Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Now Presenting: Samantha Stroh Bailey

I am thrilled to have on the blog today the adorable and sweet Samantha Stroh Bailey; her charming debut novel Finding Lucas was released last April, becoming a word-of-mouth sensation.

She's giving away an e-copy of Finding Lucas to one lucky reader; as always, just leave a comment with your email and you're entered to win! Entries open until Friday, August 2.

And now, on to the interrogation interview:

1) Tell us about Finding Lucas, and what inspired you to write it.

I always get my plot ideas late at night just as I'm falling asleep. So, one night, I was lying in bed and thinking about my "friends with benefits" from high school and early university. I hadn't seen or spoken to Jack in almost ten years, and I wondered where he was and how he was doing. I'd never thought of him as the one who got away, like Jamie does in Finding Lucas. But, Jack had been a big part of my life as I navigated my late teens and early twenties, and I wanted to know that he was happy. Suddenly, I realized so many people must wonder "what if" about their exes. With Facebook and Twitter, it's much easier to find them. And Finding Lucas was born.

Can you ever really go back to the past?

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

2) What one piece of writing advice resonated most with you?

Keep writing. I've been writing for thirty years, and though it does take me a long time to finish a manuscript (I have two young kids and own a freelance writing/editing business), I never stop writing. I'm not always happy with what I write, but I keep going until I am.

3) If you had to design a menu around Finding Lucas, what three dishes would be featured?

Steak, for sure. Both Jamie and I share a love of meat, and I think a huge T-bone, medium rare, with a Caesar salad, topped with crunchy croutons and shaved parmesan is a must!

Jamie's mom, Leah, and stepmom, Katie, are both in the field of holistic wellness. So, a dish featuring quinoa, sprouts and a ton of veggies would definitely be on the menu.

Because Jamie works for a sleazy daytime talk show, another dish would have to be fast food. Unhealthy, full of grease and fat, this "dish" would represent the stories Jamie produces on "Tell It Like It Is."

4) Always feared, always entertaining: share your favorite cringe-worthy teenage memory.

This is totally cringe-worthy. Well, in high school, I wasn't the most attractive of teens. I had glasses, braces and no boobs (thankfully, those came a bit later and then promptly disappeared after I had kids). There was this guy who all of the girls were in love with. I thought I was being subtle when I stared at him in the halls, even timing the seconds between stares on my watch. Yeah, well, I wasn't as subtle as I thought. One day in the school cafeteria, filled with hundreds of students, the object of my affection stood up and yelled, "Would somebody tell that ugly girl to stop looking at me?" Before you wince too much, I did get my revenge. Years later, I saw him in a bar, and having no clue who I was, he asked for my number. I gave him the wrong one.

5) If you could have any superpower, what would it be?

This is an easy one. I'm only five feet tall. Well, okay, barely five feet tall. So, I would love the superhero power to stretch to five ten whenever I felt like it. I could finally see over people's heads in movie theaters, wear pants that I don't have to hem with duct tape (duct tape has so many uses), and people wouldn't pat me on the head anymore.
Thanks, Sam! Isn't she great? Don't forget to enter to win a copy; this one's such fun!!

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

You can find Samantha on her Blog, Twitter @perfectpen, Facebook, Goodreads, and her Business Website, Perfect Pen Communications. Finding Lucas is available on Amazon US, Amazon UK, and Kobo.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Tale of Two Johns

Hi! Sorry to disappoint those of you who came here expecting me to share titillating anecdotes about how I secretly put myself through college as a call girl. This obviously didn’t happen, for several reasons. First, a basic analysis of my student loan debt would show that my part-time college jobs paid just enough to cover beer, pizza, and purple hair dye. Second, you have seen my house, right? If I’d been a “high end” hooker in college, I’d live in a much nicer house with a hot tub. Or at the very least, I’d have a permanent scar and/or limp and an impressive collection of chips from Narcotics Anonymous. Third, gross.

So, feel free to click off the page, creeps.

*Whispers* Are the creepy guys gone yet? Thank God! *brings out the string cheese and Triscuits*

Today I want to talk about publicity. Wait, don’t run away! Have a beer. Relax. It’s kind of a funny story. Anyway, I fracking HATE self-promotion. Hate it more than war or cilantro or adults that use the word “selfie.”  The challenge is that my latest book is a bit of a tough sell. Because, prison much? (And infidelity and toxic friends and horrible secrets and paralyzed sex jokes and racial imbalance in the criminal justice system and 80s hairbands and a scruffy little dog named Avis, after the car rental company.) To help get the word out, I’ve employed some macro-level stuff. *Barfs at own use of word “macro.”* This included hiring a publicist, booking a blog tour, and yelling about my shit on Facebook and Twitter and then running away with the cold sweat of self-loathing clinging to my torso. 

The first sunflower to bloom in my yard.
All of which may or may not be working. So it’s time to shake things up, get micro, reach out and touch someones who enjoy books remotely like mine. I decided to visit the Amazon sales page for Jonathan Tropper’s This is Where I Leave You, because I feel (hope) that readers who like his novels will also like mine. I scrolled through the five-star reviews, looking for a few kind souls who may be open to reading and reviewing Mandatory Release. Ultimately, because most people are afraid to connect their email addresses with their reviews (I can’t imagine WHY), I ended up with two guys named John. 

I emailed both the same brief, kind-of-grovely pitch, explaining who I am and why on earth I was writing to them. I heard back from John #1 almost immediately: “No, thnaks.”

Not even enough interest to spellcheck his rejection. However, I heard from John #2 a few hours later. He said it sounded right up his alley and he enjoyed the four sample chapters he read. He finished by saying I didn’t even have to send him a free copy, because he wanted to help support my career. 

Seriously! My first reaction was, Wow, people can read four sample chapters online? My second reaction was, Thnak you, Thnak you! 

So there we have it, on the micro-level. A tale of two Johns. One a vaguely dickish poor speller, the other a kind soul who restored my faith in human generosity, all on the same day. 

Goodreads JT fans, you have been warned. 

PS: If you post an online review and email me the link by August 10, I’ll enter you in a drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card.  I’ve also got bookplates—I’d be happy to inscribe one for your paperback copy, just let me know if y’all want one.

With sticky backs, like John Goodman on July 18.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Now Presenting: Dina Silver!

I am so excited to showcase today the beautiful and hilarious Dina Silver, whose third, heartstring-tugging novel Finding Bliss came out last week. Dina is one of the rock stars of the indie publishing world, signing as an in-house author with Amazon last year. She's sweet, inspiring, and she's worked her ass off to get to this point. She is offering one lucky reader a signed paperback--just leave a comment about how you find bliss. And don't forget your email address so we can get you your copy if you win!

What it's About:
Chloe Carlyle has always longed for the perfect family.

Growing up with an alcoholic single mother, she has seen her share of heartbreak and disappointment, and is striving to build a new legacy for herself. After graduating from college, she takes a job working as a summer girl for the Reeds—a wealthy, accomplished family that personifies her American dream. Her summer takes an unexpected turn when the Reeds’ eldest son, Tyler, the star quarterback for Notre Dame, shows up and turns her life upside down.

An ambitious young woman with a wry sense of humor, Chloe never imagined herself as the type to succumb to the looks and charms of the hometown hero, but she falls hard for Tyler, and is devastated when they part ways at the end of the summer. As she heads off to law school, Chloe tries to convince herself this was just a fling, but she can’t quite get over him. It’s not until Tyler contacts her out of the blue late one winter night that everything changes.

After doing everything in her power to build the perfect life, Chloe soon learns that there are things beyond her control. She must draw on inner reserves of strength as her life takes unpredictable—and sometimes heartbreaking—twists and turns, and she finds herself faced with decisions she never thought she’d have to make. Poignant, heartfelt, and emotional, Finding Bliss is a reminder that you don’t have to live a fairytale life in order to have a happy ending.

 1. Tell us about Finding Bliss--what inspired you to write it?

Finding Bliss is a spin off of One Pink Line, and tells the story of, Chloe, who was Grace's best friend in OPL. Chloe grew up with an alcoholic mother, and has sort of always longed for the perfect family. The story begins as she's about to start law school, and follows her through those years and into married life and as she struggles to have children.

I really wanted to challenge the HEA concept with this book, and give readers something to ponder in the end. Hopefully I did!

2. What do you find most challenging about the writing life, and how do you cope?

For me, it's creating the story from beginning to end. Once I have it plotted out in my head, it usually flows onto the page pretty easily.

3. Who are some of your author idols?

Oddly enough, I'm in a complete true crime frenzy right now and reading everything by Ann Rule and Joe McGinnis. I'm also an old school Jane Austen goober.

4. What songs would be on the Finding Bliss playlist?

I love this question! Hmm…I think Chloe would listen to Maroon 5 and Fall Out Boy. Sort of angsty rock, but not too hard.

5. What teenage memory makes you cringe?

Putting concealer on my lips, then covering them in a pink-frosted Loreal lip gloss.

 Thanks Dina! Entries remain open until Thursday, noon CST. Because why not? Enter soon, and enter often, because you want this book!!!

A graduate of Purdue University, Dina Silver has spent the past fifteen years feeding her red wine habit by working as a freelance copywriter in the advertising industry. After seeing the bulk of her professional prose on brochures and direct mail pieces, she is delighted to have made the transition to novelist. She currently lives with her family in suburban Chicago. Additionally, she enjoys cheese fries, reality TV and talking about herself in the third person.

For more riveting information, visit dinasilver.com

Friday, July 19, 2013

More Book Hijinks from Your Favorite Schlemiel

Whew. Another release week in the rear view mirror, and this one was a doozy.  Launch day is always a roller-coaster: will people buy my book, if they do will they LIKE it, will I stumble across a terrible review that will emotionally cripple me for days … It’s a bit like watching someone juggle your newborn baby and a live chainsaw.

We’re all works in progress, and I’m no exception. Always learning valuable lessons. This year, I learned two very valuable lessons—perhaps the most important one about vetting something you read at an author event. 

I was honored to participate in this year’s Fox Cities Book Festival, at which I read a scene from my novella Closer Than They Appear. It’s a cute little tale about missed connections, featuring two characters who meet at the same stoplight every morning during their commutes. I write from each character’s perspective, male and female. You should know that I don’t believe in tidying up the male point of view. Guys are crude. They’re raw, real, and warped, if they’re being honest.  (This is important for the story.)

The scene I chose to read was from my male character’s point of view, and he’s in a particularly miserable, heart-broken frame of mind at a bar with a friend. Oh, and did I mention it takes place in Oshkosh, the city in which I live? (This is also important for the story.)

So I’m reading, and everyone is laughing and enjoying themselves. Excellent! I think, and file the piece away for another day. I whistle a jaunty tune on my way home.

Fast-forward to Tuesday night, launch night, and I’m giving a chat in Oshkosh at a fundraiser for the Winnebago Literacy Council. I know, I say to myself, I’ll read the same piece that got such a great reception at the Book Festival! It takes place in Oshkosh; people will like that.  This is the best idea I’ve ever had!

The Literacy Council is a terrific organization, and that night they introduced five young men, recent refugees from Burma, Ivory Coast, Uganda, and Pakistan, to showcase and put faces on the great work the council is doing.  They’re sitting in the front row, listening to me very politely. I finish my author spiel and begin the reading.

And I get to the part on the very first page where my main character, annoyed at being jostled around while trying to order a drink, says to his friend, “Jesus Christ, remind me why we came here again? I feel like I’m in some third-world country waiting for bags of rice to be tossed out the back of a United Nations truck.”

A few people laugh in a kind-of shocked way, like you do in church when an elderly woman in the pew behind you audibly farts. My blood turns to ice in my veins. Oh dear GOD, how did I forget about this line? I very nearly stop reading. There are almost fifty faces staring at me, waiting to see how this plays out, waiting for the juggler to drop the chainsaw on the baby. A small voice in my head says, No—you have to keep going. Own it! Be real! And never, ever write from the male point of view again!” 

I continue, and so does the fun, because soon we get to three song references that are totally unfamiliar to the crowd, followed by a reference to “Pretentious Asshole Bingo,” which I forgot to set-up before the reading, and a reference to an ex-girlfriend who used to send really dirty texts.

I begin to feel faint. I’m sweating profusely. The words feel like rubber in my mouth. Ah, and then I remember how I end this scene:

    From somewhere behind him: “Hey, if it isn’t Steinbeck 2.0!”
    Zach gritted his teeth and manufactured a smile for the second time that evening. “Matt Nelson. What’s up?”
    Matt Nelson was another local writer. Privately, Zach always tacked a GD to his name, as in, “GD Matt Nelson.” It stood for Grammar Destroyer. He’d self-published a thriller last fall and now routinely posted screen shots of his Amazon ranking to his Facebook feeds: Cracked the top 100! I’m on fire! “Dude, just sold my forty-thousandth copy of Archer Falls. Can you believe that shit?” 
    Forty-thousand people actually paid to learn that you can’t tell the difference between they’re, there, and their. Jesus wept. “Hey, congrats.”
    “Still writing?”
    “Yeah,” Zach said, thrilled he actually had a positive update to share. “I just sold my novel, actually.”
    Matt’s smile hitched ever so-slightly. “Oh yeah? That’s great! Who picked it up?”
    “It’s a small indie press. They specialize in gritty, urban fiction.”
    “Huh. I thought your book took place on a farm. So what kind of advance they offer?”
    Zach took a swig of beer, growing increasingly uncomfortable under GD Matt Nelson’s scrutiny.
    “Not much, but they do a great job with their authors.”
    But Matt had stopped paying attention. “Hey, I gotta split. Just saw Kara Peterson. Chick’s got nipples like fuckin pencil erasers.” He grabbed his beer and disappeared into the crowd.
    After he left, Zach let out a strangled sob. “How can such a gross human being win at everything?”
    Josh craned his neck to see where Matt had gone, wearing a vague expression of curiosity. It looked like he was trying to solve a sexy riddle. “Pencil erasers. Huh.”
Did you get that?

"Chick’s got nipples like fuckin pencil erasers.”

Did I mention that two of my nice young audience members in the front row were from Pakistan? 

I looked around for a box I could crawl into, or maybe a bathtub of vodka, or a candle I could light myself on fire with. Finding no such retreat, I ended with a vaguely mumbled, “Um, so it’s kind of colorful. Just a fun little thing.”


People clapped politely. Some were still laughing (with me? Nah, probably totally at me).  My whole body is still unfolding from a nearly semi-permanent and disabling cringe.

So the lesson here is: something that plays well in Peoria may not play as well in Albuquerque. Check your audience and triple-vet anything you share before you get up on stage. And write something new as quickly as possible, if only to scour your latest shenanigan from your brain.

(Thank you, everyone, for the support and kind words this week; you kept me from soaking in that bathtub of vodka, which actually sounds kind of relaxing now that I think about it ....)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Let's Make it Official, Kids: Mandatory Release is Here

I spy, with my little eye, A BOX OF BOOKS!
Hi! How are you? I'm a nervous wreck, thanks!

Well, I could whip myself into a neurotic frenzy over the last bottle of discount ranch dressing on double coupon day, so take all of this with a grain of salt.

But I'm distracted, which leads me to do things like wish my husband's late aunt a happy birthday on Facebook. You know how this works. You see the birthdays up there in the corner, and you absently click through them all (Happy birthday, Dave! Have a great day, Eleanor! Enjoy your big day, Steve!), get your daily post-liking frenzy out of the way, and then you whisk your palms together and head off to tackle the day, feeling so accomplished. Just look at everything you've already achieved. Maybe you'll work out. Shave your legs in the shower! Make a home-cooked meal for dinner! And--could it possibly be--actually get some writing done? Oh, the joys! Your day is a rainbow-hued quilt of possibilities sewn with spun gold. One hour later, you get a call from your beloved husband: "You wished my dead aunt happy birthday on Facebook."

Individually-bagged Doritos. I told you I was neurotic.
And you crawl under the couch and die a little and eat an industrial-sized bowl (the bowl you'd give your kid to puke in if he stayed home sick from school and you had a kid) of stale granola with chocolate soy milk and can't stop shivering.

Also, you have a book in the "soft-launch"* phase on Amazon, the book you've been working on for 14 years, the book that people cock an eyebrow over when you explain the plot ("It takes place in a prison? And the main character is a guy in a wheelchair? And it's a really weird love story with a sex scene and everything? But it's HILARIOUS, trust me!") and people are finding it and buying it which is awesome, but you haven't made it official and you're already feeling slimy and spammy as hell for uploading your cover art and linking to blog reviews on Facebook and just want to crawl back under the couch again and where did you leave that spoon, anyway?

So yes, let's just make it official and put me out of my misery. Mandatory Release is now available on all platforms: high and low diving boards, ceremonial award stages, all of them. Also Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, and Barnes and Noble. I'm also giving away two signed paperback copies on Goodreads, if that's your flavor of choice. I love this book, I miss these characters, and there's something in it to offend just about everyone, so let the games begin!

If you'd like to celebrate with me, I'll be doing a reading at Becket's Restaurant in Oshkosh on Tuesday, July 16 from 5-7 pm--it's a fundraiser for the Winnebago County Literacy Council, so we won't get TOO out-of-hand. Unless it's decided by popular vote.

A lovely woman in a book club I met with last week asked me what happens at my launch parties, and here are your multiple-choice options:

a) I sweat through my dress and have trouble remembering the word "orientation."
Gene Simmons? Is that you? (Guy in front: "We're number one!")

b) A bunch of us end the night at the gay bar AND the strip club.

c) Everything I eat gives me diarrhea except cheese and wine, which works out fine because those are my two favorite food groups.

Thanks for reading. If I could buy all of you ponies and peonies, I totally would.

 *Soft-launch is just a fancy way of saying 1) that you've uploaded your book and haven't announced it yet; and 2) you're playing some kind of kinky sex game with a Nerf replica of the space shuttle.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Now Presenting: Dana Bate!

Congratulations to Bonnie, who won a signed copy of Brenda Janowitz's Recipe for a Happy Life! Let's keep the party rolling with more recipe-related reads:

Today, I'm so thrilled to present Dana Bate, whose first novel The Girls' Guide to Love and Supper Clubs released this past February. This is an absolutely adorable book, so clever and funny. She and I share an acquiring debut editor, Jill Schwartzman, who obviously has excellent taste. Dana is giving away one signed paperback copy to a lucky reader--I'll pick a commenter at random this Friday at midnight. Leave a comment with your email address to win!

1. Tell us about The Girls' Guide to Love and Supper Clubs--where did you get the idea?
The book is about a twenty-six-year old woman named Hannah Sugarman who is having a quarter-life crisis. On paper, she seems to have it all: impressive job, brilliant boyfriend, famous intellectual parents. But all Hannah cares about is cooking, and unfortunately, no one takes her passion seriously. So when her relationship falls apart, she decides to start an underground supper club out of her new landlord's town house – a secret venture that is both wildly successful and highly problematic, given that it isn’t exactly legal. Suffice it to say, not everything goes as planned.

The idea came to me after I’d quit my job and moved to London with my husband for a few months while he worked on a project there. I had been toying with various ideas for a novel, when one morning I came across an article online about a woman called MsMarmitelover who hosted a secret supper club out of her London flat. Total strangers would come from all over and pay to eat her food, even though the whole operation wasn’t technically legal. I thought the idea sounded really fun – and risky – and that sort of became the launching pad for my novel.

2. Were there any things about the publishing world that surprised you?
Oh, boy. Lots. I was definitely surprised at how slowly the publishing machine operates. I sold my debut in late June/early July 2011, and it didn't come out until February 2013! Apparently that's fairly standard, and the long lead time allows them to create an implement a publicity plan, but in the digital era it definitely feels very slow. I also didn't fully appreciate how much of the packaging and marketing would be out of my control. My original title was THE DUPONT CIRCLE SUPPER CLUB, but my publisher changed it to THE GIRLS' GUIDE TO LOVE AND SUPPER CLUBS because they felt the original title was too DC-centric. And the cover, while delicious and adorable, is a bit pinker than what I'd envisioned. But I'm not a marketing or PR specialist, so understandably I didn't get to make the final decision on those things. That's why publicity and marketing departments exist!

3. What teenage memory makes you cringe?
Just one? Because I'll be honest with you: there are many. Several involve extremely questionable hairstyles and makeup choices. But one particular doozy of a memory involves a guy I briefly dated in the summer between high school and college. His friends called him "Mole Man" because he kind of looked like a mole, and the only reason I dated him was because when I met him, he told me I looked like a movie star (I do not). But who doesn't like a little flattery now and again? Frankly, after being the nerdy A student for so many years, I was thrilled to have a guy notice me. But he wasn't the sharpest knife in the drawer, and after we had a heated debate over whether or not the government had shot down JFK Jr.'s plane (he believed they had), I realized I had made a huge mistake. That I dated him almost the entire summer based mostly on his interest in me is not something I'm proud of.

4.Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Write the book you want to write. Don't worry whether that book will make the New York Times Bestseller list or whether your friends or family will enjoy it. Write the book that ignites the fire in your belly and makes you excited to get words on the page. Tune out the haters, and write what you love.

5. Your protagonist is an amazing cook; are you as well? What's your favorite recipe?
I love, love, love to cook. It is by far my favorite hobby. I have more cookbooks and recipe files than is probably necessary or recommended, so I'd be hard-pressed to choose a favorite recipe. But the carrot cake Hannah, my protagonist, mentions in THE GIRLS GUIDE TO LOVE AND SUPPER CLUBS is based on a real recipe, and it is *amazing.* I couldn't include it in the book for copyright reasons, but for anyone who is interested, you can find the recipe here: http://athomebysteveposes.wordpress.com/2010/05/16/commissary-carrot-cake-recipe/. It is divine.
Thank you so much, Dana! Isn't she terrific? Don't forget to include your email address when you leave your comment; as always, this is a spam-free zone, but I do need to know how to contact you should you win. (And you want to win this one, trust me.)

Dana Bate is a freelance writer and former Washington producer and reporter for PBS's Nightly Business Report. She studied molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale University as an undergraduate and received her master's degree from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism. She lives outside Philadelphia. THE GIRLS' GUIDE TO LOVE AND SUPPER CLUBS is her first novel.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Now Presenting: Brenda Janowitz!

I "met" Brenda via the fabulous circle of women bloggers and writers in the Girlfriends Book Club, and she is every bit as sweet, thoughtful, and funny as her writing implies. I adore her! She recently re-released her first two novels Scot on the Rocks and Jack with a Twist, and her latest, Recipe for a Happy Life, was just released by St. Martin's Press this week! Brenda is offering one signed copy for a lucky reader--just leave a comment with your email address, and you're entered to win!

1) Tell us about RECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE. How did you get the idea?

RECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE is about three generations of women with a culture all their own.  When Hannah finds herself spending the summer with her glamorous grandmother, a widow six times over, at her sprawling beach-front Hamptons estate, she learns that there’s more than one recipe for happiness. 

A story of mothers and daughters, grandmothers and grandchildren, RECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE is a quirky story about correcting the mistakes from your past and trying to create a future for yourself.

As for where I got the inspiration, that would be my own grandmother, of course!  One summer, when I was single, Grandma Dorothy informed me that she would be renting a house in the Hamptons.  No more of these silly share houses I was doing with my friends each summer.  They were getting me nowhere (read: still single and over thirty).  Instead, I was to stay with her and she would help me meet someone.  The only problem with this scenario was that I was sure she’d meet a man before I did.  She had sparkling crystal blue eyes and a killer figure.  My own hazel eyes and good birthing hips were no match for her easy glamour and style.

When she found out that a Hamptons summer rental costs more than the gross national product of some countries, the idea sort of fell apart.  But it gave me an idea—what if a young woman spent the summer out in the glamorous Hamptons with her even more glamorous grandmother?

Both of my own grandmothers really inspired me to come up with the character of Vivienne, the glamorous widow six times over.  Neither was a widow six times over, but both of my grandmothers were very glamorous ladies.  When I think of my childhood memories, I’m not likely to picture them in aprons baking cookies.  I picture them in evening gowns.

2) Does the book include recipes, and if so--which is your favorite?

Alas, no recipes.  But I did love the recipes in YOUR short story, CLOSER THAN THEY APPEAR!  I’m going to try the spicy peanut noodles and the nostalgia risotto.

I usually cook by feel, so I don’t actually have any written recipes!  But one of my biggest regrets in life is not writing down the recipe for my grandmother’s chicken fricassee.  One of these days, I’m going to start experimenting and figure out how my grandmother made it so delicious!

3) What's your best piece of advice for an aspiring author?

I have lots!  Here goes:

Keep writing! It’s so easy to get discouraged or feel like you don’t have the time to write. But like anything else that is important in life, you have to work at it and make the time for it.

There will always be excuses to avoid writing-- I have no free time, I have little kids, I have big kids, I don't have kids yet, my job is too demanding, I need to find a job...  you fill in your own.  If writing is really your dream, make the time.  Start with a writing class, and then find a writer's group.  Once you commit to taking the time to write, you'll be able to find the time to put pen to paper.  (Or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be.)

Edit! Editing your work is almost as important as the writing itself. Sure, you’re telling your story, but it’s also important to consider the way that you tell it. You want your writing to be tight, elegant and polished. It can only get to be that way through careful and thorough editing.

Develop a very thick skin. You’re putting yourself out there when you write and not everyone is going to love what you do. But that’s okay! You’re not writing to please everyone out there. You’re writing because you have a story that you want to tell. So start getting used to criticism and then see tip #1—keep writing!

4) What book(s) do you love that you feel should be more widely read?

Oh wow.  So, so many!!  The publishing landscape has changed so much lately, and so many books are getting lost in the shuffle.

I’m a HUGE fan of your work.  I recommend it to all my friends!!

I’m also a huge Elinor Lipman fan.  I’m always shocked when I meet someone who hasn’t read THE INN AT LAKE DEVINE.  That book changed my life!  Without that book, I don’t think I’d be a writer today.

5) And--you knew it was coming--give us a juicy, horrific, shameful, cringe-tastic teenage memory.

Hmm, isn’t that just about EVERY teenage memory?  Oh yes, maybe that’s just me.  There was one in particular that is still particularly cringe-worthy for me.

Government In Action.  Back in high school, it was my favorite club, what with my aspirations to be a lawyer, and eventually get into politics.  Government.  In.  Action.  Don’t you just love the drama of it?

Needless to say, we fancied ourselves very serious politicos back then—so much so, that for our big “Model Congress” weekend that we hosted, we got our state senator to come and speak at the Opening Ceremony.

We were thrilled.  By getting him to attend, we’d accomplished something that no other Model Congress had done—we’d smoked them all.  And, really, what else is an exercise in faux-politics but a fight to the death for total one-upmanship?

After weeks of waiting, our big weekend finally arrived.  We were mere minutes away from our Opening Ceremony and couldn’t help but notice that our grand display was missing one very important thing:  our state senator.  I was one of the five students in charge of the weekend, and as the minutes ticked away, we all began to panic and run around the high school, looking for our state senator.  Where was he?  Was he going to show?  Or was this just an evil trick on the part of Oceanside High School designed to make us look like fools?

I covered the parking lot and the gym and ran into one of my co-chairs just as I got back to the entrance of the auditorium.  There he stood calmly with his father.  How could be calm at a time like this?  I was not calm.

I began ranting and raving about our friendly neighborhood state senator in a most un-statesman-like manner.  Where was he?  How dare he do this to us?  Does he have no loyalty to his constituents?  Or his constituents’s kids, as the case may be?  What a *&%$# no-good politician this guy must be!  Those politicians are all the same!  My co-chair interrupted me mid-rant and introduced me to his father—who turned out not to be his father at all, but, of course, our state senator.

Is it any wonder that I scrapped the political career and became a writer?
Isn't she awesome! Thanks so much, Brenda! (And I didn't even pay her to say those nice things about my own books!) Don't forget to comment to win a copy of her amazing new novel (tell us a memory about your own grandmother...) Have a safe and happy Independence Day, everyone! No aiming the fireworks at your neighbor's house!

You can find Brenda online at her website, Facebook page, or follow her on Twitter at @BrendaJanowitz.