Five For Friday: Samantha Stroh Bailey

Five For Friday: Samantha Stroh Bailey

Have you ever been friends with someone you’ve never met? Well, officially met at least? The internet is so funny that way. Take for instance my association with one Samantha Stroh Bailey, author and blogger extraordinaire. We’ve bounced ideas off each other, we’ve promoted our books together, and we’ve never (in person at least) even shared a bottle of wine!

The gorgeous and talented Samantha Stroh Bailey!
Here she is: The gorgeous, talented Samantha Stroh Bailey.

Yes, she has a quick wit and a kind soul, but I’m going to let you in on a little secret about why I’m so thrilled to “know” Sam: She’s a f@cking fantastic writer! There are scenes from her book Finding Lucas that are forever emblazoned on my brain (the happy part of my brain). She writes with such color and life, I just want to keep reading her. And you will, too! (Hey, I’d love if you shared a similar internet friendship story with me in the comments section, as well as leaving love notes for Sam because she totally deserves hundreds of them.)

Before we get started, you’re going to want to know how to connect with Sam:

Facebook

Twitter

Goodreads

Blog

Go ahead and click on these now, “like” and “follow” and what not, and come back. You won’t be sorry!

Oh great, you’re back. Come on–let’s meet Sam!

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1. I’ve already told you how much I enjoyed Finding Lucas (readers: please check out my review by clicking here). The story is so real, the characters so colorful. In fact, I think the strongest element going in your book is the characters–especially Jamie’s family! Do your characters pop out of your head like that, or are they based on people you know?

Thank you so much for saying that, Francine, and I give that compliment right back to your writing. It’s a mix of both. I don’t do a detailed outline of my characters before I start writing because I find they develop organically as I write. I know their jobs, physical attributes, and relationship to my main character, but who they become is entirely of their own making. I do loosely base some of their qualities on people I know and love and some of their quirks are qualities I see in myself. I also give them attributes that I don’t like in people I’ve crossed paths with over the years, and I embellish them, such as Derek’s materialism, Jeanette’s snottiness, and Eva’s bitchiness. The villains are so much fun to write!

2. What inspired you to write Finding Lucas? And…without getting yourself in trouble at home…did you ever feel (before you were married, of course!) that one that “got away”?

I love this question because Lucas is very, very loosely based on my own one-time “friend with benefits.” I was lying in bed one night and Jack popped into my head. It had been years since I’d last seen or spoken to him, and I wanted to know how we was doing, if he was married, and I hoped he was happy. He was such a good friend and such a great person to have in my life through high school and early university, and I wanted to re-connect. Not once did I consider him (or anyone else) as the one “who got away” because I’ve been with my husband since I was 22 years old, and I am now, well, I’m not 22. But, Jack is someone who holds a special place in my life. And when I started thinking of how I would track him down, the plot for Finding Lucas came to me, and off I went. So many of us want to know what happened to the people who touched our lives in some way, and most of us do a bit of googling to find out. Though few of us go on a cross-country hunt to find them!

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3. Aside from the Canadian thing, you and I pretty similar in terms of being blonde and petite and lifestyle–juggling writing fiction with freelance writing career and raising two small kids. Can you tell us about your writing process. (And when you find the time to do your own writing?)

Oh, my life is such a juggle, and I’m sure you understand completely. Until October, I was a stay at home mom with my daughter (my son is in school), and I would write and edit during her naps and at night. It was insane! I’d always dreamed of working from home and having my own business so the fact that I was doing it made the craziness and exhaustion all worth it. Now, I’m finally working full-time again, and I divide my day between writing/editing for my clients (they come first), promoting Finding Lucas, and finishing the final edits on my second novel, Everything But, which I hope to release in the late spring/early summer. And thanks to you, I have an idea for my third book, but shhh, don’t tell anyone.

I work from 9-4 and when it comes to writing my novels, I always get my plot ideas late at night (or from chatting with awesome writers like you). I always need to know the first line, and once I’ve typed that, I just write. I don’t stop to edit (which just about kills me), and I force myself to just let the story develop as it wants to. I have to shove all of the doubt and fear away until I have enough of a story to go back and flesh it out, fixing and cutting. I love to cut! It is so hard to cut my own work, but the best advice I ever got from a writer friend of mine was this: whatever you think is your best line, isn’t. It’s self-indulgent and you need to chop it. So, I do.

4. Okay, my curiosity is officially piqued! What can you share about your new book with us?

I am almost ready to hand Everything But over to my beta readers. It’s women’s fiction and there are strong, sassy female characters, a few romances, and some very funny moments. But it is also quite serious at times. It’s about Maddy Taylor, a woman who had it all–a gorgeous husband, hot career, and all of the time and freedom she craved because she never wanted to have kids. Until she changes her mind, but her husband hasn’t. The novel follows Maddy as she struggles to have both love and a child. She learns whether it’s possible to get everything you want or if she’ll always have everything but…

5. So in your spare time (hahahahaahahahaa!), what are some of the other things you like to do?

Ha ha ha ha, indeed! Actually, I force myself to have down time because as cheesy as this sounds, I truly believe that we have one life to live and we’d better make the most of it. I want to be happy and that includes reading (I read every single day), going out for dinner with my husband and friends, dancing (oh, I love dancing!) and just being a silly goof with my kids. I find it very hard to say no and not pile my plate with too many things, but I’m learning.

BONUS QUESTION: When are you coming to New York so we can get together for drinks like in one of the crazy scenes in your books (just slightly less crazy…)?

Oh my God, New York City is my favorite place in the world. I always feel like I’m home there. I went with my best friend last summer (our first ever trip away from the kids), and we’re trying to make it an annual event. I would come tomorrow if I could. How have I not met you yet?

How indeed! You better give me a heads-up the next time you’re in town. Okay, let’s get into the book. Following is an excerpt from Finding Lucas. After that, I’ll post a synopsis about the book, as well as how to buy it. What are you waiting for?

Start reading now!

“Jamie Ross? That is you!”

No. Please no. Not when I’m red-faced, sweaty and looking like an electric blue sausage. I recognize that husky, snide voice instantly, and I slowly turn around. Yup, it’s Claire Howard. The high school nemesis I was just talking about last night. The one who stole Lucas right out from under me. Who was it who said that when you talk about someone you see them?

And she’s breathtaking. Still. Long, shiny, strawberry blonde hair, startling grey eyes and porcelain skin. Not the pasty, dehydrated kind, but the creamy, smooth kind. Diamonds drip from the sparkling studs in her perfectly adorable earlobes to her little toe ring.

I look at Derek. He’s staring; his mouth, hanging open slightly. I want to smack him. She kisses my clammy, crimson cheek with cinnamon lipstick. Just to leave a mark, I’m sure.

“God, Jamie, how long has it been?”

“Fifteen years, Claire.”

Like you don’t know, you man-stealing slut. I probably wouldn’t be so angry if Lucy hadn’t dredged up all that stuff about Lucas last night. But now it feels like it just happened yesterday.

“You look exactly the same,” she tells me, moving her left hand in front of my face just so I can catch the massive rock on her finger.

She is not giving me a compliment. I’ve already mentioned my unfortunate awkward years, and to add to the pear-shaped body, I also had glasses and braces. But I was smart and funny, and that’s what got me Lucas. I’m sure the adoring gazes I’d constantly shot in his direction didn’t hurt any. But, Claire had the Southern Belle accent (her family had moved to Chicago from Savannah) and the DD chest.

Looking at her now, the chest looks suspiciously higher and firmer than it should be after all of these years. With small boobs, you never really worry about sagging and future nips and tucks.

“Jamie, introduce me,” Derek says, scowling.

“Oh goodness, how rude of me. Derek, this is Claire, a, um, girl from high school. Claire, this is my boyfriend, Derek.”

Her eyes are huge with amazement that I could have a boyfriend who looks like Derek. Clanging warning bells go off in my head. What if she does it again? Steals him too? If I turn my back for a second, she might toss him over her satiny shoulder and walk right out. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea. They’re both looking at me strangely. Perhaps because I’m grinning like an idiot and laughing to myself.

“Do you live around here, Claire?” Derek asks, slipping an arm around my waist.

Considering we weren’t even speaking two seconds ago, I know this means he wants me to invite her over. I know that he doesn’t know who she is to me, but can’t he see how stiff and uncomfortable I am? After five years, you’d think he’d be able to read my body language.

“Oh no, not down here,” she says, eyeing me up and down and smoothing her yellow wrap dress so it hugs her curves even more tightly. “I was at a breakfast meeting for my new marketing campaign. I’m the advertising director at Goldman Sachs. We live in the Gold Coast. Do you know the new gated community?”

I wish I had a sweatshirt to cover my huge butt.

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Buy Finding Lucas!

Amazon.com

Kobo

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About Finding Lucas

Can you ever really go back to the past? After five long years of living with Derek, her former bad-boy-turned-metrosexual boyfriend, Jamie Ross finally reaches her breaking point. She’s had enough of his sneering disdain for her second hand wardrobe, unusual family and low-paying job as the associate producer of Chicago’s sleaziest daytime talk show. When her new boss plans a segment on reuniting lost loves, Jamie remembers Lucas, her first love and the boy she’d lost ten years earlier. Spurred on by her gang of quirky friends, Jamie goes on a hilarious, disastrous and life changing hunt to track Lucas down. But are some loves best left behind?

More About Samantha Stroh Bailey

Samantha Stroh Bailey has been a writer ever since she could pick up a pen. In fact, she even sent her first manuscript, Freddy the Flame, to publishers when she was ten years old. After 15 years of teaching ESL to adults, including at the University of Toronto, she decided to live her dreams of being a fulltime writer and editor. Now the owner of Perfect Pen Communications, she not only gets to write novels, but also writes and edits for magazines, websites, businesses, students and other authors. Her work has appeared in Now Magazine, The Village Post, Oxford University Press, Abilities Magazine, on mommyish.com and many other publications. Samantha also has a Masters of Education in Applied Linguistics. She lives in Toronto with her husband and two children. Finding Lucas is her first novel.

Girly Books Blog Hop Winner–and Other News

Girly Books Blog Hop Winner–and Other News

For the past few days, I have been delighted to welcome so many new readers to my blog for the Girly Books Blog Hop. I’ve had a great time learning about your favorite, inspiring places. I’m so glad you made it here! I can only have 1 winner for my giveaway, alas, so please join me in congratulating Marlena!

Marlena will receive a $10 Amazon.com gift card plus a FREE ecopy of The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything or Rita Hayworth’s Shoes. A kooky, funny psychological drama or screwball rom-com… I wonder which one she’ll choose?

Now, more fun to report… I recently did a guest post for author Louise Wise in the voice of Harriet, a character from The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything. She’s writing a “Household Hints” column. It’s pretty scary (in a hilarious way, I hope): http://www.louisewise.com/2013/01/how-to-be-domestic-goddess-or-at-least.html?spref=tw

I also recently did a fun “A Taste of Tuesday” piece for author Monique McDonnell: http://moniquemcdonell.weebly.com/2/post/2013/01/taste-of-tuesday-with-francine-lasala.html

I do love appearing on other people’s blogs, for interviews, articles, or whatever you have in mind. Can I appear on  yours? Drop me a note at francine@francinelasala.com if you’re looking for guests. Upcoming guests here in the Shed include Samantha Stroh Bailey (Finding Lucas), Wendy Ely (Jesse’s Brother) and more.

Last, but far from least, about two weeks ago I started a Facebook group all about keeping the joy in life in your sights. It’s called The “Joy Jar” Project and it’s ballooned to over 400 members! (Did I mention it’s only 2 weeks old?) Please join this group; it will do your soul good!

That’s all I got for now. Thanks for visiting, and please hook-up with me all over the web (I do “like” and “follow” back, and I love to share and tweet your news):

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Have a great day, and thanks for stopping by!

Francine

Girly Books Blog Hop: Location! Location! Location!

Girly Books Blog Hop: Location! Location! Location!

It’s that time again… Time for some of your favorite authors, and sure-to-become-favorite authors, to get together and have a blast writing on a topic together. Our job: This time around to each entertain and enlighten you about one of our beloved locations in writing, the setting that really inspires us and our characters. Your job: To “hop” to these blogs, one by one, and leave comments if you want to qualify for the amazing GRAND PRIZE our hostess Libby Mercer has assembled. It’s pretty darn impressive, I tell you! (And a huge thanks to Libby for putting this all together!) You can also get a chance to receive a smaller prize when you comment below!

Come meet one of my favorite places in the world!
Come meet one of my favorite places in the world!

So what exotic port of call can you expect to be transported to from my Crazy Shed? A city of romance and magic. A place where people fall in love and find themselves and dreams really do come true…

Ladies and gentlemen (because I know dudes are here reading these), allow me to introduce you to one of my favorite places on Planet Earth: Bayside, Queens, New York City!

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Beautiful Bayside! (We used to live to the left of that bus.)

Crazy, this town. I wasn’t born there, but I was born as a writer of fiction there. I didn’t grow up (to age 21) there, but I grew into a woman (from ages 23-35, on and off) there. I met my husband there. Came back there after our wedding and honeymoon. Brought our first child home. It’s fair to say my heart is there, no matter where I happen to live now.

I think that’s the reason all my stories are set in Bayside.

Those who know my work know I have a tendency to jump genres, but there are two significant threads that make my stories mine: They always involve a lost soul finding her (and could be his at some point, you never know) way. And they are always set in this unexpected town.

The apartment Amy shared with David in Rita Hayworth’s Shoes, where the neighborhood guys act as a “Greek chorus” of sorts on the front stoop. The Aberdeen Funeral Home, where Amy first meets Deck. The college where they work, Stratton University. In The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything, Mina heads to Bayside for her appointment at the Pearls of Wisdom Dental Spa, and both Char-a’tee Pryce and Alex seem to live there.

Bayside is a real place, so of course it begs the question: Do I use real locations in my stories?

While I’m sure the wacky Aberdeen and over-the-top Pearls of Wisdom would both do killer business in Bayside, neither of these places, alas, is real. However, the diner where everyone always seems to meet up is. The Omega is an old-fashioned coffee-shop kind of joint on 32nd Avenue off of Francis Lewis Blvd., and it is one of the kindest establishments imaginable. I can’t even begin to count the number of keystrokes I made there back in the day, or the number of French fries I consumed…

Ah, the Omega! That's the owner, John, on the right. A very kind man. A very cool place.
Ah, the Omega! That’s the owner, John, on the right. A very kind man. A very cool place. (A terrible picture, I know, but I stole it from the Internet. Can you imagine that this was the only one I could find? I mean, it’s the Omega for cripes sake!)

One of the places I really wish I could visit, though, is the fictional Smitty’s. For a divey second-hand store, it sure gets a lot of action. It’s in Smitty that Amy falls for the magic shoes, and Mina finds the dragonfly-topped perfume bottle that re-sparks her mojo. Smitty’s is already playing prominently in two of my WIPs: as both a once-elegant home goods store turned dump in one, and a portal to ancient Greece in another. (Oh yeah. That’s true.) I wonder what kind of magic could be found in Smitty’s if it were real? Hmmmm….

Anyway, while I only lived in Bayside about 25% of my life, it remains my favorite place on earth. Except for Tuscany. And St. Martin. And Paris. Oh, and the South of France. But it’s right up there with them. And while hundreds, thousands of others have penned stories that unfold in all these other wonderful and exotic places, I bet there’s only a handful of us (or maybe just me) who feels such an inspired affinity for this quaint, quasi-suburban town.

And now for the rest of the writers on this tour. Please click on the links you’ll find below and enjoy the journey! If no links show for you because I am techo-challenged, simply click here, and you’ll be taken to the page of someone who knows what she’s doing… In any case, please be sure to leave me a comment about your most inspiring place, and you’ll get a chance to win a FREE ebook, set in, you guessed it, Bayside! Choose the quirky psychological drama / mystery The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything or the screwball rom-com Rita Hayworth’s Shoes. You’ll also win a $10 Amazon.com gift card you can use to discover more books…like ones from the other authors listed below.

Happy travels!

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