Spatzle Speaks: Summer of Deception (Book Review)

Summer of Deception is Elva Cobb Martin’s debut romantic suspense novel set in the south.

Now, of course, as a dog, I’m grateful for the dogs that are in here. That right there makes it a five bone review book. But I suspect most of you reading are not dogs, so let me tell you what this story is about at least regarding the humans.

Rachel York is escaping a bad relationship and seeking to uncover the truth regarding the death of her brother who worked for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). She doesn’t believe he’s really dead. She’s found a job at a historic Charleston tea plantation but when she arrives, the man who hired her is dead and the grandson has no clue she was coming. Would God bring her this far to fail her now?

Luke Barret is a widowed and wounded Marine Corps Special Forces operative who has returned home with an eye patch making him more like a grumpy pirate than the owner of a southern tea-plantation. Handsome but untrusting, he’s suspicious of Rachel but allows her to stay on trial as a nanny to his young daughter whom he adores.

Rachel revels in the beauty and history of her temporary home and looks for ways to contact her brother’s partner to uncover the truth. But strange things are happening on the plantation and she begins to wonder if the honorable and grumpy owner might not be involved in nefarious activities (are you impressed that a dog like me knows a word like that?). In spite of that, she finds herself attracted to the brooding, temperamental owner of the plantation.

Luke is finding his own heart melted and lost faith rekindled by the feisty nanny, but suspect she has secrets of her own. When love is about to bloom a hurricane comes and craziness ensues. Is her brother really alive? Does Luke love her, or is he really a drug smuggler. With all the secrets kept, can love survive the turmoil?

Prism Book Group, an imprint of Pelican Book Group, did a fabulous job on the cover as well.

Elva weaves a complex and beautifully told tale. You an almost experience the wonder of this place. Filled with emotion and suspense it is a tale you are sure to enjoy. Sure made my tail wag, so I give it five bones, because I’m a dog.  I don’t have thumbs and don’t do stars.

Right now Summer of Deception is 50% off both print and ebook versions, but that won’t last long. You have to click the red lined link to get to that page. 

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

Spatzle Speaks: Root Beer & Roadblocks (Book Review)

My mom (Susan M. Baganz) writes books. In this one, she had a little boy and I love little kids so Root Beer & Roadblocks is a story I enjoyed. Johnny Marshall is a favorite character, but I was sad that at the end of Feta & Freeways, Johnny’s cancer had returned. I knew then that she would write Johnny’s story and make it a great one.

Johnny had a rough time because he endured a bout of cancer in his past and discovered the truth at the same time his wife served him divorce papers. He’d had his chance at fame as a musician and lost any chance to fulfill his dream of having children.

He sold his home and had moved in with his cousin. Partly because he didn’t see any point in keeping it when he figured he’d likely not survive this cancer battle. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to bother with pursuing treatment because he knew it would be brutal with no guarantee of a cure. He serves at church teaching little kids in Sunday school since he can’t have any of his own.

When he saves a little boy from being hit by a car after church, he gets injured instead. The crash reunites him with an old flame from high school. The one woman, Katie, he never really got over and she holds a secret, one that might give him the will to live.

Johnny is not a victim in this story although he suffers terribly. Matter of fact, in spite of his challenges he often emerges the unwitting hero. His journey and struggle seems hopeless at times, defeated by depression, illness, and cancer, he also finds that because of his struggles there are amazing blessings to be had on the other side as God opens the floodgates to fill his heart (and arms) with more than he could have hoped and dreamed for.

Johnny is still a musician and singer with Specific Gravity although they don’t tour in this book as they make time to allow Johnny the opportunity to fight this battle with his family, friends, and Orchard Hill church by his side. If you enjoyed Feta & Freeways you’ll enjoy the continuation of the relationship between Niko and his cousin Johnny in this story. While both books are connected they can be read as stand-alone novels.

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

I would suggest that Johnny and Katie get a dog, but given the end of this story, I suspect they’ll need a bigger home and some time to adjust to all their blessings. I’d offer to join them but I love my mommy too much and she needs me. They don’t call me a rescue dog for nothing. I give this book five bones, because I don’t have thumbs and don’t do stars. And I’ll give my mom lots of kisses as long as she keeps rubbing my tummy.

The Human Factor In Root Beer and Roadblocks

rootbeerandroadblocks_300The path to publishing isn’t always a smooth ride. Today Root Beer & Roadblocks finally released in ebook form. A new publisher has meant a learning curve for author and editors alike. (The print version should be available in another week).

This is not the first time I’ve had a book delayed and to be honest- the delay (or roadblock!) was at my request. I wanted extra eyes on the manuscript but that takes time. I’m grateful my publisher didn’t rush to get the book out on deadline only to find it filled with some mistakes.

Funny thing is – even with me going over this with a fine-tooth comb many times, as well as my editor, copyeditor, three proofreaders, and my publisher, none of us found the same things wrong. We all saw things differently. So there is a chance that you could pick up this book and find something wrong as well that all of us missed in spite of the multiple times it’s been evaluated.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? We’re human. Flawed. Even with software programs that can help find errors the human factor can still influence things. My hope is that if you choose to read Johnny’s story, you’ll get so caught up in the journey he takes that anything that crosses your path, will be immediately forgotten as you read on. I wanted to give you a sneak peek into the first pages of the book.

February 2014

          Johnny jogged to his car and grabbed his Bible. Fatigue weighed him down as he locked the sedan, the book tucked under his arm. Heading back toward the church, a movement caught his attention. A little boy from his Sunday school classroom escaped his mother’s grasp and bolted his way, blind to a car backing out of its spot.

       “David, stop!” Johnny bolted and managed to get behind the moving vehicle to shove the child out of the way. The rear bumper struck his own leg and knocked him to the ground.

         The car’s wheels stopped just short of running him over. Thank you, Lord, for big tank cars with huge trunks. The child cried, and a woman picked up the boy. “It’s OK, David, you’ve only scraped your palms. This nice man saved you. How many times must I tell you not to run in parking lots? You are too small for cars to see you.” She hugged the little boy tight.

             Johnny dragged his legs out from under the car and struggled to his feet, bracing himself against the trunk to catch his breath. The elderly woman, who had been behind the wheel, toddled around to him. “Are you OK? I’m sorry. I didn’t see him. You moved so fast.”

          Johnny nodded. “No one would have seen him. It was an accident.” He patted her on the shoulder before he limped across the parking lot. Pain seared through his hip and leg with every step he took. Reaching the curb, he sank down to the cement, thankful it was clear of snow.

           His cousin Niko ran out of the church and knelt by his side. “Johnny, what happened?”

          “He rescued my son from getting run over by a car that was backing out. He took the hit.” A woman wearing a stocking cap and winter coat came up behind Niko with the weepy boy in her arms rubbing his eyes.

              Johnny shrugged. “What she said.”

             “You OK? Do we need to call an ambulance?‛ Niko’s gaze bore into him. The greater unspoken question loomed.

              Teeth gritted in pain, Johnny returned his cousin’s stare. “I want to sit through worship. You’re on stage in a few minutes. Help me inside. I have an appointment with my doctor tomorrow. It can wait until then.” He motioned for Niko to help him rise, and he did. The older woman came up to him and handed him a piece of paper.

                 “Here is my name, phone, and insurance information. Do you want to call the police and file a report? I wouldn’t blame you if you did.” Her arthritic, wrinkled hands were clenched tightly together as if in petition for mercy.

                “I doubt that’s necessary. Thank you, May.” He took the paper and shoved it in his shirt pocket. David’s mom passed him his Bible, which he’d dropped. The leather was brushed clean.

“Are you sure you’re OK? I’m a nurse. I could take a look.” Her face instantly turned three shades of red as she realized her inspection would involve him taking off his jeans.

               Johnny smiled and leaned forward. “In my younger days, that would have been an offer too good to pass up, but I visit my doctor tomorrow. It’ll wait.”

 

Here’s a video – instrumental of Burlap to Cashmere’s song “Dialing God.” The guy on the right is the real-life Johnny that I based this character on. Enjoy!

 

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