Spatzle Speaks: Sparks of Love (Book Review)

sparks-of-loveSpatzle the Maltese here (in case you’re new to my reviews). Sparks of Love is a novel of love and faith by Mary Ball.

Once upon a time, a young adult was accused of a crime. She left her past and her faith behind when her small town continued to judge her in spite of her innocence. Her father calls to let her know he found proof that would clear her name. He’s interrupted before he can share the news.

Her father dies before he can do so and Lynette Cunningham is forced to return to settle the estate and decide what to do next in her life. An old friendship is resurrected and a local pastor has his sights set on her. She’s determined to get through all the stuff her father saved and hopefully find the proof of her innocence her father mentioned. A series of accidents begin to make the process difficult.

The handsome young pastor also challenges her buried faith as she digs up memories. As love grows danger increases. Lynette is challenged to rethink much of what she thought she knew about her old life.

This is a book of grief and broken trust that is restored through faith and friendship. A compelling journey and a worthy read. I give it five bones because I’m a dog. I don’t do stars.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that's how we roll.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.


5 bones for blog

Spatzle Speaks: Snow Angels (Book Review)

snow-angels-coverIt’s not too early for a Christmas story, is it? I don’t think so, especially when mom snuggles up to me to read it. Snow Angels is Cathe Swanson’s debut novel.

Lisa is a widow still locked inside a prison of grief and self-recrimination. Pete is not who he initially appears to be. She thinks he’s homeless but has potential. Pete thinks Lisa is bossy and treats him with disrespect. Never mind that he was kind of mean to her when they first met at Thanksgiving at the Community Center, or that his beard was raggedy and his clothes and smell were more like a hobo than the director he really was.

Misconceptions abound as Lisa works through her grief and finds new purpose that snowballs far beyond her original plans to help one man. She gives him a job that employs many more and he allows it because, in spite of her bossiness, she’s doing great work.

Going outside her comfort zone puts her face to face with someone else who struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder and who chooses to stay stuck. The mirror reflects Lisa’s own reality and as she struggles to come to grips with her past, she’s also forced to acknowledge a growing attraction to the shabbily-dressed man she’s tried to help.

As truths come to light, both Pete and Lisa have to come clean. Without using the Scripture, Cathe Swanson illustrates the concept that God washes us white as snow. It’s not always an easy process but the relationships we build on the way make the journey worthwhile.

This book is a novella -but a long one which means I got extra snuggles as she read it. It is well worth the read for a glimpse into our own misconceptions about the homeless and downtrodden as well as moving past our mistakes into a “new normal.” I applaud Ms. Swanson’s debut effort! It’s a Christmas story that goes deep to the heart of what really matters. I give it five bones, because I’m a dog. I don’t do stars.

5 bones for blog

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that's how we roll.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

Writer Wednesday: Brooke Williams

IMG_8272PCPVBrooke Williams writes whimsical romantic comedies. Read to find out her journey as a writer!

When did you decided that you would be an author? Was it something you fell into, felt called to… ?

I should have known from birth that I was meant to write. Okay, maybe not birth, but soon after. When I was in grade school, I used to cut pictures from magazines and glue them to blank pieces of paper. I would then write new stories to go with the pictures and sell the “newspapers” to my parents for a dime. They had to buy them if they wanted to see what their missing picture was! And as I grew up, I was the kid in school who was EXCITED about paper assignments and essay tests. I didn’t write my first full novel until after I graduated from college and while I was working full-time in radio. But it wasn’t until a full decade after that I actually gave it another go. When my first daughter was born in 2009, I quit my job in radio to stay home with her. I needed something that was JUST mine. Being a mom, you give so much to the kids, it’s hard to keep anything to yourself. Writing became that thing I needed. I feel like now I need it almost as much as the air I breathe. I started a freelance writing business and write blogs, web content and anything else clients need. That stirred the fiction bug again and I branched out into more novels. Now, it’s a serious addiction and I have no plans to stop!

AcceptThisDandelionWhat’s your pet peeve?

Unfinished projects. My husband vacuums often (which is awesome!) but when he’s done, he leaves the vacuum cleaner wherever he stopped vacuuming. That drives me nuts! I don’t like not finishing what I start. That is probably partly why I write as fast as I do. Stories bother me until they’re done! I hate leaving them partially finished.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?

I don’t know about embarrassing, but definitely humbling! When I wrote my first novel, “Someone Always Loved You,” I sent query letters to agents all over. Back then, you had to send self-addressed stamped envelopes to get a reply. One time, I got one of those SASE back from an agent and written on the back was: No. That was it. No form letter inside. Nothing! Just no! Ouch!!

What has been your most difficult challenge as an author?

Finding the time to implement all of the ideas I have. My head is full of stories, but I have only 1-2 hours a day with which to work. I have to fit my paying freelance jobs in first because, let’s face it, they pay! After that, there’s not always much time for fiction. But if the story bothers me enough, I fit it in! And the reality is that in two more years, both of my daughters will be in school and I will have all the time I could ever want. I dread that era. J

How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?

I used to take it very personally, like with the “no” envelope. But now I realize that not everyone likes every book. There’s absolutely nothing I could write that would please everyone. Someone doesn’t like what I wrote, it’s not their taste. I don’t like every best-selling novel on the market. It’s very subjective. While sometimes it stings for a minute, I brush it off. I write because I love it and when others love it too, that’s a bonus, but not the ultimate goal.

What do you feel is the best success so far in your writing career?

So far? Because I hope there are more hurdles to come! At this point it would probably be when I got my very first contract from a publisher. I had decided to give writing one more try and I submitted a romantic comedy I’d written to a few publishers. When I got an email/acceptance from one of them, I thought it was a joke or a scam. I looked into it very carefully and asked a lot of questions. When I realized it was the real thing, it was pure bliss. I enjoy what I do. That’s why I do it. The idea that someone in the industry thought readers might also enjoy it blew me away.

What would be your top three pieces of advice to newer, up and coming authors?

  1. First and foremost, write because you love it and you can’t NOT write
  2. Realize the industry is subjective and not everyone will appreciate what you do
  3. If you want to publish and are searching for a publisher or agent, do NOT let yourself give up. It can feel like a needle in a haystack scenario, but I guarantee if you stop looking, you’ll NEVER find what you’re looking for.

As a Christian author, what would you like your legacy to be?

My books are very light-hearted and humorous. They do have deeper messages, but they aren’t outright and overt. I concentrate on things like, be who you are and don’t be ashamed of it. When I write, I get a break from everyday life. I’m not being torn in two different directions by two little girls. I don’t have to meet anyone’s needs for a little while. It’s a break from what I usually do all day. If someone were to talk about one of my books, I’d hope they would say, that was just what I needed! Or it really made me laugh! I aim to give people an escape from the daily stresses life brings along with it. Let’s take a deep breath, read a strange story, and have a laugh together! If I can give people even a little bit of joy, I’m happy with that!

What is your current work in process?

I’m writing for a new client that requires short stories so that’s a new angle for me. But it’s a good way to get several storylines out in short order! I also recently put out a new children’s book called “Baby Sheep Gets a Haircut.” A fun little story I used to tell my daughter at bedtime. My next romantic comedy is coming out in June 2017. It’s currently titled “The Leftover.” We’ll see if that sticks. It revolves around a local Survivor-based reality show and is a lot of fun.

Links to social media:

You can get details and links to all of my releases, new and old, on my website:

Twitter: @AuthorBrookeW


What’s With Your Crazy Titles?

I am often asked why the books in my Orchard Hill series are titled so oddly. It’s a great question! Figured this was a good time to answer it.

PestoandPotholes2I wrote a book and titled it Pesto & Potholes because it was a metaphor for the journey my character was going to take. The pothole was her emotional pain from an abusive past. Getting out is a rocky process but takes help. The pesto was because Tony was an Italian chef and that is a favorite sauce in our home. So a savory and sweet romance was born. The ninjas were added because someone challenged me to put them in so, I did!

SalsaandSpeedbumps copy (2)Then a Facebook friend suggested my next book be called Salsa & Speed Bumps. I figured “Why not?” Challenge accepted. I took Renata’s roommate from Pesto & Potholes and gave her a bumpy journey with an unexpected pregnancy due to date rape and the challenge ripple effects of that. Even the unfair judgments of those in her church toward her and her new boyfriend, Roberto, became speed bumps on their way to happiness. Robbie, my Hispanic hero added some spice to the story.

FetaandFreewaysCover copyThe challenge was on to continue with a food theme combined with some road-related term. Book three became Feta & Freeways. I wanted to write a story based on a band I’m a fan of, Burlap to Cashmere. I was inspired by their journey. Since the band has Greek roots, I gave that to my character, Nikolos. Burlap to Cashmere is based out in the New York area – but my guys are from Wisconsin. Freeways – they take a journey – emotionally and spiritually as the band travels around the United States.

Not all titles will continue to be ethnically related, however. Johnny is Niko’s cousin and bandmate in Feta & Freeways. Book four is Root Beer & Roadblocks, due to release February 2017. Sprecher root beer is made in Wisconsin and features in the story. While Johnny is Greek, Katie is Irish in her background. I went with a more American theme. Johnny faces several roadblocks to his happiness.

Up after that will be Pastor Dan Wink’s story. He has a Germanic heritage and since Bratwurst is a Wisconsin specialty, that book is called Bratwurst & Bridges. He becomes the bridge to help his neighbor, Skye (Irish) come to know Christ as she becomes the bridge that brings him back to life from his complicated grief.

Book number six is Donuts & Detours. No ethnicity at all. She’s a baker and he’s a mechanic/tow-truck driver and there are a few detours on their way to their happily-ever-after, including a hidden identity. But we all keep secrets, don’t we?

I hope to write Truffles & Traffic this November, because someone has begged for me to have a title with truffles in it! I guess those will have to be a part of any party or giveaway for that book! The basis of the story is based on a real-life romance I watched happen eons ago. Names and careers are changed to protect the lovebirds.

Food continues to play a role in all the stories as does the ongoing challenge to use road terms for metaphors for the journey my characters take. 

I’m open to suggestions for future titles. Since this series takes place in the northwest suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, only traffic or food that can be found there can apply.

Here are some possibilities – so feel free to weigh in on what you, as a reader, would like to see next:

Cream Puffs & Crossroads (cream puffs are a Wisconsin State Fair specialty!)

Ramen & Roadkill (I put this here as a joke but I do have some friends begging me to write this!)

Lattes and Lanes or Espresso & Expressway  or Coffee & Concrete (similar concepts but which one???)

Pickles & Pavement  (seriously, someone suggested this!) Perhaps Panini’s & Pavement?

Apples & Alleys 

Jellybeans & Junctions

Rocky Road & Round-a-bouts 

Go ahead and be creative! Remember – Salsa & Speedbumps was birthed out of a challenge to write it. As will be Truffles & Traffic. Maybe your choice will be the title of a future story too!


Feta & Freeways is up for a Goodreads giveaway starting Tuesday, October 4th. The giveaway includes a print copy of the novel along with a compact disc of Burlap to Cashmere’s self-titled album which was the soundtrack I listened to as I wrote the book! It’s hard to get physical copies of music anymore so this was a rare find and I’m sharing it with TWO lucky winners.

Spatzle Speaks: A Haven in the Woods (Book Review)

a-haven-in-the-woodsNancy Bolton’s recent novella, A Haven in the Woods is another story as part of the Love is . . . series of novellas by Prism Book Group. Finally, a story that has a dog in it! I don’t mind the cat either. I’m particularly fond of cats but mom won’t let me have one because of something she calls allergies. Anyway, on to the book.

Ellen is our leading lady and she got herself in some trouble. An unexpected and unwanted pregnancy has led her to make a choice to hide away in the woods, give birth and then give the baby up for adoption.

Things don’t go as planned. Her isolation is destroyed by Robert who lives nearby and comes to her rescue. As her home falls apart and a terrible winter storm descends, he takes her and her cat into his home with him and his dog. The potential makings of a love story.

But Ellen isn’t in the mood to be loved or trust a man and she keeps Robert at arms length. He, however, falls for the unborn baby and tries everything he can to help Ellen as she nears delivery. I don’t want to give away the story but lets just say he really has to work for this and is an example of love that protects, no matter what.

I’ll give this story five bones. A dog, a cat and a baby? I love babies. And I’m a dog, I don’t give stars.

5 bones for blog

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that's how we roll.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.



Spatzle Speaks: Feta & Freeways (Book Review)

Burlap_To_Cashmere Steve and Johnny

The really Johnny Philippidis and Steven Delopoulos from Burlap to Cashmere in concert

Feta & Freeways is the third book in the Orchard Hill series. Seriously? Will my mom ever get off her chair and take me for more walks? She got so obsessed with the band Burlap to Cashmere she had to write a story about the lead singer, Steven Delopoulos and his cousin Johnny Phillipidis. Really? Oh, they still go to Orchard Hill Church and names have been changed to protect the unwary.

Niko Acton is the lead singer and acoustic guitar player for a fictional band called Specific Gravity. They are playing their last concert of a tour when someone tries to kill him. He doesn’t know this though until after the show. That’s when he realizes that their manager who has been with them for years, was seriously wounded trying to protect him.

FetaandFreewaysCover copyJohnny has known all along that Tia Bartel, the manager, has loved Niko forever. Niko is now only realizing how little he knows about this woman. With some prodding, Niko reads Tia’s journals while she’s fighting for her life in the hospital. How rude! The truth hits him and the blinders fall off.

The rocky ride to love and romance takes off from there. As Tia recovers, Niko is shaken awake and the band prepares to launch another road tour. I don’t want to give away any spoilers except that while they do talk about getting a dog, they never do. Come on, Mom. What’s with that? She promises to put a dog in a future story and make him very important. I’m waiting. Not getting any younger here.

The romance is sweet and the dynamics between Niko and Johnny are fun as well as the rest of the band. Romance on the road? Dating a wife? A sweet young woman who’s been faithful, but now has to learn to trust that someone really could love her . . . it’s all there along with great music. Oh, Burlap to Cashmere didn’t have the time or money to record mom’s songs so you’ll have to imagine how great it is or listen to one of their tunes. Moody Greek musicians – and she gets two books out of these guys? The next one is titled Root Beer & Roadblocks and tell’s Johnny’s story. Again. No dogs.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that's how we roll.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

Well, I love my mom and I don’t mind Burlap to Cashmere’s music which she listened to all the time as she was writing and editing this story. So I’ll give it five bones in hopes that she’ll take me for a long walk and some extra belly rubs. I’m a dog. That’s how I roll.

5 bones for blog

Writer Wednesday: Dixie Jarchow

image1I met Dixie at a writer’s conference and to date I don’t know of any author who has ever pitched a story to me with so much enthusiasm. I began to believe the story she was telling me was true, that it happened to a friend! It began a great relationship between us as authors and as editor to author when I signed her. The benefit for us is she also lives in a nearby town so we’ve even connected to talk about life and writing while sipping coffee (for her) and chai (for me). I happily introduce you to Dixie Jarchow (who has also written as Daisy Jericho).

When did you decide that you would be an author? Was it something you fell into, felt called to… ?

I decided I would write a novel when I was pregnant with my second child and had to be on bedrest with a 5-year-old to entertain all day. A friend brought over a huge box of romance novels. After reading about 40 in a row, rapid-fire, I began to see a pattern. I teach physics and engineering.  Patterns appeal to me. So my journey began.

What’s your pet peeve?

My pet peeve is when writers read and ask for comments in my writers’ groups and then argue with the person who is giving feedback. Non writing peeve? No coffee. Must not be allowed!

TheLoveThiefWhat was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?

I admired some local writers when I was just starting out and they told me I wasn’t good enough to be in their group. It inspired me to write more and get better. None of them have published a single book to date. I’m on my third. Persevere and have faith!

What has been your most difficult challenge as an author?

Finding the time to write.

How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?

I take them way too personally. Then, I get stubborn and dig in and do better. Upon reflection, they usually have a good point.  i usually cannot even read the rejection letter at first. It takes me days.

What do you feel is the best success so far in your writing career?

test copyI think being able to share my journey with my high school students and let them know how tough it is but how worthwhile and that they can do anything they set their minds to.

What would be your top three pieces of advice to newer, up and coming authors?

Listen to criticism, accept criticism and then ignore criticism. Listen to everyone and make it better but ultimately, it is your story to tell.

As a Christian author, what would you like your legacy to be?

I would want my legacy to be that I will always be proud to have my future grandchildren read my stories.

What is your current work in process?

I am currently working on Mixed-Up Christmas due out this Christmas.