Please welcome today’s guest….
No More Mr. Nice Guy!
I’m getting ready to speak to the local chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers, on the topic of how to write and sell a series. As I was skimming the Series Overview I wrote as part of my original proposal for the Seasons of the Heart series, back in 2010, these lines leaped off the page about one of my major characters:
Their bishop, Hiram Knepp, focuses them on God’s will for their lives in Willow Ridge and in the outside world they separate themselves from. As he offers thanks for the meals served up in the Sweet Seasons Cafe, his mellow voice . . . and his patience will bless you as you enjoy these stories of his Plain flock, the sheep of his pasture.
My mouth dropped open. This is so not the Hiram Knepp we now love to hate! And it’s a perfect example of how characters can change dramatically between the time a writer first conceives of them and when they take on their own lives as the story actually gets written. Indeed, the man you might picture from the above quote would seem to have angel-white hair and wings with a halo, when in fact, in this fourth book of the series, BREATH OF SPRING, Hiram Knepp has gotten himself excommunicated from Willow Ridge for owning and hiding a car—among other things. And at one point in this story, he shows up with a short English-style haircut and a close-clipped goatee, both of which have been dyed coal black!
As I think back over Hiram’s slip-slide from grace, I realize it started in SUMMER OF SECRETS, the first book of the series, when Hiram was pestering Miriam Lantz to marry him and she refused . . . and with each refusal, he thought of the next nasty way to get even, to get revenge, and to try to get everything from her.
Enter the two Hooley sisters, Jerusalem and Nazarath, in AUTUMN WINDS to distract him from his pursuit of Miriam—but Hiram still kept finding ways to come down on the Lantz family. In WINTER OF WISHES, he was intent on shaming Rhoda Lantz for riding in a car and kissing English nurse Andy Leitner—but by the end of that drama, when Hiram had finagled a large plot of land to start a new colony, claiming God Himself had told him to do this, the good folks of Willow Ridge sent him packing. (Well, actually, Hiram refused to confess his sins or do penance, so he cooked his own goose . . . and then left it on the Christmas dinner table to rot.)
In BREATH OF SPRING, which is Annie Mae Knepp’s story, Hiram of course will be in full fettle once again—and even I was aghast at the way he chose to disgrace her. I’m grateful to my astute editor for once saying that Annie Mae would make an interesting heroine, because if I’d followed the pattern, the next Lantz girl to marry off would’ve been Rebecca. While readers love Rebecca, because she has made Willow Ridge her home despite saying plain-out that she won’t become Amish, therein lies the problem: I would be writing a non-Amish story if she were a heroine. So for now she remains a reliable, tech-savvy character whose website design business is bringing a lot of new folks to visit her mother’s Sweet Seasons cafe as well as the Hooley brothers’ new Mill at Willow Ridge—which is so beautifully illustrated on the cover of BREATH OF SPRING.
I think you’ll agree that Annie Mae must rise above many challenges the average seventeen-year-old couldn’t hope to face. At the end of WINTER, we saw her and her sister Nellie walk away from their father Hiram, absolutely refusing to go to his new colony—knowing they were inviting his wrath for defying him. In BREATH OF SPRING we see the return of her former beau, Yonnie Stoltzfus, in a sleek blue sportscar . . . with trouble on his mind. And then when Annie Mae sees that her four younger sibs are being mistreated by Hiram’s new um, live-in, Annie Mae gathers them in and takes them home to Willow Ridge and safety. But always in this story, she’s looking over her shoulder, living in the shadow of her relentless father’s arrogance and love of power.
Our hero, by comparison, is a rather quiet, unassuming fellow you’ve met at many a breakfast in the Sweet Seasons. Adam Wagler is busy with his home remodeling business, living with his widowed brother Matthias in a man-cave of a house that’s anything but clean or homey. While most of the local guys are warning him not to take up with Annie Mae because he’ll be supporting her entire family, Adam is wondering what such a strong young woman could possibly see in him. He has an illegal surprise from his past parked in his barn, however, and it enables him to save the day and Annie Mae in true heroic fashion.
I hope you’ll find a lot to enjoy in BREATH OF SPRING! And I think you’ll agree that the Seasons of the Heart series much more interesting because Hiram has evolved into such a villain—and because not all of the folks who live in Willow Ridge are squeaky clean or free from secret sins.
Sounds a lot like real life, doesn’t it?
If you’d like to read the first chapter of BREATH OF SPRING now, and see the recipes that are featured in that story, check it out at www.CharlotteHubbard.com. And if you’d like to sign up for my e-newsletter so you don’t miss any of the upcoming books in this series (HARVEST OF BLESSINGS and THE CHRISTMAS CRADLE are slated for 2015) fill out the little sign-up at the bottom left of my homepage. You can also Friend me on Facebook! Thanks so much! ~Charlotte
Title: Breath of Spring
Author: Charlotte Hubbard
Genre: Amish Romance/Inspirational
As a bright season brings a fresh start to Willow Ridge, Annie Mae Knepp feels she can never make peace with the past. Her disgraced ex-bishop father is furious that she’s has taken her five siblings to live with her. She’s never been truly at home in her faith…or believing in herself. And Annie Mae fears no man will want to take on the responsibilities she’s gladly shouldered. True, her quiet neighbor Adam Wagler has been steadfast and unshakable, helping her through her trials, but he surely couldn’t think of someone so lost as more than a friend. Believing she is unworthy because of her doubts, Annie Mae will find, in a moment of surprising revelation, that God can work impossible miracles—and that love makes all things new.
Now, for a little added delight…..
Fresh Recipes With a BREATH OF SPRING
After a long winter of weather that was colder and more severe than we’re used to, it’s time to freshen up your menu! Nothing says spring and picnics more than macaroni salad, and ham loaf is the perfect go-with. Both of these recipes are featured in my new release, BREATH OF SPRING, so I’d love to share them with you.
When I first proposed my Seasons of the Heart series, which began in Miriam Lantz’s Sweet Seasons Bakery Café, my editor and I agreed that recipes would be a hit with readers. And they are! While some of the recipes in my books are authentically Amish—you know what? Most Amish cooking is really just down-home food prepared the way our grandmothers made it, usually from everyday ingredients most cooks stock in their kitchens. As I’ve studied cookbooks from several Amish settlements and the recipes published in The Budget, the national Plain newspaper, I’ve never spotted anything that makes a dish uniquely Amish. Plain cooks simply have a tradition of cooking up uncomplicated, filling food that most of us think we’re too busy to prepare.
And yes, Amish cooks use more convenience foods—like boxed cake mixes, canned mushroom soup, and Cool Whip—than you might assume. So when I thought about the foods Miriam would cook in her café, or which other characters might prepare in their homes, I included recipes with shortcuts that still produce the homemade goodness we associate with Amish cooking.
You can find the recipes from all of the books in this series at www.CharlotteHubbard.com, as well as excerpts from all the books in this series. You can also sign up for my newsletter on my homepage, so you can keep up with my new releases.
BREATH OF SPRING is the fourth book in my series, and it features a special apple pie filling that helps heroine Annie Mae Knepp win Adam Wagler’s heart, as well as this macaroni salad which is served at her eighteenth birthday party. You’ll also find a recipe for Macaroni and Goat Cheese, because the Hooley sisters’ four goats have become beloved characters in these stories. If you’re a chocoholic, you won’t want to miss the Hot Fudge Cake, which bakes up moist and decadently chocolate with its own fudge sauce. The Ham Loaf has long been a favorite with my family and friends, and you can form the meat mixture into individual servings, if you prefer.
Hungry yet?! I hope you’ll enjoy trying these recipes and sharing them with your families. That’s what Amish life is all about—family, faith, and FOOD!
Annie Mae’s Favorite Macaroni Salad
This is a fabulous salad that serves a crowd. The difference is in the dressing: Amish cooks tend to add sugar to their dressings. If you’re watching your calories, you can omit or reduce the sugar and still have a tasty dish that’ll be a hit at potlucks and picnics.
3 C. uncooked elbow macaroni, shells, etc.
3 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 T. dill pickle relish
2 C. creamy salad dressing (e.g. Miracle Whip)
3 T. yellow mustard
3/ 4 C. white sugar
3 tsp. white vinegar
2 tsp. celery seed
Salt and pepper to taste
Bring a pot of water to boil, add macaroni, and cook according to package directions. Drain and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the chopped eggs and vegetables. In a smaller bowl, blend the rest of the ingredients, then combine this dressing with the macaroni, eggs, and vegetables. Cover and chill at least 2 hours (or overnight) before serving. Serves 10-12. Keeps about 3 days in the fridge.
Kitchen Hint: I make this salad with whole wheat macaroni, which adds fiber and doesn’t change the taste a bit. I also like to mix pasta shapes, using a cup of each!
Here’s a nice alternative to meat loaf, and it picks up a tangy sweet-sour taste from the glaze as it bakes. You can ask someone at the meat counter in the grocery store to grind your ham—or use a hand-cranked grinder, as Amish women do, or use a food processor blade, as I do. When cold, this loaf slices well for sandwiches!
1 lb. ground ham
1 lb. ground pork
1 large onion, finely chopped
2/3 C. cracker crumbs
1/3 C. Minute tapioca
¼ C. milk
¼ C. cider vinegar
½ C. water
½ C. brown sugar
1 T. mustard
Preheat oven to 350º. In a large bowl, combine the ground ham, ground pork, onion, eggs, cracker crumbs, tapioca, and milk. Mix thoroughly and form into two loaves. Place in a sprayed/greased roaster or baking pan. Mix the glaze ingredients in a small pan and boil for a few minutes, then pour the glaze over the ham loaves. Cover and bake about an hour and a half, basting occasionally. Glaze will thicken as it cooks down. Allow to cool about fifteen minutes before slicing, and serve with glaze.
Kitchen Hint: Minute tapioca isn’t just for pudding or thickening fruit pies! In this recipe, it gives the ham loaf a firmer texture so it won’t break apart when you slice it.
Another hint: You can also bake your loaves in a large crockery cooker for about 6 hours, but the glaze won’t thicken as much.
Winner of the ……
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I’ve called Missouri home for most of my life, and most folks don’t realize that several Old Older Amish and Mennonite communities make their home here, as well. The rolling pastureland, woods, and small towns along county highways make a wonderful setting for Plain populations—and for stories about them, too! While Jamesport, Missouri is the largest Old Order Amish settlement west of the Mississippi River, other communities have also found the affordable farm land ideal for raising crops, livestock, and running the small family-owned businesses that support their families.
Like my heroine, Miriam Lantz, of my Seasons of the Heart series, I love to feed people—to share my hearth and home. I bake bread and goodies and I love to try new recipes. I put up jars and jars of green beans, tomatoes, beets and other veggies every summer. All my adult life, I’ve been a deacon, a dedicated church musician and choir member, and we hosted a potluck group in our home for more than twenty years.
Like Abby Lambright, heroine of my Home at Cedar Creek series, I consider it a personal mission to be a listener and a peacemaker—to heal broken hearts and wounded souls. Faith and family, farming and frugality matter to me: like Abby, I sew and enjoy fabric arts—I made my wedding dress and the one Mom wore, too, when I married into an Iowa farm family more than thirty-five years ago! When I’m not writing, I crochet and sew, and I love to travel.
I recently moved to Minnesota when my husband got a wonderful new job, so now he and I and our border collie, Ramona, are exploring our new state and making new friends.
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Enjoy your day!