Tag Archive | God

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!

Spatzle Speaks: The Commandment (Book Review)

Anna Kittrell is a wonderful author of young adult fiction that even adults will love. The Commandment is a perfect example of her excellent storytelling.

In the science-fiction fantasy world Kittrell creates, everyone is mandated to get vaccinated with SAP (Serum to Advance Progressivism). It is a formula designed to erase God from the mind. When Briar was 7 her body rejected the vaccine and she’s been on house arrest ever since.

She’s about to become a legal adult and her body continues to reject the SAP injections. She is now ordered by the Commandment, to be institutionalized at ARC – a facility where tortures are rumored to occur. A last minute opportunity to become the object of an experimental subject of a new God-dissolving serum. She decides to take the risk but fears what losing God would mean to her. But anything would be better than spending the rest of her life imprisoned at ARC.

The relationship that develops between the young man in charge of the potentially life-changing serum along with his brother, nephew and assistant, (and a dog! Yay!) make the process even more complicated. Will God finally be erased or will the Commandment rule them all?

Filled with suspense and great relational tension, this book is a fun read with a surprising ending. I highly recommend it. My mom doesn’t normally read this type of book but really enjoyed it which meant more snuggles for me. I give this book 5 bones, as I’m a dog and I don’t have thumbs.

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

 

Dream Chaser

It has been some time since I’ve written here and I wish I could give you some grand excuses as to why. Life has been busy and to be honest, I don’t want to write something just to have a post unless I believe I have something of value to say. If I think long and hard I could probably come up with things, but as a single mom of three Hobbits (that’s what I call my teenagers), life gets crazy at times.

I often use my rare profundity in my real-life, face-to-face interactions with people, whether my friends, or those I meet at conferences when I go to speak, teach, and encourage. 

I admit that life is a challenge at times too.

Depression is an old friend who comes to visit when I least expect, uninvited and unwanted. 

I’m heading into shoulder surgery in a few weeks and that has me a bit scared. Not of the surgery itself, but of the recovery as I am unable to take most pain medications.

I will survive somehow. By God’s grace, I always do. 

I took this photograph in May when I traveled to Colorado. This is south of Pike’s Peak and it was a stunning sight to see I couldn’t help but try to take a picture.

Seeing this display of God’s glory was breathtaking. The mountains, the people I met, the chance to be in a new environment and watch what God would do, was inspiring. 

I realized something very striking.

I live my life too small.

My characters in my novels much more readily go above and beyond in their adventure in living. But not me. I sit behind a keyboard and fabricate stories that hopefully share God’s truths to the reader while entertaining them. Not a bad job by any stretch of the imagination, but it is a lot of hard work for little gain.

That sounds so negative, doesn’t it? Maybe I should clarify that is monetary gain.

God continues to provide for the needs of my family. And sometimes our wants. I get to travel periodically and meet amazing people on my journeys. That’s bigger than the life I used to live by far. And the future holds more promise of the same.

I’ve been challenged recently to dream. To think beyond my daily needs to greater things God might want to do in and through me. What’s surprising is I want to do what I’m doing. I get to write. What an honor to be able to do that. it’s not a smart career move financially but it’s a calling that God has honored. It is hard work. Not all of it is fun by any stretch of the imagination. And I ashamedly get so busy with writing and editing that I sometimes forget that I have a book to promote. Shameful, I know!

But I do want to do so much more than that and not surprisingly it’s not about making money.

It’s about having more opportunities to serve others, encourage them, and watch them dream wilder and bigger.

So I’m praying and have been challenged to dream bigger.

To stretch my imagination with “What if’s” and do things that might help me get there. It means stepping out of my comfort zone. Trying new things even if they scare me…like internet dating!

It means I might fail. I want to be responsible. I have three young people counting on me to be there for them. It might hurt (surgery).

It might mean letting go of some things to make room for better ones. 

So what are your dreams that you’ve been afraid to dream? Can you trust God with those and seek His guidance in reaching for them? If you struggle with depression it can be hard to dream of bigger and better things…but when I look at that photo of the mountains, I’m reminded we have a BIG GOD who can do amazingly, abundantly, more than we could ever think to ask. So I’m seeking Him as I lean into the future and I challenge you to do the same.

What are some of YOUR dreams?

Spaztle Speaks: Donuts & Detours (Book Review)

Finally, my mom has put me into a novel. I know, it’s not really me. I don’t like to talk about my past personally. I’m a rescue dog much like Shazam/Cooper is in book six of her Orchard Hill Romance Series: Donuts & Detours.

B.J. is a young mechanic in a volunteer ministry that fixes cars for single moms. She finds a dog in the trunk of a donated car. She rescues the animal and hopes to adopt it. Titus (aka Ty), decides to adopt the dog. He also wants to reach this young mechanic but doesn’t realize the boy is not quite what he seems.

He’s really a she.

Bethany Joelle has a rough past not too dissimilar from the rescued dog and is hurt when Ty adopts the dog before she can. Ty is also showing interest in Bethany Joelle but letting him close means risking her closely held secret–that she is really B.J.

Titus has his own dark past that he carries around. Secrets collide and are revealed making for some interesting relationship challenges.

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

Of course, the best part of the book is the dog which I know my mom based on me. Titus showed up in Bratwurst & Bridges so it’s fun that he finally gets his chance at love. I give this book five bones because I’m a dog and don’t have thumbs.

 

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.

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?