Tag Archive | Susan Baganz

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.

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The Human Factor In Root Beer and Roadblocks

rootbeerandroadblocks_300The path to publishing isn’t always a smooth ride. Today Root Beer & Roadblocks finally released in ebook form. A new publisher has meant a learning curve for author and editors alike. (The print version should be available in another week).

This is not the first time I’ve had a book delayed and to be honest- the delay (or roadblock!) was at my request. I wanted extra eyes on the manuscript but that takes time. I’m grateful my publisher didn’t rush to get the book out on deadline only to find it filled with some mistakes.

Funny thing is – even with me going over this with a fine-tooth comb many times, as well as my editor, copyeditor, three proofreaders, and my publisher, none of us found the same things wrong. We all saw things differently. So there is a chance that you could pick up this book and find something wrong as well that all of us missed in spite of the multiple times it’s been evaluated.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? We’re human. Flawed. Even with software programs that can help find errors the human factor can still influence things. My hope is that if you choose to read Johnny’s story, you’ll get so caught up in the journey he takes that anything that crosses your path, will be immediately forgotten as you read on. I wanted to give you a sneak peek into the first pages of the book.

February 2014

          Johnny jogged to his car and grabbed his Bible. Fatigue weighed him down as he locked the sedan, the book tucked under his arm. Heading back toward the church, a movement caught his attention. A little boy from his Sunday school classroom escaped his mother’s grasp and bolted his way, blind to a car backing out of its spot.

       “David, stop!” Johnny bolted and managed to get behind the moving vehicle to shove the child out of the way. The rear bumper struck his own leg and knocked him to the ground.

         The car’s wheels stopped just short of running him over. Thank you, Lord, for big tank cars with huge trunks. The child cried, and a woman picked up the boy. “It’s OK, David, you’ve only scraped your palms. This nice man saved you. How many times must I tell you not to run in parking lots? You are too small for cars to see you.” She hugged the little boy tight.

             Johnny dragged his legs out from under the car and struggled to his feet, bracing himself against the trunk to catch his breath. The elderly woman, who had been behind the wheel, toddled around to him. “Are you OK? I’m sorry. I didn’t see him. You moved so fast.”

          Johnny nodded. “No one would have seen him. It was an accident.” He patted her on the shoulder before he limped across the parking lot. Pain seared through his hip and leg with every step he took. Reaching the curb, he sank down to the cement, thankful it was clear of snow.

           His cousin Niko ran out of the church and knelt by his side. “Johnny, what happened?”

          “He rescued my son from getting run over by a car that was backing out. He took the hit.” A woman wearing a stocking cap and winter coat came up behind Niko with the weepy boy in her arms rubbing his eyes.

              Johnny shrugged. “What she said.”

             “You OK? Do we need to call an ambulance?‛ Niko’s gaze bore into him. The greater unspoken question loomed.

              Teeth gritted in pain, Johnny returned his cousin’s stare. “I want to sit through worship. You’re on stage in a few minutes. Help me inside. I have an appointment with my doctor tomorrow. It can wait until then.” He motioned for Niko to help him rise, and he did. The older woman came up to him and handed him a piece of paper.

                 “Here is my name, phone, and insurance information. Do you want to call the police and file a report? I wouldn’t blame you if you did.” Her arthritic, wrinkled hands were clenched tightly together as if in petition for mercy.

                “I doubt that’s necessary. Thank you, May.” He took the paper and shoved it in his shirt pocket. David’s mom passed him his Bible, which he’d dropped. The leather was brushed clean.

“Are you sure you’re OK? I’m a nurse. I could take a look.” Her face instantly turned three shades of red as she realized her inspection would involve him taking off his jeans.

               Johnny smiled and leaned forward. “In my younger days, that would have been an offer too good to pass up, but I visit my doctor tomorrow. It’ll wait.”

 

Here’s a video – instrumental of Burlap to Cashmere’s song “Dialing God.” The guy on the right is the real-life Johnny that I based this character on. Enjoy!

 

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. 

 

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