Creaking Open That Old Shed Door…

Creaking Open That Old Shed Door…

Why – hello everyone. Are you still here? Are you all really STILL here? Wow! Thank you for sticking around. It’s so wonderful to be able to engage with you again!

If you’ve forgotten, it’s me, Francine LaSala. You may remember me / my words from such quirky novels as Rita Hayworth’s Shoes and The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything and as the publisher and co-editor of the anthology A Kind of Mad Courage. (You may also remember me as the author whose book somehow had the same cover as one by Margaret Atwood – my biggest post to date.)

Margaret Atwood's "ripoff" cover.
Margaret Atwood’s “ripoff” cover. (Click on image to read post.)

Actually, you may not remember me at all – or that you even subscribed to this blog – as it’s been so long since I published anything. Since I’ve written anything of my own. Somehow in the madness of the past two years, I have abandoned my poor “Shed” and somehow managed to lose track of my identity as a writer. Very Mina-esque for anyone who gets the reference.

Before…?

Well, no more or that. The past couple of weeks, I’ve been working to whack away the weeds that have grown over the “Shed” (otherwise known as my creativity). I’ve WD-40’d the hinges of the rickety old door and finally pushed it open. It’s a little musty in here, and there are some cobwebs and spiders hanging around, but give me a few weeks and I’ll have it all spic-and-span again.

I’ve already started to redecorate aesthetically – giving the blog a new look. (What do you think?) Now I’m working on “redecorating” content. I don’t think I’ll be able to commit to regular features, like Wassup Wednesday and Five for Friday anymore, but I will try and post regularly.

I still want to hear from you guys as well. While I haven’t been around all that much, I’ve really missed the sense of community having a regular blog gives a gal.

In the time that I’ve been away, I lost my mother. I became estranged from my father, and made my peace with him.

I became a dog person.

The three "musketeers" (or "stooges" - depending on the day/hour).)
The three “musketeers” (or “stooges” – depending on the day/hour).)

I took a couple of winter trips to a California beach house with writer pals Eileen Goudge, Samantha Stroh Bailey, Julie Valerie, Jen Tucker, Meredith Schorr, and Josie Brown and enriched my soul.

I went to France with my ten-year-old daughter and left here there with her grandparents – to fly home on her own. The most terrifying experience of my life, but she was awesome!

Yep, I’ve done a lot of growing these past months. How about you? Please leave me a comment about the biggest thing that’s happened to you in the past two years. (And if you’re not subscribed, do it now – it’s so easy!)

I look forward to welcoming you all back into the Shed again – maybe when it looks like more this…?

The Goal!
The Goal!

Till next time,

Francine

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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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Five For Friday: Eileen Goudge

Five For Friday: Eileen Goudge

What a great honor it is for me to be hosting today’s guest! Not only is New York Times bestselling author Eileen Goudge an amazing writer, who’s been inspiring me for years with her intricately crafted, deeply moving stories, filled with heart and just the right amount of humor, she’s also a very cool lady! Her success is undeniable, but she’s totally down-to-earth. She takes being edited gracefully (as I well know), and she’s also quite encouraging to emerging talent. She’s also married to WABC movie critic and entertainment reporter Sandy Kenyon. Talk about a cute couple!

Eileen in St 2

I have known Eileen since my first daughter was a baby (she’s now almost eight), when her publisher assigned me to edit Woman in Red. Now Eileen is taking an exciting leap into digital publishing, which means we can expect much more coming from her now–and not just strictly women’s fiction. (You’ll get a taste of her new mystery at the end of this interview!)

Here’s how to connect with Eileen:

Facebook

Twitter

Blog

And now, let’s meet Eileen!

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1. I have had the pleasure of editing several of your books, including Woman in Red, Domestic Affairs, and Once in a Blue Moon, as well as the novella The Diary. I wasn’t able to edit The Replacement Wife, but read it several I times. Your stories are always so richly developed, and your characters just pop off the page and into readers’ hearts, like they’re people we know. So I have to ask: Do your stories sometimes spring from real-life people and events? Or are they all pure imagination?

Thanks for your kind words, Francine! My ex-husband and a few disgruntled family members might see themselves in my novels, but I don’t actually cut characters from whole cloth. More like snippets. A personality trait or interesting quirk here and there. I’d say each of my characters is built of two parts imagination and one part inspiration. I was just tweeting about the character of Eric Sanderson in Thorns of Truth, who is loosely based on my husband Sandy. Except Sandy didn’t accidentally kill a co-worker while driving drunk!

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2. I know a lot of my readers are very interested in your writing process. Does a book come to you–or do you have an idea and pull a book from it? Do you have any special rituals? Does wearing a particular article of clothing help you write–and can you share with us here?

I get random ideas all the time, from life experience or a true story someone’s told me or newspaper articles I’ve read. If it’s meant to become a novel, it grows in my mind like a potted plant on a sunny windowsill. By the time I sit down to write it, I have a rough idea of the plot already mapped out in my mind.

As for rituals, I get up early in the morning to write so I always light a candle on my desk to set the mood. I call it my “Emily Dickinson moment.” That and a cup of tea sets me up just right. By nine o’clock I have to be showered and dressed, though. I have a rule: no p.j.’s or slippers after breakfast.

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3.  What advice can you give aspiring and new novelists about building their writing careers?


I’m asked this question all the time by aspiring writers. The answer is simple: write, write, write. Practice doesn’t always make perfect, but without it you’re nowhere. I used to carry a notebook around with me everywhere in the days before laptops and handheld electronic devices. Even if you think what you’re writing is crap, keep going until you get it all down, then you can revise.

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4. You come from a traditional publishing background, but made the choice a couple of years ago to switch gears and dive into digital publishing. We hear about the benefits all the time from here in the trenches (publish what you want, when you want, etc.). How are you finding this “Brave New World” of ebooks, print-on-demand and social media marketing, as compared to the old ways?

It’s exciting! The medium lends itself to far more flexibility when it comes to marketing and promotion. There’s no time limit to how long a book can “sit” on the virtual shelf. In the old days, the time span between when a book landed in stores and when it made its way into the returns pile or to the shredder always seemed frighteningly short. With digital you have a chance to build an audience. I love that. And I love “schmoozing” with readers on Twitter and Facebook.

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5. In addition to being a top-notch writer, you’re also something of a gourmet chef and baker (you’re not just guessing about all those delicious foods and recipes that come up in your novels!). How does the act of cooking and / or baking influence your writing?

I love to bake. In my novel One Last Dance one of the characters, Kitty Seagrave, is the proprietress of a tearoom, which was right in my wheelhouse. I even did a cookbook, titled Something Warm from the Oven. Nothing is more relaxing to me after a hard day at the computer. Whether it’s kneading dough or mixing cake batter. And there’s always something yummy to show for it. I often tell my husband it’s a good thing he has a sweet tooth or I couldn’t have married him!

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BONUS QUESTION: Hey, speaking of food… Your fans are starving for a new book! Can you tell us about new projects you have on the horizon?

I’m working on a mystery set in a fictional Northern California seaside town like the one I used to live in (and where I’m currently visiting). I’m having so much fun with it! The main character, Aggie Ballard, is named after Agatha Christie. That says it all. Needless to say she has the sleuthing gene in her DNA.

Thanks for sharing with us, Eileen! Based on this excerpt and my passion for Eileen’s books in general, I can’t wait to read her latest. How about you? Leave us a comment and let us know!

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And pssst: Please click on any of the book shots or links above to buy Eileen’s books. And now, as a special treat… An excerpt from her WIP. How thrilling is that!? (P.S. Here’s a fun blog post Eileen recently wrote about her characters getting away from her. Click here to enjoy!)

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From BONES AND ROSES:
“What makes you think she was murdered?”

He gives a short, harsh laugh. “Don’t you read the papers?”

“According to the medical examiner, she died of injuries sustained from a fall.”

I see a flicker of some emotion in his shuttered gaze, but his voice is hard.  “Look, I’m sorry for your loss.  I’m sorry for a lot of things.  Maybe you don’t want to hear this, but I loved her too.”

“Really?  Is that why you killed her?  Because you couldn’t have her and you wanted to be sure no one else could?”

His hooded eyes flash at me with the sudden intensity of a lightning bolt whipcracking  from a low cloud cover.  “You got it all wrong,” he growls.  “I loved her, all right.  Just not enough to stick around.  I thought it was what I wanted when she left her old man, then I got cold feet.”

“Are you saying you walked on her?”

He shrugs.  “Guess I wasn’t cut out to be a husband and a dad.”

“No shit.  The love of your life winds up in a footlocker with a broken neck.  That pretty much says it all.”

“Okay, so I’m a grade-A prick.  But I’m no killer.  I never laid a hand on her.”

“Maybe you didn’t mean to,” I continue, ignoring his denial.  “Maybe it wasn’t you that had the change of heart and not her, and when she told you she was going back to her husband, you couldn’t deal with it.  You got mad and pushed her.  Is that how it happened?  Like with that guy you assaulted in Miami?  Oh yeah, I know all about that, too.”  The scenario crystallizes in mind as I voice it.  The anger I felt toward my mom all those years is now directed at Stan.

He shoots me another murderous look.  “It might interest you to know, Miz Ballard, the cops were out here the other day.  I told them everything I know.  And as you can see from the fact that I’m standing here talking to you, they didn’t think they had enough evidence to charge me.”

“Maybe this will convince them.”  I whip out the other item tucked in the pocket of my red O’Neal hoodie along with my Tornado 5 in 1 protective device: a tattered postcard showing a guy wrestling an alligator, from one of those cheesy tourist attractions in Florida.  I read aloud the handwritten message on the back.  “‘Sorry for everything.’  Does that ring a bell, Stan?  Or are you having a senior moment?  Never mind. I’m sure the cops can verify it’s your handwriting.” I return it to my pocket before he can snatch it from me. Though I’ve already made photocopies, for security purposes.  “I don’t know, Stan, it sure sounds to me like a confession.”

It happens so quickly, I’m caught unaware.   A flash of movement, and he’s got me by my collar.  Or rather the hood of my hoodie, which he’s using to drag and pin me to the building’s rough wood siding.  He’s putting all his weight into it, and I feel the pop of a vertebrae repositioning in my neck.  I open my mouth to cry for help but only a small, choked sound emerges.  Not that it’d do any good.  I’m here all alone except for Dirty Harry.  His breath is hot against my face, the spark of emotion I glimpsed earlier in his eyes now a full-blown blaze.  “You don’t know shit!” he snarls.  “Now do what I say and back off.  Before someone else gets hurt.”

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