~Cozy Customs~

Favorites recipes, family traditions, holiday or vacation fun!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Author Michelle Griep's talks about the Essentials of Character Building!

Essentials of Character Building
Guest post by Michelle Griep

No matter the genre, every story has characters. Otherwise, you'd be writing a phone directory. Hold on. Bad analogy. I know plenty of characters in a phonebook, and who uses a phonebook anymore anyway?

As I was saying, sans phonebooks, characters are the main ingredients in a story recipe. There are lots of tricks to jazz up a memorable character, but EVERY character needs some basics . . .

What's makes your character scream like a little girl? Centipedes? The IRS? The threat of an alien probe shoved up their—wait a minute. I'm scaring myself. And that, my friends, is the point. Everyone is afraid of something. Identify what your character is afraid of so you can use that fear to ramp up the tension.

I'm not talking six-pack abs here, though in the case of your hero, that's never a bad idea. Think about what skills your character possesses. Is he a crazy freak with nunchucks? Can she hit a raccoon in the eyeball with a slingshot from fifty yards away? Maybe this character has x-ray vision and can see into people's souls. Whatever. Give them something to work with.

Nobody is flawless, so make sure your character isn't either. Not even your super stud that rushes in to save the day and the damsel in distress in one fell swoop. This can be something as small as an inability to balance a checkbook, or you can create a whopper of a wart like a gambling habit using stolen money copped from nuns.

A Secret
Yo. Buddy. Step a little closer. No, closer. I’ve got a juicy secret for you. Are you leaning toward the screen? That's because you want to know what I've got hidden. Secrets are like big, plump nightcrawlers wriggling on a hook, irresistible to the literary fish. Characters with secrets reel in a reader.

Everybody wants something. A brand-spanking-new Tesla. A mutton lettuce tomato sandwich. The stupid hangnail on your thumb to go away. Your character wants something as well. What is it?

Great characters have lots of layers, and the best kind are those at odds with each other. Example: show a heroine battling insecurity on the inside while acting and speaking with careless arrogance on the outside. The more complexity, the better. Your characters are human after all. Okay, so maybe they’re not real humans. But living, breathing people are reading your story, and that’s who your characters must relate to.

A compelling character needs a cause about which they are passionate, usually one that involves justice. Not that they have to be over-the-top, protest-sign waving hippies. Just give them an issue they care deeply about.

Make sure to incorporate these building blocks next time you construct a character and you'll be well on your way to making him or her memorable in a reader's mind.

Like what you read? There’s more. WRITER OFF THE LEASH: GROWING IN THE WRITING CRAFT is a kick in the pants for anyone who wants to write but is stymied by fear, doubt, or simply doesn’t know how to take their writing to the next level.

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. Follow her adventures and find out about upcoming new releases at her blog, Writer Off the Leash, or stop by her website. You can also find her at the usual haunts of Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Monday, February 16, 2015

An Awesome Amish Recipe from Multipublished Author Lynette Sowell~Chocolate Whoopie Pies!

Multipublished Author Lynette Sowell

This is one of my favorite Amish recipes to make. Yum!
Chocolate whoopie pies
For the chocolate pies:
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
For the filling:
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup confectioner's sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup marshmallow creme
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Make the chocolate pie crusts:
In a large mixing bowl, cream together 1/2 cup butter and 1 cup white sugar. Add the egg, evaporated milk, and vanilla, then mix well. Combine flour, salt, cocoa powder, baking soda, and baking powder in another bowl. Add dry mixture slowly to sugar mixture. Mix just until all ingredients are combined.
Drop the dough onto greased cookie sheet by rounded tablespoonfuls. Leave at least 3 inches between each spoonful.
Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, until firm. Allow to cool before filling.
Make the Filling:
In a medium bowl, blend 1/2 cup butter, confectioner's sugar, vanilla extract, and marshmallow creme. Mix until smooth. Make the pies by spreading 1 to 2 tablespoons of filling on the flat side of one chocolate crust, then cover with another crust.

A Walk Through Pinecraft

Pinecraft is the setting of my current book series, Seasons in Pinecraft. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to visit, not once, but twice as I was writing my series. Come with me on a virtual tour of the village.
Hop a flight with me to Tampa, Florida, and let's rent a car and go Pinecraft in Sarasota, Florida. Better yet, let's hire a driver from Pinecraft to pick us up at the airport. Because once we get to the village, the best way to get around is to ride a bicycle or walk.
Even before we turn onto bustling Bahia Vista Avenue, we know we're not in a place where you'd expect to find an Anabaptist settlement. We're in Sarasota, Florida, a lively city of 52,000 on the Gulf Coast.
Breathe in the fresh air, bask in the sunshine, and see the palm trees wave here and there in the breeze. The sandy beaches of Siesta Key are a short 15-minute drive away.
Once we get to Bahia Vista, we start to see something interesting. Bicycles here, there, everywhere, and many more in the winter time.
The village's high season of visitors runs from November until around Easter time, during which the population swells to three or four thousand. The village's boundaries are about three-fourths of a mile west to east, and about one-half mile north to south at its widest points.
Translate: That's a lot of Anabaptists all in one place.
The hotspots in Pinecraft include places like Yoder's Restaurant, an ice cream shop called Big Olaf's, along with other establishments like Village Pizzas by Emma and Der Dutchman Restaurant.
My favorite things to eat include the pie from Yoder's, especially the peanut butter pie; the maple walnut ice cream from Big Olaf's; and a slice of pepperoni pizza from Emma's.
When you step into Pinecraft, toss out your preconceptions about the Amish and Mennonites. You'll see Old Order Amish ladies from Lancaster County, their black aprons fastened with straight pins. You'll see men with long beards waving in the breeze, much like the Spanish moss does from the nearby trees.
A highlight for me was meeting Lydia Fisher, a snowbird from Pennsylvania. Lydia is Old Order Amish, but she has a laptop.
I'll let that sink in for a moment.
Lydia is allowed to have a laptop because she's the editor of Ladies' Journal magazine, which has subscribers in the Amish communities and beyond.
They might be Plain, but there aren't any wood stoves or homes without electricity in Pinecraft. Since the majority of those who stay in Pinecraft are visitors, they're permitted to stay in homes and small apartments that have electricity.
You'll see all kinds of head coverings among the women, too. Some will be small, lacy coverings that remind one of a doily. Others where the sheer, heart-shaped kapps of the Old Order. Still others wear a white, starched, pleated covering.
But not all people attached to Pinecraft “look” Plain. There are more liberal Mennonites who live in the area as well, and like other ladies, some even wear their hair short and wear capris, or even shorts.
Pinecraft Park is a hubbub of activity from morning until late night, with a playground for the kiddos, fishing in Phillippi Creek. You'll hear the clank-clank of shuffleboard players, the grunts and discussion of men playing bocce (they measure to the nearest inch!).
The youth play volleyball at the court—if they're not at the beach nearby, that is. Siesta Key Beach, voted the Best Beach in America, is only 15 minutes away and last winter, the city set up a bus stop in Pinecraft. The girls love to change out their sturdy plain shoes for snazzy flip-flops and they stock up on the suntan oil to get a tan before heading back north.
I will always treasure my visits there, and I look forward to going back again someday.

A Path Made Plain
Betsy Yoder lives with her great aunt in Sarasota’s Pinecraft neighborhood, far from her family in Ohio. Heartbroken by a man who left her—and the Order—to marry someone else, Betsy instead pours her time and energy into her bakery, offering the village of Pinecraft delicious desserts from her Amish heritage, and is content in her hard-working yet peaceful life.
Enter the formerly Amish Thaddeus Zook, a pastry chef who has moved to Pinecraft after working in restaurants among the Englisch. While Betsy nurses a hesitant heart, Thaddeus shows a similar hesitancy about rejoining an Amish community. Though neither can deny the attraction between them, Thaddeus is hiding a past that could threaten their future together. Betsy has lost one love already; dare she risk loving another who has adopt Englisch ways? Or will Thad listen to the call of the open road 

About Lynette

Lynette Sowell is the award-winning and best-selling author of more than 20 titles for Barbour Publishing, Heartsong Presents, and Abingdon Press. In 2009, Lynette was voted one of the favorite new authors by Heartsong Presents book club readers. Her historical romance, All That Glitters, was a finalist in ACFW's 2010 Carol Awards. When Lynette's not writing, she works as a newspaper editor and columnist for the Copperas Cove Leader-Press. Lynette was born in Massachusetts, raised on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, but makes her home on the doorstep of the Texas hill country with her husband, their dog, along with a duo of cats who have them well-trained. She loves reading, cooking, watching crime dramas, and is always up for a Texas road trip.

Monday, February 9, 2015

A warm cozy recipe for a cold winters day ~ Caribbean Chili by author Ane Mulligan

Cozy Comforts Blog welcomes best selling author Ane Mulligan for a fun chat, a toasty recipe and a little introduction about her current novel, Great Springs Revival!

~Author Ane Mulligan~

While a large, floppy straw hat is her favorite, bestselling novelist Ane Mulligan has worn many: hairdresser, legislative affairs director (that's a fancy name for a lobbyist), drama director, playwright, humor columnist, and novelist. Her lifetime experience provides a plethora of fodder for her Southern-fried fiction. She firmly believes coffee and chocolate are two of the four major food groups. President of the award-winning literary site, Novel Rocket, Ane resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband, her chef son, and two dogs of Biblical proportion. You can find Ane on her Southern-fried Fiction website, Google+, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, and Pinterest.

One Sunday morning, our Bible study group leader challenged the men to a chili cook-off. Never one to let a challenge go unanswered, Hubs entered. What causes men to do that? It has to be the testosterone or a competitive gene. After all, a woman who didn't cook wouldn't enter a culinary contest. Well, unless it was Claire from Chapel Springs Revival. She definitely would.

Hubs isn't Claire, nor is he a chef. Granted, he can make a killer jam buttie (that's a British term for bread and jam), and he warms up soup with the best of them.

While I waited for a lack-of-knowledge confession, he spent a couple of hours surfing the Internet for a recipe he thought would win. Finally, the admission came. He didn't have a clue.

I weighed the Valentine's Day Cruise against rescuing him from this testosterone-induced pickle. He's a lovable Brit, so I pulled out all my recipe files and notebooks. After searching for a few minutes, I found a scrap of paper with this recipe scribbled on it, down in the bottom of an old recipe box. It was one of my mother's. Where she got it, I have no idea. But it looked so unusual we tried it.

Hubs won the chili cook-off.

Caribbean Chili

2 lbs. lean pork, cut into cubes
1 C orange juice
½ C lime juice
½ C lemon juice
¼ C olive oil
6 cloves garlic, chopped
4 large onions, sliced
4 green bell peppers, seeded and sliced
2 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp oregano
½ tsp cloves
1 small jalapeno pepper, chopped
½ C raisins
½ C water
2, 16 oz. cans Caribbean flavored black beans, un-drained (or if necessary, 2, 16 oz cans regular black beans)

Option:  serve with sour cream, lime wedges, flour tortillas and/or shredded cheese.

Marinate the pork cubes in the orange juice, lime juice and lemon juice overnight. I do mine in a large Ziplock bag.

The next day, drain marinade. Sauté the pork cubes in olive oil till brown.

In a large slow cooker, add all the ingredients and stir once.

Cook on low 6-8 hours.

Serves 6

Option:  serve with sour cream, lime wedges, flour tortillas and/or shredded cheese.

Chapel Springs Revival

With a friend like Claire, you need a gurney, a mop, and a guardian angel.

Everybody in the small town of Chapel Springs, Georgia, knows best friends Claire and Patsy. It's impossible not to, what with Claire's zany antics and Patsy's self-appointed mission to keep her friend out of trouble. And trouble abounds. Chapel Springs has grown dilapidated and the tourist trade has slackened. With their livelihoods threatened, they join forces to revitalize the town. No one could have guessed the real issue needing restoration is their marriages.

With their personal lives in as much disarray as the town, Claire and Patsy embark on a mission of mishaps and miscommunication, determined to restore warmth to Chapel Springs —and their lives. That is if they can convince their husbands and the town council, led by two curmudgeons who would prefer to see Chapel Springs left in the fifties and closed to traffic.

Thanks, Ane for sharing your great recipe and best of luck on this great book!!