Tag Archive | Burlap to Cashmere

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. 

 

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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!

burlaptocashmere_cvr-hi1

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: 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

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.

Skipping Stones

At some level we all want to know we are important. The truth is that actions and words can have a ripple effect we don’t know about and that can impact the world for centuries to come. It’s hard to live in that reality that one person is important. That no person is ever unimportant.

Some people are a force to be reckoned with. When you think of people in the public eye, their good (or bad) deeds are seen by many and have a ripple effect. When we hear of their deaths, (rest in peace Andy Griffith), we mourn as if we knew them.

But we didn’t.

me with burlap to cashmere
I got all fangirlish seeing a band I loved from way back. They were gracious enough to let me get my photo taken with them. (Thanks Burlap to Cashmere! You guys RAWK!). The fact is though, they gave me an hour of pleasure in watching them exercise their God-given gifts. Then I go back to my life and they go home. They don’t know me and won’t remember me and while I will always appreciate their music, I don’t really know them beyond what I can read on-line. I don’t know their favorite color or what makes them laugh or what their biggest fears are.

As I reflected on this it hit me that we do this to people whose gifts we appreciate. And while they share the gospel in song, they aren’t saving lives or fighting for our freedoms.

But no one is more important than anyone else. 

I’m nothing special. I suspect I would be missed more for what I do than for who I am when the time comes. Because much like the guys in a band, most of you really don’t know me. And maybe that’s good. I’m pretty open and honest about what I like and don’t so if you follow me here or my fan page on Facebook, you’ll get a pretty good clue. But even then you won’t know the deep hurts that resonate within me day after day. And in reality, you probably don’t care. You have your own hurts to hold. And social media is not the place to always share those darker corners of our souls.

Image courtesy of njaj / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of njaj / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In some ways I resemble a skipping stone. Smooth on the outside. Maybe even flat (they skip better I hear). God tosses me out on the lake of humanity and I touch and leave ripples, skip and repeat and eventually, plop. Down I go to sink beneath the surface as if I never appeared. Maybe that skip was a blog post, or a one-on-one for counseling, a class I taught or sending a contract for a book. But then you move on with your life and I move on with mine, sinking under the water.

Blub. Blub. Blub.

And the only way I can resurface is when God reaches down to pull me back out again and cast me where he wants me to go. There for a moment and then gone, hopefully touching lives for the better but always sinking in the end.

Some people are blessed. God has gifted them with another human being, a spouse or a closer-than-a-brother friend to celebrate or commiserate with the skips. Someone who validates that even after the ripples fade, that yes, they had been there and made a wave. I hope that a band like Burlap to Cashmere have close relationships within that group to get them through the lonely moments of life. I hope you do too. In the meantime I’ll just keep letting God drag me up from the bottom of whatever lake he’s skipped me across and let him toss me again and trust that somehow, in the sea of time, I make a difference. Even if no one else notices. And that that difference pleased my Creator.

In the meantime, maybe you’ll be blessed by this band and their classic hit from 1998 performed at a live concert earlier this summer.