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.

My Writing Process Blog Tour

My Writing Process Blog Tour

I’m excited and honored to have been asked by my good friend and editing partner, Samantha Stroh Bailey, to participate in this blog tour. I have been spending so much time AWAY from my writing in recent months, I’m delighted to get back in the swing of things and focus on my stack of WIPs (works-in-progress) again by answering four questions about my writing process.

Thanks, Sam!

1. What am I working on?

So many projects, so little time… I have a few new novels in the hopper. One is a multi-generational fractured romance about people who do insane (not always funny) things in the name of love. One is a quasi-paranormal about maenads (Dionysian party nymphs living in the present). Another is about a group of forty-ish former colleges roommates down on their luck who decide they’ll rent a giant house and all live together again (with spouses, kids, pets, and plenty of baggage!). Then there’s an erotic novel; then a fractured fairytale trilogy I’m doing with my husband…. I think I may need Ritalin!

The WIP that’s in the forefront right now though is a collection of short stories I’m putting together for Mother’s Day – and for charity. A KIND OF MAD COURAGE features many stories in different genres and should be released by May. Lots of great authors have already submitted, including Samantha, plus Carey Heywood, Wendy Janes, Louise Wise, and Laura Chapman, and I’m looking forward to seeing more, from Elke Feuer, Karen E. Martin, Jen Tucker, Julie Valerie (see below!), and more! My mother passed away last fall from an auto-immune disease, and all proceeds for the book will go to the Guthy-Jackson Foundation, which does a lot of AI research, as a tribute to my mom. More about that as we get closer to the release!

2. How does my work differ from others in its genre?

I don’t have a neat, cut-and-dry genre I write in. I wish I did–marketing would be much easier! I have been told my books are “original” and “fresh” when people like them. And “stupid” and “implausible” when they don’t. I try and take the standard three-act structure as a base, but my stories seem to spin the way they want to. They’re like unruly children who are kind of sassy and cute and with whom you put up anyway because they’re kind of cute… Right?

3. Why do I write what I write?

Characters speak to each other in my head and I listen to what they say. Sometimes they’re silly (like Rita Hayworth’s Shoes) and sometimes they’re wacky and dark (like The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything). They spout their insane ramblings at me and I try and “box” them into a story. Not really that far off from what I do as a ghostwriter, actually… (Ha! I’m kidding! [No, no I’m not.])

4. How does my writing process work?

I write when I can. I try to escape to Panera, but sometimes I’m writing “in the fray.” I’ve gotten very good at blocking distractions. With a family, a job, freelance clients, etc. to juggle, you kind of have to do it that way. I spend about 80 percent of my writing time thinking about writing and 20 percent typing. I’m a really fast typist!

JulieValeriePressPhoto

To continue the writing process blog tour, I will now hand the “mic” over to the amazingly funny Julie Valerie, who will answer these questions on her blog next week.

Thanks again, Sam!!

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

Who Wore it Better?

Who Wore it Better?

Or, My Literary Idol Used the Same Cover Art…

A Re-Share for Julie Valerie’s Hump Day Blog Hop!

A funny thing happened to me while I was searching for “Margaret Atwood” on Kobo:

Image.ashxAnyone who has known me for the past thirty or so years knows I’m obsessed with Margaret Atwood. That Surfacing still surfaces in me sometimes to unhinge me. That The Handmaid’s Tale blew my mind, and is always a handy reference for when people don’t treat women so nicely. That Cat’s Eye still creeps into my consciousness years after I’ve read it.

I’m a FAN.

And anyone who knows me, or knows of me, essentially anyone I’ve begged, cajoled, harassed, annoyed to buy my first novel over the past three years (when I initially self-published it and then again when it got picked up by Diversion Books), probably sees this when they close their eyes and someone says my name:

Rita Hayworth's ShoesWell, I suppose it was bound to happen someday, huh? With stock art being so accessible to everyone. I’m actually shocked it hasn’t happened yet!

But Margaret Atwood!

Such big shoes to fill… An author in whose footsteps I’ve always wanted to follow…

Okay, you get it. So what now?

What’s an indie author of quirky women’s fiction to do when the indelible imagery of her first wacky book will now no longer be fully hers? Now that a superstar, a goddess of letters, will also be using it? What’s a girl to do?

Here’s what her story’s about (Byliner; May 2013):

Image.ashxThe internationally bestselling diva of dystopias is back with a new installment of “Positron,” her darkly comic Byliner Serial about life in a Big Brother America of the near future.

In the seemingly well-adjusted world of Consilience, it’s dawning on the residents that they’ve thrown away the keys to more than their ragged former lives outside the high walls of their gated community. When they volunteered for this new social experiment, they also gave away the keys to their destinies, even their hearts.

Ask Charmaine and she’ll tell you her husband is a dead man. Sure, marriage can be murder, but when Charmaine plunged a deadly hypodermic needle into Stan, because it was part of her job–dispatching undesirables in Positron Prison–Stan survived. His former jailer, a libidinous security chief named Jocelyn, had switched out the death drugs for knockout drugs and drafted him into a plot to undo the increasingly sinister social scheme. In so doing, she promoted him from her sexual plaything to full-blown subversive. The underground is housed in a manufacturing plant of one of Consilience’s most successful products: sexbots, made to order.

Love, however, is not made to order, and despite a Darwinian labyrinth of betrayal after betrayal, including wild extramarital encounters and, yes, murder, Stan can’t stop thinking about Charmaine. Not only because someone has requested a sexbot replica of her but because, well, she’s home in a world without homes. In “The Heart Goes Last,” one of Atwood’s darkest and most deviously entertaining inventions yet, the human heart proves more resilient and true than any mail-order machine.

And here’s what mine’s about (Diversion Books; May 2012):

Rita Hayworth's ShoesAmy Miller gets dumped on her wedding day and everyone knows it’s for the best her relationship with David had eaten away at her for years. Except for Amy… When her best friend, Jane Austen-Rabinowitz, and Jane’s sagacious six-year-old daughter, Zoe, convince Amy to treat herself to an extravagantly priced, super-cute pair of shoes, which purportedly once belonged to a siren of the silver screen, she balks at first, but their allure soon wears her down. Once they are hers, her life turns around. She gets refocused on her career and meets a true kindred spirit, the also-jilted English professor, Decklin Thomas. She’s not attracted to Deck at first. But when circumstances lead to them spending more time together, they bond, and Amy starts to believe she may have found her soul mate. But when Deck’s former wife goes missing, again, the perfect romance may not be what it seems…

Sparkly and witty as a 1940s screwball comedy, and filled with quirky characters and lots of delightful surprises, Rita Hayworth’s Shoes is a story of bouncing back, a heartwarming and potentially heartbreaking romance, and even a mystery rolled into one fun, hilarious page-turner.

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So I gotta ask… Just like the magazines do…

Who wore it better?

Please leave me a comment and let me know what you think. I promise, I won’t be too devastated if you like hers better. I mean, come on… She’s freaking Margaret Atwood!  My favorite Canadian writer just after Samantha Stroh Bailey. 🙂 (Whose cover looks nothing like ours. But who gets to be in this article because in all honesty, she’s the one who found the Atwood cover.)

FLNov22Bigpaperback But Ms. Atwood, if you’re reading, I’m sure Sam wouldn’t mind sharing jacket art with you, too. I, for one, am honored to finally  have something of mine that compares to yours!

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Like to party? Hop along the Hump Day Blog Hop on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog. Click here to return to the Hump Day Blog Hop.

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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: Melissa Amster, Chick Lit Central

Five For Friday: Melissa Amster, Chick Lit Central

Chick Lit Central founder Melissa Amster was kind enough to review my Rita Hayworth’s Shoes when I first self-published it back in 2011. Now on my girl’s first Diversion Books-published book birthday, I’m delighted to celebrate by welcoming Melissa to the “Shed!”

amster familly

I have always marveled at how Melissa could run more than one successful blog, work, and raise three kids. (My head spins with just my two!), and I was so excited and honored when she accepted my offer to be interviewed. Let’s learn more about her now!

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1. Please tell us about Chick Lit Central. What inspired you to start this blog, which has blossomed in such a short time into one of the top “go-to” sources for what to read? How did you go about getting it off the ground, and who are some of the other ravenous readers that help you run it?

It’s a place for authors and readers to come together and talk about chick lit. I started it because I was e-mailing with a few friends about chick lit novels we enjoyed and wanted to see who else in the world liked chick lit, as well. I figured there had to be a lot of fans. As a result, I’ve made some amazing friends! (Some are even authors.) I’ve also met a bunch of authors in person and it’s amazing to be known by name. One recently met up with me and my family for dinner when we were in her neck of the woods.

As far as getting it off the ground, it involved a lot of hard work, time, and patience. Thanks to the help of Crystal Patriarche from BookSparks, I was able to get it moving in the right direction instead of my PR naivety turning it into a train wreck.

We have a great team at CLC. Special mentions go to Melissa Patafio who teamed up with me to get this off the ground and helped with a lot of early work. She’s been absent for a while but is going to be more involved soon. Amy Bromberg joined the team in 2011, and her boundless enthusiasm for chick lit has been such an asset to us. She also knows a lot about PR that I never thought about. Tracey Meyers has been amazing with helping on blog stuff (putting together posts and updating pages) and keeping everything up to date with our Facebook group. She’s also found new authors that I never would have known to contact before. I love our review associates and guest reviewers, as well!

2. I know that in addition to your work on Chick Lit Central, you hold down a “day job” and write a separate blog, all while raising three small kids. How do find the time to “do it all”?

Funny thing is, I feel like I don’t have my act together. The whole “I don’t know how she does it” concept is lost on me. I end up slacking on some things I really should be doing, like organizing in my house or cooking more than I actually do. The good thing is that my kids go to sleep at a reasonable time, so my evenings are free. I also have lots of help on the CLC blog.

 3. Can you tell us more about your Merryland Girl blog? What it’s all about, why you started it, and how you see it evolving?

I created it in December 2009 because I was looking for an outlet for my thoughts that had nothing to do with parenting. It was a way to have something that was all about me. I blogged in it more regularly in the past, but I still post my thoughts at least once a week (via a blog project I do with some friends) and I also do a special project called “52 Stories,” where I share the thoughts of other people I want to get to know better. I decided to create a “like” page for it on Facebook to build more readership. It’s definitely a modest amount compared to CLC, but it’s an outlet nonetheless.

4. Have you done any fiction writing of your own? If you have, can you share what you’ve written about? If you haven’t, do you plan to? And what would you write about?

I participated in this fiction blogging activity back in 2010 and carried on a story through it most of the time. It was about this guy with a terrible secret and a girl he liked but tried to scare away, for fear of her finding out his secret.

Here is the last part of the story: http://merrylandgirl.blogspot.com/2010/11/painful-reminder.html (The other related posts are linked in here and you can backtrack to the beginning.)

I’d love to write a novel, but I always have ideas going through my head and am never sure what to do with them to carry them through.

5. What are you doing when you’re not reading–or writing about reading? Or meeting authors, reading about their writing?

I am spending time with my family, cooking (usually baking), watching my favorite TV shows or movies, hanging out with friends, observing the Jewish Sabbath, etc.

BONUS QUESTION: Which book, read recently or not, would you most like to see as a movie, and who would star in it?

Seeing that I just finished Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella and loved it, I could totally see it as a movie. (Click here to check out Melissa’s review of Wedding Night!)

Dream cast:
Lottie: Alison Brie (Think of her character in The Five Year Engagement here)
Fliss: Melanie Lynskey (I think she’s meant to play diverse roles and could pull this one off without a hitch)
Richard: Dan Stevens (I don’t watch Downton Abbey–gasp!–but I see his pics in magazines and totally picture him in this role.)
Ben: Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (I hadn’t given much thought to who would play this role, but then I saw a pic someone posted on FB of him and thought: “Why not?!?”)
Lorcan: Jack Davenport (I watch Smash and was picturing him in this role as I was catching up on some episodes this week. He has that rough, brooding quality.)
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Thanks so much for stopping by, Melissa!
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Melissa with Jane Porter
Melissa with Jane Porter
MELISSA AMSTER lives in Maryland (DC Metro area) with her husband, two sons, and daughter. When she’s not reading and interviewing authors, she works for a Jewish non-profit. In her spare time (what’s that?!?), she likes to watch her favorite shows on TV, bake challah and desserts, and host meals and other gatherings. She’s also a parent blogger for Empowering Parents. Check out her personal blog and follow her on Twitter.

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Let’s connect! Find me on Twitter and Facebook, and email me: francine@francinelasala.com
How to Celebrate Easter + Passover?

How to Celebrate Easter + Passover?

An excerpt from Rita Hayworth’s Shoes shows how it’s done. Happy Passover, Happy Easter, and Happy Spring everyone!

How Amy and Her Extended Family Celebrated the Holidays

She didn’t know what she had expected to find when the front door of the apartment swung open, but it certainly wasn’t what had greeted her: Zoë outfitted in a quasi-Playboy Bunny getup, wearing a set of oversized bunny ears and an expression that could only be described as humiliated. “No. Not Elijah,” Zoë called back into the room and then added just for Amy: “Only Vashti.”

“Oh, very funny,” Amy smirked, as she leaned over to give Zoë a giant hug and kiss.

“I have to find the humor in all this somehow, Auntie Amy. Do you see what they have me in this year?” she asked.

“What’s wrong? I think you look cute.”

“If I was sixteen and decided to wear this myself, my mother would ground me until I left for college. I mean, look at this,” she said as she turned around to give Amy a look at her perky cotton tail. “Seriously,” she said. Then she looked Amy up and down. “What are you wearing?” she asked.

“Why? What’s wrong?” Amy asked, immediately self-conscious. “It’s just a turtleneck and a jumper.”

“A jumper,” Zoë repeated, in a flat tone.

“A jumper,” Amy replied, wondering what the big deal was. “Auntie Amy,” she shook her little blonde head. “A jumper is a person who’s given up on life. Someone who sits on a ledge or a bridge somewhere ready to say ‘good-bye cruel world’ and take a leap. It isn’t something you wear.” She looked away, ashamed. “It’s dreadful.”

“Zoë!” gasped Jane, who had just come over to welcome the new arrival. “Nice little girls…”

“I know, I know. Nice little girls let their friends walk around looking like bag ladies if that’s what makes them happy.”

“That’s not what I meant, young lady.” Quite the opposite of Amy, Jane wore a gauzy yellow sundress with a white, loosely buttoned cardigan sweater casually tossed over it. New white espadrilles adorned her otherwise bare feet, and showcased a bright peach pedicure. She was perfectly dressed for a spring celebration; Amy, on the other hand, was dressed more along the lines of…

“It’s Urban Amish,” said Zoë.

“Sorry?” both women asked, looking to the girl.

“Urban Amish. I’ve been trying to figure it out for years and now I know,” she said, folding her arms across her chest as she nodded at Amy. “Yep. That’s her look.”

“Zoë, nice little girls…” Jane stammered, embarrassed, yet more than a little bit intrigued.

“Think about it, Mama. When’s the last time you saw Auntie Amy wear any other color but…” she started naming on her fingers, “black, navy blue, beige, gray.” She looked to her mother. “Am I missing one?”

“No. It’s true,” Jane said, looking pained. And then, as though Amy had ruined Zoë in some horrible way and for life, she added, dramatically, “What’s wrong with having a little color in your life?”

“There she is!” came a voice from the living room. “There’s our Amy!” Saved by the rabbi. Joshua Austen-Rabinowitz, along with Lauren, joined the party at the door, and took Amy into his arms. “Come on in,” he said as he hugged her, taking the bottle of wine she’d brought and passing it to Lauren.

“Nice to see you, dear,” said Lauren, as she planted polite air kiss on each of Amy’s cheeks, and took her hand into her own, which was slightly cold and bony. “You over him yet?”

Amy, caught off guard, smiled weakly. “Oh, well. You know how it is. It takes time. I don’t think I’ve ruled out reconciliation and—”

“I think I have the cure,” Lauren cut her off, without emotion. “There’s only one cure for a broken heart, you know.” And then Lauren let out a boozy, uncharacteristically hearty laugh.

Amy didn’t know what she was talking about, but nervously laughed along anyway.

“Come! The egg hunt is about to begin,” Joshua beamed, his eyes on his granddaughter.

“And our little bunny’s done one heck of a job with the hiding this year! Haven’t you, Zoë?”

“Sure,” said Zoë, wincing as she looked down at her barely covered form.

Following an hour-long egg hunt that essentially consisted of Zoë having to find every single egg she had hidden earlier as the adults found the bottoms of their glasses again and again, the family gathered around the large, festively decorated table in the center of the dining room for the much-anticipated annual Easter-Seder feast.

A spectacular spread was laid out before them—one that celebrated both the Jewish and Christian traditions of the varied members of the Austen-Rabinowitz families assembled. There were miles of matzoh and mountains of maror. There was a rack of lamb and asparagus and roasted rosemary red potatoes. There enough brisket to feed an army. There was challah bread with colored eggs baked into it (though there wasn’t a single drop of Italian blood to be accounted for here)—St. Yosef’s bread, as Joshua liked to joke. And, to ensure the evening would be rich in tradition, and loose in inhibition, there were four wineglasses set at every place.

“We’re at the kids’ end,” Zoë said to Amy, as she led them to their seats at the foot of the table. “We get to sit with the Happys again,” she joked. Amy couldn’t help but let a giggle slip, as this could only mean they’d be sharing their end of the table with the gloomiest people she had ever met.

As if the seating order ever changed from event to event, everyone searched out their place cards. Joshua was at the head, with Lauren to his right and Jane to his left. To Jane’s left was Joshua’s younger brother, Morty, who looked to be about ten years older than he. To his left sat Lauren’s ancient Aunt Clarabelle, followed by Amy. On the other side of the table, there was an empty seat next to Lauren, and beyond that sat Joshua’s own ancient aunt, Enid. Next to her sat her long-divorced, morbidly morose son, Grant. And next to him sat his miserable thirteen-year-old daughter, Ava, whom, Zoë had explained to Amy as they walked to their seats, she was expected to entertain. Except not even the bunny suit had sparked even a mocking smile.

The doorbell rang and Zoë cringed. Joshua and Lauren grinned at their granddaughter through a haze of pre-dinner wine and Zoë buried her face in her hands.

“Maybe that’s Elijah!” slurred Aunt Enid.

“Go on and get it!” screamed Clarabelle, with a hint too much enthusiasm.

“But I’m really not into any of this,” Zoë pleaded. “I’m a Buddhist.”

Everyone laughed, charmed as ever by the adorable little girl. Except for Amy, who gave Zoë a supportive little hug. And except for Grant and Ava. Because Grant and Ava never smiled.

Zoë took a deep breath and slid out of her chair. “I wonder who this could be,” she said, monotone as she dragged her feet to the front door and opened it.

“Hi, Zoë,” came a man’s voice from the other side of the door.

“Oh. Hi, Brendan.” Zoë said, bored, as she turned back to the table. “It’s just Brendan.”

Amy didn’t know a Brendan and immediately turned her head toward the front door when she saw how excited the other woman at the table appeared at the mere mention of his name. She nearly choked as he entered, as the man––whom Zoë had dismissed as just Brendan––was the most beautiful man Amy had ever seen. Brad Pitt would have looked like a pile of vomit next to this strapping, sandy- haired, green-eyed Adonis. Amy must have been staring, for when Zoë came back to the table, she leaned over and whispered loudly in Amy’s ear, “Stop staring.” Amy promptly took a sip of water and tried to refocus on the dinner party.

“You can’t fall in love with a body,” Zoë said pointedly to Amy.

Jane quickly jumped up, urging Uncle Mort to take the seat next to Lauren on the other side of the table. “Come. Sit here,” she gushed to the new addition, tapping the seat next to her. “How are you, Brendan?”

Lauren stood. “No, dear. He’ll sit by me,” she said. Jane glared at her mother. “Not for you,” Lauren mouthed, as Jane crossed her arms and sulked and Brendan made his way over to Lauren.

Amy leaned toward Zoë. “Who is he and why haven’t I met him before? I mean, he’s here in your house for the holidays. He must—”

“He’s no one. Believe me,” Zoë said, letting out an exasperated sigh.

“Seriously. He must be someone special. An actor?”

“He’s just a guy Nana found lurking around at Starbucks one day. Some college dropout.” Zoë looked at Brendan, who began schmoozing with the others. “He’s one of those ‘strays’ New York liberals like to bring to these kinds of events. You know, just some loser with no family and nothing else to do.”

“Oh.” Amy looked away, embarrassed.

“Oh, God—I didn’t mean you, Auntie Amy. Of course you’re one of us.”

She smiled. “Thanks, Zoë.”

“Gooble gobble.”

“Huh?”

Before Zoë could explain the reference, Joshua lifted his wineglass and stood. “Now that we are all present and accounted for, we may begin our celebration. The glorious union of centuries-old traditions that could only be possible here.”

“Cheers, everyone,” said Lauren, raising her glass. Everyone drank. And then drank some more as a long, uncomfortable silence followed.

Impatient, Joshua nodded to Zoë. “Come on, child. You should know this cold by now.”

Zoë sighed deeply and then began. “Right. Sorry,” she cleared her tiny throat. “Why is this night different from all other nights?” she said in what had become her trademark monotone this evening.

As the ritual unfolded, Amy tried to sneak a quick inconspicuous glance at Brendan, mortified to find he was staring at her. He waved, throwing her for a bigger loop. She turned her head to make sure no one was standing behind her, causing him to chuckle and shake his head. He waved again and mouthed a small “Hello.” She waved back and quickly looked away as the four questions ended.

“Bon appétit,” said Lauren, and everyone dove in.

“So, Amy,” said Joshua. “Tell everyone how you killed your boss.”

“Joshua!” Lauren gasped.

Clarabelle shouted across the table at Enid. “What did he say?” And then to Morty, “What did he say?” Morty leaned in and whispered to Clarabelle. “She did what?!” Now Clarabelle gasped.

“Dad! Honestly,” said Jane, shaking her head. “Amy didn’t kill anyone. Her boss choked to death on a cookie.”

“How do you choke on a cookie?” asked a puzzled Enid.

“It was a biscotti,” Amy chirped, thinking this would help somehow.

“Oh,” said Enid, as if it had.

“Pappy, come on,” laughed Zoë. “Amy’s not a killer. I mean, seriously. Just look at her outfit.” Now Ava looked Amy up and down, and nodded in agreement when Zoë added,

“Doesn’t exactly scream ‘femme fatale’.”

“Zoë Mary-Alice Austen-Rabinowitz!”

“I kind of dig a chick in a jumper,” said Brendan from across the table. “Seriously,” he said, as if no one believed him.

“I still don’t see how you could choke to death on a cookie,” said Enid, looking worriedly at Grant, who had just taken a large bite of a macaroon. Sensing his mother’s displeasure, he immediately tossed the macaroon back onto his plate. When she turned away, he picked it up again, considered it, and shoved the rest of the cookie into his mouth.

“I’m Brendan,” Brendan waved to Amy. “I think I was invited here to meet you, right?” he asked, now looking around. Lauren pretended to be looking at her fingernails when his eyes fell on her. He smiled again at Amy. “You know, I’ve hated every boss I ever had. So I have to say, it’s especially nice to meet you.”

Amy flushed bright red. “Well, thanks. But I didn’t kill—”

“You never did like that Heimlich, did you?” asked Joshua.

“And those shoes,” said Ava, out of nowhere, and miraculously now smiling at Zoë. “Yes, I see. I think I know exactly what you mean—”

“Speaking of shoes,” said Amy, coughing as she desperately tried to change the subject.

“I had the strangest experience yesterday with a pair of shoes.”

“Really,” said Zoë, now enjoying an audience with Ava. “Because I—”

“Zoë!” shouted Jane.

Amy cleared her throat and continued. “I was walking by Smitty’s—you know, that second-hand store down on the strip?”

“Yes!” exclaimed Clarabelle. “Such bargains. I bought this scarf there and for such a bargain,” she nodded to Enid, who looked crossly at Clarabelle. Clarabelle looked away and absently tugged at the hairs on her chin.

“Right. Well, anyway,” Amy continued. “There were these shoes there, shoes like I’d never seen before. They were red and so shiny and…” she drifted off. “I can’t explain it.”

“Did you buy them?” Ava craned her neck to look under the table.

Zoë joined her. “Those aren’t them, are they?” asked Zoë. “Because you know those aren’t red, right?” Zoë taunted, and Ava actually laughed.

“I don’t get it,” said Brendan.

“What? No.” said Amy, getting annoyed that Zoë was entertaining Ava at her expense.

“Well did you?” asked Grant. “Did you buy them?”

“That’s the ridiculous part,” Amy said. “They were two hundred and fifty dollars. Used. I mean, could you imagine?” she looked around for support from the other women, but not even Jane would look at her. “You don’t think that’s just a little ridiculous?”

“What price can you put on what you’re worth?” asked Morty, seemingly to the air.

Amy was amazed. “That’s so weird,” she said. “That’s kind of what the saleslady said,” and she looked around for a response. She got none. “Anyway, she also said that the shoes had belonged to Rita Hayworth, like that was supposed to decide it.”

“Rita Hayworth,” mused Joshua. “Now that’s a name you never hear anymore. Big in my day, but—”

“Dad, you’re in your sixties,” said Jane. “Were you even born when Gilda came out?”

“Well, in my father’s day maybe. But, oy. What a knockout she was. Hair red as fire. And the most gorgeous set of––”

“Pappy!”

“Sorry. Well… Anyway, tragic story. Tragic girl,” he shook his head. “Started out bad,” he said, draining the wine from the bottom of his glass. “Drunken horrible parents,” he said, and poured himself another. “Ended badly.”

“What happened?” asked Amy.

“Drank herself crazy,” said Clarabelle, grabbing another bottle from the table and filling her glass. “Alzheimer’s and a slow death.”

“Abusive childhood. Bad marriages,” said Joshua. “Divorced five times,” he said, looking right at Grant.

“And here I thought one was a pain in the ass,” Jane smirked.

Grant was not amused. “Sometimes once is enough,” he chortled, and looked as though he would burst into tears at any moment. “It’s like being cut off at the waist. Every day a new struggle. I just don’t—”

“Oh, are you still sensitive about that? Sorry.” Jane said snidely. She collected some dirty plates from the table as Grant glared at her.

“Let me help you with that,” said Brendan. She blushed and as he followed her into the kitchen.

Zoë looked at her grandparents and then back at Amy. And then at her grandparents. And then back at Amy.

Joshua reflected for a moment and stood. “I have to agree. Two hundred and fifty is too much for a pair of shoes,” he said, as Lauren coolly looked the other way. She stood, collected more dirty plates, and headed for the kitchen. Joshua dutifully piled up the plates in front of him and followed.

Zoë waited for her grandparents to be out of earshot before she leaned in and said, “Except he didn’t tell you the important part.”

“What do you mean?” asked Morty.

“The legend,” said Zoë. “About the shoes?”

“I don’t think I know anything about the shoes,” said Enid. Now they all looked to Zoë, as they often did. “Well, from what I read,” she began, and looked around.

Clarabelle leaned over to Morty, “That child is always reading,” she nodded. “She would know.”

“From what I read, Rita Hayworth was kind of plain and boring when she was young,” Zoë said. “A little like you, Auntie Amy.”

“Thanks.”

“But then she made a decision that would change her life. She fell in love with a pair of shoes. A very expensive pair of shoes. And, after passing them in a store window day after day on her way back and forth from her job in a factory during the height of the Great Depression, she decided she just had to have them.”

“But how could she afford—” Grant started to ask.

“She always had to give all her earnings to her father on payday, it’s true—”

“So he could drink it!” growled Enid, in disgust, and then swallowed down the rest of the wine in her glass.

Zoë smiled. “That’s right. But this one week, she decided no. That it was her money and that she would spend it the way she wanted to. So…”

“So?” Ava wanted to know.

“So she stopped in the store and bought the shoes.”

A collective gasp came from the group.

“And her father?” asked Clarabelle. “What did she tell her father?”

“She pretended she got mugged,” said Zoë.

“Did he believe her?” asked Amy.

“Oh, no,” said Zoë.

“Then what?” asked Morty.

Zoë looked around before speaking. “Then he beat her, of course.”

Another gasp.

“But it never mattered again, because after that, everything changed,” said Zoë.

“Margarita, her real name, went out in the shoes the very next day, and she met Darryl Zanuck.”

“You mean the big Hollywood producer?” asked Enid.

“The same,” said Zoë. “He offered her a role in his latest film, and she left for Hollywood two weeks later.”

“I heard that story!” said Clarabelle. “I remember that!”

“I don’t quite remember it like that,” said Morty, looking a little confused.

There was a moment of silent reflection, but only a moment. “Are you going to buy the shoes, Amy?” asked Clarabelle. “They could be the ones!” gushed Enid.

“Buy the shoes, Amy!” urged Ava.

Amy tried to make sense of it all, while trying to pull herself out of the spotlight. “I don’t think I knew any of that, Zoë. Thanks. But two hundred fifty dollars for shoes. I mean, come on.”

“Some people just don’t understand the power of shoes,” Lauren said, catching the end of the conversation.

“Personally, I don’t think all that much of it,” said Zoë. “Yet I can’t scientifically rule it out.”

Brendan returned with Joshua. Jane, looking annoyed, walked a few steps behind them.

“So who’s taking over for Heimlich?” Joshua asked.

“Right now? His classes are being covered by a few of his graduate students and some other members of the department. But going forward––”

“What about you?” Lauren asked. “Are you taking on any of them?”

“Me?” Amy blushed. “Oh, no. I couldn’t possible teach his classes.”

“But don’t you have a Masters degree in English Lit?” asked Lauren.

“All she has to do is defend her dissertation at this point and then it’s PhD all the way.”

“Jane!” said Amy, horrified.

“Well, I’m sorry, Amy. But it’s true. She downplays how far she’s gotten, and how brilliant her paper was. All she needs to do now is defend it.”

All eyes were now on her. “I have a little, uh, stage fright.”

“Perhaps if you had the shoes…” mused Clarabelle.

“What’s that?” asked Joshua.

“Oh nothing, Pappy,” said Zoë. “Don’t worry about it.”

~~~~~~~~~~~

Buy it now!

Rita Hayworth's ShoesHer magic shoes may have brought new love into her life… But is her new prince really just a frog?

Amy Miller gets dumped on her wedding day and everyone knows it’s for the best her relationship with David had eaten away at her for years. Except for Amy… When her best friend, Jane Austen-Rabinowitz, and Jane’s sagacious six-year-old daughter, Zoe, convince Amy to treat herself to an extravagantly priced, super-cute pair of shoes, which purportedly once belonged to a siren of the silver screen, she balks at first, but their allure soon wears her down.

Once they are hers, her life turns around. She gets refocused on her career and meets a true kindred spirit, the also-jilted English professor, Decklin Thomas. She’s not attracted to Deck at first. But when circumstances lead to them spending more time together, they bond, and Amy starts to believe she may have found her soul mate. But when Deck’s former wife goes missing, again, the perfect romance may not be what it seems… Sparkly and witty as a 1940s screwball comedy, and filled with quirky characters and lots of delightful surprises, Rita Hayworth’s Shoes is a story of bouncing back, a heartwarming and potentially heartbreaking romance, and even a mystery rolled into one fun, hilarious page-turner.

Also by Francine LaSala – The Girl, the Gold Tooth & Everything

539286_10200439346445319_1446602713_nWho can you trust when you don’t know who you are…

Mina Clark is losing her mind-or maybe it’s already gone. She isn’t quite sure. Feeling displaced in her over-priced McMansion-dotted suburban world, she is grappling not only with deep debt, a mostly absent husband, and her playground-terrorizer 3-year-old Emma, but also with a significant amnesia she can’t shake-a “temporary” condition now going on several years, brought on by a traumatic event she cannot remember, and which everyone around her feels is best forgotten.

When a trip to the dentist leaves Mina with a new gold crown, her whole life changes. Slowly her memory and her mojo return. But when everything begins to crash down around her, she’s not sure if what’s happening is real, of if she’s just now fully losing her mind… especially when she realizes the only person she can trust is the one she fears the most. What’s it all going to cost her in the end?

Buy it now!

Q&A With “Heartthrob” Deck Thomas!

Q&A With “Heartthrob” Deck Thomas!

I decided to have Deck Thomas from Rita Hayworth’s Shoes be the character to answer my Valentine’s Day questions for one very simple reason: I’m in love with him. (Please don’t tell my husband, though I know he already knows…) What can I say. Hasn’t a character ever affected you so deeply, on so many levels, you just couldn’t let go? I finished writing this book years ago and I still can’t shake Deck. He’s bald as a bowling ball, from head to toe (no eyebrows, though it looks like from this picture I found of him they are starting to grow in!). He’s big as a house, socially awkward…. But he’s gorgeous and irresistible. For his kindness, his wit, the way he truly cares for Amy.

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Dashing doofus Deck.

Amy’s ex David may be Brad-Pitt-beautiful, but Deck could be the prince charming she’s always dreamed of…or at least we hope she’ll see it that way. Amy’s had a hard time seeing things clearly lately. Her relationship with David really stripped her of her confidence and clarity and self-esteem. Lets hope Deck, along with Amy’s new magic shoes, help her find her way! In the meantime, let’s get to know more about Deck as we get his take on romance and true love. (And get to know him even better when you buy Rita Hayworth’s Shoes!)

And hey, let’s connect out there!

Twitter

Facebook

~~~~~~~

Are you currently in a relationship? If so, tell us a little bit about your S.O. And if not…what are you looking for in a romantic partner?

I am  not currently in a relationship, no. I have an ex-wife. No, I don’t want to talk about it. She is a vile harpie whose abandonment and cruelty has left me hairless and hopeless. Actually, I was feeling hopeless. Until I met this woman, Amy, at the wake of an old boss whom I wish I had killed and whom I’m pretty sure Amy did kill. Wait, that sounds a little odd. I suppose what I mean to say is that I enjoy teasing her that she did. It makes her face…well…she gets this look… It’s a long story. In any case… Amy… Lovely Amy. (See her there? Just below where I’m speaking?) I’m pretty sure she’s the woman for me. Such a sweet soul in that girl. Such a mastery of literature. Such a bizarre hang up on that serpent-swooning troglodyte of an ex. Alas, maybe someday she’ll come around…

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The lovely Amy.

Describe your ideal romantic evening.

Chartering a private jet to visit the birthplace of Voltaire…the most romantic city in the world, Paris, France! Did I mention Amy and I have the same all-time favorite book, Candide? We (because my ideal romantic evening would undoubtedly involve her) would stroll on the banks of the Seine in the moonlight, reciting passages to each other. We’d have a lovey meal at a cozy brassiere and… Well, an English professor’s salary might not be able to cover this level of extravagance. So maybe just…uh…maybe we’ll go bowling?

Everything-about-the-Eifel-Tower-2

What’s your favorite romantic comedy, book or movie, and why? What about love song–and why?

I don’t generally talk about my taste in music as it tends to embarrass and offend even me, but I’m not ashamed to admit my favorite romantic comedy. Joe Vs. the Volcano. There’s something so sublimely romantic about taking such a leap of faith that you’re just going to jump into a volcano, you know? To just decide that if you’re meant to survive, you will. I don’t know why that movie didn’t do better. It’s brilliant! You know, I could really go for an orange soda right about now…

Love is jumping into a volcano with another human being. Fucking awesome flick!
Love is jumping into a volcano with another human being. Fucking awesome flick!

What food most gets you “in the mood”?

I’m quite partial to ice cream, especially ice cream sandwiches. I suppose this picture (below) will appeal most to your readers and maybe earn me some romantic hero points. I hope so…

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Although if I’m to be honest, there’s just nothing like a steak! Check out this beauty. I think I could eat four of them.

romantic-food-being-a-tender-piece-of-steak

Can you tell us about your worst date ever?

Ah, that’s hard to say. Since Marny left, I really haven’t dated at all. I can’t seem to charm women enough to want to get to know me, you know, beyond my current appearance. And with Marny… You could say that whole blasted marriage was like one bad date. I can’t imagine I’d ever have a bad date with Amy. Did I mention how I’m kind of obsessed with Amy?

Mean Marny.
Mean Marny.

Describe your dream wedding. If you’re already married, was the wedding you had the one you always dreamed of?

I don’t know why, but I’ve always thought getting married should be this big, grand, just epic event, you know? Marny never really went for that kind of thing. I know Amy had the worst wedding experience imaginable. Katz’s Deli. Puh-lease. What a douche that David is. Why doesn’t she see that? Can anyone explain that to me? In any case, when I look at Amy, sometimes in my mind’s-eye I see her in a spectacular wedding gown, swooshing down the aisle of an ancient church, smiling so sweetly when she gets to the altar and sees me there. Ah, that would be it for me. Hey, a guy can dream, right?

What does she see in David? Can someone please tell me? Anyone?
What does she see in David? Can someone please tell me? Anyone?

~~~~~~~~~~~

Thanks for sharing with us, Deck. You seem like a really good guy (who I totally love) and uh, I hope it works out for you and Amy.

Intrigued by Deck? Below find more about Rita Hayworth’s Shoes.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Rita Hayworth's ShoesAmy Miller gets dumped on her wedding day and everyone knows it’s for the best. Except for Amy. When her best friend Jane convinces Amy to treat herself to an extravagantly priced but adorable pair of shoes that purportedly once belonged to a siren of the silver screen, she balks at first. But their allure soon wears her down. Once they are hers, everything in her life starts to change. A new romance blossoms, but things may not be what they seem.

As sparkly and witty as a 1940s screwball comedy, and filled with quirky characters and lots of delightful surprises, Rita Hayworth’s Shoes is a delightful, romantic roller coaster ride of a book!

~~~~~~~~

“What fun! This novel has it all–romance, laughs, a dollop of mystery. I was entertained from start to finish… And I want those shoes!”
New York Times bestselling author Eileen Goudge

“Like hanging out with your funniest friend over a glass of champagne, Rita Hayworth’s Shoes is both hilarious and thought-provoking. LaSala knows how to combine humor and romance for a story the reader can jump inside and enjoy.”
New York Times bestselling author Patti Callahan Henry

 

Valentine’s Day 99 CENT eBook Sale! You’re Gonna LOVE This!

Valentine’s Day 99 CENT eBook Sale! You’re Gonna LOVE This!

Love is in the air . . . and it can be on your Kindle, too!

VDayPromoArtFinal

Do you want to fall in love with a good book this Valentine’s Day weekend? How about 9? Then don’t miss this special promotion. For four days only (February 14th – February 17th), 9 popular Chick Lit authors will be lowering the prices on their favorite rom-coms to 99 cents on Amazon.com! At that price (A bottle of wine costs more!), why not sample them all? Some delicious literary treats await you, and unlike chocolates these goodies are calorie-free!

And guys: If your sweetie is a book-lover, you’ll make her Valentine’s Day by gifting her with one (or more) of our fun, romantic stories!

samheadshotauthorcentralFinding Lucas by Samantha Stroh Bailey – Daytime talk show producer Jamie Ross is beyond fed up with her toxic bad boy turned metrosexual boyfriend. Spurred on by her gang of quirky friends, she goes on a hilarious, at-times disastrous, and totally life-changing hunt to track down the ”one who got away.” But are some loves best left behind? Buy FINDING LUCAS for 99 CENTS!

SMtracie004-2-1In Need of Therapy by Tracie Banister – Handling the problems of hysterical hypochondriacs, lovelorn neurotics, and compulsive man whores is all in a day’s work for super-shrink Pilar Alvarez. But can she deal with her crazy Cuban family, a trio of unsuitable suitors, and a threat to her practice without ending up on the couch herself? Buy IN NEED OF THERAPY for 99 CENTS!

162762_2662032389151_5076510_nRita Hayworth’s Shoes by Me! – Jilted bride Amy’s down on everything until she convinces herself to purchase a cute, ridiculously expensive pair of second-hand shoes. Once she does, life starts looking up, and she falls into an unexpected new romance with the last man she’d ever expect to love. But can a pair of shoes really be magic? And is her new prince really just a frog? Buy RITA HAYWORTH’S SHOES for 99 CENTS!

catBreaking the Rules by Cat Lavoie – When Roxy Rule shares a passionate kiss with her lifelong best friend, she must come to terms with her feelings for him while dealing with two sisters in full crisis mode, a boss who makes her want to stab herself with a letter opener and a fiancé who can’t wait to walk down the aisle. Can she keep it together–or will she break under the pressure? Buy BREAKING THE RULES for 99 CENTS!


Samantha MarchThe Green Ticket
by Samantha March
– College junior Alex Abrams scores her dream job at the ripe age of twenty, but her good fortune quickly turns disastrous when she realizes her job is filled with lies, betrayal, and cover-ups. Keeping up with classes, her girlfriends and a budding romance, Alex feels the pressure – but will she overcome the challenges? Buy THE GREEN TICKET for 99 CENTS!

libbyUnmasking Maya by Libby Mercer – Disgraced New York fashionista, Maya Kirkwood, is fashioning herself a new life as an artist in San Francisco when she’s hired to do an installation of her work by dorky, yet dashing dotcom executive, Derek. The sparks soon start to fly, but this could mean disaster for Maya – a woman with an explosive past and far too many secrets. Buy UNMASKING MAYA for 99 CENTS!

 

mschorr3A State of Jane by Meredith Schorr – Jane Frank is newly single after nine years and looking for a second chance at love. But when she dives head first into the NYC dating scene and finds it infested with flakes who are interested today and gone tomorrow, it may be time for Jane to turn the tables! Buy A STATE OF JANE for 99 CENTS!

NancySTrue Love Way by Nancy Scrofano – When her high school sweetheart, Josh, suddenly returns after twelve years in Paris, Marlo Spencer travels to her hometown to try to rekindle their relationship. But when dreams of a blissful reunion are shattered as old secrets and betrayals are revealed, can she forgive and forget, or will true love find a different path to her heart? Buy TRUE LOVE WAY for 99 CENTS!

lucie_bio_headshot_6_9Picture Perfect by Lucie Simone – Lauren Tate’s perfectly planned life quickly unravels at the seams when a smear campaign threatens her career as a top TV executive, but she learns just how cutthroat showbiz can truly be when the hottest scandal in Tinsel Town turns deadly and the Hollywood hunk who’s stolen her heart goes missing. Buy PICTURE PERFECT for 99 CENTS!

Check back here tomorrow, and at the rest of my girls’ blogs to read fun interviews about love and romance–with characters from our books.

Here’s how to find everyone on the Web:
Samantha Stroh Bailey
Tracie Banister
Cat Lavoie
Samantha March
Libby Mercer
Meredith Schorr
Nancy Scrofano
Lucie Simone

And hey, let’s connect out there!

Twitter

Facebook

Happy reading!