About author, Carolyn Ridder Aspenson: Rarely can you find Carolyn without a book, or her Nook with her. Reading for her has always been an escape, a way of discovering a world different than her own. Throughout her education, her teachers encouraged her to nourish her muse and she did, often to the neglect of her mathematical genius, which clearly left and found another human before long division in fourth grade. Her math skills still suffer today. She traveled the journalism route in college but never felt the connection and finally opted out of writing as a career in general. Carolyn never gave up writing for fun. She wrote to express herself, to understand her feelings and to let the muse have her say. The invention of the Internet allowed Carolyn and her muse to write things others could read and with that, she eventually began freelance writing through various avenues. She currently writes for several local papers and magazines in the Atlanta area and finally took the dive into self-publishing with her debut novel, Unfinished Business An Angela Panther Novel. Carolyn wrote her first novel to honor her mother – she felt the need to let her mother’s voice live on and wrote the book as a way to handle her grief. Her first novel has only been out for a week and she hopes someone other than friends will buy it. Carolyn is already working on the second book of the series. Carolyn is a mother of three with a husband she refers to as her ‘hottie hubby’, two dogs and a cat who thinks she’s the queen of the house. Carolyn, however, disagrees.
Describe your writing style in five words: Can I phone a friend?
When did you know you were a writer? That’s a tough one. I thought I was a writer when I started writing for a website about ABC soap operas, (here’s a plug) www.allmywriters.com. Then I thought I was a writer when I started to get paid for doing marketing pieces for a promotion company. Once I started freelancing for the papers here in Atlanta and saw my first front-page article, I decided I was a real writer but when I published my book, I thought I was a writer too. Looking back, I think being a writer isn’t determined by someone purchasing your work or by the fact that you’re paid to write something specific. I think being a writer is something you finally feel inside, it comes with the accomplishment of something important in your own world…in your own opinion of yourself. For me, I’m not entirely sure that’s happened. I am overly critical of myself and my own accomplishments and in that drive to improve, I think I feel I’m never good enough or just out of reach of my goal, because my goal keeps changing. A psychiatrist would have a field day with me.
Who is your favorite author? I have a few. My favorite author is Robert Parker, who passed a few years ago. He is the author of the Spenser series. Some might remember the TV show Spenser For Hire (I’m dating myself here, I know!) Close seconds are Harlan Coben and Robert Crais.
Walk us through your writing/editing/publishing process: Oh boy. My writing process is still ‘undecided’. Some days I don’t write at all and some days I spend the entire day writing. With my book, I was so critical and unsure of myself I wrote and rewrote for six months and then one day I stopped and didn’t start up again for almost a year. The restart lasted about three months and throughout the entire process I re-read and edited almost daily. I’m hoping to NOT do that as much with the second book. I did hire a professional editor for the clean up and she told me she should have given me a discount because there wasn’t much to clean. I suspect my second book will be messier. I published through a great program that distributes the book to other outlets and it was easier than I expected. I’m still searching for a publisher or agent who will think I’m worth a shot.
If you’re not reading or writing, then you’re probably…: at my son’s lacrosse game or practice or sadly, cleaning. I’m OCD about cleaning. It’s a curse.
Where do you get your ideas? The ideas in my first book come from my personal experience of losing my mother and what I would ‘like’ things to be like for me now. I also researched teenager issues because I didn’t want to use anything about my kids issues (they all have them!) and have them whine at me about it. I also have some great friends who have wonderful senses of humor to bounce ideas off of, who added a lot of fun to my story.
What is your favorite word? Probably. I love that it’s almost committing but not quite. My second favorite word is ‘duck’ and that’s because when I text, my phone always autocorrects a very inappropriate swear word to it. I know use it instead of the real swear word and it instantly makes me feel better. Probably I should use it more in my writing, too.
How did you come up with the title of your book, “Unfinished Business”? I used an Italian phrase in my book and it means “Unfinished Business” and it clicked for me. Apparently it’s clicked for other writers also because it’s the name of several books, so I added the “An Angela Panther Novel” to it just in case.
Hard/paperbacks or eBooks? I have a paperback on Amazon however I’m rethinking how I got it there because I’m not comfortable with the process costs.
Where do you want to be five years from now? On the top of the NY Best Seller list. If that means I have to stand on a paper with the printed list on it, then that’s what I’ll do, but I’d prefer my name actually BE on the list. At the top.
What is the best advice you’ve been given? “Finish the book.” During my hiatus, (which was actually more of a “duck, it. I give up” time, really) I had a dream that my mother and I were sitting in her old kitchen, drinking coffee. She looked at me and said, “You need to finish the book before you move out of your house.” I took that two ways – finish the book and repair the crap that needs repair in your house because you’re going to move soon. I’m still working on repairing the crap, but so far we have no plans to move. She might know something different, however.
Can you tell us about any of your upcoming projects? I’m already working on book two of the series and hope to have it done in a timely matter, by the end of the year. In the first book, Angela’s life changes in a huge way. In book two, it changes again and she works to change it back. She’s also working to help her best friend find proof that her husband is cheating on her. To do that, she’s got to enlist the help of her mother, who by the way is dead.
Book blurb “Unfinished Business; An Angela Panther Novel”
When Angela’s mother Fran dies and comes back as a ghost, Angela’s ordinary life turns into a carnival show, starring both Angela and her nosy, dead mother.
It seems Fran’s got some unfinished business on earth and she’s determined to get it done, no matter what.
When Fran returned, she reignited her daughter’s long suppressed psychic gift, one she neglected to mention to Angela, and now Angela sees ghosts everywhere. And they won’t leave her alone.
Fran can’t help but stick her transparent nose where it doesn’t belong, making Angela’s life even crazier.
Now Angela has to find a way to keep her old life in tact and help the dead with their unfinished business, all while trying to keep her dead mother out of trouble.
And it’s a lot for one woman to handle.
**Click on the links below to watch trailers of “Unfinished Business; An Angela Panther Novel”
The air in the room felt frigid and sent an icy chill deep into my bones. Searching for comfort, I lay on the rented hospice bed, closed my eyes, and snuggled under Ma’s floral print quilt. I breathed in her scent, a mixture of Dove soap, Calvin Klein Eternity perfume and stale cigarettes. The stench of death lingered in the air, trying hard to take over my senses, but I refused to let it in. Death may have taken my mother, but not her smell. Not yet.
“You little thief, I know what you did now.”
I opened my eyes and searched the room, but other than my Pit Bull, Grey Hound mix Gracie, and me, it was empty. Gracie sensed my ever-so-slight movement, looked up from her spot next to the bed, sniffed the air, and laid her head back down. I saw my breath, which wouldn’t have been a big deal except it was May, in Georgia. I closed my eyes again.
“I know you can hear me, Angela. Don’t you ignore me.”
I opened my eyes again. “Ma?”
Floating next to the bed, in the same blue nightgown she had on when she died, was my mother, or more likely, some grief-induced image of her.
“Ma,” I said, and then laughed out loud. “What am I saying? It’s not you. You’re dead.”
The grief-induced image spoke. “Of course I’m dead, Angela, but I told you if I could, I’d come back. And I can so, ta-da, here I am.”
The image floated up in the air, twirled around in a few circles and floated back down.
I closed my eyes and shook my head, trying to right my brain or maybe shake loose the crazy, but it was pointless because when I opened my eyes again, the talking image of my mother was still there.
“Oh good grief, stop it. It’s not your head messing with you, Angela. It’s me, your Ma. Now sit up and listen to me. This is important.”
As children we’re conditioned to respond to our parents when they speak to us. We forget it as teenagers, but somewhere between twenty and the birth of our first child, we start acknowledging them again, maybe even believing some of what they tell us. Apparently it was no different when you imagined their ghost speaking to you, too. Crazy maybe, but no different.
I rubbed my eyes. “This is a dream, so I might as well go with it,” I said.
I sat up, straightened my back, plastered a big ol’ smile on my face – because it was a dream and I could be happy the day my mom died, in a dream – and said, “Hi Ma, how are you?”
“You ate my damn Hershey bars,” she said.
“Hershey bars? I dream about my dead mother and she talks about Hersey bars. What is that?”
“Don’t you act like you don’t know what I’m talking about, Angela,” she said.
“But I don’t know what you’re talking about, Ma.” I shook my head again and thought for sure I was bonkers, talking to an imaginary Ma.
“Oh for the love of God, Angela, my Hershey bars. The ones I hid in the back of my closet.”
Oh. Those Hershey bars, from like, twenty years ago, at least. The ones I did eat.
“How do you know it was me that ate your Hershey bars? That was over twenty years ago.”
The apparition smirked. “I don’t know how I know, actually. I just do. I know about all of the stuff you did, and your brothers too. It’s all in here now,” she said with a smirk, and pointed to her slightly transparent head.
She floated up to the ceiling, spun in a circle, and slowly floated back down. “And look, I’m floating. Bet you wish you could do that, don’t you, Angela? You know, I’d sit but I tried that before and fell right through to the damn basement. And let me tell you, that was not fun. It was creepy, and it scared the crap outta me. And oh, Madone, the dust between your two floors! Good Lord, it was nasty. You need to clean that. No wonder Emily’s always got a snotty nose. She’s allergic.”
“Emily does not always have a snotty nose,” I said, even though she did.
The apparition started to say something, then looked at the bed. “Ah, Madone, that mattress. That was the most uncomfortable thing I ever slept on, but don’t get me started on that. That’s a conversation for another time.”
“And,” she continued, “I hated that chair,” she said while pointing to the chair next to the bed. “You should have brought my chair up here instead. I was dying and you wanted me to sit in that chair? What with that uncomfortable bed and ugly chair, my back was killing me.” She smiled at her own joke, but I sat there stunned, and watched the apparition’s lips move, my own mouth gaping, as I tried to get my mind and my eyes to agree on what floated in front of me.
“Ah, Madone. Stop looking at me like that, Angela Frances Palanca. You act like you’ve never seen a ghost.”
“Ma, I haven’t ever seen a ghost, and my name is Angela Panther, not Palanca. You know that.” My mother always called me Angela Palanca, and it drove both my father and me batty. She said I was the closest thing to a true Italian she could create, and felt I deserved the honor of an Italian last name. She never liked Richter, my maiden name, because she said it was too damned German.
“And that recliner of yours was falling apart. I was afraid you’d hurt yourself in it. Besides, it was ugly, and I was sort of embarrassed to put it in the dining room.” I shook my head again. “And you’re not real, you’re in my head. I watched them take your body away, and I know for a fact you weren’t breathing, because I checked.”
Realizing that I was actually having a discussion with someone who could not possibly be real, I pinched myself to wake up from what was clearly some kind of whacked-out dream.
“Stop that, you know you bruise easily. You don’t want to look like a battered wife at my funeral, do you?”
Funeral? I had no intention of talking about my mother’s funeral with a figment of my imagination. I sat for a minute, speechless, which for me, was a huge challenge.
“They almost dropped you on the driveway, you know.” I giggled, and then realized what I was doing, and immediately felt guilty – for a second.
Ma scrunched her eyebrows and frowned. “I know. I saw that. You’d think they’d be more careful with my body, what with you standing there and all. There you were, my daughter, watching them take away my lifeless, battered body, and I almost went flying off that cart. I wanted to give them a what for, and believe me, I tried, but I felt strange, all dizzy and lightheaded. Sort of like that time I had those lemon drop drinks at your brother’s wedding. You know, the ones in those little glasses? Ah, that was a fun night. I haven’t danced like that in years. I could have done without the throwing up the next day, though, that’s for sure.”
Lifeless, battered body? What a dramatic apparition I’d imagined.
I sat up and rubbed my eyes and considered pinching myself again, but decided the figment was right, I didn’t want to be all bruised for the funeral.
There I sat, in the middle of the night, feeling wide awake, but clearly dreaming. I considered telling her to stay on topic, seeing as dreams don’t last very long, and maybe my subconscious needed my dream to process her death, but instead said, “This is just a dream,” because I was trying to convince myself this apparition wasn’t real.
She threw her hands up in the air. “Again with the dreaming. It’s not a dream, Angela. You’re awake, and I’m here, in the flesh.” She held her transparent hand up and looked at it. “Okay, so not exactly in the flesh, but you know what I mean.”
This wasn’t my mother, I knew this, because my mother died today, in my house, in this bed, in a dining room turned bedroom. I was there. I watched it happen. She had lung cancer, or, as she liked to call it, the big C. And today, as her body slowly shut down, and her mind floated in and out of consciousness, I talked to her. I told her everything I lacked the courage to say before, when she could talk back and acknowledge my fear of losing her. And I kept talking as I watched her chest rise and fall, slower and slower, until it finally stilled. I talked to her as she died, and because I still had so much more to say, I kept talking for hours after her body shut down. I told her how much I loved her, how much she impacted my life. I told her how much she drove me absolutely crazy, and yet I couldn’t imagine my life without her.
So this wasn’t Ma, couldn’t possibly be. “You’re dead.”
The figment of my imagination shook her head and frowned, then moved closer, and looked me straight in the eye. I could see through her to the candelabra on the wall. Wow, it looked dusty. When was it last dusted?
“Of course I’m dead, Angela. I’m a ghost.”
I shook my head, trying hard not to believe her, but I just didn’t feel like I was sleeping, so God help me, I did.
My name is Angela Panther and I see dead people. Well, one dead person, that is, and frankly, one was enough.