Writer Wednesday: Penelope Marzec

Please welcome Penelope Marzec to Writer Wednesday! She’s written some fabulous books and I’ve had the honor of working with her on several of them.

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

I decided to be an author at the age of nine. That summer I wrote a book—in green ink on yellow legal paper and I illustrated it, too. In the story, the heroine came from another planet and could fly, which wasn’t a very original idea. However, the experience of writing enthralled me and I vowed I would eventually become a published author. Still, I didn’t want to suffer from starvation so I went to college and became an early childhood educator, which was a terrific job because I got to read and reread all my favorite children’s stories, sing songs, play, do craft projects, and teach the alphabet to lots of youngsters so they could grow up to be readers. Though I came home exhausted everyday, I wrote. It may have taken me longer to get published than some writers, but in the meantime I collected plenty of ideas for stories.

What’s your pet peeve?

I get very annoyed when someone who is not a writer informs me that if I want to be a famous author then I should write a bestseller. There are people who will not read books unless they are on the bestseller lists. They are missing a lot.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?

I’ve endured several embarrassing moments as a writer, but I suppose one of the most humiliating occurred at a conference. I intended to take notes at a workshop with my trusty iPad, but for some reason the keyboard wasn’t working. I fiddled around with several settings until several of the other writers in the room called out my name. I glanced up at the presentation on the screen. Somehow, I had tapped into it. I turned off my iPad and wished I had an invisibility cloak handy.

What has been your most difficult challenge as an author?

When my daughters were younger and I was working, my most difficult challenge was carving out time to write. When my youngest joined the Explorers so she could become an EMT at an early age, I drove her back and forth twice a week so she could become certified. During her two hour lessons, I sat on the floor in the hallway writing. It turned out to be worth every minute of sitting on that cold, hard floor because I sold the book and it won an award.

How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?

Getting rejections never bothered me much. As a member of RWA and the local NJ chapter, I learned about the process of submitting and the odds of getting rejected. A rejection to me seemed more like a badge of honor—proof that I possessed the determination to carry on despite the obstacles. After all, some writers had far more rejections than I did. However, negative reviews hit me hard at first. I found it difficult to understand how someone could read my book and decide it didn’t measure up to their personal standards. Sometimes, I wondered if the reviewers actually read the book. They could be so cruel!

My writing friends helped me get over the hurt. One of them pointed out how some of our favorite books had gotten terrible reviews. When I looked up the reviews on many of my most loved classics, I was appalled. There’s no accounting for taste as the old saying goes. Now I treat negative reviews with far more aplomb.

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

Being published by Pelican Book Group has been the high point of my career as a writer. Before that, I went from one small publisher to another. Several companies folded and I was left with orphaned manuscripts. I consider myself very fortunate to be writing for a company with solid Christian values.

What is your current work in progress?

I’m still debating with myself what to use as a title for my current work in process, but I’ve enjoyed writing it. It’s the story of a young woman who grew up in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey where nobody knew her mother was a once-famous, award-winning actress. When the young woman gets a job in New York City and helps save a man’s life, she is caught up in a media frenzy. One of her new coworkers comes to her aid, but his own dark secret will threaten them both.

Clear as Ice (Christmas Holiday Extravaganza) by [Marzec, Penelope]Bio:

Penelope Marzec grew up along the Jersey shore. She started reading romances at a young age and fell hopelessly in love with happy endings. Two of her inspirational romances won EPIC’s eBook Award and another was a finalist in that contest. Her paranormal, Irons in the Fire, was a nominee for a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice award.

Website: www.penelopemarzec.com

Newsletter:  Sign up at http://penelopemarzec.weebly.com/contact-me.html

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

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/penelopemarzec/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/penelopemarzec

Amazon Page: https://www.amazon.com/Penelope-Marzec/e/B002BLQGA4

Latest book release: https://www.amazon.com/Clear-Ice-Christmas-Holiday-Extravaganza-ebook/dp/B07YSXW85Q

Seasons

I was sitting in church yesterday and my mind was churning. All kinds of thoughts about how much things had changed in my life.

Many of those changes are good. Wonderful. A blessing. My hubby Ben is top of that list.

Some of them are to be grieved. Seasons pass and life changes. We change. 

Community Church Fond du Lac WI Women’s Worship Team at Ostoff 2006 (?)

I used to be the lead singer for a band. I had the confidence at that time. I used to oversee all the worship programming at a church in Menomonee Falls, WI, as a staff position. I used to be a worship leader… and it’s been years since I’ve sung on a worship team at church. Now that’s not totally the fault of anyone else because I’ve not submitted to an audition for a team. There are many reasons for that but the biggest one: I lack confidence. Every time I’ve sung at church in the past few years I received shocked comments: “I didn’t know you sang.” When I sing in front of others (or play guitar) I’m hypercritical and so worried about my “performance” and struggle because I want to be worshipping in “spirit and in truth.” I find I do that better from the congregation, holding my hubby’s hand. He loves to hear my voice and if only God and Ben hear me, I’m fine with that.

Jonah’s Vacation, late 1990’s Milwaukee WI

I’ve not been asked to speak at our Mother of Preschoolers (MOPS) group in years or any other event at church even though I have taught years of theology and even keynoted a women’s leadership conference at our church and possess a masters degree in Counseling Psychology. I coordinated MOPS and also led the Women’s Ministry for many years.

The fact is, if I promoted myself, I could probably speak at places – at my church and at others, or even sing, but one of the most vicious verbal beat-downs I ever received was from someone I looked up to in ministry. And it was all because I posted on Facebook about my writing, publishing, editing, speaking… you get the picture. Apparently, that made me evil, regardless of the fact that the most common things required of authors is to beef up their social media presence. I tried to a Matthew 18 kind of meet up for the purposes of reconciliation, but the person I had requested help from bailed on me. Time passed and I needed to accept that the perpetrator was someone I needed to disconnect from for my own health and well-being.

Now it feels like none of that happened. The band, the singing, the teaching… All gone in a poof of smoke known as…time. And I even fear doing too much self-promotion lest I encounter more abuse.

Oh, boo hoo. What a pathetic person I sound like!

Grief isn’t logical. I realized quickly that is exactly what I was doing – I was grieving. Grieving hits harder this time of year, sometimes out of the blue without me even realizing the date on the calendar. I should be able to predict it – but I guess I hope that maybe, just maybe, this year I’ll escape it.

I was wrong. But why do the above hit harder? It was all surface grief that covered over one major life event.

In late November 2003, I had a miscarriage.

Anniversary reactions are painful.

In December 2004, I gave birth to my daughter, appropriately named Joy Lucille which means “joyful light-bearer.” Lucille was my great-grandmother’s name.

Weeping may spend the night, but there is joy in the morning

Psalm 30:5b, Holman Christian Standard Bible

While her birth was something to rejoice in – her five-day hospital stay as we fought for her life – was not. Nor were the medical challenges that came later. For all that she’s healthy and a delight to my heart.

In November 2017 a judge hammered a nail in the coffin of a verbally abusive marriage. A relationship I had spent years grieving over so that one doesn’t have the same sense of loss to me. That was a relief.  God rescued me. He provided for me and my kids. He sustained me and I learned I didn’t need a man to have a good life.

I still wanted one. I still believed there were good men out there. I feared dating again. I kept my standards so high I shouldn’t have been able to find anyone that would meet my criteria. But God once again showed Himself. June 2018 I started talking with this great guy, Ben.

We began dating and it was amazing. Someone began slandering me to his family, but I quickly realized it wasn’t me personally that was the issue. It was anyone who would have won his heart. He’s worth that grief of those lies. He had to make a choice between maintaining a relationship with those people – or pursuing me. He chose me. And I’m so glad he did.

In December 2018 I married Benjamin. What a wonderful journey we’ve had so far. 

I’ll grieve my losses and be grateful for all that God has done to change my life for the better. It’s not all roses, and we still have challenges we face, but I’m blessed to have someone by my side as we face those challenges together. Someone to pray with me and for me. Someone who is proud to hold my hand and tell me he loves me. Not even a best-selling novel could beat that, or lots of adulation for singing or speaking anywhere. So I’ll let that go. If God wants me to do that kind of work He can make a way.

So I will grieve because the only way is to go through it. And I will rejoice in all God has done on my journey.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

Be kind to yourself and others as we enter this season – underneath our smiles, many are struggling. 

Ben and me. December 2019

 

Spatzle Speaks: Christmas Extravaganza Book Reviews

I’m back! It’s been a while since I’ve posted. Mom doesn’t usually want me playing on her computer. She’s afraid I’ll post something embarrassing on Facebook as if I could do better than she does with that?

Next week three fabulous Christmas novellas are releasing and they are already available for preorder so get yours now!. Well, to be honest, there are more, but these are the only three I’m personally acquainted with, and since mom is so nice, I’m even including hers on this list.

Clear As Ice by Penelope Marzec

Marzec takes Haylie, a former Olympic ice skater with a stalker and a fear of dogs and matches her up with Ethan, a paramedic with serious issues with Christmas and God. The dog, Rufus, is the real star of this story as he is the ultimate matchmaker for these two. This immediately gains it five bones in my book, because I’m pro-dog because I am a dog. Haylie is afraid of relationships but finds that the handsome paramedic keeps showing up in her life, mostly because of his dog. Can Ethan break down the barriers to her heart and can Haylie help restore his faith in God and the wonder of Christmas in his?

Crazy Creek Christmas by Lisa J. Lickel

Leah Hane’s is without roots. She finds a job working as a cook at the Rocking J Ranch in Crazy Creek, Wyoming. This ragtag bunch of cowboys need more than good meals though. She quickly finds herself needed and helping them in a variety of ways as they strive to save the ranch from being sold.

Noel Johnsen is the legitimate heir to the property, or so he thinks. His family was lost in a horrific accident and Christmas brings up bad memories of that loss. He wants to ditch his family’s homestead but his brother-in-law who had been running the place is reluctant and the new cook they hired keeps butting her nose in where it’s not wanted. Soon more than the land is at stake…but his heart as well.

I love this ranch story. I love the outdoors and running around outside so I was for them keeping the ranch. You’ll have to read the story to find out what they do. I loved it.

Sugar Cookies and Street Lamps by Susan M. Baganz

A young woman, Noelle, hates Christmas and is paired up with an investment advisor in creating a magical gala for his company. He loves Christmas and soon finds himself attracted to the woman he’s helping out in creating his companie’s big holiday event.

Boy do I know about Wisconsin winters. I love the snow and we’ve already had plenty for me to jump around it. Mom thinks it’s funny becuase I can’t stand rain, or a bath. Regardless, this Christmas romance is sweet and mom included the family sugar cookie recipe at the end and I personally can vouch for how tasty those are.

My perspective:

All of these stories are worthy reads, so get them now and then do your dog a favor and snuggle up with them for a good Christmas reading time, hot chocolate optional. I give each story five bones, because I’m a dog and and I don’t have thumbs.

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

Thankful for Our Readers

Readers, we are so thankful for YOU! Your support and encouragement mean the world.  To show our appreciation for all you do, we are hosting a HUGE giveaway!


Don’t miss your chance to enter to win a $100 Amazon gift card and over 40+ books. Click here to enter: https://promosimple.com/ps/efda/thankful-for-our-readers

The collection includes a copy of my own novel, Donuts and Detours!

Ten Years

Ten years ago, I listened to a still, small voice telling me to write a novel during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month for more info go to http://www.nanowrimo.org).

So I did.

The first novel I ever wrote, finally released in November of 2017.

I wrote 117,000 words in 21 days. The goal was 50,000 words in 30 days. I had a blast. I was hooked.

I wrote and wrote and wrote. By the time I published my first novel in 2015, I had written my complete 5-book Gothic Regency series as well as four other novels. I had published a flash fiction and a short story. I was working as an editor for a small publishing house, Prism Book Group, which was eventually bought out by Pelican Book Group.

As of today…those totals have increased to 20 completed titles. 15 of those are published, three more are contracted and in the process of getting to publication. Two are awaiting a home. Five are available in audiobook and I’m working on recording some of my novels. I now teach workshops at writer’s conferences and at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh through their continuing education department.

I have four more stories started.

My first published novel, with a new cover!

Life has changed significantly since God first called me to write.

Writing was initially an escape. A place to go to hide from the pain of my daily life. I wrote the happily-ever-after stories I wanted to read. I wrote about the love that I hadn’t experienced but believed was possible. I poured my own personal pain into the pages of my novels.

Then it happened.

Just as God revealed Himself in amazing ways as I wrote, he finally gave me my own happily-ever-after. After a long time of loneliness, struggling to obey God in my difficult circumstances, and finding freedom from that in 2017, God brought love into my life in 2018.

It wasn’t without obstacles. What good romance goes smoothly? Matter of fact, some of those obstacles remain, but I’ve found a new life to be LIVED, not just on the pages of my novels, but to experience and enjoy. And I found someone to do it with.

I won’t go into details of my struggle here. Those who have walked with me on that path have prayed, listened, encouraged, and even challenged me. I am grateful for their love and support.

Last year I didn’t do NaNoWriMo for the first time (after winning 8 years in a row!) because I was recovering from shoulder surgery, planning a wedding, helping remodel a house, and preparing to move my family. Oh, and all at Christmas-time!

God is good, even in the darkest days when I wondered if He would be good to me, I never doubted that it was His character. I am blessed beyond measure. I look forward to how my new life will impact my writing.

My poor hubby doesn’t understand all I do but is a champion of my work anyway. He’s loved the stories he’s read/listened to. This will be his first NaNoWriMo…so here’s hoping he can cope with this crazy writer. He’s done fairly well so far…

Happy November!

Writer Wednesday: Joanie Shawhan

I met Joanie Shawhan with some mutual friends for lunch several times to talk about our writing dreams, before either of us ever got published. I instantly fell in love with her bubbly personality. She’s gone through the shadow of ovarian cancer and her passion to help others going through cancer is inspiring. I asked her about her writer’s journey.

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

I had journaled for years, but I had never planned to be an author. It wasn’t until I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2006, that I realized I had something to say that would be helpful to others going through chemotherapy. I searched for ovarian cancer survivors, but there were no ovarian cancer support groups. I wondered if there were any other survivors. So, I started writing the book I would have liked when I went through chemotherapy—a book with stories that validated my experience, concluding each chapter with a scripture and a prayer.

What’s your pet peeve?

Book series in which I have to read the next book to find out how the main conflict is resolved.

What was your most embarrassing moment as a writer?

In my first review of a friend’s piece, I gave a one-star when I meant to give 5 stars, but the program used for the review would not allow me to change my stars. 

What has been your most difficult challenge as an author?

Since I had no experience in the writing and publishing world, I needed to learn the craft of writing and the publishing industry so I attended numerous writing conferences and joined a writing critique group.

How do you process rejections and/or negative reviews?

Rejections are hard. How could they not like my book baby? I have to realize that the rejections are not personal, but often related to their business goals. Sometimes negative reviews or comments are just personal preferences. But the reviewer may also make a valid point which I can use to improve my writing.

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

My new release, In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer, which chronicles my ovarian cancer journey and the cancer stories of eleven other women.  

What is your current work in process?

Lessons I learned from my spiritual mother.

Bio: Joanie Shawhan is an ovarian cancer survivor and a registered nurse. She writes articles and encouragement for women undergoing chemotherapy. Publishing credits include The Upper Room, Coping with Cancer Magazine, God Still Meets Needs and In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer. She is involved in an ovarian cancer social group, The Fried Eggs—Sunny-Side up and speaks to medical students about ovarian cancer in the Survivors Teaching Students program. When not attending one of her two book clubs or her writing critique group, Joanie enjoys designing jewelry, swimming and knitting.

Find Joanie at these online locations!

Website: www.joanieshawhan.com

Newsletter:  blog on my website: https://joanieshawhan.com/blog/

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

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/joanshawhan/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jmshawhan

Amazon Page: amazon.com/author/joanieshawhan

Latest book release: March 2019: In Her Shoes: Dancing in the Shadow of Cancer

Available on Amazon https://amzn.to/2TaEiZz

Why Attend a Writer’s Conference?

My husband Ben and myself are heading out on a road trip from Wisconsin to Philadelphia. We love being together and figured it was less expensive than flying and renting a car to do any site-seeing while out there as we padded our time to be able to do that.

I am attending as a faculty member at the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference: Write His Answer. At heart, I’m a homebody. I get stressed doing the prep for a conference, the packing, making sure my notes are in order and arrangements for someone to stay with my kids and dog…

Then I attend and I am blessed beyond measure by the people I connect with, the friends I’ve made over the years who I get to see again, and the new ones I’ll make. Some vacation time in advance is always welcome. I love to teach so that is always fun.

Coming to be on faculty is not necessarily a financial boon to our family. This is a labor of love. A ministry to writers who are where I once was, wondering what I was to do with this story God had given me and not even realizing just how much I needed to learn!

Now I get to be on the other side, encouraging other writers on their journey, listen to their stories (fictional and real) and pray with them. So even if I take a financial loss, it is worth it from an eternal perspective.

I will leave blessed and drained. It will take me days to recover when I get back home because at heart I am an introvert.

Why should you attend a Christian writer’s conference?

  1. You will be blessed by the worship and teaching: inspired to write!
  2. You will make new friends. I have dear friends around the country who I met at writer’s conferences and our friendship goes beyond the written page.
  3. You will learn. Every person you meet, every one-on-one appointment with an agent or editor doesn’t need to result in a contract offer – but it can be a great opportunity to learn. And maybe at some point, that contract will happen! My first writer’s conference with agents and editors led me to one book contract within two months, a flash-fiction and a short story published within five months! Now the non-fiction didn’t pan out in the long run but I have to say that I learned so much from every person I met with, faculty or conferee.
  4. You’ll be exposed to great teaching and have the opportunity to bounce ideas off others.
  5. The people at a Christian writer’s conference understand you as a writer. The joys, the fears, the ups and downs. Not everyone outside of Christian publishing will get it. If you are a Christian author, these are YOUR people.

I’m sure I could come up with many other reasons but those are the first few that come to mind. If you want to come to Philly this week – there are still spots available and I’d love to meet you! Check out the website: https://philadelphia.writehisanswer.com/

Blessings!

Susan