songs, a direct view of lost items cowering beneath the sofa.

And if up ain’t pretty, it is still up. A good place to be.

Hoist with his own petard. How the Sam Hill?

 

Wile E Coyote Quotes image in Vector cliparts category at pixy.orgLife is full of surprises. I thought everyone knows what it means to be “hoist with your own petard.”
Not surprisingly, I was wrong.

If you don’t know the meaning, read on and expand your universe. If you do—well, you’ve read this far. Why not stick with me to the end?

A petard, according to my extensive research on Wikipedia AND two other sites whose names I can’t remember, is a small bomb you construct to blow something up.
To hoist something is to lift that something into the air.

The pithy little phrase is found in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hamlet has two friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. (Are those not the greatest names? I’m so jealous Shakespeare thought of them first.) Hamlet learns they are going to betray him by carrying a letter to the authorities requesting Hamlet be killed. Great names do not always great friends make.

When Hamlet finds the letter, he substitutes Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s names for his own. Thereby writing their death sentence.
Then he chuckles that
“… ’tis the sport to have the enginer
Hoist with his own petar’(d)*

In other words, Hamlet considers it sporting when the one who engineered the bomb to blow up someone else gets lifted into the air when it explodes under him.

Sort of like Haman in the book of Esther, being hung on the gallows he built for Mordecai.
Or a poacher accidentally stepping into the trap he set for a rare white rhino.
Or Wile E. Coyote getting beaned by the anvil meant for the Road Runner.

So now you know how to be hoist and what a petard is. If I were you, I’d be asking ‘WHY?”
Why do I think you need to know this?

Because not everyone is familiar with this evocative and very descriptive phrase. Even literate, well-educated everyones haven’t heard it. Like some of my writing critique group. While reading aloud to them from my current WIP (Work in Progress for those of you with enough sense of self-preservation to never try your hand at authoring), I came to the “hoist, etc.” phrase. I’d written it in because it was JUST PERFECT for a scene where my antagonist got snared by his own evil devices. My fellow writers, with clearing of throats and furrowing of brows, asked what the Sam Hill “hoist with his own petard” meant. I sensed immediately that they were under-impressed.

But I kept the line in there anyway.

So.
IF my WIP ever becomes a finished manuscript, and
IF it gets contracted and published, and
IF you happen to read it, you won’t need to contact me and ask what the Sam Hill I mean by sticking “hoist with his own petard” in there.
Because now you know.

It’s something writers like me and ol’ Billy Shakespeare throw around.

*The “d” is my addition. All this is confusing enough without dropping consonants.