Coffeehouses: Nothing New Under the Sun

I’m pleased to share a guest post by the fabulous author Michelle Griep! And now…here’s Michelle!

Michelle Griep Headshot (1)

“You can’t buy happiness, but you can buy coffee.

And that’s pretty close.”

Hipsters may think they’re trendy by hanging out at the local coffee house, but nursing a cup of java while discussing the politics of the day has been around a long, long time. In England, this dates back to the seventeenth century. Surprise! Who’d have thought those proper tea-drinking Brits even knew what coffee was?

Here are a few fun facts:

  • First coffee house opened in Oxford, 1650.
  • In the 17th and 18th century, there were more coffee houses in London than today.
  • A mug o’ joe cost a penny, which was a great price because you also gained an education. It was said that a man could “pick up more useful knowledge than by applying himself to his books for a whole month.” Hence the nickname: Penny Universities.
  • English coffee houses started the custom of tipping servers. Patrons who wanted good service and better seating would put some money into a tin labeled “To Insure Prompt Service (TIPS).

In my Regency era historical, BRENTWOOD’S WARD, I highlight the coffee house phenomenon by setting a scene at The Chapter Coffee House. Women of the times didn’t usually frequent such establishments, but this historical venue is a little different. It was a known haunt of booksellers, writers, and literature hounds. Even Charlotte Brontë visited on occasion.

And just in case you’re wondering if historical coffee would taste the same as today’s brews, here’s a recipe so you can try it yourself:

 coffee  Coffee ~ A Regency Recipe

Put 2 oz. of fresh-ground quality coffee into a coffeepot. If you must take your coffee extremely strong, use 3 oz. Then pour 8 coffee-cups worth of boiling water atop. Let it rest for 6 minutes. Then add in 2 or 3 isinglass-chips and pour one large spoonful of boiling water on top. Set the pot by the fire to keep it hot for 10 more minutes, and you will have coffee of a supreme transparency.

Serve with fine cream and either fine sugar as well, or pounded sugar-candy.

Whether you love coffee, or love to hate coffee, there’s no denying it’s deeply imbedded in societies all around the world, present and past. And if you’re looking for a great read to go along with your mug o’ joe, here’s a blurb for BRENTWOOD’S WARD . . .

Brentwood Ward

Place an unpolished lawman named Nicholas Brentwood as guardian over a spoiled, pompous beauty named Emily Payne and what do you get? More trouble than Brentwood bargains for. She is determined to find a husband this season. He just wants the large fee her father will pay him to help his ailing sister. After a series of dire mishaps, both their desires are thwarted, but each discovers that no matter what, God is in charge.

Available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook formats at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine booksellers.

About the Author

Michelle Griep’s been writing since she first discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. She seeks to glorify God in all that she writes—except for that graffiti phase she went through as a teenager.

She resides in the frozen tundra of Minnesota, where she teaches history and writing classes for a local high school co-op. An Anglophile at heart, she runs away to England every chance she gets, under the guise of research. Really, though, she’s eating excessive amounts of scones.

Follow her adventures at her blog WRITER OFF THE LEASH or visit, and don’t forget the usual haunts of Pinterest, Facebook or Twitter.


Let’s Talk: 20 Things You May Not Know About Me

My dear friend and critique partner, Jackie Layton, tagged me in this fun game between bloggers, so I’m duty-bound to oblige. 🙂  In case you’re curious, Jackie’s answers can be found here.

So without further ado, 20 things you may not know about me!

1. How tall are you?
5’9″ in my bare feet. I was always the tallest among anyone my own age, often even the boys! But that wasn’t such a bad thing…

2. Do you have a hidden talent?
Probably not so much! I grew up riding horses, started my first year of college as a piano major, and make a mean batch of chocolate chip cookies.

3. What is your biggest blogger pet peeve?
I like a blog post to have substance! Not just ramble on paragraph after paragraph until I want to shake my iPad and say “Get to the point!”

Which is probably what you’re doing as you read this blog post. 🙂

4. What is your biggest non-blogger pet peeve?
Probably bad manners. I’m from the South, after all…

5.What is your favorite song?
Ooh, that’s a hard one. (Did I tell you I was a music major in college? That means I love music!) Currently, one of my favorite songs is Blessings by Laura Story. What a powerful way of looking at life!

6. What’s your favorite Etsy shop that isn’t yours?
I wish I could answer this. Truly. But I’m afraid I haven’t been to since the site was first created, how many years ago?

7. What is your favorite way to spend time when you are alone?
Write, write, write!

8. What is your favorite junk food?
Oh my. Anything sweet, especially chocolate.

9. Do you have pets?
Let me count the ways! Two dogs, two cats, and three horses for now. I’m firmly resisting my husband’s constant pleas for another dog. 🙂

10. What are you #1 favorite fiction and non-fiction books?
Non-fiction would have to be the Bible.

Fiction…there are too many great books to choose from. Some of my favorite authors include Deeanne Gist, Karen Witemeyer, and Lisa Wingate.

11. What is your favorite beauty product?

12. When were you last embarrassed? What happened?
Do I have to go there?

13. If you could drink one beverage (besides water) for the rest of your life, what would it be?

14. What is your favorite movie?
The movie of all movies: Pride and Prejudice. Depending on what mood I’m in, I’ll watch either the 1995 version staring Jennifer Ehle, or the 2005 version staring Keira Knightley.  There are pros and cons to both!

15. What were you in high school: prom queen, nerd, cheerleader, jock, valedictorian, band geek, loner, artist, prep?
Well, I was homeschooled, so…

16. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
I would want to live around family, and I love South Carolina. I’d love to have a second home somewhere out West, though. Maybe Montana?

17. PC or Mac?

18. Last romantic gesture from a crush, date, boy/girlfriend, spouse?
Now that it’s cold, my husband has begun carrying my work bags to the car every morning and starting the engine so it can warm up. Wow! 🙂

19. Favorite celebrity?
Country artist Gary Allan.

20. What blogger do you secretly want to be friends with?
Well…it would most likely be one of my favorite authors. Yes, I have a bit of the fan syndrome. 🙂

So now, Dear Reader, I want to know about you!

Pick one of these questions and answer it by leaving a comment. Please!  🙂

How the Movie Frozen Taught Me to Create Great Characters

I never thought I’d be writing about a Disney movie, but if you’ve seen the movie Frozen, it’s hard to deny it has a number of engaging qualities.

The story is cute, about two sisters. Elsa is the older and has magical powers to freeze anything she chooses. Anna, the younger sister and heroine, must find true love if she is to be healed from a frozen heart. While she expects love’s healing touch to come from her suitor, the true magic happens when she and her sister are reunited and share that special love that only sisters can.Frozen - Anna and Elsa

But what really has me watching the movie over and over…ahem…I mean letting my kids watch it over and over – are the characters. From a loveable talking snowman, to heroes that don’t always get it right. I love the characters!

There are definitely some lessons for writers to learn here. So how do you build characters that keep people re-reading your book over and over?

The best characters…do what you don’t expect. Take Olaf for an excellent example. He’s a snowman who loves summer and warm hugs. Who would have thought? Every phrase that comes out of his mouth has me giggling, or at least smiling, because it is so unexpected.

Frozen - Olaf

The best characters…are real. I love the scene early on when someone is waking Anna to dress for the coronation. Her hair is rumpled and she’s mumbling answers, still half-asleep. It’s not her most attractive image, but the scene is hilarious because we can all relate!

Or what about the time that she was trying to appear stern and in charge when she was ‘commanding’ Kristoff to take her up the mountain. She meant to toss him the bag of carrots to prove she had everything under control, but her aim was off and she chunked him in the head. And then she couldn’t stop apologizing. Now doesn’t that sound just like something I’d do?FROZEN

The truth is, real people do and say things imperfectly. And so do memorable characters.

So now, my question for you is: What traits have you noticed in your favorite characters? In the books you’ve re-read enough to tatter the pages, what was it about those characters that drew you? Or maybe you have a favorite scene from Frozen that highlights another aspect of an excellent character?

Click the pink heart to leave a comment and join the conversation!

It’s a Kick-off Party!!!

birthday-collageIntroducing… (drumroll, please)  The official kick-off of my blog! I’m looking forward to getting to know each of you, and celebrating our common love of books.

Through the next few months, I’ll introduce you to some of our favorite authors, give you behind-the-scenes peeks at the publishing process, and share the inside scoop on what’s really going on between Anna and Jacob. (and if you don’t know who they are, boy do I have a treat for you!) And you might even get to help me plot out my next book…

But first we need to kick this thing off right! And what better way to celebrate a grand opening than to give something away free? So… To join the party, just CLICK THE PINK HEART and leave your comment below with your email address.

I’ll put your name in the hat for a free gift card! Yes! $25 at either Amazon, iTunes, or Starbucks – your choice! (Imagine how many Kindle books you could buy with that!)

And while you’re here, sign up on the sidebar to automatically receive new blog posts. We’re going to have some fun!