Tag Archive | Lisa Lickel

Pesto and Potholes is Finally Here!

Hey, today is the big day. Release day. My debut novel, Pesto and Potholes is finally here. So indulge me in this moment of self-promotion.

Renata tries to escape her past and runs straight into . . . love.

Renata Blake has moved to the Milwaukee area to leave behind a painful past as a victim of abuse. She discovers a family like she’s never had before, at Orchard Hill Church and is drawn to handsome Packer fanatic, Antonio. After all she’s suffered through, could she ever trust a man again?

Antonio DeLuca has a full life with his family, church and his job as chef and manager at DeLuca’s Cucina. Having been betrayed in love, he is afraid to trust a woman again. How would he fit her into his already full life anyway?

As circumstances draw them together and attempt to tear them apart, life becomes a combination of savory pesto and painful potholes as both Tony and Renata learn that with God’s help, and the support of a faith community, they can both learn to love again.

And maybe fight a few ninjas along the way.

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“In this dynamic novel, talented author Susan Baganz takes readers on a roller-coaster of events and emotions to remind us that even when life seems off-track, God rides beside us and promises “Have faith, child; you are safe in my care.” Reserve space on your Keepers shelf for PESTO AND POTHOLES!”  Loree Lough, award-winning author of 104 books, including reader favorite SAVING ALYSSA [#3 in Harlequin Heartwarming’s “A Child to Love” series], and FOR LOVE OF ELI, winner Readers Choice Best Short Contemporary award [Abingdon’s “Quilts of Love” series.]

“Poignant romance of two lost souls learning about the things that go wrong, humanity’s fault lines and how to grow and love again despite the potholes that inevitably crop up. Baganz manages to throw some laughter and joy into desperate situations in this debut novel. Read Pesto and Potholes for a crazy adventure that makes Italian food with a side of Ninja warriors seem natural.” Lisa Lickel, multi-published author of several novels including HEALING GRACE and THE LAST DETAIL.

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Sisterhood of World Bloggers

I would like to thank Sharon McGregor, for inviting me to join Sisterhood of The World Bloggers. It looks like a fun gig.
sisterhood
First, before I get started, here are the rules…

The Rules:
1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
2. Put the award logo on your blog.
3. Answer the 10 questions they’ve sent you.
4. Make up 10 new questions for your nominees to answer.

If you could go back in your life and change one decision you made, what would it be?

There’s a temptation to  want to do this but the fact is there are many blessings that came out of what at times feel like poor choices. I try to comfort myself that I made the best choices I could at the time with the knowledge I had then. I would not be the person I am today if it weren’t for those decisions and the consequences of them. Even bad decisions can lead to positive growth and God can use any of our past for His glory when we surrender it to Him. 
What is the most intriguing book you have ever read?

Well, the Bible would top that list for sure. I read a lot so trying to define the creme of the crop would be hard. When I was thirteen I read and reread S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. Still compelling storytelling. i memorized Robert Frost’s poem Nothing Gold Can Stay because of that book.

For nonfiction: If I were to look at books I would want my kids to own: Intimacy with the Almighty by Charles Swindoll, Liberated through Submission by P.B. Wilson and anything by A.W. Tozer. For 2015, the non-fiction book of the year for me was The Extravagant Fool by Kevin Adams.

For fiction: I love The O’Malley Series by Dee Henderson, My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade and Healing Grace by Lisa Lickel flow off the top of my head as cherished novels I have read again and again. And anything by Georgette Heyer. I could make a much longer list but that’s a good start.

If you could pick one word to describe yourself what would it be? 

Encourager.

If you could time travel, what period  of history would you choose and why?

Probably the Regency period (1811-1820) I love reading books from that time and would find it fascinating to experience it. Only for a brief period though. Jane Austen had to write everything by hand!

Did you have a role model growing up and if so, what effect did he/she have on your life?

I didn’t have one role model. But I did have a few people who encouraged me in a huge way:

  •  My English and Speech teacher, Orin Mueller was so encouraging of my writing and speaking and finding creative ways to share my faith. That was huge.
  • Pastor Mark Steele was my “boss” for many years at Stonebridge Community Church in Menonomee Falls, Wisconsin. He taught me firsthand about the importance of accountability. I learned that one of the most caring questions someone can ask me is “How is your relationship with God?” Is it any wonder that my contemporary romance series is set in the northwest suburbs of Milwaukee, and revolve around a fictional church called Orchard Hill?

If you could plan a dream vacation, one that may seem out of reach, where would you go?

I would return to Great Britian and spend more time visitng and touring. I was there once on a mission trip and didn’t want to come home. I think now that I’m older I would appreciatet the history and sightseeing even more than I did the first time.

If you could choose any profession to follow, what would it be?

I never planned to be an author growing up even though my favorite thing is to read. Being an editor was even further off my radar. But I think that right now I’m where God wants me to be doing both, as well as speaking at conferences. I enjoy my work.

Pick a card, any card-greeting card that is. What is your favourite holiday?

Probably have to say Christmas . . . that’s when I’m most likely to make my own greeting cards. I used to do over 100 of them but with my life busier now, I’ve had to scale that back and don’t make or send out as many as I used to.

2013-02-12_18-35-21_990What is your favourite pet? Dog or cat? Gerbil or snake? Horse or hamster? Or none at all?

I had a dog when I was a child but we had to give it away because I had terrible asthma/allergy issues. Bingo (Babette Suzette) was a silver poodle. I always mourned the fact that I could never have a pet but we did adopt a silly Quaker parrot about 20 years ago. My husband spoiled him terribly and he’s a snotty brat now. Over time, although I still have asthma and allergies, I learned that some animals didn’t make me sick. Two years ago we adoped our Maltese mix from a rescue. Spatzle is now six and sassy and my shadow and while I’m not especially fond of standing outside with him when it is 10 below zero, so he can relieve himself, I do adore him and am so glad he’s part of my life.

What one thing would you like to see happen in 2015?

My novel, Pesto and Potholes releases March 25, 2015, and I’m thrilled and terrified. I’ve written many books and this is my debut novel, and I think of all I’ve written, this one has more of “me” in it than any other. I hope readers will fall in love with Renata and Tony and find inspiration for their own walk with God in the “potholes” of their own lives. While it would be nice to sell lots of books, I think the greater reward is knowing that something you wrote impacted someone in a positive way. Having someone draw closer to God, is the greater, if intangible, reward.

My ten questions: 

1.  It’s a new year. Do you make resolutions or do you do the ‘one word’ concept? Care to share what either of them are?

2. If you could revisit any time in history, here would you go? What is happening?

3. Favorite beverage?

4. What’s your favorite social media? Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or something else. Why?

5. What is your favorite day/time of the week and why?

6. If you listen to music as you write, what is it?

7. It’s time to celebrate your birthday, what do you plan?

8. What is your most important role in life?

9. Are you a Princess or a Tomboy?

10. What kind of legacy do you hope to leave behind with your writing?

Confessions of a Newbie Editor

A year ago I took a step of faith and became part of the Prism Book Group team, taking on the role of Acquisitions Editor. This article is not an attempt to brag, but more of a confession of sorts. prism logo

Lessons: I had never been an editor before, so there was a learning curve. Here is some of what I learned:

  • I discovered how much fear held me back until I had to push against deadlines to make sure my authors had books ready for publication.
  • I relished how good it feels to give an author that contract – and to celebrate with them when their dreams are in print for the world to read. 
  • I’ve developed a way of giving rejections that takes some of the sting out and helps writers grow. I may not contract them but I do still care. This was the scariest part of taking the job. I still don’t like to do it but at least I don’t crush dreams (or try not to).
  • I delight in encouraging authors at conferences.  

People. All the highlights this past year have shown up in the form of relationships:  

Lisa Lickel is the person who passed along the job opportunity with Prism. At first I couldn’t believe it. You think I could do what? But I asked friends, took a test (and passed) and prayed about it. Then I took the plunge and have not regretted it. She became the first author (in a group of four) that I signed. She protested, “I didn’t tell you to get the job so you would publish me!” I’m glad I did, as Brave New Century was a huge revelation. I worked with four different authors and stories all at once. Do you know how intimidating it was to edit an editor’s work as well as when she is a dear friend? She must not have minded Prism at all as she just came out with another novel, The Last Detail, in January. Because it wasn’t a strict romance, fellow editor Marcy Dyer did the honors of working on that book.

Anita Klumpers entrusted her debut novel to me and worked her butt off with such cheerfulness. Anything I threw at her she took and was grateful. Her attitude was such a bolster to me and a bit frightening. Sure. She had never been through this process before. But neither had I. Her novel was released on January 22nd. Just coming up the the title, Winter Watch, with her was an adventure in and of itself. I loved every minute.

Daisy Jerico also entrusted me with her fun novella and delivered the best pitch I ever heard to date. She talked like she loved her characters and she was telling the story of something that happened to a close friend. The Love Thief ebook has done well and if you want sassy and suspenseful romance – that book is pure delight. I must not have done too bad with her as she signed with me again. Sparks Fly is due out in July. Oh, and we’ve had coffee together and both emerged victorious during 2013’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).

Paula Mowery was part of an anthology I had contracted and became interested in doing my job. Well, not my job, but the same position. There’s plenty of great fiction to go around! I have now worked with her on not one – but two books! Brave New Century released in November of 2013 and Love and Legacy released March 19, 2014.

Jacqueline Hopper is another Acquisitions Editor at Prism Book Group and an author in her own right. She has been a great support and willing to answer all kinds of questions to the newbie on the block. She helps with scheduling reviews and making teasers and trailers for our books. (Check out her novella The Gingerbread House!)

I also had the honor of working a repeat Prism author, Penelope Marzec on her book Patriot’s Heart which released in February.

Finally, I have to mention Joan Alley, the owner, and Editor-in-Chief of Prism Book Group. She was willing to take a chance on me and I am grateful she did as I have learned so much in the process about writing, about speaking, and about myself.

I’ll be honest. I did this as a way to earn a little income while waiting for my own books to come to print.

I gained something far more valuable in the process, and I am grateful.

Hibernation

Me (l), Anita Klumpers, (rt)

Me (l), Anita Klumpers, (rt)

I met with some lovely writerly friends last week and we chatted about all kinds of things. We were especially celebrating the release of Anita Klumper’s debut novel, Winter Watch and Lisa Lickel’s new book, The Last Detail. Both are fabulous reads and I’ve reviewed them here.

This is not a critique group. This is a sanity group. A networking group. A group of writers who love Christ and want to serve him with our gifts. We encourage, tease as well as share ideas and lessons learned.

Writing can be a lonely career. We sit at a computer, or with a pencil/pen and paper and let all our thoughts, dreams and plots come ooooozing out onto the page.

Sometimes it’s ugly. Sometimes it’s brilliant. It’s always solitary.

Even for pure extroverts, interaction with other human being is essential. I’m an “ambivert,” which means I’m in the middle of the extrovert/introvert scale. As much as I love people,I love the quiet alone time too. Even I need to be intentional about leaving my house to actually do more than shop for groceries and pick up my kids from school.

I have to socialize sometimes.

But writers are an unusual people. Only other writers can really understand the emotional ins and outs of doing this thing which seems so simple. If we do it really well we might even get paid.

And when we release our babies into the world we wait for people to tell us whether they love it or not. Sometimes the trolls try to negate the hard work we’ve done.

It’s winter as I write. It’s been record-breakingly cold. I struggle with depression and winter does not make that easier to cope with. So, knowing myself the way I do I make it a point to attend these writer lunches.

I don’t think it matters what you do. You can’t grow and thrive in isolation. We all need others. As a stay-at-home mom of tiny tots, that was MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), and for awhile it was a class I taught. Moms of young kids need to get out and be with other moms. Writers need to connect with other writers.

We share our struggles with others in similar situations to know we are not alone. We are not unique in the challenges we face. I follow many writers on-line who struggle with the gamut of health issues, family challenges, financial trials. Life seems to conspire against us to accomplish our goals.

When God calls us to write (or parent), and we seek to do it for His glory, then we should expect oppostion. Our enemy is not the trolls who write the nasty one star review without reading the book. Our enemy is a spiritual one who doesn’t want the messages of love and hope that we write about in our stories or poems or artwork. Beauty is born often of pain.

So if you are an author–do you meet regularly, face to face, with real people? How often?

If you are a reader, please pray for your favorite author or any friend you know who creates trying to bring honor to God with their gifts. While it may not seem important in the larger scheme of the world, it’s possible that one book, drawing or poem, might be the one that God uses to draw a soul into a relationship with Him. Our enemy will do anything to stop that. We covet your prayers. And if you read our books, write a review and let others know so they can enjoy them too.

You may never know the lives you touch when you step out instead of hibernating.

Stay warm!

Brave New Century (Book Review)

Brave new century final coverBrave New Century is a lovely quartet of four novellas. Four women in search of their identity in the new century, 1900. The time is filled challenges, triumphs and responsibilities. Four stories. Four lives. Four loves. (Click here for a link to the print version of the book)

In the first story, Three Rings for Alice, Lisa Lickel highlights Alice Smith’s struggles to be a modern woman. Orphaned, she has to make her own way in the world and in a time when women are just coming into the workforce, it is fraught with uncertainty. Vowing to never marry, time and a secret love changes her mind with a decision to marry for no less than love. Even if the one she loves is only known as a voice on the telephone.

Paula Mowery’s tale, Forgiven, brings us Jessie Lee Capelle who wonders if she will ever have a loving family. When she meets laborer Henry Smith her dreams look like they will come true. When a surprising twist of history is revealed, can their love withstand the truth. Can they forgive?

In The Pocket Watch, Kathleen Rouser weaves a tale of Isabel Jones, an orphan in Detroit Michigan who’s only real desire is to know who her parents were. An accident brings her into the world of Dr. Daniel Harper and a pocket watch brings them together even as a special ring, left by Isobel’s mother, threatens to reveal terrible truths. Can love withstand these obstacles?

Teena Stewart tells the final story, Flames of Hope.  Lily McMinn’s Irish family operates a thriving mercantile n San Francisco. She enjoys visits by Gideon Light, a police officer. When a  violent earthquake destroys much of the city, countless people die. The crippled fire department is helpless to fight multiple fires raging out of control. Can Lily and her family survive the tragedy with the help of Gideon?

Love, romance, history. Four different stories but with these uniting themes. Step back in time and enjoy the journey these four women make. You’ll be glad you did.

Healing Grace (Book Review)

Lisa LIckelI’ve read and reviewed several books by my friend, author Lisa Lickel, so when she asked about a re-do of a previous book, I jumped at the chance. Once I started reading Healing Grace though I quickly realized that this book was different from the rest. It’s not a mystery. It’s not necessarily a romance. What it is, is spellbinding as it drew me in and I couldn’t be satisfied until I got to the last page (which means yes, I read it all in one day).

Grace Runyon has faced overwhelming losses and burdened with guilt over the last of them, the death of her husband to cancer, she runs away from her Tennessee town to a tiny place in Michigan. Grace has known from a young age that she had a spiritual gift of healing, but it had not saved her husband. While no one else blames her for his death, she cannot forgive herself and struggles with God, the giver of the gift, who had withheld it’s power.

Impulsively buying a little cottage home, she ends up neighbors to the Marshalls and faced again with the need to heal as Ted is suffering from an unnamed illness that is debilitating and will eventually kill. She falls in love with Ted through his son Eddy, a little boy who captures her heart but also stirs the grief of the little boy she had lost herself due to a car accident.

Healing-Grace200x300[1]Grace decides to re-enter the work world as a physician’s assistant and at times finds her gift of healing being exercised in secret at the clinic to help her patients. This comes at a cost however. Some healings cause her deep emotional and physical pain that mirrors her patient’s agony, although recovery is quick. Soon many in the town question whether she is a witch, although her gift has never brought harm. Coupled with her perceived failure in her past, self-doubts arise and Grace faces a crisis that tears apart her soul.

I don’t want to be a spoiler for the story. It is a worthy read and one I hope to read again. Lisa’s dives into a minefield of emotions as well as the theological minefield of spiritual gifts since some schools of thought believe certain gifts like healing are not for this age. I disagree. I was impressed by her balanced view of spiritual gifts. Gifts are from God. They are used for the church (body of believers) and they are not used at our will, but His.

Gifts sometimes come with a cost as we serve and pour ourselves out as an act of worship. Grace illustrates that powerfully.  The final scene of the book is riveting. You can disagree if you want about the dispensation of gifts but let’s be clear, nothing Lisa writes indicates a “psychic” or “satanic” power at work. Is it real? It’s fiction,  but I wouldn’t put it past God to work in the way she describes.  For this I applaud her because she masterfully illustrated biblical truths: like love requiring sacrifice and the challenge believers all have to set aside self and pride, and even the desire for the love and affirmation of others, in order to be used.

I’ve enjoyed all of Lisa Lickel’s novels that I have had the privilege to read. Healing Grace, however, is by far the best of them all.

Meow Mayhem (Book Review)

meow mayhem coverI just finished Lisa Lickel’s cozy mystery/romance Meow Mayhem, this morning and still basking in the glow of the sweetness of it. The small town of Apple Grove is dying and it’s mayor, Donald Conklin recruits fellow Egyptian Mau owners, Amanda McTeague Preston and Truesdale Thomson to move their businesses to the town, with incentives, to help stimulate growth.

Egyptian Mau’s are a specific breed of cat, with spots instead of stripes. Valuable and pedigreed.

True liked the idea of moving because he wanted to get to know Amanda. Amanda moved so she could start life afresh after being jilted by her fiancé.

But life, and romance, never runs smooth. When the mayor is found dead, and possibly murdered the town spreads rumors and fights against the new businesses. Amanda and True wonder if this is where they are meant to be, but they believed the mayor’s vision for the town and want to honor him. So they stay and try to uncover the mystery.

This book is unusual as it is written entirely in the first person from only Amanda’s point of view. I’ll admit that this is not my favorite type of POV to read and because of that, not the story, it took awhile for me to really get immersed in the mystery. Partly because Amanda keeps sticking her nose impulsively into trouble and I got frustrated with that!

The mystery is well crafted though and with all the clues and problems that occur in the town there was no certainty of how things would resolve – or if they even would. Would Donald’s murderer be uncovered? What’s up with the chocolate (I even suspected that they might be poisoned and part of an evil plot to undo Amanda)?

mau catAnd those cats. I’m not a cat person and even went to look online to get a better feel for what this breed looked like. I loved the way Lisa Lickel gave each of the three cats in the story distinct personalities and how she beautifully highlighted the unique relationship a pet owner has with the pet they have come to love like family.

I’m allergic to cats and didn’t sneeze once during this book. It was an enjoyable read and “cozy,” although towards the end I did start dreaming and wondering what was next when I would go to bed! Always the sign of a good book when it keeps you thinking about it even when you are sleeping.

Thanks Lisa for this light, cozy mystery and for not making it too easy to solve. You tied it up nicely and even had room for a little bit of surprise at the end. Well done!