Lisa’s world is peopled with all sorts of interesting friends who solve crimes, fall in love and experience the wonder of God’s grace. No, she doesn’t have multiple personalities. She is the author of Meander Scar, The Gold Standard, and Healing Grace. Lisa, I would love to know more about you and some of your fictional friends. Lisa and I decided it might be more fun to have some of her characters take over the interview. I haven't read Lisa before, but it was fun getting a feel for some of her characters, especially as a fellow writer.
What is the strangest situation you have ever been in?
Lisa: How many times have I come back and said, “The strangest thing just happened…” Hard to pick just one. I guess I’ll go with my attempt to learn about working in the retail world. I signed up and was hired to work at remodeling our local Wal-mart. I’m a white collar worker, came from white collar workers, and had absolutely no idea what all those check-out people do or what it’s like in the break room of the real world. I met a number of interesting people, a few of whom I still see occasionally. I learned that a person can make a living as a department manager. I learned that all directives come from the home office, so that’s why the garden center starts business in March in Wisconsin when there’s usually still snow on the ground. Just a waste. (me, shaking my head)
Judy: Um, you means besides dealing with Aunt Louise’s murder when no one believed me? And the poor cows. I guess it would have to be the adrenalin rush when I saw that nutjob Graham attacking my boyfriend. I don’t know what came over me. I think I went a little crazy when I grabbed that board. But everything turned out okay. Except for Carranza.
Ann: Sigh. I should have been honest with Ritchie from the start, I know it. It’s not like I’m guilty of anything lewd or criminal. Mark is so wonderful, and he’d never do anything to take Gene’s memory from us. Getting caught like that on Christmas Eve was absolutely mortifying. I knew better; Mark knew better. I just let myself get carried away. I have no other excuse.
What is your favorite way to spend a free afternoon?
Lisa: Free? Oh, boy! Curled on the couch, hot tea at hand, my favorite afghan and a book I don’t have to review. Read, read, read.
Ann: Before or after? (laughs) I can’t believe all the things I used to do—women’s guild, the board of this or that. Working at Gene’s company. So much changed. We’re decorating our own house, now; Mark and I, and planning the wedding. We want it simple, but there are still details. Since I lost my job, I’ll have to find something else of course, but later. Maybe I can volunteer somewhere.
How has God’s grace made a difference in your life?
Lisa: Jeepers, how hasn’t it? I’m not even sure I’d be married or have such great kids, wouldn’t have answered Christ’s song, and the saddest: wouldn’t even know or care that I’d be on the crooked path to hell.
Grace: Grace…My best friend Lena and I joke about it sometimes. My name, you know. I never questioned it growing up. You don’t have to, where I come from. It’s not like we’re a cult, or have some secret, but everybody know what everyone else’s gift is. Funny, I had to learn the hard way what that grace truly meant, and not just because of what God allowed me to do through him. I was so proud back then. I wouldn’t have Ted, or Eds, for sure. I’d probably be just some bitter recluse.
Do you have a favorite holiday recipe?
Lisa: My mom always did a lot of baking. I like this recipe for Meringue Mushrooms. These look really pretty when they’re done, and they’re not that much work. Even a beginner can have fun, because you can scoop your mistakes and do it over.
Can be made up to a week ahead; takes 2 hours for baking process; about 3 hrs total prep time; makes about 30 finished mushrooms, about 2 inches tall.
Meringue: 4 egg whites, leave out until room temp; ¼ tsp. cream of tartar; ¾ c. sugar; ½ tsp. almond extract; 2 squares semi-sweet chocolate (about a quarter-cup choc chips), melted - but not until you’re ready to assemble; cocoa powder for dusting the tops of the finished mushrooms.
Directions: at high speed, beat egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks. Sprinkle sugar, 2 T. at a time until sugar is dissolved, then beat in almond extract until peaks are stiff and glossy. Using a large decorator bag with a big writing tip (can also use a plastic bag with small corner nipped out), pipe meringue onto a large cookie sheet (ungreased): 30 mounds each about 1 ½ inches around for the caps; then pipe 30 upright stems, about 1 ¼ inches tall. Bake in 200 degree oven for 1 ¾ hours. Turn oven off and let stand another half hour in the oven to dry. Remove and cool completely.
To make mushrooms: melt chocolate. Using a small knife, scrape a depression on the underside of each mushroom cap. Dab a little chocolate in the cap and insert the stem. Let dry about an hour. Sift some cocoa powder over the tops.
Judy: (muttering) All those little t’s and half t’s. Honestly, what difference does it make. Okay… I got one. There’s the oyster cracker thingies you can put in a bowl when you have company? You know? Um, Ardyth showed me how to do it last time we were over there. Ardyth’s my friend. I mean, she’s 72, but she’s still pretty cool. Rides a bike and all, and just got married to Hart-he’s my boyfriend, um, fiancé’s, that is-boss. Let’s see…she wrote it down. Oh! Here. Well, you have to have oyster crackers, you know. I can go into town to get those, I guess. And we have some ranch dressing in the fridge already. Dill weed? You gotta be kidding. I have never even heard of that. Only a half t, so it can’t be that big a deal. Same with garlic. Only a quarter t. No biggie. Can leave that off. Oil? Let me look. Okay. Here’s some extra virgin olive oil. Hart cooks with that. Should work. I’ll just go get the crackers, then and be right back.
What is your favorite holiday and why?
Lisa: I like Memorial Day. In Wisconsin, that’s like waking up after a long winter’s sleep. We do this great program with the historical society to honor the veterans in a historic cemetery. It’s just an emotional event. Plus, we spend lots of family time as my dad and my youngest son have birthdays around that time.
Ann: Holidays can be so daunting, can’t they? When you’re alone with a young boy to raise and your circle of friends rapidly shrinking, it can be so difficult to relax. I must say, Thanksgiving would have to be my favorite. My parents and my sister and niece, and my crazy aunt Elle, all come. We all have our traditional dishes to bring and pass – Elle with the sweet potato casserole only she has the recipe for; my sister with her veggies and pie. Mom gets the rolls from the special bakery in Sauk City. I guess that’s the quintessential family time for me. And having Mark be part of that is perfect.
Tell me about a favorite animal in your life.
Grace: Lisa’s not into animals, much, so she let me answer this one. That would be Eddy’s cat, Trigger. He’s fast on the draw and a great mouser. Except that I couldn’t even begin to explain to a four-year-old that “he” was a “she” when she let us look at her kittens. He didn’t seem to mind. Trigger wouldn’t move to the big house when I bought Eddy’s childhood home. He only moved to the other side of the hedge, so it was okay, and they visited regularly. (wink)
Judy: Carranza the king cat is my favorite. If I didn’t say so, he might bring me more presents from the yard and play with them in front of me. Of course, we saved each other’s lives, so we have one of those bonds going. He knows people. Strange but true. All he has to do is look at someone, and if he likes them, he allows them to touch him. If not, well…anything can happen. Sometimes he surprises me, though, with who he likes.
Lisa: My husband’s not reading this, is he? Okay, you got me. I never planned to write a character much like me, but as I was writing Meander Scar, a story about the forty-something woman whose husband was missing, I discovered that she often reached off the page and grabbed a few bits of my personality here and there. The more “ews” and “no thanks” I got from publishers, the more I thought, well, since no one wants to publish it, I’ll just write what I feel like. My husband spent three summers driving through Chicago from Wisconsin to East Lansing MI for his master’s degree and every trip I’d be so afraid he’d end up in an accident. It was years ago, but I every once in a while I think what I’d have to do if I ever lost him. I can’t imagine wanting to date again, but like Ann who waited seven years, I suppose life would go on eventually. I thought about how I’d feel as a middle-aged woman trying to start all over.
Which of Lisa’s other characters would you most like to meet?
Ann: I think Grace Runyon and I would have a very pleasant afternoon. We seem to have the most in common, having seen our share of family troubles. We could have tea and a nice talk.
Judy: Grace, definitely. Don’t tell Ann, but she acts a little stiff, you know? Like she’s just being polite, but you wouldn’t know for sure if she liked you or not because she’s always polite to everyone. Although, maybe, she warmed up a little with that great lawyer fella. Then…you know…I guess we could talk wedding plans, since we’re both engaged and all. But so is Grace. They’ve both been married before. Can I meet them both? They’d probably have some great advice.
Grace: Oh, meet more people? Ann and Judy both have special personalities. I could see myself shopping or something with young Judy. Her boyfriend was hurt trying to protect her, wasn’t he? I could help with the injuries, since that’s my specialty.
Lisa, would you like to share with us an excerpt from one of your novels.
Sure, thank you for asking. Here’s an excerpt from The Gold Standard. Judy can’t decide who to trust with her murder investigation, and this encounter with Hart, her late aunt’s handsome young farmer neighbor, only complicates things.
The Gold Standard, by Lisa J Lickel
After a light lunch which she carried out and ate on the swept front porch, Judy tackled the monumental task of cleaning ancient layers of grease and flyspecks off the kitchen ceiling. She intended to repaint after Clyde was done. Mixed-in remodeling dust with the flyspecks would only make her task harder later on. Judy dragged a ten-foot aluminum ladder from the garage. She struggled with the awkward length, hauling the thing through the mud room and then into the kitchen.
Because of the strange angle between the solarium part of the room which was divided by a rounded arch and the cupboards, she faced a dilemma. She decided to lean the folded up ladder against the corner cabinet. Bracing the end with a chair or heavy box might add stability, but would get in the way of her climbing down. She rested the top against the buttress of the wall divider, testing the position a few times with a cautious jiggle. Satisfied the ladder would stay in place, Judy grabbed her bucket of soapy water and climbed up, humming to herself. Heights she could deal with; falling was another story. She whooped when she found she could reach into the corner.
“This room really is shiny white. Maybe I won’t have to repaint the whole thing,” Judy muttered, assessing her handiwork out loud.
“What was that?” Hart’s voice came through the screen door. “Hello!” he called and opened the door.
Judy twisted around at the top of ladder, hanging precariously for an instant before she lost her balance. The bucket went first.
“Hey! Look out!” she managed to call out, before she began her unplanned descent in what felt like slow motion. She had time to notice the most peculiar expression, mixed surprise and rue, on Hart’s face as he dodged the falling bucket and kept his footing while dirty water and washrag splashed up against his jeans. He had one hand on the ladder and managed to thrust his back under her just as she came hurtling down on top of him. The ladder slid slowly until it came to rest against the table.
“Thank you,” Judy said in a small voice, draped over the prone figure of her neighbor, whose face pressed into the filthy puddle on the floor.
“You’re welcome.” He didn’t move except to test his voice. “Are you hurt?”
Judy realized that she had not moved, either, and embarrassed, rolled away and sat up. She raised her eyes toward the clean spot she’d scrubbed, noting how far she fell. “Well, thanks to you, I’m not hurt, but you probably are. Don’t—”
Hart untangled himself from her legs and twisted himself out of the puddle. He wiped at his face as he sat up. He stretched his shoulders and shook his head, then cautiously got to his feet, hand to his gut. He took in a shallow breath and winced. “I’ll live.” He gave the ladder his attention, then glanced back. “Just what were you doing up there, with the ladder not set properly?”
His eyes are brown. He’s not wearing those stupid sunglasses, so I can tell. She stood, twisting her mouth. “I’m so sorry. I was just cleaning the ceiling, getting ready to repaint—”
“I can paint!” Judy’s fists came to rest on her hips as she glared at him.
Hart swiveled his head around the kitchen, then to her. “I’m picturing a can of paint, splattered all over the floor and the cabinets, and you lying here, on the floor.”
“Thank you for your concern.”
Hart took in another shallow breath and paled. He reached a hand down to dust off his jeans, but quickly straightened again, clutching his midriff.
Thank you so much for visiting with us!
Thank you for having me. Both Healing Grace and Meander Scar are also available as eBooks, and all are available for order at your local bookseller, as well as on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
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