Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Word Count Wednesday: Turning Points

Sonja met a man. Yep. He’s attractive and interesting and interested in Sonja. He is working as a ski instructor while he finishes writing his book. Sonja was able to finish out her first season running the coffee shop although it was at times a struggle. She closed Shirley’s Cuppa Joe for the winter. A lot of businesses in Door County do that. She accepted a winter position working in an established coffee bar in a ski town in Colorado.

I think it was smart of her to take the job. Maybe this way she will learn the business better. (I personally think she had a rather romantic notion of what owning her own business would look like.) Anyway, that’s where she met the man of her dreams.

I’m not a romance novelist, but I must say this guy swept her off her feet. They skied together, laughed together, and enjoyed late dinners at beautiful mountainside restaurants. One evening he took her on a romantic sleigh ride through the woods. He cares for her and has told her so. I’ve been around long enough to know that meeting “the man of your dreams” can be a turning point for any young woman looking for love. Sonja longs for what her parents have. She longs for a life like the one Shirley and Joe shared.

But does this man want the same things in life? Hmm…He does want something. He is kind and attentive. And when she returns to a nightmarish situation in Wisconsin he comes to her rescue.

Turning points are a part of life. We all have them. They are those people we meet, those situations we encounter, those choices and decisions that change the direction of our lives. Sometimes those turning points are exciting and wonderful. Sometimes we become frustrated with those points in our lives. We long for everything to go smoothly without any sort of strife or challenge. But turning points make life interesting.

I think turning points make novels interesting, too. When I was crafting my first book, Breathing on Her Own, I actually designed several turning points and plotted when I expected them to happen.

For example, I knew one of my characters was going to face a lawsuit. I knew that issue would be a turning point in my story. It would change the outlook of more than one character. I wanted it to happen around sixty thousand words into my story. I had turning points at twenty thousand words, thirty-five thousand words, and so forth. I planned it that way so I wouldn’t be tempted to belabor my story. I wanted to keep the story line moving. I don’t want my readers to get bored.

Now looking back, I am able to see those times when I reached a turning point in my own life and how God used it to help strengthen me or to move me in a different direction. Life is never boring. I wonder what Sonja will see when she looks back over these past few pages of her life…

But now for the inevitable question: Where am I now? How many words have I written? Well, I've had a fairly productive week. My word count is currently sitting at 35,221 words. That's quite a bit up from last week's posting of 28,234. It's a process. I wonder what will happen next?

By the way, last week I wrote about the Breakfast Cookies Sonja made. I had several requests for the recipe, I posted it on a special Friday edition of the blog as well as on Pinterest. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

From Sonja's Recipe File: Breakfast Cookies

A Novel Creation: Breakfast Cookies

If you’ve been following my blog you know I am writing a novel and letting anyone interested follow along. In my book, Sonja, a young entrepreneur has purchased a coffee shop in Door County, Wisconsin. Sonja had big ideas. The fancy biscotti and prepackaged muffins do not go over well and she turns to a family favorite recipe for cookies.

I have made these cookies and they are great. Since my post about the cookies, I have had people ask me for the recipe. So here is the basic recipe. These cookies are good plain, but you may want to try a few variations as Sonja has done, such as adding butterscotch morsels or almonds. Have fun and if you haven’t already joined my blog, now is a good time to start. I post my current word count as I push toward my 80,000 word goal every Wednesday. I will post additional recipes from Sonja on Fridays.

Sonja’s Breakfast Cookies

Great with coffee!
  Cream together:      

     2 C. brown Sugar
     1 C. white sugar
     1 ½ C. cooking oil
     2 t. vanilla

     4 eggs
     4 C. flour
     2 t. baking soda
     1 t. salt                                   

     1 ½ C oatmeal
     4 C. cornflakes

Mix together well (you may need to use a dough hook or your hands for this)

Drop by teaspoon on greased cookie sheet
Bake at 350 for ten-twelve minutes or until brown

Yield: 8 dozen                                       


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Word Count Wednesday: Breakfast Cookies

My book is really coming along now. Sonja is beginning to realize the fancy biscotti and gourmet cookies she wanted to order from a company in California may not be the best choice to serve at the coffee shop. She had no intention to bake anything herself but concedes it may be more affordable and perhaps more desirable. She remembers cookies her mother used to bake. They were called breakfast cookies. They are really delicious. I know because my mother used to make them, too.  

So Sonja e-mailed her mother asking about the recipe. I e-mailed my mom, too. My mother called me with the instructions. It took a while for her to unearth it from her storehouse of handwritten cards and cookbooks. It had been a few years since I had made the cookies. I knew I needed to do that before I could have Sonja make them. After talking with my mom I realized I had most of the ingredients. I just needed to pick up a box of cornflakes. Yes, these cookies have two kinds of cereal in them. Hence the name “Breakfast Cookies.”

I put everything together in the largest bowl I have. It’s good I made them before Sonja did. I now know Sonja needs to use her dough hook on her big mixer when she makes these. I didn’t have one and the stiff dough was hard to work.

I made the first three dozen and hadn’t put a dent in the dough. The recipe makes at least eight dozen cookies. I actually think that is good for Sonja. She expects a big crowd. It was late, so I put the unused cookie dough in the refrigerator to bake the next day. I wanted to try to bake a dozen with almonds. Also, I need to see if they will “freeze nicely” as Sonja’s mother promised in my story.

Then in the name of research, my husband and I took two dozen of the breakfast cookies to his brother’s house. My sister-in-law made some coffee and the four of us taste tested the cookies. Well, that and we played dominoes. I am happy to report the cookies will make it in the book along with the recipe. The dominoes might make it, too.  
Where am I now? Sonja is getting ready for her “soft opening” of the coffee shop for the locals. She has cleaned and painted, baked and organized. She has made a few friends in Fish Creek where she now lives and has hired a high school neighbor to help her out part time.  Sonja’s parents (Who live in Kenosha pretty close to where my own daughter lives, I think…) will be coming up for the opening to sort of pitch in as well.

What is the word count? 28,234 including the recipe for breakfast cookies. 28,236… if you “add almonds.”

P.S. I did do a little more experimenting. I placed a pecan half on top of each cookie before I baked it then drizzled caramel on top. Some dear friends I knew in high school invited us over for dinner. In the interest of research, I took my newest cookie efforts to share with them. The verdict? You can’t ruin a Breakfast Cookie…so Sonja has lots of options. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Word Count Wednesday: Fact to Fiction

If you’ve been reading my posts, you already know a little about Joe and Shirley, the original owners of the Door County coffee shop called Shirley’s Cuppa Joe. You know the couple has had to face some health issues. Shirley found a lump on her breast.

I expected some health concerns when I started writing the story. At first I thought perhaps Joe had a heart condition. He is in his seventies. Not an unlikely story. I know quite a bit about heart issues men face. My own husband had his first heart attack when he was 47 years old. Well, I discovered this past week that Joe is diabetic. No, the doctor didn’t tell me. I learned it in a rather unusual way.

Last fall I wrote two freelance pieces for the Home Health Aide Digest. The first was on medicines used during hospice care and the second was about the safe lifting and transfer of stroke patients. I really didn’t know much about either one, but used my resources and research skills to deliver the articles.

A few weeks ago, the editor contacted me asking if I would be interested in writing an article on neuropathy. She wanted me to focus on what the home health aide could do to help a client with neuropathy in the feet feel more comfortable and safe. After doing a bit of initial exploration and research on the internet, I accepted the job.

Neuropathy is when nerves are damaged. For the article I was asked to write, the focus was on damage to sensory nerves or motor nerves. The person may lose sensitivity to pain, extreme temperatures, or injury. The person can also lose mobility. The symptoms usually first appear in the feet and sometimes the hands. A leading cause of neuropathy is diabetes. I researched the condition and intrigued, I did a bit of research on diabetes. Yep, that’s when I came to realize Joe was a diabetic.

When Joe is in a health care unit, Sonja visits the man who started the coffee shop. Consider the following excerpt. I think it tells you a bit about both Sonja and Joe.

“I found what looks to be a recipe for coffee written on the cover of the instruction manual for the airpot brewer, but I can’t figure it out,” Sonja said. “It says ‘3CCR for every 1CFCR’ and under that it says ‘3pslt LRG or one pslt S.’ Does that make any sense to you?”

            “Not the way you’re readin’ it,” Joe told her. “Here, let me see that.”

Joe took the manual in his left hand and brought it up close to his face while with his right he fished for a pair of glasses. They were hanging around his neck with a cord. He moved his eyes over the cover through the thick glasses, adjusting the writing one direction or the other from time to time. He seemed to be studying each letter carefully. Sonja realized he was nearly blind. She was beginning to regret having brought this problem to him when he suddenly put the paper down with a laugh.

            “That’s Shirley’s writing,” he declared. “That’s how she made coffee.”

That much Sonja had figured out. She wasn’t annoyed, though. Joe seemed so happy to see his wife’s writing. Sonja could imagine Shirley experimenting with the new coffee maker, trying the best combinations to perfect her brew. She could imagine her predecessor triumphantly writing down the recipe once she and Joe had declared this combination the best. Sonja wasn’t sure, but she thought Joe was reliving that day as well.

“What does it mean?” Sonja asked. She hoped he knew. She hoped he would share.

Joe pulled the manual back up to his face. “Three cups of Columbian roast for every one cup of French Columbian roast,” Joe grinned. “And here’s the secret. Three pinches of salt if you’re making the large pot full up and one pinch of salt if you’re making the half size one. That’s all there is to it.”

            “Salt? Really?” Sonja questioned.

“Yep. Salt. But,” Joe lowered his voice to a whisper, “I wouldn’t go around shoutin’ it out to everybody. Gotta have some trade secrets, right?”

“Right,” Sonja smiled. She decided not to tell him she was on her way to a trade show where professionals would pass on their own trade secrets. Secrets she trusted more than the memory of this old man. However, when she looked at the writing on the cover, Joe’s explanation made sense. It may be worth a try.

Sonja picked up one of the western novels Joe set on the table beside him. “I don’t have long, but would you like me to read some to you?” she offered.

So where am I now for Word Count Wednesday? I have 22,581 words...but I think I should warn you, as sweet a person as Sonja appears to be, she is, like the rest of us, flawed. I sense a turning point heading her way.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Word Count Wednesday: Why Door County?

I have a daughter who lives in Kenosha, Wisconsin. We love to visit her there. We have enjoyed vacationing with Danielle and her little family in Door County. The peninsula juts out into Lake Michigan. The interior of the peninsula reminds me of my early years on a dairy farm, but the communities along the shore of Lake Michigan draw the visitor into a setting that is part resort and part quaint village life.  

Lake Michigan is huge. I grew up in Florida. I am used to looking out over beautiful freshwater lakes,  most of which are puddles compared to the Great Lakes. When I stand on the shores of Lake Michigan I feel almost as though I am standing on the edge of the ocean, except the water isn’t salty and pine trees rather than palm trees line the water’s edge. The air is a bit cooler as well. Door County is beautiful and offers me as a writer a defined area to unwrap my story.

I have a map of Wisconsin and Door County I picked up while on vacation but I can’t trust my memory to describe the lay of the land and the main roads. 

I will still need to do more research since my experiences in the county have been solely as a tourist. To start that I did a computer search. My first search revealed typical Chamber of Commerce type of information. I found more meaningful info when I looked up real estate sites, recent census data, and websites for the local school system. I have also found information about each small community, several local businesses and churches. A weather site shares average temperatures and precipitation. All of this will help as I draft my story.

I thought you might like to catch glimpse of Door County. Here is a paragraph I took from the story. Sonja has decided to invest the money her grandmother left her in a coffee shop she will operate as a seasonal business. Her realtor, Susan Town, picked her up at the airport in Green Bay and is driving her to see the property.

Susan talked about the agent meeting them at the coffee shop. He would have the books for Sonja to inspect and should be able to answer all of her questions Susan told her. She pointed out all of the landmarks and talked about the number of summer vacationers. Sonja listened and uttered an acknowledgement here and there, but mostly she looked out the window taking in all of the sights of Door County. She remembered traveling this highway with her parents. She felt just as she had as a child, wanting to ask. “Are we there yet?” They passed through Sturgeon Bay and headed up the highway past the rolling farms of the peninsula. A few new businesses had been added since Sonja was here last. She counted several vineyards and a few shops in the interior of the peninsula she had not seen before. They drove the western side of the peninsula through Egg Harbor.

Of course there is more, but you get the idea. And this is where it gets fun. I recently overheard my husband tell someone about my latest writing project. “I think we better plan another trip to Door County,” he said. “Becky needs to do more research for her book.”

So where am I now? 17,794 words and counting... See you next week!