Chick Lit ‘n’ Charity

Chick Lit ‘n’ Charity

rockingAs many of you may already know, I, along with five author pals, got together this Holiday Season and released a charming, heartwarming Christmas-themed short story collection for a very cool charity called Rocking the Road for a Cure. I had the opportunity to interview Dawn Frey, founder of Rocking the Road for a Cure, and I’m excited to be able to share some very cool info I learned about the charity with you. Please read the interview and see how you can get involved with what this very cool charity is doing. And please… Buy the book! Just 99 cents for the ebook and less than $10 for the paperback!

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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(Learn more about RTRFAC by clicking here.)

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Can you give us some background about Rocking the Road for a Cure? What inspired you to start it?

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was working as a therapeutic consultant with MS (multiple-sclerosis) clients, and wanted to start a non-profit organization to help MS patients get free in-home services.  Then I was diagnosed with breast cancer, and during my treatment, I went to a wellness retreat in Rhinebeck, NY sponsored by the Libby Ross Foundation. There I did rehabilitative yoga and got health and nutritional counseling in a group setting with other breast cancer patients going through treatment, and with survivors.  I enjoyed the retreat, but at the time, because of my treatment, my immune system was compromised, so I asked if I could get these services at home.  They told me they only had offices in Manhattan, and I was not comfortable with making the trip into the city and the exposure to so many other people.  I felt that even if the yoga at their center helped for an hour, the stress of the travel and finding parking, and the potential exposure to all those people when my immunity was low could set me back much more.

I researched getting these services at home, but nobody was providing them.  I decided that once I got better, I would start an organization to provide wellness services at home for others.  People going through cancer treatment should be able to have the benefits of these kinds of things without the stress of having to get to an appointment, the stress on their immune systems, or having to deal with not being comfortable in public if they’ve lost their hair, or other issues like that.

How many women have you worked with since you started?

Rocking The Road For A Cure has now helped 50 patients.  49 women and 1 man.

How is this organization different than other breast cancer focused organizations?

We provide some of the same services as other organizations, but patients don’t have to go someplace to get them.  They don’t have to make an errand out of getting them.  Our service providers are certified and licensed professionals, not volunteers.  One unique thing about RTRFAC is our nurse case manager service.  We have a licensed, certified nurse case manager contact each patient and make a home visit within a week of first contact to assess each patient’s individual needs and their home environment.  The nurse case manager can then recommend services that might help the patient, but that the patient might not have requested themselves, like nutritional counseling.

Another thing that’s different about us is that we don’t look at patients’ financial information.  We provide services to anyone, regardless of financial status, and treat all patients the same that way.

What types of things do you do for women with breast cancer?

Our website and brochure have a full list of our services, and there are a lot of things we do.  In the wellness services category, we provide in-home yoga, reiki, massage, meditation.  Lymphedema is something that happens to many breast cancer patients when their lymph nodes are affected or removed, so we have a licensed massage therapist who specializes in lymphedema and breast cancer and makes home visits.

Under support services, we have the nurse case managers, a recreational therapist, childcare specialists and counselors, transportation to and from medical appointments.  For household help, we have a nutritionist who helps shop for and prepare healthy foods, and teaches patients how to do this.  We also provide housecleaning and laundry help, and professional organizing, and we have beauty consultants who will take our clients wig shopping and we pay for their wig.

For any services we don’t currently provide, we have a wide range of resources we can use for referral.  We’re also open to and willing to do whatever a patient needs help with.  For example, we recently got a client who’s elderly and whose daughter is wheelchair bound and can’t accompany her to her cancer treatments.  We got her a companion who not only takes her to and from, but stays with her during her appointments.  Chemo can take several hours, so this way the client isn’t alone during that time, and there’s someone to report back to family members as well.

Are there any specific requirements for women to use your services?

Our clients must be going through the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, and they have to have an official cancer diagnosis from a doctor.  For any services that require physical contact, like yoga or massage, we require a physician’s release form and medical release from their doctor on the doctor’s letterhead.

What are some goals for Rocking the Road for a Cure in the coming years?

We really want to expand our services to more people in a larger geographic area. We also want to be able to provide more services and service hours per client…to increase the allotted funding per client.  Our services are free to clients, but our licensed, professional service providers are paid competitively.  So we need to increase our funding to be able to give more to clients.  Most of our funding so far has come from fundraising events and individual donations.  More recently, we’ve started applying for grants to help us grow at the rate we’d like.

How do you find women to help? Do you have relationships with cancer centers? Doctors? Word of mouth?

Actually, all of the above.  We have partnerships with Adelphi University’s New York State Breast Cancer Hotline and Support Program, and with other women’s health service organizations in our area.  We do cross-referencing and referrals with other local breast cancer organizations.  We get referrals from local oncologists, plastic surgeons and physical therapists that specialize in treating breast cancer patients.  We’ve done community outreach, speaking at local civic organizations.  And we get word of mouth referrals too.

How can people get involved?

We welcome involvement!  Anyone interested can make a donation through our website, www.rockingtheroadforacure.org, and they can contact us through there as well if they’re interested in volunteering.  We have long- and short-term volunteer opportunities, like if someone is interested in helping us with a specific fundraising event.  We’d welcome some help with marketing and website maintenance.  And we always welcome promotion of our organization on your websites and Facebook pages.

We’re very lucky and grateful to have become involved with the creators of Merry Chick Lit, so THANK YOU to all the authors who donated their time and talent to helping us!

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Learn more about RTRFAC by clicking here.

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Buy MERRY CHICK LIT

merry chicklit coverIn the spirit of giving, six chick-lit authors “present” a charming collection of seasonal shorts sure to inspire holiday cheer-plus love and hope throughout the year, with all proceeds donated to Rocking the Road for a Cure! Featured authors & stories include:

Carolyn Ridder Aspenson
In “Santa’s Gift,” journalist Jessica thinks Santa’s just a silly myth for children, so when he asks what she most wants for Christmas she tells him the one thing she knows he can’t deliver–true love. Or can he…?

Sarah Hitchcock
In “The Christmas Lights,” one competition pits two families against each other…who will win this war?

Francine LaSala
Pretty Izzy knows exactly what she wants for Christmas: hunky sales manager Jake Harrington wrapped up with a shiny silver bow–and nothing else. Except Santa may have other plans in “Carol of the Belles.”

Nikki Mahood
In “Spinster Christmas,” Cara’s looking forward to spending Christmas alone until she learns her old–and she believes very gay–crush needs a place to stay. Though it soon becomes clear that while still hot, Ronan isn’t gay after all…

Holly Martin
Ella’s dreams of making a better life for her and her daughter seem further away than ever in “Iced Dreams.” But as Christmas approaches, and she wishes for a fairy godmother to wave a magic wand to fix her life, things begin to change in ways she never imagined!

K.C. Wilder
In “The Mermaid,” Allie’s content to spend Christmas by herself at a vacant beach house to make good on a promise made to her true love lost, Jeff. Until Jeff’s gorgeous college roommate Tim crashes in on her with his own promise to keep…

So snuggle up near the fire with a glass of wine or a cup of cocoa and enjoy these festive holiday shorts, knowing your purchase of this book is helping women with breast cancer.

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

Chick Lit Library Giveaway – Get 25+ Signed Books!

Chick Lit Library Giveaway – Get 25+ Signed Books!

posterHow would you like to own nearly 30 signed books from some of your favorite authors and some new discoveries?! Enter NOW – between now and Christmas Eve – to WIN THEM ALL!

Features:

BINDING ARBITRATION by Elizabeth Marx

FINDING LUCAS by Samantha Stroh Bailey

IN NEED OF THERAPY by Tracie Banister

UNFINISHED BUSINESS by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED by Cindy Rossel

THE DAY I LOST MY SHAKER OF SALT by Jen Tucker

RESCUE ME, MAYBE by Jackie Bouchard

IS THIS ALL THERE IS by Patricia Mann

ROYAL SECRETS by Kathleen Irene Paterka

Plus my RITA HAYWORTH’S SHOES, THE GIRL, THE GOLD TOOTH & EVERYTHING, and MERRY CHICK LIT a collection of stories published for charity, in which my short story, “Carol of the Belles” appears – with five other festive shorts.

PLUS many more! Enter now!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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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.