Wassup Wednesday: Meredith Schorr

Wassup Wednesday: Meredith Schorr

***TODAY’S THE DAY! CONGRATS TO MEREDITH SCHORR ON
THE LAUNCH OF HER 3RD BOOK,
BLOGGER GIRL***

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m going to let you in on a secret: I am addicted to reading. Seriously, I read every free moment I have. When I’m blow drying my hair, my Kindle is on my lap so that I can read at the same time. If there is even one person ahead of me in line at the ATM machine, I open my Kindle and read. Since I walk to and from work, I’m actually giddy for an excuse to ride the subway so I can, you guessed it, read on my Kindle. Since I’m supposed to use my free time to write, I even make deals with myself that I can finish a chapter of the book I am reading as long as I promise to do some writing afterwards. That’s not to say I enjoy reading more than writing but the competition is pretty fierce.

Another secret:  I’ve always wanted to be a book blogger. As a book blogger, I would actually be obligated to read! And how much fun would it be to discuss the books I review with other readers? Not to mention how cool it would be to get so many books for free. Finally, I would be able to voice my honest opinion about books I really did not enjoy. It’s not that I would ever want to write a negative review. It’s just, as a writer, I won’t write a negative review. Because I know much bad reviews sting, I only review books I sincerely enjoyed and leave the bad reviews for someone else to write. If a book is bad, someone will do it. It just won’t be me.

I know that being a book blogger is not all rainbows, butterflies and free books though. It’s a lot of hard work. I’m sure some authors (not me…) can be very pushy. Considering how buried I am by own TBR pile, I imagine that it is very difficult for a book blogger to keep up with the reviews she obligates herself to give. I also assume that a book blogger needs to juggle her blogging duties with other responsibilities, such as a full time job, family, social life, exercise, and general life obligations. I also wonder if it is awkward for a book blogger to read and review a book from someone she knows, for instance, her nemesis from high school!

For me, becoming a book blogger is not something I could add to my already full plate without cloning myself or having a nervous breakdown. Not to mention that, as stated above, I would not feel comfortable posting negative reviews which would make me sort of a half-assed book blogger and I don’t do anything half-assed!  By writing Blogger Girl, I got to live the life of a fabulous book blogger for almost 300 pages. I loved every minute of my fake book blogging life.

Well, not every minute of it. Reading the chick lit book of my high school nemesis kind of sucked…

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A born and bred New Yorker, Meredith Schorr discovered her passion for writing when she began to enjoy drafting work-related emails way more than she was probably supposed to, and was famous among her friends for writing witty birthday cards. After trying her hand writing children’s stories and blogging her personal experiences, Meredith found her calling writing “real” chick lit for real women.  When Meredith is not hard at work on her current work in progress, she spends her days as a trademark paralegal.  Meredith is a loyal New York Yankees fan and an avid runner.  Blogger Girl is her third novel.

Contact Meredith:

web: meredithschorr.com

Twitter: @meredithschorr

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/MeredithSchorrAuthor

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BG_front_cover_medAbout BLOGGER GIRL

What happens when your high school nemesis becomes the shining star in a universe you pretty much saved? Book blogger Kimberly Long is about to find out.

A chick lit enthusiast since the first time she read Bridget Jones’s Diary, Kim, with her blog, “Pastel is the New Black,” has worked tirelessly by night to keep the genre alive, and help squash the claim that “chick lit is dead” once and for all. Not bad for a woman who by day ekes out a meager living as a pretty, and pretty-much-nameless, legal secretary in a Manhattan law firm.

While Kim’s day job holds no passion for her, the handsome (and shaving challenged) associate down the hall is another story. Yet another story is that Hannah Marshak, one of her most hated high school classmates, has now popped onto the chick lit scene with a hot new book that’s turning heads–and pages–across the land. It’s also popped into Kim’s inbox–for review. With their ten-year high school reunion drawing near, Kim’s coming close to combustion over the hype about Hannah’s book. And as everyone around her seems to be moving on and up, she begins to question whether being a “blogger girl” makes the grade in her off-line life.

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Start Reading BLOGGER GIRL Now!

“What blog?”

I felt a flush creep across my cheeks as I turned around to face the source of the question. I wasn’t surprised, since I blushed whenever I talked to Nicholas, even when the phone rang at work and I saw his name on my caller ID.

“You didn’t know about Kim’s blog?” Rob asked, his blue eyes reflecting amusement.

Nicholas shook his head, not removing his eyes from mine.

All I could think about was running my fingers along the dark stubble on his jawline. Never completely clean shaven, he currently looked like he hadn’t touched a razor in several days. I held his gaze willing my voice not to give away my crush, but the heat on my face suggested a crimson complexion that probably already had. “I have a blog where I write book reviews.” I figured Nicholas didn’t know about my blog since our opportunities to socialize outside of work had been few and far between in the four months we’d worked together. It was that unfamiliarity which I blamed for my chronic bashfulness in his presence. Well, that and his overwhelming sex appeal. Unable to maintain eye contact a second longer, I glanced back at Rob hoping he’d pick up the dialogue.

“It’s incredibly popular. Publishers actually beg my secretary to read and review their client’s novels on a daily basis.” Rob beamed at me like a proud uncle as if he was somehow responsible for my blog’s immense popularity.

I turned back to Nicholas and smiled shyly. “Every other day basis is probably more accurate but yes, it’s a widely read blog. I have several thousand followers and get requests from authors, publicists and agents pretty often.”

Nicholas looked at me with admiration. “Awesome. What types of books do you review?”

I hated this part of telling people from work about my blog. I never knew if the attorneys would raise their noses in the air and judge my taste in “literature.” Here goes nothing. “Chick lit,” I admitted.

Nicholas tilted his head to the side. “Like the gum?”

I giggled as if I’d never heard that one before. “Yes, it’s called chick lit, like the gum. But it’s also a book genre. Like Bridget Jones’s Diary, The Devil Wears Prada. You know?”

Nicholas looked thoughtful as he rubbed his thumb along his chin. “My ex-girlfriend had a bunch of books with pink covers. Were those chick lit?”

Forcing myself to stay focused instead of wondering what his ex-girlfriend was like, how long ago they broke up and why, I smiled and said, “Probably.” Although chick lit had certainly evolved beyond stereotypical pink covers, it wasn’t the time to go into defense-mode.

Nicholas smiled wide. “Very cool, Kim!” Glancing at his empty glass, he said, “Time for a refill. Be right back” and walked towards the bar.

I tore my eyes away from the back of Nicholas’ light blue business shirt and back to Rob. But Rob was now talking to Lucy about some guy she had deposed the previous day. Boring work talk. I downed the rest of my prosecco and walked over to the bar. After quickly getting the bartender’s attention, I ordered another glass, on Rob’s tab of course, and observed Nicholas finish sending a text. As he smiled into his phone, I felt my Hanky Panky thong practically melting off. At only about 5”7’, his stature might have kept him off of some women’s top five lists but since I was vertically challenged too, he was currently number one on mine. I couldn’t even think of who would follow him in second and third place.

“Penny for your thoughts, Blogger Girl.”

I snapped out of my list making and faced Nicholas, silently praying he was not a mind reader.

He looked at me expectantly.

I swung my free hand in dismissal and lifted my drink towards him. “Nothing important. Cheers!”

Nicholas clinked his glass against mine, said, “Cheers” and took a sip of his drink.

Following his lead, I took a sip of mine.

Nicholas inched closer to me. Speaking in almost a whisper, he said, “Having fun yet?”

Very aware that we’d never stood this close to each other and that these were practically the most words we’d ever exchanged one on one, I replied with faux nonchalance, “Can’t really complain about free drinks. You?” The cuffs of his shirt sleeves had been pushed up to his elbows and I pondered whether the dark hair on his arms was coarse or soft. I wondered what it would feel like to run my fingers up and down his arm. I also wondered if he could hear my heart beating through my chest.

“Definitely can’t complain about that,” Nicholas agreed. “And a break from work is always welcome, especially these days.” He smiled. “Doing anything good this weekend?”

I had practically forgotten it was Thursday night, which was odd for me since I lived for the weekends when my secretarial duties did not get in the way of my reading. “Not sure yet. Probably drinks with friends. And I need to catch up on some reading. For the blog. What about you?” Please don’t mention a girlfriend.

“Oh, this and that.” His eyes glowed, almost like he was holding back a secret.

I bit down on my lip and without thinking, blurted out, “Do This and That have last names?”

Nicholas gave me a once over before shaking his head laughing. “I’ll probably spend most of it at work actually. So, tell me more about this blog.”

I tipped my head to the side. “What do you want to know?”

“I don’t know. Like, what made you start it?”

“The condensed version or the truth?”

Nicholas cocked an eyebrow. “How long of a story is the truth?”

“Why? Do you have a date to rush off to?” I swallowed hard. Nice, Kim.

Laughing, he said, “It’s just that your answer was rather mysterious, you know?”

I shuffled my feet. “Well, I usually tell people I started the blog because I’ve always loved to read, blah, blah, blah.”

“Blah blah blah. Gotcha.”

After he said that, he winked at me and when my knees wobbled in response, I grabbed the bar with my free hand. “The truth is that one day I was bored at home surfing the internet and I found all of these blogs dedicated to romance books, like Harlequin stuff, and then I found some more devoted to science fiction, thrillers and so on. But I could barely find anything dedicated to chick lit and it pissed me off because I love it. I figured if I love it, there must be other girls who love it too and maybe if I started this blog, I’d find them and we’d bond.” I paused. “Aren’t you glad you asked?”

As his phone rang, Nicholas distractedly responded, “Yeah, that’s cool,” before bringing it to his ear. He whispered, “Sorry” before answering it.

I wondered if it was from “This” or “That.”

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Buy BLOGGER GIRL!

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Blogger-Girl-ebook/dp/B00EDTLDSW/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1375994653&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=blogger+girl+meredith+schorr

http://www.amazon.com/Blogger-Girl-ebook/dp/B00EDTLDSW/ref=sr_1_fkmr0_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1375994653&sr=8-1-fkmr0&keywords=blogger+girl+meredith+schorr

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Blogger-Girl-ebook/dp/B00EDTLDSW/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1376945948&sr=1-1&keywords=blogger+girl

B&N:

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/blogger-girl-meredith-schorr/1116358028?ean=2940148503125

iTunes:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/blogger-girl/id686654939?mt=11

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162762_2662032389151_5076510_nLet’s connect! Find me on Twitter and Facebook, and email me: francine@francinelasala.com.

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The Therapy of Laughter

The Therapy of Laughter

Please welcome my guest today, Isabelle Riley, who wanted to share why laughter matters–and that’s no laughing matter… Groan, I know. Okay. First, a joke–a real joke!

What did the fish say when he swam into a wall?

Dam!

bubbling-cartoon-fish-clip-art

And now I hand over the reins to Isabelle. Take it away!

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Laughing is good for you. It’s the best known relief for that great modern evil, stress. It helps us to cope and survive. Laughter is a symptom of happiness and happiness is the reason we have for living. To laugh repeatedly and often is to add happiness to your life. As a form of physical exercise, it can be seen as a practice, just like any other form of yoga. Everybody has the ability to laugh, and everyone recognises the feeling of happiness that always precedes laughter.

When we are really seriously happy, we laugh. The other time we laugh is when something is funny. Comedy is like therapy in this sense, if you’re feeling stressed or your workplace is feeling tense it can be really effective to have a comedic event with a company like funny guys.

People work better when they’re happy after all. When you laugh, the tense parts of your body will automatically release, freeing any tension that you might have stored in your neck, back, shoulders, and face. Your stomach muscles will tense however, which is good for your posture and strengthens the core of your body, which keeps you upright.

This makes it a really effective form of exercise. After having laughed, you feel a residual happiness, and a lightness that lasts for a long time. Laughing regularly, and making a habit of  it, will let this feeling last for a long time. The everyday tasks of life seem like less when you’re happy, and seem like next to nothing when you’re laughing.

Laughter is also anti-aging, as it releases endorphins in the brain as well as exercising your body. It will prevent Alzheimer’s disease is the elderly, research has suggested. Moreover, people with happy, open faces look younger and more beautiful than those who look sad or closed up. If your life seems harder than it should, it’s probably because you need to forget about a few things and just laugh for a while.

Five For Friday: Elizabeth Marx

Five For Friday: Elizabeth Marx

StainedDesignNR

I am so excited to be hosting author Elizabeth Marx the week she releases her latest novel, STAINED!  I have been a big fan of Elizabeth’s for a couple of years now. We’re both members of many of the same online writers groups, and Elizabeth has always been so gracious sharing all she knows about promoting with other authors. She’s awesome like that, but also as a writing talent. Take a look at the excerpt at the end of this post and just try and disagree with me. Impossible!

author photo(1)Before we learn more about Elizabeth and her writing, here’s how to find her on the web:

http://www.elizabethmarxbooks.com

http://www.facebook.com/AuthorElizabethMarx

http://www.amazon.com/author/elizabethmarxbooks

And here’s more to know about her:

Windy City writer Elizabeth Marx brings cosmopolitan life alive in her fiction—a blend of romance, fast-paced Chicago living, and a sprinkle of magical realism. Elizabeth resides with her husband, girls, and two cats who’ve spelled everyone into believing they’re really dogs. She grew up in the city, has traveled extensively, and still says there’s no town like Chi-Town.

And now, the interview!

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1. Can you share what inspired you to write STAINED? And why this excerpt?

I wanted to write a love story about two people who fell in love in childhood. Many romances today are the fall hard and fast kind. Of course there is nothing wrong with wham-bam-thank-you-mam love affairs, but I wanted to examine the relationship between two young people who were meant for each other but something huge stood between them and their happily ever after.

I picked the excerpt I will share below because it shows the depth of Revell’s affection for Scarlett, he’s older and more experienced, but shows her he loves her by not taking advantage of her. Enjoy!

2. Did you always know you’d be a writer? If not, what did you think you were going to be?

I think I always wanted to be a writer, but I thought I was going to be a lawyer. My husband still says I missed my calling as a lawyer because he’s never won a fight. LOL! Anyway, I went to business school and then interior design school. I worked as an interior designer for several years before I tried to write a book. The box-under-the-bed-book is still there collecting dust bunnies.

3. What are you doing when you’re not writing?

When I’m not writing, I’m usually at some sort of a sporting event that one of my daughters is participating in. I have a junior who plays travel softball and a six-foot tall eighth grader who plays travel basketball. I’ve traveled from the east coast to the west following a ball. I also enjoy seasonal and holiday decorating. My youngest is a fashionista and I’m teaching her how to sew (which I barely know how to do myself, but she doesn’t know that yet).

4. Can you tell me how you grew such an amazing Twitter following—and how I can grow one like yours?

Twitter is a beast that can take on a life of it’s own. It’s a trending machine, so what I’ve noticed is that each new milestone I hit my following grows larger. Plainly put, follow people. Search for topics related to your books, for example BINDING ARBITRATION is about cancer, so I put cancer into the search bar, when the results come up I hit the “all” button and then I read through tweets when I find someone interesting I follow them. It’s really that simple. Plus once you get to about 5,000 followers many more people start following you organically. If you’re on Twitter, take a moment to follow me http://www.twitter.com/@emarxbooks Asking nicely helps too!

5. Your cover art is stunning. Can you tell us the process of how it came together?

I started with this photo of a couple standing back to back by photographer Amber Aileen. This is a real couple in Texas. Then my cover artist made me some proofs. I told her I wanted a musical feel because the background of the story is laced with Sacred Harp music. We enhanced the purple in the photograph to give it a younger vibe. Then my cover artist Alexandra Fomicheva made the awesome back cover and beautiful promo pieces.

Bonus: If this book was a movie, who would star in it?

Check out my STAINED Pinterest board to see my dream cast and many of the locations featured in STAINED! http://pinterest.com/elizabethmarx/stained/

Buy STAINED:

Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00EN6LKIS

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/stained-elizabeth-marx/1116523855?ean=2940148608387

KOBO: http://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/stained-6

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STAINEDB&NCOVERAbout STAINED

What happens when your darkest truth is revealed to the world?

Scarlett Marbry was just sixteen when her mother, an acclaimed Sacred Harp singer, committed suicide in front of her, sending her running from rural Alabama and the darkness that pushed her mother over the edge. Now, after five years of building a fragile cage around her heart to protect herself, she must return to Crossroads for her grandparents’ funeral. There, she’ll not only be forced to deal with the reality of her deep Southern roots, but she’ll have to face the one she left behind.

Revell Marshall is used to working with fragile objects. He’s built a life and career around reassembling the delicate stained glass windows that have put Crossroads back on the map. He’s also been pining for Scarlett all these years . . . Determined to win her heart, he helps her piece together the facts of her mother’s past. Except these revelations, once exposed, could set Scarlett on the downward spiral she barely escaped the last time. Especially when the truth that stained the past may be the same one that shatters her faith in the one person she thought she could trust . . .

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Start Reading STAINED Now!

REVELL

When I took a step toward her she took a step back. I glanced around and found an old blanket folded in the corner. I moved and picked it up, shaking out the debris before I held it open for her. After Scarlett moved to step into its warmth, I stepped back. “Take off your wet gown or you’ll catch your death.”
Her gaze locked with mine and my racing heart sped up a few notches.

She arched a brow. “I might catch something much worse if I do that.”

“I promise to be a perfect example of genteel masculine behavior,” I said without breaking eye contact.

Scarlett chewed on the inside edge of her bottom lip. Shivering again, she turned away from me and pulled the gown up by the hem. As the flickers of lightning illuminated the sky, I caught flashes of the curve of her tan hips swathed with damp patterned cotton. The muscles in her back stretched and surrendered as she wiggled the soaked gown over her head, and the fall of her hair tumbled over her back and clung to her backside as she bent, trying to save the strawberries from hitting the littered floorboards. When she stood back up, she glanced over her shoulder. I took a deep breath and stepped up behind her, placing the quilt around her trembling frame.

As soon as her fingertips brushed the quilt I stepped away.

It was only to the far wall, which was about four feet away, but I needed the distance. Below us the bear head-butted the tree and growled in frustration, and I knew exactly how he felt.

Scarlett leaned over the wall and looked down at the animal. “We’re going to be stuck here for a while. Last time he didn’t give up until the next morning.”

I needed to keep my hands busy so I wouldn’t put them on her, so I took off my shirt and twisted it to wring it out. “On familiar terms with this bear?”

She spun away from the opening and rested her rear end on the ledge before pointing out the window. “That one yes, you on the other hand I’m not so sure about.”

I tossed my shirt over a low stool and walked toward her. “I’m a bear you can tame,” I said, hugging her to me. Her nose was in the center of my chest and she sucked in a deep breath. I tried not to react, but I wasn’t exactly immune to having an almost naked Scarlett in my arms when I’d spent a considerable amount of time contemplating the possibility. We slipped to the floor and I held her close until she stopped shivering. I rested my head on her head, and once she was warm she pulled her nightgown toward us, picked out a strawberry, and bit into it.

“I hope your midnight snack was worth it,” I murmured into her hair.

She held up the strawberry to me. I looked at it, and then at her mouth. I decided I wanted her lips more than any fruit ever conceived, even if it was forbidden. I brushed her lips tentatively at first, but then Scarlett brushed her tongue across my lips and she took control of the kiss. She tasted ripe and when her mouth opened for me I thoroughly explored it. It didn’t take long before we were both panting as aggressively as the bear was below us.

Scarlett pulled away. She smiled up at me tentatively and murmured, “Comfort me with strawberries, for I am sick of love.”

That was a line of the song that she’d been singing earlier, and I quickly thought of another of the lines. “And her fruit was sweet to my taste.”

“You know the song?” she asked.

I put my hand on her face and brushed my thumb over the crest of her cheek. “I know you, I know about everything you love.”

“Why?” she asked.

“Because I’ve always known you were the one for me.”

I thought she’d laugh or accuse me of using a line on her. Instead she became very still and she thought for long moments. “Be careful what you wish for.”

“I don’t have to wish for you all I have to do is prepare for you.”

“But why?”

“Because one day I hope to be one of the things lucky enough to have your love.”

Scarlett didn’t respond; she strummed her fingers over my deltoid in time with the rain-pattering overhead, as if she was giving me time to take it back or reconsider. Finally, she sucked in a deep breath and sighed. After a while she slipped into a deep sleep.

For some people love is like a lightning bolt, it strikes and if you’re lucky the love doesn’t fizzle out. My love for Scarlett was like a steady downpour that soaks you through to the bone, no matter how you try to dry your saturated skin you can never get yourself completely free. When you’re separated there is nothing that can push the longing for the rainstorm away and you curse the sunshine. Then you see her again, the skies open up and you’re sopping wet all over again. There’s no raincoat, umbrella, or goulashes strong enough to stop the storm of desire from filling up every crevice of your soul.

That night, while I held a sleeping Scarlett, I vowed that Scarlett’s love wouldn’t escape me as easily as Mazey Grace had somehow slipped between my daddy’s heartstrings. One day I would have Scarlett’s love. I might have to wait for her to grow up, hell she was a minor and I was a grown man, but one day Sister Scarlett Marbry would love me more than anything else in this world.

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162762_2662032389151_5076510_nLet’s connect! Find me on Twitter and Facebook, and email me: francine@francinelasala.com.

Wassup Wednesday: Author Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

Wassup Wednesday: Author Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

photoMy mother died of lung cancer on June 30, 2009. She hadn’t been well in a long time but the cancer still came as a shock, even though she’d been a smoker since her teens. Cancer is always a shock–no matter what age, health condition or situation.

Four months after her diagnosis, she was gone. In that short time, I thought I’d have a chance to say all of the things I wanted…to find some way to show her what she meant to me but what death taught me is there is simply never enough time.

A few days after she died, as I sat in Starbucks watching people go on with their lives while mine was forever changed, I realized the woman I admired and who drove me crazy was gone and none of these people knew. None of them felt the impact of her life in theirs and it ticked me off.

I decided she needed to be here, that people needed to know my mom, so I wrote the book. The character of Fran is my mother, loud-mouthed, opinionated, fiercely loyal, funny, annoying, charming, amazing and did I mention annoying? People that knew my mother loved her and people that meet Fran love her too. For me, this is my way of allowing my mom to live on, a way of honoring the woman that she was and the woman that I loved.

I didn’t want the book to be sad. Yes, it’s about death but it’s so much more. It’s about love, and life and family and the relationship between a mother and a daughter and how that transcends time. It’s about closure and letting go and moving on, knowing there is something more to look forward to.  But mostly, it’s about how much you can love someone even when they drive you to the point of wanting to pull your hair out, but in a funny way.

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Find Carolyn Online!

Website

Facebook

Twitter

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Praise for Unfinished Business! – #1 Amazon.com and BN.com bestseller!

“It’s about ghosts, the love of family, the never-ending love of mothers and daughters…add some humor and it’s the perfect combination of adult/chick- lit/paranormal (all in one book).”
The Book Trollop

“Aspenson hits the ground running with her debut novel and carries the reader along on a rollicking adventure highlighting both the joys and conflicts of mother-daughter relationships.”
Katrina Rasbold

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About Unfinished Business

Unfinished BusinessANGELA PANTHER HAS A PERFECT LIFE:  A lovely home in an upper-middle class Atlanta suburb, an attentive, successful husband, two reasonably behaved children, a devoted dog and a lot of coffee and cupcakes.

Angela spends her days taking care of her family and while her life might border on mundane, she’s got it under control. Until her mother, Fran dies-and returns as a ghost.  It seems Fran’s got some unfinished business and she’s determined to get it done, no matter what.

While Angela’s shocked and grateful to have her mother back, she’s not thrilled about the portal to the afterlife Fran opened upon her return. Now every ghost in town is knockin’ on Angela’s psychic door, looking for help.  And it’s a royal pain in the butt.

Death has given Fran some nifty celestial superpowers-powers she uses to keep her granddaughter out of danger and to levy a little ghostly retribution on the child’s frienemies, which doesn’t make Angela happy.

Now Angela’s got to find a way to balance her family life with her new gift and keep her mother in line. And it’s a lot for one woman to handle.

Carolyn Ridder Aspenson tackles, with comic cleverness, the serious subjects of mother-daughter relationships, death and raising teenagers in this smart, funny take on the love of family and the uncontrollable paths our lives take.

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Start Reading Unfinished Business Now!

The air in the room felt frigid and sent an icy chill deep into my bones. Searching for comfort, I lay on the rented hospice bed, closed my eyes, and snuggled under Ma’s floral print quilt. I breathed in her scent, a mixture of Dove soap, Calvin Klein Eternity perfume and stale cigarettes. The stench of death lingered in the air, trying hard to take over my senses, but I refused to let it in. Death may have taken my mother, but not her smell. Not yet.

“You little thief, I know what you did now.”

I opened my eyes and searched the room, but other than my Pit Bull, Grey Hound mix Gracie, and me, it was empty. Gracie sensed my ever-so-slight movement, looked up from her spot next to the bed, sniffed the air, and laid her head back down. I saw my breath, which wouldn’t have been a big deal except it was May, in Georgia. I closed my eyes again.

“I know you can hear me, Angela. Don’t you ignore me.”

I opened my eyes again. “Ma?”

Floating next to the bed, in the same blue nightgown she had on when she died, was my mother, or more likely, some grief-induced image of her.

“Ma,” I said, and then laughed out loud. “What am I saying? It’s not you. You’re dead.”

The grief-induced image spoke. “Of course I’m dead, Angela, but I told you if I could, I’d come back. And I can so, ta-da, here I am.”

The image floated up in the air, twirled around in a few circles and floated back down.

I closed my eyes and shook my head, trying to right my brain or maybe shake loose the crazy, but it was pointless because when I opened my eyes again, the talking image of my mother was still there.

“Oh good grief, stop it. It’s not your head messing with you, Angela. It’s me, your Ma. Now sit up and listen to me. This is important.”

As children we’re conditioned to respond to our parents when they speak to us. We forget it as teenagers, but somewhere between twenty and the birth of our first child, we start acknowledging them again, maybe even believing some of what they tell us. Apparently it was no different when you imagined their ghost speaking to you, too. Crazy maybe, but no different.

I rubbed my eyes. “This is a dream, so I might as well go with it,” I said.

I sat up, straightened my back, plastered a big ol’ smile on my face – because it was a dream and I could be happy the day my mom died, in a dream – and said, “Hi Ma, how are you?”

“You ate my damn Hershey bars,” she said.

“Hershey bars? I dream about my dead mother and she talks about Hersey bars. What is that?”

“Don’t you act like you don’t know what I’m talking about, Angela,” she said.

“But I don’t know what you’re talking about, Ma.” I shook my head again and thought for sure I was bonkers, talking to an imaginary Ma.

“Oh for the love of God, Angela, my Hershey bars. The ones I hid in the back of my closet.”

Oh. Those Hershey bars, from like, twenty years ago, at least. The ones I did eat.

“How do you know it was me that ate your Hershey bars? That was over twenty years ago.”

The apparition smirked. “I don’t know how I know, actually. I just do. I know about all of the stuff you did, and your brothers too. It’s all in here now,” she said with a smirk, and pointed to her slightly transparent head.

She floated up to the ceiling, spun in a circle, and slowly floated back down. “And look, I’m floating. Bet you wish you could do that, don’t you, Angela? You know, I’d sit but I tried that before and fell right through to the damn basement. And let me tell you, that was not fun. It was creepy, and it scared the crap outta me. And oh, Madone, the dust between your two floors! Good Lord, it was nasty. You need to clean that. No wonder Emily’s always got a snotty nose. She’s allergic.”

“Emily does not always have a snotty nose,” I said, even though she did.

The apparition started to say something, then looked at the bed. “Ah, Madone, that mattress. That was the most uncomfortable thing I ever slept on, but don’t get me started on that. That’s a conversation for another time.”

Another time?

“And,” she continued, “I hated that chair,” she said while pointing to the chair next to the bed. “You should have brought my chair up here instead. I was dying and you wanted me to sit in that chair? What with that uncomfortable bed and ugly chair, my back was killing me.” She smiled at her own joke, but I sat there stunned, and watched the apparition’s lips move, my own mouth gaping, as I tried to get my mind and my eyes to agree on what floated in front of me.

“Ah, Madone. Stop looking at me like that, Angela Frances Palanca. You act like you’ve never seen a ghost.”

“Ma, I haven’t ever seen a ghost, and my name is Angela Panther, not Palanca. You know that.” My mother always called me Angela Palanca, and it drove both my father and me batty. She said I was the closest thing to a true Italian she could create, and felt I deserved the honor of an Italian last name. She never liked Richter, my maiden name, because she said it was too damned German.

“And that recliner of yours was falling apart. I was afraid you’d hurt yourself in it. Besides, it was ugly, and I was sort of embarrassed to put it in the dining room.” I shook my head again. “And you’re not real, you’re in my head. I watched them take your body away, and I know for a fact you weren’t breathing, because I checked.”

Realizing that I was actually having a discussion with someone who could not possibly be real, I pinched myself to wake up from what was clearly some kind of whacked-out dream.

“Stop that, you know you bruise easily. You don’t want to look like a battered wife at my funeral, do you?”

Funeral? I had no intention of talking about my mother’s funeral with a figment of my imagination. I sat for a minute, speechless, which for me, was a huge challenge.

“They almost dropped you on the driveway, you know.” I giggled, and then realized what I was doing, and immediately felt guilty – for a second.

Ma scrunched her eyebrows and frowned. “I know. I saw that. You’d think they’d be more careful with my body, what with you standing there and all. There you were, my daughter, watching them take away my lifeless, battered body, and I almost went flying off that cart. I wanted to give them a what for, and believe me, I tried, but I felt strange, all dizzy and lightheaded. Sort of like that time I had those lemon drop drinks at your brother’s wedding. You know, the ones in those little glasses? Ah, that was a fun night. I haven’t danced like that in years. I could have done without the throwing up the next day, though, that’s for sure.”

Lifeless, battered body? What a dramatic apparition I’d imagined.

I sat up and rubbed my eyes and considered pinching myself again, but decided the figment was right, I didn’t want to be all bruised for the funeral.

There I sat, in the middle of the night, feeling wide awake, but clearly dreaming. I considered telling her to stay on topic, seeing as dreams don’t last very long, and maybe my subconscious needed my dream to process her death, but instead said, “This is just a dream,” because I was trying to convince myself this apparition wasn’t real.

She threw her hands up in the air. “Again with the dreaming. It’s not a dream, Angela. You’re awake, and I’m here, in the flesh.” She held her transparent hand up and looked at it. “Okay, so not exactly in the flesh, but you know what I mean.”

This wasn’t my mother, I knew this, because my mother died today, in my house, in this bed, in a dining room turned bedroom. I was there. I watched it happen. She had lung cancer, or, as she liked to call it, the big C. And today, as her body slowly shut down, and her mind floated in and out of consciousness, I talked to her. I told her everything I lacked the courage to say before, when she could talk back and acknowledge my fear of losing her. And I kept talking as I watched her chest rise and fall, slower and slower, until it finally stilled. I talked to her as she died, and because I still had so much more to say, I kept talking for hours after her body shut down. I told her how much I loved her, how much she impacted my life. I told her how much she drove me absolutely crazy, and yet I couldn’t imagine my life without her.

So this wasn’t Ma, couldn’t possibly be. “You’re dead.”

The figment of my imagination shook her head and frowned, then moved closer, and looked me straight in the eye. I could see through her to the candelabra on the wall. Wow, it looked dusty. When was it last dusted?

“Of course I’m dead, Angela. I’m a ghost.”

I shook my head, trying hard not to believe her, but I just didn’t feel like I was sleeping, so God help me, I did.

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162762_2662032389151_5076510_nLet’s connect! Find me on Twitter and Facebook, and email me: francine@francinelasala.com.

Five for Friday: Angelica French

Five for Friday: Angelica French

AuthorSAMDelighted to bring back my Five for Friday segment–especially considering that I’ve got erotica author ANGELICA FRENCH in the Shed with me today! Which reminds me…

THIS POST MAY CONTAIN ADULT CONTENT.
Not too racy, but maybe a touch in the excerpt.
Consider yourself warned…
(Or teased. You know, however that goes for you.)
🙂

Okay now, back to business! Angelica French is a very cool lady who I’ve gotten to know pretty well the past year or so in all the various author groups we’re involved in together. She’s not only a super-cool lady, though. She’s a fantastic writer. I know from experience that writing sex is the hardest thing ever (uh, sorry), but she does it beautifully. Click here to read my review of her new book!

Find Angelica French online!

Facebook

Amazon’s Author Page

Twitter @RomanceRighter

Blog

Buy Streetwalker at Amazon.com

Now let’s get to know Angelica!

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1. Can you share what inspired you to write Streetwalker? Were the story and characters inspired by real people? (And if so… how has that gone over?)

The story of Carrie and Harlan came to me whole cloth. Out of nowhere. Suddenly, I had this 22-year-old prostitute commandeering the keyboard. I was just Carrie’s fingers. This is one of two novels I’ve written where the main character took over the book and wrote the story. This sort of fugue experience is so cool–yet scary–that I look forward to having it happen again. The first draft of Streetwalker was completed in a bit more than a month. The edits, meh, not so quickly. When the hard work started, Carrie got scarce, and I had to do that on my own! Still, there was such a paranormal feel to the first-draft writing, that I wondered if there were a real Carrie behind it!

2. Can you give us some background about this excerpt you’re sharing?

Carrie has propositioned Harlan, so to speak. She is bargaining for an ownership share in his upscale brothel. He has just had sex with her to evaluate her “assets” as part of his consideration of her proposal. Carrie is trying to accommodate him and his interest in her, as she assesses him, but she is emotionally dead and very protective of her feelings due to her past. She is surprised Harlan has ferreted that out in such a short time. She realizes she needs to be even more wary than she had thought.

3. Do you have any special rituals when it comes to writing?

I’m typically up about 4 a.m. I make my first cup of coffee and “prime the pump“ by reading items at two news sites (which I milk for my Twitter feeds), and then I play Mahjong Dimensions and Sudoku on-line. I check in to FB and after that, I’m ready to write.

I also learned from another writing friend to “prime the pump” for jumping back into writing in the morning. Because I write on different manuscripts within and across days, it’s important to pick up the thread of the last thoughts I had. Before I close the manuscript for the day, I insert questions, character reactions to the situations just written, and plot twist options so that when I look at the manuscript again, I can get to the writing by getting back to the moments before I closed it up.

4. What are you reading when you’re not writing? Are there any writers that really inspire you? Intimidate you?

I read a wide range of books. Every diet needs nourishment and some junk food! Geraldine Brooks writes amazing historical fiction that is highly researched but she manages to keep the focus on engaging characters and events. I also like some of Connie Wills historical fiction. Her book on the plague, Doomsday Book, is one of my favorites. Daphne Du Maurier’s House on the Strand haunts me still.

I also have gotten into a lot of the Chick Lit since I joined the Chick Lit Goddesses on Facebook. What a great group of supportive writers who turn out fabulous books! I won’t try to name them because I would forget someone! However, let me say that your books, with their touch of magic realism, are memorable. I’ve recommended them again and again.

5. What’s next for you? More erotic fiction? A sequel to Streetwalker? Something totally different?

I am always writing several things at once! It fits my schizo personality! I am working on Sex for Sale, the sequel to Streetwalker, and I am also finishing up a book 180 degrees from erotic romance, a culinary mystery sequel. I’m about done with a play, “Hot Dishes”, about women (who think they are hot dishes) showing up on the doorstep of a new man in their community with hot dishes (Midwest term for casseroles). Hilarity ensues! And I’m sending out a paranormal romantic suspense to publishers soon; it’s in final edits.

Bonus Question: Tell me about the night out we’d have when I visit you in Phoenix!

When you come to Phoenix, bring your party clothes!

Please arrive in the morning, Francine, so you can get a soothing massage and rejuvenating mineral drinks at Scottsdale’s Hyatt Regency Resort’s spa early afternoon. After I pick you up at the Hyatt Regency Resort in Scottsdale, we’ll go to Biltmore Fashion Park area to shop for shoes and purses. You and your character, Amy, like Jimmy Choo, don’t you?

Early evening, we’ll head to the Talking Stick Resort. We’ll sip a little Cakebread Cellars Reserve chardonnay beside the infinity pool atop the building, and then go inside to highly-rated Orange Sky for dinner. We’ll start with Iced Oysters (an aphrodisiac, you know) and then likely indulge in Australian Lamb Chops, with ancho honey and a sunflower crust.

Following our leisurely dinner, we’ll hit both “Char’s Has the Blues” and “The Rhythm Room” for a jazz fix. Don’t expect to get to bed early! I’ll be sure to pour you onto the plane in time to leave the next day.

Sounds awesome! I’m going to pack tonight and sneak out while my family’s sleeping… 🙂

Thanks for visiting, Angelica!

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About Streetwalker

Streetwalker-v2_wBanner_Hi-ResCarrie is a smart woman with a dark past and more than her share of heartache. Determined to retire early from hands-on sex work, she uses her skills as an exhibitionist to bargain for partial ownership of a high-end, brownstone bordello in New York City with the erudite, handsome and powerful Harlan Ledbetter.

But even though she’s only 22, Carrie’s already been in her line of work far too long. Besides the fact that sex has been little more than Work for most of her adult life, Carrie also has to contend with painful memories of abuse at the hands of her stepbrother. Could sexuality ever truly belong to her? Could it ever become something she would want?

Harlan, meanwhile, certainly wants more than a business partnership with this stunning woman – and the feeling may be mutual, if Carrie can let herself want him as much as she fears she does. But she has a long way to go before she can give her heart and body to a man willingly. How will she get there? If there’s one thing Carrie has learned, it’s how to negotiate. She has a feeling this skill will come in handy with Harlan in more ways than one.

Carrie approaches Harlan with a unique business proposal – one that offers more than just a way to run their bordello, but a whole new outlook on life, sexuality and love. Intrigued, he takes her on…

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Start reading Streetwalker now!

Carrie and Harlan sat naked and cross-legged, knees touching, facing one another on the crumpled and stained black silk sheets. How did one man produce so much cum, Carrie wondered looking around at his leavings. Harlan straightened the sheet’s edges around them, smoothing them.

Franklin brought them a pint of deluxe ice cream (“with nuts, of course,” Harlan smirked) and two chilled spoons.

“Some like to smoke after good sex,” he laughed, “or even after bad sex, but I like some sweets after sweets,” he told Carrie in explanation. “I need something else in my mouth after drinking my fill of sweet spiciness like yours.”

Carrie, who liked a good post-coital smoke herself, stifled the urge to reach into her purse and ate her ice cream like an obedient little girl. Harlan would always be in charge, or, he would until she changed him. And change him she would, his thorough using of her to the exception. For a good many years now, Carrie persuaded men to do what she wanted, when she wanted. One part of her mind considered how to manipulate this man, a man with more confidence than others she’d encountered.

“Have you ever come?” Harlan asked her, his tone neutral, casual. Her head snapped up to look at him. “Oh, you were good in bed, almost fooled me, but I can tell. You didn’t come.”

Startled at his perception, she decided to use the opportunity to educate herself, so rather than equivocating, Carrie tilted her head, smiled, and asked, “Huh! How do you know? I’ve worked on that act for years!”

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Angelica French is not now, nor has ever been, a prostitute and to her knowledge, she doesn’t even know one. But, Carrie bedeviled her with the story until she sat down to write it. She felt like she was just the amanuensis for this tale.

However, Angelica has always been interested in universal feminine issues of self- worth and self-actualization. The “Sex Sells” series is one of redemption, recovery, and romance.

Angelica is happily married, with children, and lives in the desert southwest where she writes with a view of her citrus trees and the snoring of her yellow lab.

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162762_2662032389151_5076510_nLet’s connect! Find me on Twitter and Facebook, and email me: francine@francinelasala.com.

Wassup Wednesday: Author Shelly Hickman

Wassup Wednesday: Author Shelly Hickman

20130723_111806I think one thing all writers have in common is a natural curiosity about people, and my stories tend to be less about specific plotlines, and more about how people react to and think about things. I always find it interesting how people can look at the same situation so differently.

My husband and I are the perfect example of this. We could witness the same exact event, and when asked to explain what took place, each of us will have an entirely different spin on how things went down. In fact, when he tells his version of things, I sometimes feel my eyes popping out and my mouth hanging open, because my version would be entirely different. I’m sure he feels the same way about me.

That’s kind of where the idea behind Somewhere Between Black and White came about. Some people look at a situation, and they see only one possible motivation for someone’s actions. While others recognize there can be any number of circumstances that lead someone to make the choices they do. I wanted to write a story that takes a look at that idea in a funny and lighthearted way, without trying to be terribly preachy. We don’t always know as much as we think we do.

The older I get, in many ways I’m not as open-minded as I once was about the intentions of others. I know that’s mainly a defense mechanism after getting burned by life experiences, but it’s not really a fun way to live. That’s why I created Sam, who is my role model, and pretty much perfect guy. Is he too good to be true? Of course he is! What’s the point in writing if you can’t create a character you’d love to be with, or be like, for that matter?  😉

Thank you for having me as a guest today, Francine!

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Thanks for coming, Shelly! Here’s how to find Shelly online:

Website

Facebook

Twitter: @shellyhickman

Buy Somewhere Between Black and White now!

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Living in Las Vegas since she was two, Shelly Hickman has witnessed many changes in the city over the years. She graduated from UNLV with a Bachelor of Art in 1990, and in her early twenties worked as an illustrator for a contractor for the Nevada Test Site. In the mid-90s, she returned to school to earn her Masters degree in Elementary Education. She now teaches computer applications and multimedia at a middle school in Las Vegas. She loves to write about people, examining their flaws, their humor, spirituality, and personal growth. Shelly lives with her husband, two children, and their dog, Frankie.

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Somewhere Between Black and White

somewhere kindle jpgRomance, humor, family drama, with a touch of Buddhism. Sound interesting?

When approaching life’s problems, Sophie sees in black and white. That is, when they’re someone else’s problems. So when it comes to her sister, Sophie is sure she has all the answers, and offers them without hesitation. If only her sister would listen.Then, through a series of chance encounters, she meets Sam, who is witty, kind, and downright unflappable. Sophie has the overwhelming sense that she’s known him before, and as a relationship builds between them, odd visions invade her mind. Though she tries to dismiss them, their persistence will not allow it.

As someone who is quick to judge others, she is intrigued by Sam’s ability to accept people as they are. She begins to see him as a role model, but try as she may, his accepting nature is difficult to emulate. 

Will Sophie ever be able to put her hasty judgments aside and realize not every problem has a simple solution?

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Start reading Somewhere Between Black and White now!

Her thoughts drifted to Sam, lightening her disposition. On days like these, his easy, jovial manner managed to lift her out of a pissy mood. She decided she would drop in on his last class; most likely he would have some papers she could offer to help grade.

His voice had already reached her ears before she rounded the corner to his room, but it scarcely resembled him at all. It wasn’t loud—she couldn’t yet make out what was being said—but there was a steeliness to his tone that was unsettling.

“Why would you do that?” Sam demanded from a boy in the hallway. Sam’s back was turned towardSophie, and an inexplicable chill warned her that this involved more than a thrown chair. “Are you really that miserable, you have to be so hateful and offensive to make yourself feel better? Is that it?”

The boy shifted his weight from one foot to the other, clearly unprepared for the anger coming from the usually tolerant Mr. Collins. “It was just a joke.” He blinked, his expression blank.

“Not that you would care, but do you know that his mom has cancer, that she’s fighting to stay alive? And now he has to find this garbage online, from the likes of you?”

The boy shrugged and avoided Sam’s glare, the one that Sophie couldn’t see, but heard in his voice.

“Whatever, dude,” the kid said with an indifferent roll of the eyes.

Sam stood silently, a ball of tension, before his shoulders drooped as he leaned against the wall, shaking his head in bitter disappointment. The boy waited uncomfortably, hands in his pockets. “Why do I even bother?” Sam muttered. “You know what? I feel sorry for you. I really do. Take this and get out of my face!”

He thrust a dean’s referral at the student.

The boy accepted the piece of paper with a smirk, then coolly backed toward the hallway door. Never taking his eyes off Sam as he retreated, he crumpled the referral with one hand and casually let it drop to the floor, before arrogantly raising his eyebrows at Sophie. “S’up, Miss Cook?” he added, as if her presence was supposed to embarrass Sam. With that, he slammed through the metal doors.

Sam balled his hands into fists as he turned to discover Sophie standing a few feet away.

Sophie’s chest hammered with rage. She didn’t even know what this child did, but she had a vivid fantasy that involved tackling him to the ground and giving him an ass whooping he wouldn’t soon forget.

“Are you okay?” Sophie asked.

“I’m fine.” He answered before the words were out of her mouth. He was shaking, and she caught glimpse of a deep sadness in his eyes.

“Do you want me to make sure he goes to the dean?”

He shook his head. “I don’t give a shit what he does.” He crossed the hall and got a drink from the fountain. Folding his arms across his chest, he raised his face toward the ceiling and closed his eyes, remaining this way for several moments.

Sophie did not move.

“I gotta get back to my class, Soph. I’ll tell you about it tonight. Okay?”

“Sure.”

He reluctantly returned to his classroom door, and paused to collect himself before opening it. “All right, guys,” he said to his chattering students. “Let’s get back to work.”

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162762_2662032389151_5076510_nLet’s connect! Find me on Twitter and Facebook, and email me: francine@francinelasala.com.

COVER REVEAL! Blogger Girl, by Meredith Schorr!

COVER REVEAL! Blogger Girl, by Meredith Schorr!

Okay, I’m late to the party. I am FAR from the first to be revealing this fun and fab cover from my author bud, Meredith Schorr. But I may be the proudest… Okay, I guess that’s not fair. I’m sure Meri’s mom would take exception to that. But I am super proud all the same! I also read Blogger Girl–and had this to say:

“Meredith Schorr’s delightfully flawed heroines have never failed to charm me, and
Blogger Girl’s Kimberly Long joins Jane (A State of Jane) and Stephanie (Just Friends With Benefits)
in a special place in my heart. I really connected with her, especially, I hate to admit,
over the frustration of seeing her high school nemesis thrive while she floundered.
A great character. So very human and full of dimension. A satisfying and enjoyable read!”

Yeah, I dug it. So will you. So without further ado… How awesome is this??

BG_front_cover_med

So here’s what it’s about…
What happens when your high school nemesis becomes the shining star in a universe you pretty much saved? Book blogger Kimberly Long is about to find out.

A chick lit enthusiast since the first time she read Bridget Jones’s Diary, Kim, with her blog, “Pastel is the New Black,” has worked tirelessly by night to keep the genre alive, and help squash the claim that “chick lit is dead” once and for all. Not bad for a woman who by day ekes out a meager living as a pretty, and pretty-much-nameless, legal secretary in a Manhattan law firm.

While Kim’s day job holds no passion for her, the handsome (and shaving challenged) associate down the hall is another story. Yet another story is that Hannah Marshak, one of her most hated high school classmates, has now popped onto the chick lit scene with a hot new book that’s turning heads–and pages–across the land. It’s also popped into Kim’s inbox–for review. With their ten-year high school reunion drawing near, Kim’s coming close to combustion over the hype about Hannah’s book. And as everyone around her seems to be moving on and up, she begins to question whether being a “blogger girl” makes the grade in her off-line life.

And here’s what Meredith’s about…
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A born and bred New Yorker, Meredith Schorr discovered her passion for writing when she began to enjoy drafting work-related emails way more than she was probably supposed to, and was famous among her friends for writing witty birthday cards. After trying her hand writing children’s stories and blogging her personal experiences, Meredith found her calling writing “real” chick lit for real women.  When Meredith is not hard at work on her current work in progress, she spends her days as a trademark paralegal.  Meredith is a loyal New York Yankees fan and an avid runner. Blogger Girl is her third novel.

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***RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 28th! PLEASE COME BACK TO THE SHED, BECAUSE MEREDITH WILL BE DOING A GUEST POST THEN!!!***

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162762_2662032389151_5076510_nLet’s connect! Find me on Twitter and Facebook, and email me: francine@francinelasala.com.