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.

Dream Musings and Music

Not all dreams become reality. Sad isn’t it? People come along and kill our dreams. Sometimes real life interferes.

When I grew up I wanted to be a disc jockey. You know. A DJ. I love music. Always have. I enjoy singing. I love to talk, so radio seemed like a great place for me. But my father told me that radio people don’t get paid much and work odd hours. I had a friend in radio at one point and he had to use a different name on the air to protect himself from his fans. Oh, to have such trouble!

I played saxophone through high school but gave it up for choir. I did well there. Won some solo ensembles. I always wanted to play guitar. Twice I’ve taken guitar lessons. When I was in a band they let me play on one song.  Yup. I was that good! *snicker*.  Actually, I’d have been great if I could have been disciplined enough to practice more.

Jonah's VacationI also wanted to be a singer but had a pastor years ago who gave me a reality check. He told me “Susan, you’re good but you don’t work at it. You’re a B-grade singer but could be an A.” Ouch! I did work at it and got good enough to be in a band for a short time.

Jonah’s Vacation was a great experience. Hard work. Amazing musicians. My next book, Feta & Freeways is dedicated to Jim, Rob, Jeff, Erick, Mark and Irene (she joined us months after this photo was taken.). I learned so much from these people (including how to belch although Jim was definitely the master of that and he didn’t have a microphone to help!)

13620018_1411151115567715_4418536725403216346_nI don’t sing for others much anymore. I did for a while. I worked at it. But now I only get an opportunity maybe once a year to do that and play my guitar. I miss the synergy of being in a band. I admire groups that have that “magic” when they play together.

I based my next book on a lead singer of a band (and his friends). Yeah, it’s a romance, but it’s so much more than that. I based it off Burlap to Cashmere. I wish I could play guitar with even a 10% of the skill they have. Can you see the joy they have as they play together? Makes me smile every time I see this photo I took from the last time I saw them live.

Maybe someday I’ll get there. Not everything has to be for the purpose of performing. Maybe playing guitar and growing in that skill will only be for me and God this time around. I can remember the past fondly and rejoice that God gave me those opportunities. And I can write and encourage others who can pursue them.

Maybe words on the page are meant to be my song in this season of my life. Why that makes me cry I don’t know, but dreams are like that. Sometimes it is okay to grieve what you can’t have. Life isn’t fair and God doesn’t always give us what we want for His own reasons. Hard to believe but that’s often a good thing. Sometimes to make room for one dream we have to sacrifice something else we value. We don’t always recognize what those choices will be…time, family, finances…there’s a cost for pursuing dreams. And there will always be those who will try to stop us, defeat us, criticize us for following God’s direction. Dreams God calls us to follow become “callings”. And they are only worth pursuing because He is the one who leads the way.

This is a live video I took from Burlap to Cashmere’s performance in Green Bay in July of this year. Gifted and a called. The “closing jam” as it were… featuring Johnny Philippidis and his amazing guitar skills. Part of the song is the Dialing God Instrumental from their Freedom Souls album. Enjoy. Maybe someday I’ll have that 10% to enjoy for myself.

Talking Love

Photo frame or gift card with valentines heart shaped ribbonYou would think the author of countless romance stories would find it easy to write one out of her own life. But it’s not.

Growing up, I would walk home and look up to heaven, spin around, and wonder if God was taking my picture. Did He care for my overly-sensitive, hurting and lonely heart? All a teacher had to do was look at me wrong and I’d burst into tears until sixth grade when I learned to hide my pain.

The sweetest love story is when, after years of sensing God’s call to me, I finally understood that I could respond. That he was waiting for me to do so! James 4:8 says “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. (NASB)” Really? He wasn’t some distant King high on a thrown beyond my reach. I first came to understand this at a Campus Life/Youth for Christ meeting.

For weeks I had begged some friends to let me come to a meeting. They seemed happy. They had something I didn’t. And they would go to concerts for groups like . . . Petra, who I had never heard of. Finally, I was invited and we had a conversation about misconceptions people had about Christianity. I was raised knowing about God and taught to fear Him, so I was fully engaged in the conversation. Then the biggest misconception hit me—that people didn’t understand that they could have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Whoa. Really?

I prayed right then and there and my entire world shifted.

I went out and bought a Bible and started devouring it. Opposition came but I clung to Christ. To a hurting, lonely fifteen-year-old, the fact that the God of the universe wanted me—Me?—was a huge revelation. When depression plagued me, I was told I was trying to manipulate people. The only reason I never attempted to take my life was because of the love of God.

Thirty-five years have brought me through many trials and triumphs, deep pains and sweet moments. God has been there by my side through all of it. I wish I could say that I’ve been as faithful to Him as He has been to me. It’s hard when people have wounded me deeply to trust the God who allowed it to happen. Yet I wouldn’t be here without Him. He’s led me, grown me, matured me . . . and I’ve learned that in Him I have more strength than I could ever have on my own. Some trials I look back on in wonder at how I was able to respond the way I did. That couldn’t have been me, could it?

Only God.

Through abuses, betrayals, heartache, He has been my constant. My one true love. When I write my romances my hope and prayer is that at some level the reader will understand the love of God that underlies the journey’s my characters take.

God is faithful. He has never abandoned me. The fact that He gives me the opportunity to put some of those experiences into my stories to bless others is just another example of His love for me.

Check out my contribution to Prism Book Group’s new Love Is series…

THE Baron's Blunder

The Baron’s Blunder
“Love does not delight in evil …” 1 Corinthians: 13:6

Fighting evil has been a hobby, but fending off marriage-minded debutantes—a chore.

Lord Charles Percy fends off a land pirate robbing a carriage in broad daylight. Noting he has rescued a beautiful debutante, he lies about his title claiming to be a mere mister.

The Honorable Henrietta Allendale isn’t convinced Mr. Percy is who he claims to be. But after he admits to one blunder can she ever truly trust what he says? Especially about the evil threatening her? Who is the Black Diamond anyway and why would he be after either of them?

One intrepid debutante and one bumbling Baron soon join forces to defeat evil. But to do so might mean they have to sacrifice the one thing they’ve each held as most important—their single status.

Can the truth set them free to love?

Spatzle Speaks: The Baron’s Blunder (Book Review)


THE Baron's BlunderMy mom, Susan M. Baganz, wrote a book as part of the Love is . . . series with Prism Book Group.
Now, generally I like mom’s writing but she went and put a bird in a book? What was she thinking? We have a bird in our home but Quincy the Quaker parrot  just makes messes. And his talk? Utter nonsense.

The Baron’s Blunder illustrates the passage from 1 Corinthians 13, “Love does not rejoice in evil but rejoices in the truth.” While this is part of the Love is . . . series it is also a prequel for mom’s Regency Romances, the first of which will  be available Spring 2017. The Virtuous Viscount at least has a dog. ‘Nuff said.

Lord Charles Percy is wealthy, titled and single. All that Jane Austen would say makes him in desperate need of a wife. Charles isn’t really interested in that. He’s got secret work he does for the British government. (shhh. He’s a spy!). And he seems to have developed a penchant for capturing ne’r-do-wells who would rob coaches.

That’s how he meets the beautiful Honorable Henrietta Allendale, sister to Viscount Remington. She’s a little older than your normal debutante and sees no need for a husband. She’s a bit strong-willed and unbeknownst to anyone, she’s also, gasp! A spy!

Well, he rescues her when she didn’t really need rescuing. He lies. She suspects. She rescues him and then he rescues her but at the expense of . . . well, let’s just say while both start out refusing marriage, one changes their mind.

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.

There’s a lot packed into this novella and it’s a delightful romp filled with wit, adventure and love. So go buy it so mom can afford to purchase me more bully rings. Oh, wait. Maybe you shouldn’t. She might choose to get my hair cut instead and I hate going to the groomers. I’ll give it five bones anyway because she’s my mom and I love her. And in spite of a bird being this story, I know she loves me best.

5 bones for blog

One Way A Book Gets Written

For all the books I’ve written, the stories have come from my imagination. I’ve written the stories and later contracted them. I’ve had rejections for those stories and I’ve taken the tales and revised, edited and revised again.

But The Baron’s Blunder is the exception.

Every November since 2009 I’ve written a story during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I’ve written some stories that I’ve felt inspired to write. I’ve written flash fiction, short stories, novellas and full length novels. I’ve written contemporary, historicals and romantic suspense. I’ve never submitted a story idea to an agent, editor or publisher that I haven’t already written – at least the rough draft.

I work as an Acquisitions Editor for Prism Book Group. It’s a smaller e-book publishing house. One of the benefits of being in a family of authors like Prism’s is that they become family. Authors supporting, praying, encouraging each other and cross-promoting books. Another up-side is that occasionally our Editor-in-Chief comes up with a crazy idea to do a novella series.

FragileBlessingsWe did a collection last fall of Christmas stories. All authors could participate. I’m an author and had a manuscript that I dusted off and sent in Fragile Blessings. That wasn’t the original title but I love it. A historical novella I’d written years ago that needed a lot of work, finally was read by others. It ended up as an e-book as well as in a collection of historical novellas called Love’s Christmas Past.

All that to say is my “boss” decided we should do a series of novellas based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a. Each story was to show some aspect of that chapter. Authors submitted their ideas and soon all the topics were taken. Authors stared writing and as an editor, I started to work on edits for a bevy of stories and I had the majority of them finished before November 2015.

I wrote another novel for National Novel Writing Month in November of 2015. I finished and in December I got back to work on edits for my authors. My boss sent me an email asking me if I could write a novella for the Love Is series about the topic: Love does not rejoice in evil but rejoices in the truth.

THE Baron's BlunderWell, I’ll try. I thought about trying to add a novella in my Orchard Hill series but the story idea I had for the next book didn’t quite fit that subject. I looked at my Regency series. It has five books and I wondered if perhaps I could pull a minor character from the first novel and give him or her a romance. I remembered that my main man, Lord Marcus Remington in The Virtuous Viscount (a Regency romance coming soon I hope!), had a sister. The Honorable Henrietta Allendale arrives mid-story, throwing a stumbling block in Marcus’s romance with Miss Josephine Storm.  Henrietta is married to a man named Lord Percy. So for this novella I wrote their romance.

I had so much fun. I was afraid I couldn’t write on demand but obviously that was a lie. And I hope readers enjoy my Regency romp of a romantic suspense as I did writing it. The Baron’s Blunder is up for preorder and releases on Friday, August 26th, 2016.

Spatzle Speaks: Accidental Mystery at Camp Soaring Eagle (Book Review)

accidental mysteryDale McElhinney’s debut novel, Accidental Mystery at Camp Soaring Eagle is a mid-grade tale that I’m sure the kids in my house will love. At least mom thinks so.

Summer is fun at camp and Shaun and his friends are looking forward to the rivalry between cabins. What they didn’t expect was a variety of what first appear to be mis-adventures. Swimming, horse-back riding, canoeing, volleyball, capture-the-flag and stories by the campfire are what they expected. But strange things are happening and the boys are determined to discover what. Initially they suspect the dirty dealings of another group of campers but the adventures become deadly and could threaten the future of the camp. The boys learn lessons about faith and friendship as they try to save the camp and solve the mystery. It becomes a wild adventure for them all.

This book is mid-grade fiction. Geared for boys (and yes, girls) it will keep them riveted and prove that reading is fun. Too bad dogs aren’t allowed at camp though. I would have enjoyed being with them all (well, except for the water stuff, I don’t like getting wet). I look forward to more great stories from this author!

BONUS! There’s more activities relating to the book found at this web site: http://www.campsoaringeaglemysteries.com/

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.

 

 

 

 

I give this book five bones. Because I’m a dog and that’s what I do.