Merry Monday at Crazy Creek

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Merry Monday, everyone! The holiday festivities begin in earnest this week, as I make food and do laundry in preparation for that most important and glorious Opening Day of Deer Hunting. Not me! My menfolk! I shoo them away and spend the weekend reading etc.
I won’t, however be reading “Crazy Creek Christmas” by that excellent author Lisa Lickel because I ALREADY READ IT! Here she is, talking all things Christmas and her latest book.

Welcome Lisa! Let’s jump right in with a pressing hypothetical situation. Your entire area has been temporarily quarantined because someone believes they saw a UFO. You can’t go home but the Center for Studying Strange Sightings will pay for you and your entire family to go anywhere in the world—make that universe—for Christmas. Where will you go and how will you celebrate?
Well we have to go visit Stella and her family (from Parhelion) on their secret Tau Ceti planet they escaped to after nuclear war threatened to destroy Earth. If we went for a little while, we’d be fine. Just for Christmas. Tau Ceti isn’t too different, but we’d have to get used to the chlorine-scented everything. Does pine and cinnamon cover that? We’d have our traditional caroling passed around in the bespeaking voice Ceticians use, as well as out loud. And food, of course—always must have a great meal after the meeting for worship. We can bring a ham to go with salad. Christmas and Christmas no matter where you go.

Ha! Did I ask the right question there, or what? For those of you who don’t know, “Parhelion” is Lisa’s science fiction novel. So there would be ham. Any other favorite dish to make for Christmas?
My new favorite is watching my daughters-in-law make Grandma’s crepes on Christmas morning while I play with their children.

Bless those daughters-in-law! Not everyone has ideal family situations. Leah and Noel have both come out of difficult and/or tragic family circumstances. How they handle what life handed them is completely different. What role does faith in a good God, or the lack of it, play in their transformations?
Good question. Leah is a nice person, just naturally a sweetheart but she wasn’t raised in a family of faith and never really thought much about church or salvation. She wouldn’t hurt a fly despite being taken advantage of, so she’s ripe for hearing the Word. It may take her a while to truly accept the gift of grace, but she’s already in tune with God when her new ranch family helps her understand what she’s missing. Noel was raised in a family that practiced charity and regularly attended worship services and youth group. Yet he ran from all of that. I think he believes that leaving the ranch also means shedding everything about his former life. When the chips are down and he has choices to make, though, the depth of his character formed through well-practiced faith shines through and it doesn’t even occur to him to blame others for his problems. His remorse proves he’s never outgrown or run far enough from doing the right thing.

Yet in spite of these heartbreaking circumstances, the story isn’t depressing! How do you walk the line between hope and melancholy?
That’s nice to hear. I don’t want my stories to be downers, but conflict has to rise from somewhere. I think the fact that the main event heartbreak takes place before the story begins, and the tragedy that Noel suffers are handled within the Kingdom of Hope and Possibilities by people who understand that God loves them no matter what helps a lot. It’s okay to have a pity party for a while, but how we rise above what happens is the real story.

Introduce us to Leah and Noel.
Leah is a daughter given up for adoption under circumstances which always eluded her. She was raised in a pleasant but busy foster home and when she aged out after high school took jobs waitressing and kept moving west until meeting a kindly couple running a diner in Crazy Creek, Wyoming. They had a heart for a special family of ranchers south of town and helped Leah hire on. Noel is the driven kid who just didn’t want to be a farmer like his dad. His sister loved their family ranch, so Noel lit out for the big city to become a property developer. He thinks that by selling his family ranch to a horse tourism outfit he’ll solve everyone’s problems. Little does he know he’s the only one on his side. Even the new cute cook thinks he has a stone for a heart.
It’s funny—last week I interviewed Susan Baganz, whose female protagonist in “Sugar Cookies and Street Lamps” is named “Noelle.” And this week I welcome you and “Crazy Creek Christmas”—whose male protagonist is named Noel! Yet depending on which syllable you emphasize, it is a very feminine or very masculine name. How much thought do you put into names of your characters?
Susan thought that was funny, too, and we didn’t collaborate. Last year three of us had Mistletoe titles. Names are important to set a particular tone. I also happen to think Noel Coward was a groovy playwright and actor and I’ve always had a secret yen to use that name.

You titled your chapters! I love that! Not too common anymore. What made you decide to do that?
It just seemed like a fun thing to do. I didn’t have numbers at first, but someone else made an executive decision. Quite often I use a little phrase describing a chapter to keep me on track when I’m writing, but this story came together so fast I didn’t even have time to think about it. I wanted to offer the reader a little glimpse of what to expect.

Who in “Crazy Creek Christmas” is your favorite character after Leah and Noel?
I’m honestly trying to answer, but every time I try to pick one, I think of something about one of the others that was fun to explore—Jorge’s children, Manny’s “love ya,” “Gil’s soulful woundedness, Tom’s contemplative silence, and Marty’s cantankerousness; even Sister’s patience, and of course Cupcake’s name.
Favorite Christmas song? Or, if you really like Christmas music, feel free to share more!
I do, I do like Christmas music. I love both old and new, and cry for different reasons. I have Amy Grant singing “Love Has Come” sparkling in my head—thanks a lot. That’s gonna be an all-dayer. Steven Curtis Chapman’s Christmas album is a fav, and “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.” Don’t why know.

Will you write more about the Rocking J Ranch and Crazy Creek?
So, you’re the third person to ask me that. I guess, if one more person asks, I’ll consider it. I sort of even have the start of an inkling of a possible potential plot.

Actually I think three times is a charm…Would you like to live on a ranch?
It’s a place I think would be nice to visit, but I’m past all the enormity of being involved in an operation like that.

How much are you like Leah? Different?
How about Noel? Men and women are obviously different but also are similar in many ways. Any characteristics you have in common with him?
I’m from the Midwest, and I enjoy cooking, and if someone plunks me in a house with dust, I have a compulsive itch to clean. But other than that…nope, this little plump short grandma has little in common with Leah, other than I, too, dislike interrupting. Something about Midwestern values. Noel? He’s got a big chip on his shoulder, doesn’t he? He really wants to help, he just stumbles around trying too hard. He needs a good helpmeet. I guess I like to “help” too, which doesn’t always fly in the right direction.

Sister is a pretty appealing horse. Do you like horses? Ride much?
I love to look at them from a distance. My neighbors use horses in their work and pasture them around us, but I agree with Leah: they are awfully BIG.

And the burning question: do you decorate for Christmas before or after Thanksgiving?
After, of course! My prudish Pilgrim people decorations would frown at my opulent mink-coated Santa. They might not even appreciate the ceramic Santa kneeling at Jesus’s manger.

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Barnes and Noble https://bit.ly/2BpBRfl
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Blurb
Crazy Creek, Wyoming saves Leah Hanes’s life. Running on fumes and bald tires, she thanks heaven for Cookie and Jeanette Wimmer who send her to the Rocking J Ranch as a winter cook. Leah arrives to discover the ranch and the people need more than a cook.

Noel Johansen, heir of the Rocking J, happily left for the big city years ago. When he loses his family in a terrible accident, the best thing for everyone is to sell the place, ditch the memories, and move on. But his brother-in-law has other plans, and the beautiful new cook they’ve hired for the season threatens Noel’s desire to remain detached.

The ranch represents Noel’s future and selling it becomes more important than ever when one more tragedy leaves him with nothing. But memories can’t be bought and sold, nor can a broken conscience heal itself. Home, heart, and future are irrevocably tied in Crazy Creek.
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Bio
Lisa Lickel is a Wisconsin author who loves books and dragons, she writes inspiring fiction. Besides writing inspiring fiction, she also writes short stories, feature articles, and radio theater, and loves to encourage new authors through mentoring, speaking, and leading workshops. She is an avid book reviewer and blogger, and a freelance editor. Find more at LisaLickel.com.

Merry Monday at the Tuesday Prude

 

 

SugarCookiesAndStreetLamps_prc5539_750It’s November, and you know what that means. Wampanoag and Pilgims, turkey, gratitude, and Christmas novella publicity. Authors of Christmas books write about all things holly and mistletoe around Easter, spend summers by their air conditioners polishing and proofreading the Christmas tree scenes, and cook their Thanksgiving turkeys while figuring out how else to publicize this story they’ve devoted whole sections of the year to getting published.
And all so you and I can spend December cozied up near our Christmas trees, sipping a favorite hot (or cold—we do understand Christmas is celebrated in hot climates also) beverage and reading as many Christmas stories as we can cram into 25 days.

I’ll be interviewing a few of my favorite authors about their contributions to make our Christmases merry and bright. Today I host my friend (and editor!) Susan Baganz. Her novella this year is Sugar Cookies and Street Lamps, a sweet-in-every-way story. (Pop over to Amazon to preorder )

Susan, welcome to the Tuesday Prude! Let’s jump in with a controversial issue.
Christmas: start celebrating and decorating before or after Thanksgiving?
I decorated this past Saturday which goes against my usual “don’t set up the tree till the day after Thanksgiving” policy. The variation this year is only because I’m due to have surgery and want to be able to relax and enjoy healing and the holidays without overdoing it. The lights might not be turned on until then, but no promises. We do love having a Christmas tree and if my kids, now teenagers, had their way, it would be up year round!
Which of the cookies in your book’s comprehensive list intrigued you enough to want to try your hand at baking—and eating?
The funny thing is, I will bake cookies but I’m not a big cookie eater myself, which is probably a good thing! I’ll taste one or two and then I’m done and leave the rest for my husband and kiddos. Having said that, raspberry Linzer cookies, baklava tassies, Irish cream delights and English cranberry orange shortbread, might be a few that would tempt me to bake and taste.

I am a cookie lover, so maybe I better not try my hand at any of those bits of deliciousness. Your sugar cookie recipe at the end of the book is tempting enough!

Give us a quick character sketch of Noelle and Rudy, your protagonists in “Sugar Cookies and Street Lamps.”
Noelle has a Christmas Eve birthday but doesn’t like Christmas. She’s trying to get an event planning business off the ground while working at the library. She’s strait-laced as far as her morals go and has great organizational skills.
Rudy’s ears and nose tend to turn red when he’s embarrassed. He does art and decorates as a hobby but works at an Investment Firm. He loves Christmas and the reason for the season.

HA! I love that Rudy’s NOSE turns red!

What inspired you to have the setting be a Dickens’ village party?
I started the book with a title and went from there. Street lamps. The lyrics to “Silver Bells” came to mind, the city sidewalks, busy shoppers and then I thought of the old-fashioned lights and bright colored store fronts that used to be part and parcel of the holidays and soon I had this quaint and magical idea for an event! Fun to write about, not sure I’d want the hard work of putting it together like Noelle and Rudy did.

That is part of the magic of writing—we can create something really beautiful without ever leaving our laptops.
Speaking of inspiration, what led to the title of the book?
I have written a few Christmas novellas and all of them have been historical. I decided to do something contemporary and put it in Milwaukee which led me to make it part of the Orchard Hill series although few characters from previous books appear. Given my penchant for titles involving food and traffic/road related words in the vein of Pesto and Potholes, Salsa and Speed Bumps etc…it seemed natural to do Sugar Cookies and Street Lamps.
It’s a delightful title! Something else delightful—last Christmas Day you were barely married to the love of your life. Are there any Christmas traditions you’d like to incorporate into your household?
That’s a great question and one I’ve not really found an answer for yet. Christmas is pretty laid back for us. We attend Christmas Eve service, just the two of us as the kids are with their father. Christmas day I fix a special brunch which has to include bacon. I let the kids sleep in. After brunch we open gifts. I’ve done this since the kids were little. Gifts appear under the tree as I purchase and wrap them, so they learned at a young age to be patient. We never told them Santa brought gifts. So they have learned to anticipate but not peek. The rule was if they tried to open something it got sent back and they didn’t dare test me on that! As the kids are older, there are fewer gifts and this year we are giving them a memory instead. There will still be some small things under the tree. Usually the rest of the day is relaxing, possibly watching movies, although the kids won’t do that with us. I might make something special for dinner later. It becomes a day of rest. Our big family celebration with my parents takes place on a different day.

I expect as the kids leave home that will change and then we’ll have to change with that, but I really like the low-key relaxing day.
Why is a faith message so important in your novels?
I believe I will stand before God for what I write. When I teach at conferences, I tell authors that we will be held accountable for the words we put on the page, and the theology we convey in our stories whether obvious or not. I firmly believe that. Even as an editor I won’t contract stories that violate key principles I believe in as a Christian. And we all need encouragement and a fresh reminder of the truth of the gospel. Story is a powerful vehicle for getting beneath the more obvious roadblocks people can put up to hearing the truth. What if someone didn’t know Jesus and read any of my books? Would they see Jesus there? Either in the actions of the characters or the dialogue? That’s always in the back of my mind. In many ways, writing is an act of worship for me.
Elements of faith, hope and love always seem to pop up in your stories. What else can we find when we read your books?
Faith, hope, and love… and the greatest of these is love. Sometimes humor creeps in although I don’t write comedy and admire people who can do it well. I like to write about the fact that even as believers, life can be difficult and that we need to grow spiritually and emotionally. You can’t have one without the other. Sometimes that process is hard and my hope would be that people can be encouraged to persevere to the other side. While I write happily-ever-afters, I’m fully aware that it is a moment in time, and troubles all come our way. We need to savor those joy-filled moments.

Any holiday besides Christmas that you think would be a good setting for a book?
Thanksgiving could be good as I think family dynamics can be as challenging then as they are at Christmas and gratitude is a good theme. Christmas just seems to hold its own magic though, don’t you think?
I know it does for me! Part of the magic comes from lights and decorations in our darkest month. Are there any memorably magical Christmas displays you’ve seen?
The Paine Art Center in Oshkosh does a wonderful Nutcracker theme at Christmastime which is cool. Fond du Lac, the city near where I live, has a fun light display set to music that is free out at Lakeside Park. I took Ben there last year and he was spellbound as he’d never seen anything like that. It was sweet to see that childlike awe as he watched and we listened.
If you were queen of the world, what would your ideal Christmas Day look like?
Ohhhh! I’d need a bigger house! I would have maids to clean and every room decorated—by someone else of course! And a wonderful feast around a large table with family and friends with holiday music playing in the background. Maybe board games after? Great conversations. Maybe gifts? I think being present with people is more valuable than material things.
When you are queen of the world, I will be angling for an invitation to those Christmas festivities. Just warning you.
Finally, tell us why we should read “Sugar Cookies and Street Lamps.”
It is a sweet story and our family’s favorite sugar cookie recipe is at the end of it. If you want a fresh reminder of the wonder of Christmas in the shadow of the cross, then hopefully this story will refresh you and make this season all the sweeter.

Bio:DSC_0524
Susan M. Baganz is living her own happily-ever-after with her husband Benjamin. She chases after two Hobbits, and is a native of Wisconsin. Susan writes adventurous historical and contemporary romances with a biblical world-view.

Susan speaks, teaches, and encourages others to follow God in being all He has created them to be. With her seminary degree in counseling psychology, a background in the field of mental health, and years serving in church ministry, she understands the complexities and pain of life as well as its craziness. Her favorite pastimes are lazy…spending time with her husband, snuggling with her dog while reading a good book, or sitting with a friend chatting over a cup of spiced chai latte.

You can learn more by following her blog http://www.susanbaganz.com, her Twitter feed @susanbaganz or her fan page, http://www.facebook.com/susanmbaganz.

The Doctor’s Daughter (by the hobbits’ mother)

Susan Baganz is a personal friend, my very own editor, the reason I am published, and an inspiration! She is mother to 3 curly-haired young’uns and with a last name like Baganz—you can see the connection to my favorite Middle Earth folk!

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In the middle of preparing for a wedding to the man of her dreams, and packing and moving and all the crazy things both entail, Susan agreed to visit the Tuesday Prude with a bit on her Christmas novella, “The Doctor’s Daughter.” It is a Regency-era story of the challenges faced by doctors and the even greater challenges faced by women who practiced healing arts! And since it is written by Ms. Baganz, there is a healthy dose of romance and proof that “the course of true love never did run smooth.”

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Blurb:
Miss Silvia Burnett is left without a home after her father, a local physician, passes away unexpectedly. She appeals to a friend from boarding school, Mrs. Katrina Tidley, who resides in the same area where her father’s mentee set up practice. With a calf-love on her part, they’d once agreed to wed each other if she remained unattached at a certain age. But are youthful promises meant to be kept? Would the handsome physician want her now?

Dr. Bruce Miller has watched all his friends from university marry and begin their families. Living in the village of Didcot did not provide him with a wife. When a letter from the daughter of the doctor he interned with in Bristol arrives at his door, hope soars within that maybe this woman is the answer to his lonely nights.

As influenza spreads and Silvia uses her talents in medicine to aid the doctor, will he find her competition or a viable companion? With Christmas dawning, will dreams be shattered or fulfilled?

 

I had a few questions for this busy bride-to-be:
You write contemporary dramatic romance and Regency era novels. Which is your favorite? And if you ever branch out to another time period to set your books in, what would it be?

Which is my favorite? They both have their fun aspects and challenges. Regency is fun because of the language and the culture. I can use a wider vocabulary and the moral strictures on women and men make it fun to play around with. The challenge is to get the details correct and to not let contemporary slang slip in! Contemporary romance is fun too, because you can delve more into the emotional pain and lingo – the technology makes it more challenging to keep a story relevant and accurate as anyone can fact check so many things I might choose to write about – so one needs to be careful there as well. Another challenge is not to hit too close to home to people and experiences you want to put in your stories, even in a veiled way.

A different time period? I don’t know. I did write a novella set in the last 1800’s in Wisconsin, kind of a “prairie romance.” I’ve dabbled in romantic suspense (contemporary) and hope to co-author some military romances in the future.

 
Your contemporary novels involve real people with real pasts and honest problems who find love. Yet even then, they don’t necessarily live “happily ever after,” but rely on God to help them work through knotty problems and even heartache. (The question is coming. Honest) How much of your own love story is identified with the lives of your protagonists?

When I’ve done workshops at writer’s conferences, I’ve confessed that there is much of our history that shows up in our fiction. I think I’ve lived vicariously through my characters and some of their struggles have been ones I’ve had at some level. I, however, have not until now, had my own real-life romance. I wrote romance to fill that need and because I believed at my core that even though I had not experienced it, that it existed. Yet for all of that I sometimes feel like I’m living a fairy tale with my new love. It will be interesting to see how a real-life romance impacts my writing from here on out!

 
Tell us how you came up with the idea for “The Doctor’s Daughter.”

I had the last of my Black Diamond Gothic Regency Romances release this year and knew I wanted to do a novella for the Pelican Christmas Extravaganza – so I figured I’d take a recurring character, Doctor Bruce Miller, and give him a sweet romance – no gothic but plenty of drama! It is fun is to see some of the characters from the series playing a part in his romance.

Bio:
Susan M. Baganz chases after three Hobbits and is a native of Wisconsin. Susan writes adventurous historical and contemporary romances with a biblical world-view.

Susan speaks, teaches, and encourages others to follow God in being all He has created them to be. With her seminary degree in counseling psychology, a background in the field of mental health, and years serving in church ministry, she understands the complexities and pain of life as well as its craziness. Her favorite pastimes are lazy…snuggling with her dog while reading a good book or sitting with a friend chatting over a cup of spiced chai latte.

You can learn more by following her blog susanbaganz.com, her Twitter feed @susanbaganz or her fan page, http://www.facebook.com/susanmbaganz.

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I pray for every happiness for this godly, genuine woman. And if you are looking for a quick, inspiring Christmas read, grab “The Doctor’s Daughter” available on ereaders.

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Doctors-Daughter-Christmas-Holiday-Extravaganza-ebook/dp/B07JHPWV2L