Interview with Nikolos Acton from Feta & Freeways

uomoI’m excited. Feta & Freeways was the third book in my Orchard Hill Romance series but in a couple of weeks Root Beer & Roadblocks releases. I figured it would be nice for you to get to know my leading man, Nikolos Acton. He leads vocals and plays acoustic guitar for a band called Specific Gravity. Welcome, Niko!

Niko: Thanks for having me. I thought this was going to be an interview with the full band?

Susan: I decided to interview you alone.

FetaandFreewaysCover copyNiko: Alone. Hard to be that way traveling around the country with a bunch of guys.

Susan: Guys?

Niko: Oh, and Tia, she’s our manager.

Door opens. Johnny Marshall, Niko’s cousin Johnny peeks in.

Johnny: What’s  going on?

Susan: I’m interviewing Niko about the book Feta & Freeways .

Johnny: I really liked that story.

Niko: Only because you got me into trouble with Tia.

Johnny: You deserved it, being so blind to her all those years.

Niko: I will get you back.

Johnny: (laughing) I’m sure you’ll try.

Susan: Boys…interview?

Johnny: So Niko, what lesson did you learn in this story?

Susan: Johnny–

Johnny sits down next to Niko and nudges him in the shoulder. 

Niko: No. That’s okay. It’s a good question. I think I realized I was taking a lot for granted in my life. God had blessed me and I acted almost entitled to that. I didn’t really lack anything.

Johnny: And then you almost lost the most important thing.

Curly young woman portrait, outdoors, close-up, positive attitude, smiling.

Niko: She is amazing, isn’t she? I’m glad I had another chance. I’m glad that I got a happily ever after.

Johnny: For now… life does go on, you know, filled with ups and downs.

Niko: You know that better than anyone.

Johnny: Right, like your relationship with Tia was a walk in the park.

Niko: We took a few walks . . .

Johnny: Do you think we’ll get back to touring again?

Niko: Kind of depends on what happens with you.

Johnny :(frowns) Yeah, well I had my shot at happiness and blew it. I’ve given up on those dreams.

Niko: I don’t think God’s given up on you, though. Tia and I don’t plan to let you give up.

rootbeerandroadblocks_300Susan: When I finished Feta &  Freeways I was surprised at the curve ball that had come Johnny’s way so I was compelled to write him his own story. I called it Root Beer & Roadblocks. While Johnny goes through some difficulties I can promise He gets a happily ever after ending. Wanna see your book cover, Johnny? I thought my publisher did an awesome job.

Johnny: Sure. Why not? I look forward to hearing about what journey you took me on. Wow. I like that cover. I remember Tia giving me shades to wear and that stocking cap. She didn’t want me to outshine my cousin, Niko.

Niko: Give it up. She always loved me best anyway.

Johnny: Who? Tia or Susan?

Niko: Well, Tia of course, loved me best. But Susan? Susan, who do you love best?

bassista si esibisce al mare<Susan has left the room> 

Johnny: Obviously me. Had to be me.

Niko: I wouldn’t be so sure about that.

Johnny: Has to be – she saved the best story for last.

Niko: You do realize she’s written other books after this, right? And neither of us are the main characters?

Johnny: No way. Susan? Where did she go? Susan? Come on. You love me best, right?

Note: Burlap to Cashmere was the inspiration for the story – as were the lead singer Steven and his cousin Johnny (although Johnny usually plays guitar he does some keys in this video). You’ll also see Theodore here, their drummer. This is a song from them off their self-titled album where you can see – and hear the amazing vocals. 

 

Spatzle Speaks: Baby Bunco (Book Review)

babybunco-300-w200-oJulie Cosgrove has emerged with book two of her Bunco Biddie’s cozy mystery series: Baby Bunco and it does not disappoint.

Living in a retirement community known as Sunset Acres, what could be more surprising than finding an abandoned baby in the bathtub of an empty condo?  But that’s exactly the kind of thing that sends Janie and her friends back into their mischievous sleuthing, much to the dismay of her son-in-law, a local detective.

When a woman is also found sliced apart behind a local convenience store the plot thickens and the Bunco Biddies are fresh on the scent to discover just who the baby belongs to, why it was abandoned and what a local maid service might have to do with it all. Of course, you’d think these women were more tenacious than bloodhounds when they get an idea in their heads. Personally I’m not fond of blood hounds but as a dog myself, I am aware that our sense of smell is strong…and in that way I can relate to these sweet ladies (even though Janie has a cat. I think I’d like to get to know her better because I think cats are fascinating).

If you want a lighthearted mystery filled with twists and turns as well as loaded with sweet relationships, then you’ll enjoy this book. I’m not much for hunting myself but any book that makes my mom slow down to read and snuggle with me is aces and that’s why I give this book five bones. Because I’m a dog and I don’t do stars and don’t have thumbs either.

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.

 

When a Rejection Bears Fruit

I started writing in 2009. One novel through National Novel Writing Month. Had fun. Kept writing, clueless about all I didn’t know about writing and publishing fiction.

logoIn 2012 I wrote a historical novella A Wisconsin Christmas Blessing. I submitted it to a company called Pelican Book Group who was putting together a Christmas collection of novellas. The submission process resulted in a request for the full manuscript. Naive me – I thought I had it made. I was going to be published.

Not so fast, Susan. 

I got a rejection letter from one of the editors. But I didn’t get just a rejection letter. I received a 1 1/2 page (when I printed it out) email. She said: “I would like to list the most common errors to point out some things  that might help you prepare your manuscript for re-submission.” Six specific areas of growth to be exact. SIX! Talk about humbling.

fragileblessings1-copyDetailed, informative and time-consuming. As disappointed as I was at the rejection, I felt honored at her willingness to help me, a novice writer, grow. I sent her a thank you note for all the time she took to write that email and help me.

prism-new-logoI sat on that story for a few years. Time can often equal growth and wisdom if we let it! After I became an Acquisitions Editor with Prism Book Group another opportunity for a Christmas series of novellas arose so I rewrote my novella using all the tools that this fabulous and compassionate editor had given me. It was contracted, renamed and Fragile Blessings was published in 2015 to great reviews.

Now this is where it gets really weird. Prism Book Group was recently acquired by Pelican Book Group as one of their imprints. This also means that all my published works are now technically Pelican books (under the Prism Book Group imprint). So in essence, Pelican did end up publishing my novella! To be honest, the editor had given me an open door to resubmit that I had never taken her up on. God knew.

So now I will be part of a team of editors who I get to work with, one of whom was integral in helping me grow in my writing. Since that rejection, I’ve published two novellas, a collection of short stories, three novels (and a fourth coming soon) and have seven more books contracted. And another two with my agent.

Here are some of the lessons I learned that hopefully will help others: 

  1. Listen to the feedback you get from rejections. Not all of it will be right – but you can always learn something.
  2. Don’t give up. Maybe that story isn’t the one that’s going to sell, keep writing. Obviously, I didn’t stop at one novella given how many stories I’ve written. Write long, write short. Just don’t quit.
  3. Trust in God’s timing. My story wasn’t ready for publication in 2012 but after some conferences and growth and writing more stories in between, when I went back to that novella, I had better skills to apply to make it publishable.
  4. Don’t burn bridges. Can you imagine if I had sent a scathing note to that editor? She would have told her boss and do you think that woman would have been as eager to bring me on as an editor? It’s a small world in Christian publishing and while yes, we are commanded to forgive, it doesn’t mean that you’ll be trusted with the bigger tasks God might have in store with you down the line.
  5. Relish the new opportunities for growth. That editor is now someone who I’ll be working more closely with now with the books I edit and I hope and anticipate I’ll learn even more on my journey because I hope I never stop improving my stories or my editing for others.
  6. It’s okay to laugh. I am giggling at God’s path that led me here. I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined this journey he’s had me on and the blessings of the people He’s brought in my path. Writing (and editing) is hard. Pouring your soul on paper is not without risk and life itself throws us curveballs all the time. I’m grateful for the people God’s placed in my life to help me get to those next steps.

I’ve kept that editor’s name private for now… she knows who she is and my hope is that you’ll treat every editor you meet, not as your enemy, but as someone who really can help you grow, even when you get a rejection letter.

Oh, and I almost forgot. Fragile Blessings tied for second place as an inspirational short at OKRWA International Digital Awards for 2016. Not too shabby for a story that was initially rejected, right?

How about you, if you write, do you have any stories of things you’ve learned through the “rejection” process?

Spatzle Speaks: Hoping for Joy (Book Review)

51sbsfx7llPrism Book Group has released another book in their “Love is…” series of romances based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.  Hoping for Joy by Penelope Marzec is about love always hoping.

Hannah isn’t your typical blushing bride-to-be. She’s beginning to wonder whether her fiance will ever marry her. He’s preoccupied with helping his father care for his niece, Joy and keeping Joy’s mother, his sister, out of jail as she repeatedly gets in trouble with her addictions.

While Hannah understands the challenges he’s facing, she’s feeling a tad neglected and as if she’s not important to him. He’s not even a believer.

Logan is overwhelmed with responsibilities and really doesn’t think of his fiancee all that much until she’s attacked and almost killed by his sister during a robbery. But how can he balance the needs of Hannah with those of a little girl, a lost sister and a father who’s health is failing. How can he salvage his relationship with Hannah in the midst of all that?

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.

This is a story of lost hopes and dreams giving birth to new ones and as a dog, I adore children so little Joy was my favorite part. That and she has the same name as someone in my house! A romantic suspense that will warm your heart. I give it five bones, because I’m a dog and I don’t do stars.

5 bones for blog

Writer Wednesday: Cathe Swanson

cathesquareToday I want to introduce you to Cathe Swanson. She’s been a valuable member of our ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writer’s) group and just released her first novella! So proud of you Cathe!

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

I was a reader as a child, and being an author was my dream job. I wanted to create stories, preferably in series like Little House in the Big Woods, Anne of Green Gables or the Nancy Drew mysteries. But I didn’t; I just found more books to read. Later, when I was homeschooling my sons, I wanted to write better stories for boys. But I didn’t; I was too busy teaching them.  I wrote devotionals for ministry events and some articles for a boys’ magazine and newsletters for different organizations, but I never wrote fiction. Then, just after my youngest son graduated, I decided to participate in NaNoWriMo. I finished the 50,000 words in about a week, and I kept going. The story fell from my fingertips. It consumed me. I thought about my characters all the time. I wrote bits and pieces on scraps of paper while I was driving (even more dangerous than texting). I wrapped up that manuscript at about 175,000 words, and then I just kept writing more books.

What’s your pet peeve?

I object to man-bashing: memes or cartoons that mock men, implying that women are smarter than men, or television shows in which the men are portrayed as bunglers and the women are more intelligence. This is not sexual equality. It is sexism.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?

My best friend is married to a chief of police in a small town out west. I called her one evening with a question about whether or not a woman could be compelled to testify against her husband in a criminal court case and then more specifically if that woman could be questioned by the police during the investigation and be pressured to answer their questions. She said her husband wasn’t home right then, but she thought it was best to avoid answering any questions without a lawyer there. I thanked her for that non-answer and went back to my story. She called back ten minutes later – she had called her husband out of a city council meeting to ask him what I should do. She thought my question was about ME! Oops.

What has been your most difficult challenge as an author?

Self-discipline and avoiding the “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” trap. I am easily distracted and have many things I enjoy doing, from gardening to cardmaking, so if I sit down to write and my character has an upcoming appointment, it reminds me that I need to check my planner for the time of my own upcoming appointment. Then I see that one of my grandchildren has a birthday coming up, so I open Amazon to do some shopping. Then I think about party ideas, which is even worse, because I open up Pinterest. Or I might decide to make her a card or go to the basement to get wrapping paper and see a box of Christmas fabric and bring that upstairs and see a piece with holly berries on it and decide to go outside and check on the boxwood tree and pick some branches to make a centerpiece… By then, my husband is home and I need to cook dinner. I love to write, but I am squirrelly.

How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?

As a brand new author, I’ve been very blessed with encouraging reviews.  When the negative comments and reviews come, as I know they will, I might get discouraged for a while, but I usually bounce back quickly. I am pretty good at weighing the value of other people’s opinions and responding accordingly. I hope I will be humble enough to accept criticism.

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

Um… Snow Angels? Actually, I think my best success is that I have pushed myself to become more open about my work. I’ve written for years without telling anyone or letting anyone read my stories. I tend to be a very private person, almost reclusive, and you just can’t do that as a modern author.

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

There aren’t many authors newer than me, but I would tell them:

1.  Find a supportive writing community. That doesn’t mean a group of people who will applaud everything you do, but they should be encouraging you in your efforts – just as you will encourage them – and celebrating your successes. I prefer a group with a Christian worldview because that defines me and my writing. I like online communities because I can engage from home when I have time to do so, but in-real-life groups are very beneficial.

2.  Never stop learning how to be a better writer. Attend workshops and seminars, read writing craft books, find beta readers and critique partners. I am a podcast junkie. I listen to writing and book marketing podcasts while I garden, clean house, drive, or work out (okay… that’s a lie. I haven’t worked out in months.) Most importantly, read good books.

3.  Whether you eat or drink or whatever you do – including writing books – glorify God. Before we are Christian authors, we are Christians. Not everything you write has to be evangelical, but remember that everything you write is a witness.

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

Like all Christian authors, I would like to lead others to salvation, bring attention to terrible social injustices, end hunger and bring about world peace. Those are impressive goals, but I think I am better at touching people’s hearts on a more personal level. In Snow Angels, I created characters like Hub, a Vietnam veteran. Instead of just showing his sad plight and having him sitting around being homeless, I wanted the reader to see him as a regular guy with his own personality, engaging in daily life in community with others.  I like to write entertaining stories that make readers laugh and maybe cry a little, but I hope that they will also be inspired to see other people more clearly – not as stereotypes, but as individuals, as God sees them.

What is your current work in process?

I am currently working on revisions for Baggage Claim, a book I wrote for NaNoWriMo a few years ago. It’s part of the Great Lakes collection, set about two years before Snow Angels, and will introduce Phoebe. It is scheduled to be released in mid-February.

Christmas Lights novella collection is going to be FREE From Dec 15 to Dec 19. Also, we are having a great giveaway: http://christmaslightscollection.com/christmas-stocking-mash/  The actual giveaway form is here: https://promosimple.com/ps/abb4  but it doesn’t list everything in the stocking.

My new book, Baggage Claim, is available for preorder at http://amzn.to/2gwfFnW It will be released – God willing – on February 14.

christmas-lights-boxLinks to social media:

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CatheSwanson

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CatheSwanson

Instagram: https://instagram.com/CatheSwanson

My blog: http://catheswanson.com/blog

My newsletter: http://catheswanson.com/newsletter/

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/CatheSwan…

BookBub Author Page: https://www.bookbub.com/authors/cathe-swanson

Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/catheswans…

Latest Book Release :    Christmas Lights – a novella collection

 

Spatzle Speaks: Cowboy Christmas Novellas (Book Reviews)

Prism Book Group is releasing several Christmas novellas about cowboys–just in time for the holidays! Since they all release today, I had no choice but to give them to you all in one post.

A Love Valley Christmas

Mary Ball has written a sweet story of love and faith with A Love Valley Christmas. Susie Aleman is a widow running a mercantile in Love Valley called Spurs. When she’s not working she’s raising her sixteen-year-old son, Zam. Life is comfortable with her work, friends, and faith. When newcomer Ty Porter strolls into her store Susie’s heart beats faster.

Ty’s not looking for a love connection. He’s made his mistakes in his past and faith isn’t something he understands. But it’s just possible that Christmas, a sweet woman, and her son might just hold the life he’s been searching for.

When Susie Aleman isn’t running Spurs, a mercantile in Love Valley, she’s raising her sixteen-year-old son, Zam. She’s content with life and relies on no one but God. Then Ty Porter moves to Love Valley and stampedes into her heart.

This isn’t your young love story – but is a sweet tale of reluctant love over the holiday season.

Crazy Woman Christmas

In Crazy Woman Christmas, author Renee Blare brings us a unique Christmas tale. Bianca Kolceski has made her share of mistakes and after running away from her parents in shame. Having turned her life around, she’s finally decided to return home to Texas for Christmas. A blizzard in Wyoming forces her off the road.

Devon Dawson doesn’t do Christmas as he grieves the loss of his parents. The cowboy is on his way home to hunker down during the storm when he spies a little car buried in the snow. Helping out Bianca he has no other option than to take her to his ranch.

Life is hard in the blizzard and two strangers with painful pasts learn about faith and love during the Christmas season.

 

 

Hats Off!

14691421_1795231750748897_5852911620115031681_o

Nancy Bolton has given us a wonderful story in Hats Off. This cover is different from the others because it is historical taking place in Oregon in the 1920’s. Kay, a widow, has moved there to be with her brother and his wife. She works making shirts and the lining for custom hats. She’d known love once but could there be a second chance for her?

Aaron is a quiet man who does his job but one night gets drunk and is discovered by Kay who gets her brother Philip to care for the man. He intrigues her in their fiew shy interactions. She steps out and tries new things including challenging the quiet man with his own dark past. Their brief interactions ignite sparks quickly.

Love bloom in the cold of winter as both learn that sometimes, hope at Christmas, is a powerful thing if one is willing to reach for it.

 

Hill Country Homecoming 

61-yqchy2zlJulie Cosgrove’s latest release is a Texas story that takes place in Hill Country Homecoming. Sarah Mansfield is used to living large on her daddy’s dime. The only reason she’s returning home to the ranch is for the annual holiday party and announce her engagement to a rich man, Trey Simpson. The down side is having to see her father’s ranch manager, Travis Wallace, a guy who she sees as a loser. As her dreams are about to come true a harsh reality snatches it all away as responsibility for the ranch falls to her.

Travis sees the beautiful Sarah as beautiful but impossible. But when push comes to shove her perseverance in learning the ranch business begins to earn his respect. As he answers questions about the true meaning of Christmas, he begins to wonder if Sarah might not be the girl for him after all. But only a miracle will convince him of that.

A Christmas love triangle filled with suspense, faith and love.

Mixed-Up Christmas

61fixigogxlDixie Jo Jarchow gives us a sweet tale in Mixed-Up Christmas. Mix Malone is done riding bulls. He’s broken too many bones, suffered too many head injuries to ride anymore in spite of the fame and fortune it has provided for him and his family. He pulls into town in the middle of a snow storm and stops at the Outlaw Cafe.

Blossom Deavers isn’t quite sure what to do with the beaten up cowboy who passes out in her empty cafe. When his family begins to threaten him as she simply befriends the cowboy and listens to his own dreams as hers are falling apart, she decides maybe it is time to move on. Christmas isn’t about dreams anyway, is it?

This is a story about broken dreams, broken families and the hope of Christmas and courage.

 

The Cowboy’s Miracle

61mwix1nxqlPenelope Marzec brings us The Cowboy’s Miracle. Rodeo star and veterinarian, Seth Holmes is running from men who are hunting him down, due to his father’s crimes. He searches for a home that might belong to grandparents he didn’t know he had but instead finds Gariella Cavallo.

Gabriella has been living on the farm of a woman who had been like a grandmother other and Seth threatens to upset the security of her future in raising alpacas, managing a greenhouse and carriage house that she rents out.

When someone targets the alpacas, Seth’s veterinarian skills come in handy. But can Seth penetrate the wall of fear around Gabriella’s heart while protecting her from those who are pursuing him?

Love, suspense, and alpacas. A great Christmas read.

If you like novellas with cowboys during the holidays, any and all of these novellas will fit the bill. I give each one five bones because I’m a dog, and that’s how I roll. 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: Understory (Book Review)

51vvzd4ocslLisa Lickel has  written a multi-faceted story of love, history, intrigue, sex-trafficking, dysfunctional families, and racism. UnderStory takes place in about a week but is packed full of adventure and is almost impossible to adequately describe. It’s a book one needs to experience instead.

Lily suspects something is not right with the job her brother’s push for her to take a job. Fearing for her life and for the safety of her nephew, she escapes but soon ends up wandering through the north woods of Wisconsin in a blizzard.

Cam lives in his cabin with his dogs. He’s faced unjust accusations in the past and is now enjoying peace and quiet while writing a history of his parents. When he finds Lily buried in the snow in the understory of the forest, he does everything in his power to revive her.

That’s where the story starts but it is hard to know what else to describe because I don’t want to give away spoilers. I personally love any book that has dogs in it and Lickel has included two in this story. Unlikely love overcomes insurmountable odds as criminals abound as our hero and heroine discover the truth about all that is happening as well as the ugly secrets of their own pasts. Sometimes it takes an outsider to help see things in a different and better light and in spite of challenges love can grow.

This is different from anything else Lisa Lickel has written, and probably her best book to date. It is a story that will hang with you long after the final page. I give the book 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