Tag Archive | Pesto and Potholes

Inquiring Minds Want to Know (Part 1 of 4)

I asked some of my Facebook friends to ask me questions . . . so the next few weeks, I’ll be answering!

Why romance fiction? How long have you had the passion to write?

I’ve always enjoyed sweet romances. In my late teens early twenties, I was enamored of Georgette Heyer and Marion Chesney’s Regency romances. Clean stories without the explicit sex. I guess you could say I’m a romantic at heart and I long for that. My characters get the love and romance I don’t.

What made you choose writing? What keeps you writing? What motivates you?

I believe God led me to writing by telling me in a dream to do write for National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org) in 2009. I think I had always been afraid to try and once I started the dam broke and I found out how much I love the process of writing a story. I haven’t stopped. Once the characters start forming in my mind and that first scene or general story concept and I start writing, I can’t stop until I’ve come to the end. It becomes like an obsession for me.

Which writers inspire you?

I admire the wit and whimsy of writers like Jen Turano, Mary Conneley and Karen Witemeyer, Brooke Williams, Sandi Bricker and Jan Thomson. I love the characters that Dee Henderson, DiAnne Mills, Ronie Kendig paint in her writing. Combined with suspense it is amazing. Becky Wade, Melissa Tagg, Loree Lough, and Lisa Lickel . . . I wish I could write like all of them, but I’ve had to learn that I have my style and I need to be okay with that.

How is fiction writing a reflection of your Christianity?

I love to encourage others. Jesus told parables and there is power in telling stories that can show the process of sanctification which I hope my characters will go through. I also believe we need to grow emotionally as well as spiritually. I hope I encourage others to persevere in their own journeys, spiritually, emotionally and relationally. And hopefully the reader will see biblical truths in a new light based on the journey of the characters to motivate them to persevere through the trials that come their way.

Pothole road damageWhat inspired the idea for this story?

For Pesto & Potholes I actually started with the concept of the potholes based on something I learned in my undergraduate studies. The idea that healing—whether emotional or physical—can be a rocky journey out of the pit and not necessarily an upward smooth trajectory. I labeled it potholes, my prof was a little surprised but to me, it stuck.

For the entire Orchard Hill series, for which Pesto & Potholes is the first book, I wanted to explore one of the things I didn’t understand early in my faith journey was why the church was so important. Especially when so many young adults walk away. Beyond worship and teaching, I realized it was about the relationships. While I agree that the theology of origins and understanding how science supports Scripture is important, but I believe the disenfranchisement of younger adults is deeper than that.

Peter Scazzero wrote a book called Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and he posits that when we come to Christ we are born into a new family and need to learn the new rules. Not the “do’s and don’t’s” but how to relate to others in a way that honors God and His other image-bearers. Many times the way we’ve been raised has not been as healthy as the design God has for us in relationships. We are not mature if we only grow spiritually and not emotionally. So . . . I hope that my stories show the value and importance of the new “family” how valuable those relationships are for us to grow up in Christ as well as cope with the ups and downs of life.

More questions will be answered in the weeks to come. If you have some, please write them in the comments below!

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Buon Appetito!

This past week I had the blessing to be at the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference Write his Answer at Estes Park, Colorado. Twice some friends took me out to eat.

IMG_20150515_200630 (1)The first night we went to this cute Italian restaurant not far from the gates of the YMCA of the Rockies were we were meeting. It looks small but much like the Tardis – it is bigger on the inside. Also wallpapered in $1 bills! The Dunraven Inn was a delightful place and our waiter, Colin was sweet and funny. The manager wouldn’t admit to the job until we told him we liked our meal. My friends told him about my book and I explained that my main man was an Italian chef.

The manager escorted us into the kitchen to meet their Italian cook.

The poor guy posed for a photo at his managers insistance and we all had fun. IMG_20150516_185035680 (1)

So here is a photo of Chef Marty. Oh, and his pesto was wonderful!
The next night we went out to eat at Ed’s Cantina in Estes Park. My friends asked if they had pesto on the menu. At a Mexican restaurant? Sure enough, they did! We asked if we could take a photo of the chef and the hostess graciously brought out Chef Jose to our table so we could take a picture. Isn’t this great? A little Fonzi pose for the writer from Wisconsin!

I didn’t eat pesto there, but did enjoy mymeal of bison enchiladas. Yummy!

Buon Appetito! 


The Rocky Journey to Publication

gazebo with titleI was thinking about the journey for my novel Pesto and Potholes. I wrote it on a whim and in under a month. The ninjas appeared because a friend on Facebook challenged me to put ninjas in. I took up the gauntlet and they provided a wonderful comic relief as well as a way to highlight my female protagonist’s character.

A few years ago I attended my first ever writer’s conference. I had the first chapter critiqued as well as my synopsis. Ann Tatlock was so gracious to me with her time and feedback.

As a result I pretty much rewrote the entire first chapter.

I met with an agent at that conference. My first ever pitch session. She prayed with me and was so encouraging. She liked my novel but didn’t want to take me on as a client and referred me to another agent at organization they both worked for because she thought it was more in line with what that agent preferred. Wrong. That agent thought my dialogue was stilted. Hmmm. That is so vague I’m still not sure what it means.

So I revised my novel, again, and sat on it and tried to work on some of my other projects. It probably would have sat there forever except my friend, Cherie Burbach kept telling me how much she loved the title and that I should pursue it. And a mentor, Lisa Lickel kept reminding me that an author can’t sit on a novel forever, waiting for it to be perfect. At some point it has to be submitted. Again.

It takes a village.

I finally obtained a literary agent, but she didn’t want contemporary romance. She’s working to sell my historicals.

I began working for a small press, Prism Book Group and helping other authors make their dreams come true. I submitted my story to another editor with our publishing house. Because I was her editor for her novels she didn’t feel comfortable editing mine. I get that. But my Editor-in-chief decided to take a look, because like me, she likes to make dreams come true. She loved the story.

Pesto 3D-Book-TemplateShe wanted to know if Antonio was real so she could perhaps introduce him to someone she knows. I wish!

There were many rounds of edits with my editor, Carolyn Boyles who made me laugh every time.. We reworked a book cover. There were copy edits, line edits, and proofreading. Ups and downs until voila! I have a novel thrust into the world.

Some liken writing a book to giving birth. A five year pregnancy? Ouch! And a novel is born. No need for it to learn to walk, only for me to encourage others to pick it up and read it and write a review and tell their friends about it.

My brother asked me last year what success would look like for my book.

The materialistic answer would be to sell a minimum of 5,000 copies. More if it’s a “best-seller.” And maybe the financial windfall that could accompany that.

But I want to impact hearts and change lives. Encourage those struggling in their faith.

I can’t measure that.

It’s really not much different than my hopes and prayers for my children as they grow. Sure I would love them to be financially secure and professionally successful. More than that I would hope they would honor God with their lives and He would be able to use them for His glory and purpose in this hurting world.

So as a child, Pesto and Potholes is already doing that and I couldn’t be more thrilled.  I’m grateful to the rejections that helped me get there. And that whatever I make on this book I don’t have to share with my agent…

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.

Interview with Renata and Tony

Renate Blake and Antonio (Tony) DeLuca are the main characters in Pesto and Potholes, an inspirational contemporary romance releasing April 24, 2015. We sat down the couple together to ask a few questions about the book and their journey.

PestoandPotholes2What did you think when you first met each other? 

Tony: I thought she was cute but she was definitely a mystery. So quiet and shy. I think if she could have hidden behind Stephanie she would have.

Renata: I really didn’t want to meet anyone. I don’t like meeting strangers–

Tony: And none come stranger than me. (he laughs).

Renata: (playfully slapping his knee). In spite of all that, I thought he was cute. He had nice shoes.

Tony: Shoes? Really? That’s what you remember from our first meeting?

Renata: (shrugs) She asked . . .

What was your first date like? 

Tony: (closes eyes and groans)

Renata: Did we have a first date?

Tony: I think that bonfire thing . . .

Renata: Oh. That. I’d rather not talk about it.

Tony: Me either. I felt so horrible about that night.

Renata: I wasn’t your fault. You really were my hero that night.

Tony: Next question?

When did you first kiss? 

Tony: (blushes) I don’t kiss and tell.

Renata: (giggles)

I heard something about ninjas. What’s that about?

Tony: She has hidden talents.

Renata: You’ll have to read the book to find out.

What are potholes? 

Renata: They are the difficulties in life we fall into. Sometimes it is deep pain we carry with us. Physically or emotionally and it can take time to get out of them and healing is not a straight upward trajectory, but can be kind of rocky.

Tony: Mary Beth told you about that?

Renate: Right. She was a huge blessing in helping me on my way. After all I had been through . . .

Tony: (grabs her hand). You’ve come a long way.

Tell me about Orchard Hill Church.

Renata: A community of imperfect people who are seeking God and filled with grace and forgiveness. Home. My new family.

Tony: I think I had taken for granted all that Orchard Hill is since I’ve been attending a long time. Seeing it from Renata’s perspective though, I’m beyond blessed to be part of such a great church that’s willing to help people grow spiritually and emotionally to be all God has called them to be. It goes beyond Sunday morning into deeper relationships that take place at other times. I wouldn’t have been able to grow up like I have without my accountability group.

Renata: I had been let down by “church” in the past and I’m grateful my roomie encouraged me to try again at Orchard Hill. It wasn’t easy but I’m so glad I stuck around. God is doing great things in the lives of people at this church.

Tony: Amen.

What’s next for you both?

Renata: I don’t want to give spoilers away. Guess you’ll have to read Susan’s book.

Tony: (grabs Renata’s hand). We’re in a good place now. I’m grateful for the journey God took us on.

Renata: (leans over to kiss Tony’s cheek).

Tony: (big grin)

Thanks for taking the time to be with us! Check out Pesto and Potholes for their full story. 

New Pesto facebook with updated pics

Interview with Antonio DeLuca

Tony DeLuca from Pesto and Potholes

Tony DeLuca from Pesto and Potholes

I’d like you to meet Antonio “Tony” DeLuca, whose story is featured in the novel Pesto and Potholes, releasing soon!

Tony, how do you feel about your story being told?

I think the book is really more Ren’s story than mine. I’m a little embarrassed to have my failures broadcast to the world like this, but Susan and Renata convinced me that God could use that struggle to help others. In the end it’s all good so I guess I can’t complain.

What do you hope will be the outcome of your story being shared in this way?

I hope men will be inspired to do several things. 1) Treat women with respect. It’s really worth it. 2) Seek accountability. Not a popular concept in our world right now but I don’t know where I would be without the godly men I’ve been meeting with regularly, and 3) Be involved in a good church.

Tell us about Renata.

Whoa. Where do I begin. She’s hot, she’s modest, she’s got a heart that is even more beautiful than her outward appearance because she loves Jesus. I’m so grateful God brought her into my life even though the beginning of our relationship is shadowed in pain.

Do you still battle ninjas?

I never battled them. It was all Renata. She’s amazing. Her compassion and her strength astound me.

What’s up next for you?

Stephanie gets her story told and I’m glad I made a new friend in Roberto. I admire their courage in sharing their journey. I was honored to be there for them both in the process.

Thank you, Tony, or taking the time out of your crazy schedule. One last question though. What’s your favorite song right now?

Anything Ren sings. *laughs* Okay, this is old school. But when I think of my relationship with Renata I think of “Everything I do (I do it for you)” by Bryan Adams. There are some spiritual themes in there although the metaphor is not complete. Love, sacrifice . . . it’s just like Jesus and us, but also the way our love for someone else should be. You can click below but you’ll have to go to YouTube to watch it there.

Thank you, Tony, or taking the time out of your crazy schedule.

No problem. Glad to help. I hope people enjoy the story. I’m kind of partial to the ending myself. *winks*  Susan just told me that the release day might be pushed off for a little bit, but trust me, it will be worth the wait.

Pesto facebook header 2 PicMonkey Collage

Interview with Renata Blake

Renata from Pesto and Potholes

Renata from Pesto and Potholes

Meet Renata Blake. Her story is featured in the novel Pesto and Potholes releasing March 27, 2015.

Renata, how do you feel about your story being told?

Initially I wasn’t too happy about it. I’ve had plenty of bad press in the past and the last thing I need is my family getting wind of this book. They already hate me enough . . . and they don’t come out looking too good in the retelling. But it is real. This is my life. All the ugliness and the beauty.

What do you hope will be the outcome of your story being shared in this way?

That those who are hurting would find hope. As the book cover says, “The road to healing is filled with potholes.” Also that if someone isn’t involved in a good church, that they would seek one out. The relationships I made at Orchard Hill Church were a significant part of my healing process.

PestoandPotholes2Tell us about Antonio.

*giggles* Tony is sweet and handsome, but more than that, he always respected me. That was so new for me to experience. I heard about that book and movie that came out, Fifty Shades of Grey. That’s not love. Trust me, no woman wants a man who is going to control and abuse her. But Tony, he’s one of the good guys and he loves Jesus which I think made a huge difference.

Do you like Italian food?

I’ve always loved Italian food . . . but I have a far deeper appreciation for it now. *she winks*.

Do you still battle ninjas?

(sly grin). I haven’t had the occasion to lately, but suspect I’m still capable.

What’s up next for you?

I’m excited that my roommate Stephanie gets a chance to tell her amazing story next. I don’t know if I could have made it this far without her love and support and I’m glad I got to return the favor when life became difficult for her. I don’t want to give any spoilers away.

One last question. What’s your favorite song right now?

Oh, wow. I love so many but the one that resonates most with my soul is Broken Hallelujah by the Afters.  If I were a songwriter, I could have written that song. Hallelujah means to “God be praised,” and I’m grateful that even when I was weak and broken He could still hear and accept my shattered heart. I look back now in such gratitude for all He’s done. May all the praise and glory be to Him.

Thank you, Renata, or taking the time out of your crazy schedule.

Thank you for sharing about Susan’s book. I’m so grateful she had the courage to tell my story. Maybe others will find healing and hope in Jesus because of it. Pesto facebook header 2 PicMonkey Collage