Chick Lit and Cocktails!

Nothing goes together quite as perfectly as Chick Lit and cocktails! So, to celebrate the launch of Isabelle Andover’s fabulous debut, Cocktails at Le Carmen, we are throwing a virtual cocktail party! Thanks for coming!

I’ve always loved hosting cocktails parties, whether in my home or at a restaurant, bar, or hotel. And I’ve learned a few key things to pulling them off without a hitch:

  1. Send paper invitations one month before the event – yes, paper! It’s easy for folks to forget about an email invitation, but a pretty paper invitation will get tacked up to the fridge, constantly reminding them of the future festivities.
  2. Send email invitations three weeks before the event – use an email invitation service like Evite to make a pretty invitation that reminds your guests of the event and also gives them the opportunity to RSVP.
  3. Once you know how many guests to expect, it’s time to plan the menu for your cocktail party. This is one of my favorite parts. And if you’re holding it at a restaurant, bar, or hotel, it’s also one of the easiest – just pick from the venue’s offerings! But if you’re like me and like to host at home, this is where you get to show off your culinary talents (or your vast knowledge of the best bakeries and caterers in the city). My advice is to choose a minimum of three savory appetizers such as stuffed mushroom caps, baby quiches, and assorted cheeses. Then, add in at least two bite-sized desserts like mini cheesecakes or get fancy and make (or buy from a local bakery!) mini fruit tarts that are not only delicious but beautiful.
  4. About a week before the event, it’s time to pick out your party dress. I believe every girl should have at least three cocktail dresses in her closet at all times, but a party is always a good excuse to buy a new one. But if you’re on a budget, head over to a thrift store in the ritziest neighborhood and do some treasure hunting. You never know what you might find. Rich people donate their clothes all the time to make room for new ones. You could score a vintage Valentino or hip Halston for a steal!
  5. What girl doesn’t love a reason to buy new shoes? But before you slap down your credit card for a brand new pair of four-inch stilettos, know your venue. Will you be dancing? Standing around mingling? Sitting on big plush couches? Consider this before buying and your feet will thank you at the end of the night!
  6. Cocktails! This is the whole point, right? Again, if you’re hosting at a bar or restaurant, this is easy-peasy. But if you’re doing it yourself, it can still be easy. My favorite cocktail is champagne. I know it isn’t technically a cocktail, but no one will complain about being offered a glass of champagne. Or if you have some ambition, pick up a cocktail recipe book and try your hand at creating some fun libations. Maybe invest in a martini mix set or haul out the blender and whip up some daiquiris. Whatever you do, make sure you have fun doing it.
  7. The morning of: take a yoga class, go for a hike, ride your bike, or sit down with a good book (Cocktails at Le Carmen, perhaps!) and relax. You’ll want to feel rested and refreshed before the harried countdown in the kitchen while you’re plating up appetizers and crushing ice for the frozen drinks.
  8. Recruit a co-host. We all have that one super close girlfriend who always offers to come early and help you set up. Take her up on that offer and put her to work! You’ll return the favor when she hosts.
  9. Don’t panic. So, it’s 7:30 and your party started at 7:00. No worries. People (at least in Los Angeles) are always fashionably late. Like two hours late. I don’t even turn on the oven to warm my appetizers until an hour after the official party time. People will start arriving while you’re setting out the hors d’oeuvres. It will be fine.
  10. Play the host! A good host will introduce her guests to one another, facilitate conversation, and get the party rolling, putting her guests at ease. I’ve hosted cocktails parties where I only knew one guest (it was a party I hosted for a friend) and I still managed to spark small talk into fun dialogue just by asking simple questions like, “How do you know Julie?” “Did you grow up in LA?” “What’s the weirdest piece of advice you’ve ever been given?” That last one can really get the conversation flowing. So, you get the idea. Don’t let anyone be a wallflower at your party. Get everyone talking, dancing, and having fun.

What’s your top tip for hosting a cocktail party? Any horror stories? Parties gone bad? Have the cops ever shut your fiesta down? Tell me about it in the comments!

Cocktails at Le Carmen

Cocktails_at_Le_Carmen_V3When job cuts at Chloe Saddler’s London communications firm result in an unexpected transfer to Paris, she finds herself leaving behind her friends, family, and boyfriend Scott to start a new life in the City of Light. Getting to grips with La Vie Parisienne and keeping a long-distance relationship afloat is not made any easier by the culture shock. Committing the odd French faux pas and inadvertently indulging in a few too many flirtations with her very sexy (and very taken) boss, Jean-Luc, is just the start of it. Factor in her bridezilla of a sister’s wedding (the hottest event of the year in the Saddler family’s social calendar), an unexpected session of hot, naked yoga, a slightly psychotic stalker, and one incredible kiss at an infamous Montmartre nightspot, and Chloe can say au revoir to her old, safe London life and bonjour to the romance, splendour, and glamour of Paris.

A delightful debut that harks back to the early days of Chick Lit when heroines were flawed, funny, and forever battling for love and happiness. With quirky characters and classic comedic charm, Cocktails at Le Carmen is pure fun from page one.

author pic 2Isabelle Andover

Originally from England, Isabelle Andover moved to France after graduating from Durham University with a degree in Modern Languages. She lives in Paris with her tabby cat Oscar, who occasionally blogs about apartment-style living in the City of Light, and who also inspired a prize-winning short story when he was a kitten.

Following several years as a media analyst, Isabelle now works at a Paris-based media company specialized in the international beauty market. In addition to fully embracing the culture of her adopted country by way of consuming plenty of French wine and cheese, Isabelle can also be found indulging in the typically British pursuits of shopping at Marks and Spencer on the Champs Elysées and drinking copious cups of Earl Grey. You can learn more about Isabelle by visiting her website.

Corie Skolnick’s Hollywood Break

When fellow author, Corie Skolnick, told me she had optioned her debut novel, Orfan, to a major Hollywood producer, I had to know more about how it happened. And I knew my friends would want to hear Corie’s story, too. Below, she relays her inspiring journey from novel to the silver screen:

When I retired from teaching, I wrote a novel, ORFAN, inspired in part by the panel of speakers that I invited to my Psychology course, “The Psychological Aspects of Parenthood.” I am NOT a writer; I was a licensed family therapist in private practice and a psych professor at California State University Northridge in Los Angeles. Birth moms and adoptees told their stories to my students and broke some hearts. When I retired from teaching and private practice, I took up writing fiction (I was a copywriter in my 20s before grad school so I always had a hankering to return to writing.) I met a “book to film agent” through a grad school friend who “shopped the book around” with no success.  I queried about 40 agents for representation and traditional publication. I got requests from a few for a “full ms” and everyone responded similarly: “A great story, I love your writing, I can’t sell this in this market.”

I was in New York (I had just been rejected by Valerie Plame’s agent with a similar refrain), and I met two grad students from NYU’s Music Industry Business program at a coffee shop in the village. They listened to my sad tale and said, “What do you need an agent for? What do you need a publisher for? Look what’s happened to the music industry. The same thing is going to happen to book publishing. It’s all coming down.” Everything they predicted came true. Borders closed. B&N had to re-invent itself as “Crapola R Us + a few books” and the DIY indies would EXPLODE. The deal was, they got to produce and distribute the audio book and they would create an indie imprint to publish ORFAN under the umbrella of their Indie Rock Record Label.

I had to do all my own promotion.  I hit the book clubs. The very first book club I went to was within 30 minutes of my house. The woman who invited me to that first book club gave a copy of my book to her step-sister who let it sit on her nightstand for more than a year. When she finally read it, she fell in love. Last December, she called her sister to get my number and she called me up. “Hi, I’m going to give you some names,” she said.  “I want you to google them and reassure yourself that I’m legitimate, and I will call you back tomorrow.” They were all names of film producers with major credits.  When she called me back, I made an appointment to have lunch. (They do this a lot in Hollywood. They have lots of meetings and they love to have lunch.) She told me that she wanted to develop my book into a film, and with her contacts, she thought it would be possible. I didn’t hesitate more than 10 seconds.

She gave the book to Kellie Davis at Ron Shelton Pictures. Kellie was a personal friend. Kellie read and fell in love with the book, but it took her a few months to get Ron Shelton to read it. When he finally did, he “fell in love” – his words – with my characters. He invited us all to lunch in August and by October, I had a signed option agreement. It arrived in my mail on my 64th birthday. Proving…it’s never to late to realize your artistic dreams.

As of this date, the “project” is fast tracked. Mr. Shelton, who was nominated for an Oscar for his script, Bull Durham, is adapting the book himself. I’m told this is a very good sign. Many options do not become realized as films. Only about 33% of options are executed. Your chances increase exponentially if your producer is a “big.” Mr. Shelton is a “big.” Some big producers farm projects out to low level screen writers. If they undertake the project personally…that’s meaningful.

I got hit by lightning.

~Corie Skolnick

Thank you, Corie, for sharing your story! Wishing you all the best of luck, and I hope to see it on the big screen soon! And aside from this fabulous news, Corie has a new book out this May that sounds really fantastic. I can’t wait to read it!

AME Cover proof 10
America’s Most Eligible
Athena Cervantes wants to be a writer – a real writer – and that means only one thing to her – she wants to be a great American novelist! Of course this ambition requires an MFA from a prestigious writing program. Check! And she has to read all the right books. Check, again! And, most importantly, Athena must write the truth about what she knows. The only problem is, not a single thing she thinks she knows is true.

America’s Most Eligible is a hilarious romp about an ambitious young woman who has come of age in the pretentious world of Southern California. With great humor, Corie Skolnick satirizes “the bad tweed set” of literary academia along with the self-important characters of Hollywood, Big J-journalism, self-help Psychology, politics, and especially traditional commercial publishing even as the latter languishes in the throes of death at its own hands.

Praise for America’s Most Eligible
“Corie Skolnick is magic – pure, absolute, gorgeous magic. Her book, America’s Most Eligible, is brilliant, funny – truly, laugh-out-loud funny – and superbly written, a stunning satire. She can string a few words together, and turn them into perfect gems so effortlessly. Her characters – each and every one – are filled with so much life, so much wit, so much truth. I can promise you, you will both cringe, and nod in agreement with what falls so effortlessly on to the page. Corie is a grand, stupendous writer.”  ~ Amy Ferris, author of  Marrying George Clooney, Seal Press

“Corie Skolnick’s writing is so wonderfully unique, I honesty can’t imagine not liking this book, no matter your genre preference. Written through the eyes of Athena Cervantes, the snarky, intelligent journalist and would-be novelist, Skolnick breaks many of the so-called rules writers are warned to heed and proves that if you have a way with words, which this author inarguably does, the “rules” don’t apply. Each time I put this book down, I couldn’t wait to pick it up again and that’s not something I say often, even about books I enjoy. With a plot that gets a little twisty toward the end, America’s Most Eligible will definitely make you laugh. Entertaining, funny, and smart!” ~ Shelly Hickman, author of Vegas to Varanasi

About the Author
CorieBorn in Oak Park, Illinois, and raised on Chicago’s south side, Corie Skolnick moved to Southern California  when Ronald Reagan was the governor. She was a California licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice, a consultant to several Los Angeles agencies serving high risk youth and families, and a “sometimes” psychology instructor at both California State University, Northridge and Moorpark College. She currently writes fiction full time, travels extensively, and contributes to the travel site, DESTO3.COM.  She is married to the social psychologist and photographer, Paul (Pablo) Skolnick. To learn more about Corie, please visit her website.

Review: All Fall Down

allfalldown
All Fall Down
Allison Weiss got her happy ending: a handsome husband, an adorable daughter, a job she loves, and the big house in the suburbs. But while waiting in the pediatrician’s office, she opens a magazine to a quiz about addiction and starts to wonder: Is a Percocet at the end of the day really different from a glass of wine? Is it such a bad thing to pop a Vicodin after a brutal Jump & Pump class, or if your husband ignores you? She tells herself that the pills help her make it through her days; but what if her increasing drug use, a habit that’s becoming expensive and hard to hide, is turning into her biggest problem of all?

My Thoughts:
This was a compelling read, which at times was uncomfortable. A pill-addicted heroine with a “sensitive” child, a distant husband, and an over-extended lifestyle, it was sometimes hard for me to relate to the struggles of the main character. Or rather, it was all too easy to become angry and impatient with her. That’s what addiction is, and Weiner captured it so well. Unlike other novels where a young, hipster heroine struggles with an addiction following a few too many drug-filled and alcohol-fueled crazy nights (or months) like in SPIN by Catherine McKenzie or in RACHEL’S HOLIDAY by Marian Keyes, ALL FALL DOWN deals with a mother, wife, and successful blogger who puts everything at risk to feed her pill habit. But I think this is an important viewpoint for Weiner to have explored. These are struggles many women face with the pressure we all feel to be better, do more, and exemplify the perfect life. Oddly, it was Chick Lit that first celebrated fallible heroines and where Weiner first found her voice. ALL FALL DOWN is a great example of how growing up and getting your life together isn’t necessarily a good thing – not when it takes a “mother’s little helper” to get through the day. Definitely a well written, if somewhat infuriating, look into suburban life and addiction.

Review: Scot on the Rocks

ScotRocks
Scot on the Rocks
When her ex-boyfriend, Trip, gets engaged to Hollywood’s latest It Girl, Manhattan attorney Brooke Miller plans to attend the wedding. Who says a modern girl can’t stay friends with her ex?

Besides, Brooke’s got her sexy Scottish fiancé, Douglas, to take as her date. Okay, so maybe he’s not exactly her fiancé, but they’re living together in his apartment, so she’ll be getting the ring any minute, right?

Wrong.

After a fight leaves her without a boyfriend (much less a fiancé) just days before the wedding, Brooke faces the ultimate humiliation of attending her ex-boyfriend’s nuptials alone. Desperate to find a replacement to fill Douglas’s kilt, Brooke concocts an outrageous plan to survive the wedding and win the man of her dreams, all with her dignity ever-so-slightly intact.

My Thoughts
I am a sucker for a funny fashionista, and Janowitz’ Brooke did not disappoint. She was a bit kooky, a little self-deprecating, and completely hilarious. And her friends were equally as fabulous. While there were a few points where the transitions between scenes felt clunky, they were easy to gloss over simply because the story was such fun to read. I only regret that I didn’t get to this book much sooner. But now I have Janowitz’ other books to look forward to, so that’s not so bad after all. I recommend this for readers who love classic chick lit with fallible heroines, dashing love interests, and true blue best friends.

About the Author
JanowitzA native New Yorker, Brenda Janowitz has had a flair for all things dramatic since she played the title role in her third grade production of Really Rosie. When asked by her grandmother if the experience made her want to be an actress when she grew up, Brenda responded, “An actress? No. A writer, maybe.”

Brenda attended Cornell University, earning a Bachelor of Science in Human Service Studies, with a Concentration in Race and Discrimination. After graduating from Cornell, she attended Hofstra Law School, where she was a member of the Law Review and won the Law Review Writing Competition. She currently lives in Manhattan where she lectures on the publishing process and teaches creative writing at Mediabistro.

Brenda is the author of THE LONELY HEARTS CLUB, RECIPE FOR A HAPPY LIFE, JACK WITH A TWIST, and SCOT ON THE ROCKS. You can learn more about Brenda at www.brendajanowitz.com.

Pie Girls Review & Author Interview

PieGirls
Pie Girls:
Princess, Southern belle, and spoiled-rotten social climber Searcy Roberts swore on a stack of Bibles she’d never return home to Fairhope, Alabama. After marrying her high school sweetheart and moving to Atlanta, Searcy embraces big-city life—Carrie Bradshaw style.

But now, Searcy has a teeny, tiny problem. Her husband’s had a mid-life crisis. He’s quit his job, cancelled her credit cards, and left her for another man.

Searcy returns to Fairhope, ready to lick her wounds. But when her mother falls ill, she’s is thrust into managing the family business—only to discover the beloved bakery is in danger of closing its doors forever.

Enlisting the help of the adorable bike store owner next door, an array of well-heeled customers, and her soon-to-be ex-husband, Searcy hatches the plan of the century to save Pie Girls.

My Thoughts:
Pie Girls is a charming Southern tale about a spoiled Atlanta socialite, Searcy, whose wealthy husband leaves her high and dry, forcing her to fend for herself and return to her roots in small town Alabama. This witty and warm novel by Lauren Clark charms with laugh out loud moments and plenty of Southern hospitality, along with a few mean girls thrown in for good measure. I was immediately sucked into Searcy’s story at the outset, and even though she begins the book as a superficial diva with a dangerous shopping habit, I loved Searcy. She had a way of talking herself into situations that were absolutely hilarious. There were scenes I still fondly recall that had me laughing out loud. Seriously, I need this book made into a movie so I can “see” them play out! But Clark is terrific at balancing the storytelling with equally tender moments that pull at the heartstrings. Above all, this is a story about finding yourself and loving yourself, even in the face of adversity. And, of course, finding romance in the most unlikely of allies. Definitely a book to tuck in with at the end of a long day and escape with Searcy into a world of Southern comfort.

Q&A with author Lauren Clark

Q: What was the inspiration for your novel?

A: I visited a place in Greensboro, Alabama called the Pie Lab, a restaurant written up many times in Southern Living, Bon Appetit, and many newspapers around the Southeast. I kind of fell in love with the idea of such a place in Fairhope, Alabama, a lovely waterfront community near where I live. I decided to create a shop named Pie Girls there, and thus, Searcy’s story was born.

Q: Who is your favorite character and why?

A: I do love Searcy, the main character … but when we first meet Searcy, she is a very spoiled Southern belle who’s been pampered and polished to shine in Atlanta’s hottest social scenes. She has a personal shopper, a group of wealthy girlfriends, and a credit card with no limit. She spends her days shopping, going out to lunch, planning parties, and socializing.

What makes her so special is that even in the first chapter, we glimpse the real Searcy. She knows, deep down, that something is wrong, but can’t bring herself to admit it. She projects a positive, upbeat attitude and tries to keep things status quo, because she doesn’t believe she can live without her husband Alton.

Alton’s leaving upends Searcy’s life. At first, it appears that the impending divorce is the end of the world, but Searcy’s journey makes her into an entirely different person—someone caring, giving, empathetic, and truly loving. Best of all, she learns to rely on herself, forgives Alton, and finds true love.
 
Q: What is your writing method? Are you a plotter or a pantser?

A: Plotter, definitely. I am definitely a plotter and an outliner. I work from a one or two line “What if?” idea and work out the plot from there. I end up with at least a few sentences about each chapter before I begin writing. I have the major plot points and twists, as well as the ending, mostly worked out before I begin the manuscript.

Q: Do you have any writing rituals to help get you in the mood to write?

A: I usually write in the morning—early morning, like 530 AM—have some coffee brewed, and I like to have the house quiet. If I can open this windows and let a little breeze in … or sit outside and write … all the better!

Q: What was the first car you owned?

A: Oh no! My parents bought me a 1977 bright orange Cadillac my senior year of college. I thought it was the most embarrassing vehicle ever, but my sorority sisters loved it!

Q: What is your favorite holiday and why?

A: I do adore Christmas, especially since my youngest still believes in Santa, but my kids and I really also love decorating for—and enjoying—Halloween.

Q: Who was your first celebrity crush?

A: Oh…LOL. Tom Cruise in “All the Right Moves.” (Old school football movie). I thought he was totally dreamy <3

Q: Do you have a current TV show obsession?

A: I adore Downton Abbey. Love the show, the writing, the drama, the characters. It just proves that you can have a great storyline with no blood, violence, or zombies!

Q: What was the first concert you went to and how old were you?

A: Bryan Adams (Summer of ’69), I was 16, went with my best friend, and was accompanied by my mother! At the time, I was mortified, but looking back, it was a lot of fun and generous of her to give up her evening to spend with a concert hall full of screaming teenagers!

Q: If you could give just one piece of advice to your 16-year-old self, what would it be?

A: Stop worrying so much! You will be blessed with a wonderful life full of friends, love, laughter, and books!

About the Author:
Lauren ClarkLauren Clark has been a voracious reader since the age of four and would rather be stranded at the library than on a desert island. In her former life, she worked as an anchor and producer for CBS affiliates in Upstate New York and Alabama. Lauren adores her family, yoga, her new Electra bike, and flavored coffee. She lives near the Alabama Gulf Coast. Visit her website at LaurenClarkBooks.com.

Website: http://www.laurenclarkbooks.com
Blog: http://www.laurenclarkbooks.com/blog
Facebook: Lauren Clark
Twitter: @Laurenclark_bks
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/laurenclarkbks/
Amazon Author Page: Lauren Clark
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5280308.Lauren_Clark
Book Purchase Links:

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Pie Girls

Dancing Naked in Dixie

Stardust Summer

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