"Casting Call": The Soldier's Wife

I recently spent some time hammering out a plot outline for my new project, The Soldier’s Wife, and tonight was spent in image searches to “cast” the novel so I have a visual reference for each character. I can’t wait to spend time with these fine folks…

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Meet the Characters: Rachel Miller

One of the main protagonists of Don’t Ask Me to Leave is Rachel Miller, a young newlywed. The character of Rachel Miller is, of course, loosely based on the Biblical character of Ruth–that much you know. But just who is she?

 When I write a work longer than a short story, I like to find a photograph or two that I can use as a reference for my main characters. In that way, I can avoid accidentally changing their hair color or other features. My visual reference for Rachel was Jennifer Garner. I chose Jennifer Garner because I think while she’s capable of great strength, her appearance can often give the impression of weakness and frailty–a characteristic Rachel unfortunately struggles with. I also like that Jennifer Garner has very real “girl-next-door” beauty.

Rachel is alone in the world, having lost both of her parents in a car accident when she was in high school. She was raised by a maiden aunt, but the relationship was not a close one, and Rachel has not really kept in touch since leaving for college. 

When Rachel met her future husband at the University of Southern Indiana, she was excited to meet his family–his twin brother and his loving, accepting parents. It seemed that for the first time in a long time, Rachel was destined for happiness. New husband, new town, new job teaching history at the high school–everything is perfect in her life. 

As you know from the Biblical story, Rachel’s first marriage is doomed to be a short one–and that was quite the challenge for me to write. I waited to write the death and reaction scenes until I was at home alone one evening. As twilight fell, I left the lights in my living room off and my curtains open, writing and sobbing in the darkness. I felt her pain as if it was my own–not something I enjoyed doing. 

Of course, Rachel won’t be alone forever–at least, not if she can allow herself to get past her misgivings and give the handsome neighbor, Beau, a chance. Will she set her grief aside and learn to live again? Or will she remain wrapped up in her past anguish? Only time will tell…


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Merry Christmas from the Kitchen of Nadine Miller

Merry Christmas, Nadine!

One of my *favorite* Christmas traditions is spending time in the kitchen with my children. We make cookies for Santa and all sorts of other treats to enjoy.

Nadine Miller, one of the protagonists of Don’t Ask Me to Leave, is also known for her time in the kitchen. Nadine loves to bake and create all sorts of cookies, pies, and delectable offerings for Santa and her guests. In honor of Nadine, here are a few of my favorite holiday recipes and creations for you to try in your own kitchens.

Coca-Cola Crock-Pot Ham

In my house, we don’t eat turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. It’s not exactly my favorite meat. In fact, my mother and sister are fond of telling the story of how one year I was muttering in my sleep “I hate turkey” after our holiday meal. Instead of turkey, we have ham.

One of Nadine’s—and my—favorite inventions is the Crock-Pot. If you’ve never made a ham in the Crock-Pot, you simply do not know what you’ve been missing.

Ingredients:

  • One precooked ham (I prefer boneless) that will fit in your Crock-Pot
  • One can of Vanilla Coca-Cola
  • Brown sugar

Instructions:

You may wish to use an insert for your Crock-Pot, but I find this recipe easy to clean up. Sprinkle (or thickly layer, depending upon how much you like) brown sugar on the bottom of your crock. I put mine in an even layer so the stone is not visible. Place your ham, with any juices, on top of the layer of sugar. Open the can of Vanilla Coke and pour it over the ham. I usually sprinkle additional brown sugar on the surface of the ham.

Set the Crock-Pot on low, and eight hours later, you will have the most tender ham you’ve ever jabbed a fork into. Reserve the Coke/sugar mixture to drizzle over your cut slices of ham. Yummy!

Christmas Present Cake

A tradition in my household (although admittedly not Nadine’s) is cake baking and decorating. Each of my children get to request a specially decorated cake for their birthday each year, and one of my favorite cakes to bake for my Christmas table is the “Christmas Present” cake. You can make the cake from scratch or use a mix (I’ve done both, of course), but the real “topper” is the marshmallow fondant.

Ingredients & supplies:

  • Cake mix (and necessary ingredients) of your choice
  • Buttercream frosting (store bought, or you can use my favorite recipe from Wilton)
  • Two square cake pans
  • One 16-oz package of mini-marshmallows (white, the fresher the better)
  • One bag (at least 2 lbs) confectioner’s sugar
  • Shortening
  • Vanilla extract (or other flavoring)
  • Food coloring
  • Edible markers
  • Cookie cutters

Instructions:

  1. Prepare and cool your cake as directed on the package. Once cool, frost one square of the baked cake. Leave a thick, even layer of frosting on the top. Align the second square and cover it with frosting (this is referred to as “dirty icing”).
  2. Prepare the marshmallow fondant as directed in this recipe from Wilton. Two variations I suggest: add food coloring prior to adding sugar and add vanilla extract to the marshmallows.
  3. Roll out the fondant to your desired thickness. Cover the cake and trim off the excess.
  4. With your remaining fondant, cut four long strips of an equal width. Two strips will be used for the cake “ribbon”; drape these over the center of the cake. The other strips will be used to fashion your “bow”. Cut lengths of the strip long enough to be used as the “loops” of the bow. Shape the bow, using small amounts of water to “glue” the fondant together. I use various kitchen tools to support the loops of my bows until they are dry and can support themselves.
  5. Also from your remaining fondant, use the cookie cutters to cut out shapes. Decorate with the edible markers. Brush the shapes lightly with water and adhere to the surface of the cake.

Voilà! Christmas Present Cake

Hershey’s Gone to Heaven Chocolate Pie

Nadine’s go-to pie recipe (and admittedly, my favorite pie) is pecan. However, my husband’s favorite pie is chocolate—and a recipe that will be sure to make your family sit up and beg for more is the Gone to Heaven chocolate pie from the Hershey’s Kitchens. Click here for the recipe.  Soooooooo good. I mean, practically sinful. It’s chocolaty and rich and NEEDS TO GET IN MY BELLY. I may or may not be making one tonight. 🙂


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