Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Novel Creation: A Good Cup of Coffee

Shirley's Cuppa Joe as I see it

The character in my book, Sonja, enjoys gourmet coffee creations. She would love to turn her Victorian style coffee shop into a modern West Coast coffeehouse. She dreams of purchasing a state of the art espresso machine. She even takes an off season job at a well established coffee shop in a ski area to better learn the business.

Well, I can open a can of Folgers with the best of them, but do I really know how to make a caramel macchiato? No. Cappuccino? Uh-uh. Anything that requires measuring, tamping, steaming, or flavoring? Absolutely not.

Organic Life Coffeehouse and Bakery
But I do know a good cup of coffee when I drink it. And…I know how to do research. I started with the internet. I was able to learn quite a bit about coffee beans, coffee grinders, and espresso machines. But how does it all come together as a business? For that I decided I needed to visit a coffeehouse. The internet was good for that, too. While it would be wonderful to visit a coffeehouse in Wisconsin where my story takes place, I am currently living in Florida. A quick search on the internet and I found “Organic Life Coffeehouse and Bakery”, a Christian coffeehouse located just minutes from my home. Organic Life is owned and run by Shadia and Peter Davidson, a young couple with a great story of faith and obedience. Of course, I enjoy my coffee so I had to make several trips to the coffeehouse in the name of research. You can visit them at their website:

I was excited to find the coffeehouse and blessed to have Shadia sit down with me to talk about Sonja’s business in Fish Creek, Wisconsin. Shadia offered me more than great insight into the coffee business. She shared an enthusiasm for the books and music that encourage people along the path of life. 

Of course neither of us was as excited as Sonja when she learned she had an espresso machine. Read this excerpt to see what how she acquired it.

“Well, I have to admit, I kinda like some of those fancy coffees,” Joe told them. “Once, I took Shirley to Chicago and we tried some of those espressos and cappuccinos and such. I tried to get her to add it to the shop, but she wasn’t one for change. Maybe you’ll get more use outta that machine.”

            Was Joe suggesting he had purchased an espresso machine? What happened to it, Sonja wondered. “What machine?” she asked tentatively.

            “That espresso machine. Top of the line. But she wouldn’t have anything to do with it. Just got stored in the attic,” Joe informed them.

            Sonja thought about the storage area under the sloping rooftop. She had only opened a couple of boxes. They had Christmas ornaments and personal effects in them. Though she fully intended to clean out the area at some point, she had never felt motivated to do so. Now she wondered if indeed, under everything else, there might be an espresso machine.

            “When did you get the espresso machine?” Sonja asked cautiously. She hated to get her hopes up.

            “Well, let me see,” Joe mused as he scratched his head. “Guess we went to Chicago the March before Shirley got sick. I ordered it so we could use it that season, but she wasn’t inclined to try. Said she would read up on it and practice with it that winter, but then she got sick. I just packed it up and put it in storage. Thing’s brand new, you know.”

            By the time they left, Sonja had a hard time keeping her excitement in check. She and her dad made a plan to spend their first hours at the shop taking everything out of the storage area. Sonja was glad her father was with her. He would help her with the heavy things. Who knew what else was in the boxes under the roof?

            They stopped in Sturgeon Bay for an early dinner then made their way up the highway to Fish Creek and Sonja’s home. Dusk was setting in by the time they arrived. Sonja knew the prudent thing to do was to settle in and wait to go through the closet in the morning. Daniel agreed that was the smart thing to do but seeing the look in his daughter’s eyes, he suggested they just pull a few things out into the large open area and at least see if there was an espresso maker in the closet as Joe indicated. Sonja was thrilled.

            The first few boxes Daniel carried into the upper room of the coffee shop for Sonja to inspect were exactly what she had expected to find. Christmas decorations and lights, a wooden reindeer for the lawn, and boxes of clothes. The next box was filled with photo albums, newspaper clippings, and an assortment of school pictures and report cards. Sonja wondered if answers to the mystery of Judy and Joey were hidden in the contents of that box. Finally, Daniel let out an honest to goodness “yippee” from within the depths of the storage area.

            “I found it Sonja! You are the proud owner of a deluxe espresso machine,” he told his daughter as he emerged triumphantly from the closet, dragging a large box behind him. “There’s another box from the same company in there. Maybe another part or something. I’ll get it. There are more boxes and a few pieces of furniture back here. Do you want them out, too?”

            “Not yet, Dad,” Sonja replied. She sat on the floor amid the boxes and opened the one with her precious espresso machine. Joe was right. It was brand new. She took out the manual and began studying the specifics of her trophy. It wasn’t the fanciest or biggest or maybe even the best machine by today’s standards, but it would be perfect for Shirley’s.

Now to the bottom line. How many words have I written for my second novel so far?  Well, like Sonja, I am pretty excited about the progress I am making. I have 50,016 words. That is including some of the editing and revisions I have already completed. Just keep writing.


  1. Oh, this sounds like fun! Great house/shop! Great concept.

    1. Thank you Cynthia! I take it you won't mind if I include you in my book?

  2. My cousin Tammie told me about your blog, so I came over to immediately check it out. Glad I did!

    I've been writing for a long, long time (okay, since Fall of 1971), but it's more off than on the past several years. Now I'm back into it, courtesy of a writing month "sponsored" by Seekerville. Connecting with Christian writers and authors there, mostly romance writers, which is good. :)

    I'll have to check out your novel when it comes out! Looking forward to it and to reading more of your posts here...


    1. Looking forward to having you on the journey, Melanie. I have the greatest respect for Tammie. I will look forward to hearing more about your own writing efforts!

  3. Hi,

    I came across your blog from facebook and noticed the topic for this week's post was on espresso machines. I know a thing or two about espresso from working in the coffee industry for several years now so it caught my interest. Just an observation- take it or leave it... The espresso machine described above sounds like a home espresso machine. I get this from the fact that it is described as a "deluxe espresso machine" and from the fact that she just kind of seems to take it out of the box. I know that the bottom line says that it is not the fanciest or best machine, but it is also not a commercial machine. If your character knows anything about espresso at this point, she will know that in order to pull a proper shot, your machine needs to push water through the grounds at 9 bars of pressure or about 125 psi. Home/ Deluxe machines can not apply that kind of pressure and can not, therefore, create the right kind of crema or espresso. They are also made of lightweight materials that could not withstand the kind of daily use a coffee shop would put it through. Again, I don't know what is happening in your story outside of this tiny snippet, so take what I say as mere information to add to your research and ignore it if you like. Just thought I would share.

    1. Oh Eric! Thank you! You are wonderful. I will be in touch.

  4. Can't wait to have a cup with you.


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