Lindsay Frucci on Writing Strong Women Blog Talk Radio!

As I attempt to make good on my new year’s resolutions, I find myself thinking “what would Lindsay Frucci do?” After reading her memoir The Pig and Me, I finally decided to finally get crackin’ on that novel that’s been brewing inside my head for so long. Now that I’m about 20 pages into it, I feel more confident and hopeful about venturing into the world of publishing. If you, like me, need some motivation to pursue your dream, listen to her interview on Sylvia Dickey Smith’s Writing Strong Women radio show!

From Sylvia’s Blog Talk Radio: If you think The Pig and Me is an interesting title of a nonfiction book, wait until you meet the author, Lindsay, Frucci, and hear how she turned an idea into a profitable business against all odds. And if that doesn’t take a strong woman, I don’t know what does. Read her words about being a strong woman:

“I didn’t start out as a strong woman. Quite the opposite. But over time I began to feel a need to stand up for myself, to be heard. I began to believe I had worth beyond what I’d been told – and believed – I had. I began to understand that I was a Strong Woman. The transition began in my late 20’s, but lapsed frequently. When I found my voice in my mid-40’s, I held on to it with every ounce of my being and never let it go.”

For more about the book, read my review here.  Oh and did I mention that Sylvia is also a talented author? Go here for a review of her Third Eye mystery series, and go here for a review of her stand-alone novel A War of Her Own.

Thank you Sylvia for spotlighting this fabulous first-time author. Your radio show rocks!

Cindy Lou’s Last Minute Gift Guide

The stockings are hung, the tree is trimmed, and I’m totally freaking out!  Christmas is almost here and I still have a ton of shopping to do! If you, like me, need some help finding the perfect gift for that “hard to buy for” person on your list, check out Cindy Lou’s handy-dandy gift guide. Books make fabulous gifts. They’re cheap, easy to wrap, and offer hours of entertainment!  E-books are great, but you can’t wrap them up in a pretty little bow. Be sure to search for these titles and more at your local independent bookstore. BookPeople here I come!

Isn’t Cindy Lou the cutest? You should pay her a visit at the former Town Lake Animal Shelter. She’s sweet, adorable and looking for a good home! For more info, go to the Austin Pets Alive website. [UPDATE: This sweet pup just got adopted! But if you’re in the market for a new four-legged friend, check out the available doggies and kitties on the APA! website.]

FOR YOUR BEST GAL PAL
Hot Guys and Baby Animals by Audrey Khuner and Carolyn Newman

Hot guys and baby animals!!!! Need I say more? Whoever thought of this concept is a freaking genius. My only complaint is that not all of the men are shirtless. But other than that, this book is a win-win for hot guy appreciators and nonprofit animal rescues. That’s right – proceeds from this book go to nonprofits like SPCA. I think it is my civic duty to go out and buy this book for each of my gal pals!


FOR THE FASHIONISTA

Killer Hair by Ellen Byerrum

This fun little mystery series is chick lit at its finest! I picked up Killer Hair after watching the movie adaptation on Lifetime. As a journalist and wannabe sleuth, I can’t resist mysteries involving snoopy reporters who solve crimes with their hot detective boyfriends. In this series, our fearless protagonist, Lacey Smithsonian (no relation to the museum) reluctantly writes a fashion column for a small daily in Washington D.C. Apparently our nation’s Capital is the home of the helmet hairdo, shoulder pads and boxy power-suits – yikes! In this book (the first installment in the series) she teams up with her two quirky gal pals to find the killer of an up-and-coming celebrity hair stylist. Filled with fashion tips, snappy dialogue, twists and turns, this is a really fun little whodunit!

FOR THE BOOK CLUB GOER
Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson

If you’re looking for a book that will give you A LOT to talk about – this one’s for you! Wow – this is one powerful book about abandonment, domestic violence and personal transformation. Rose Mae Lolley is one character I will never forget. Abandoned by her mother and forced to live with an abusive father, she lost her innocence and love for life at a very young age. Caught in a vicious cycle of abuse, Rose marries a psychotic man who beats her to a pulp on a regular basis. When she finally snaps, she grabs a pistol and her dog and makes a run for it. When her survival instinct kicks into gear, she ditches her identity as the subservient wife and develops an ass-kicking, gun-toting alternate personality. I never really understood why women stay with their violent husbands until I read this book, which really delves into the psyche of abused women.

FOR THE BOOK LOVER
The Pulpwood Queens’ Tiara-Wearing, Book-Sharing Guide to Life by Kathy L. Patrick

This book makes a great gift for anyone who loves to read. While shopping at a super-cute old-timey drug store/soda fountain in Jefferson, I found this book sandwiched between racks of feather boas and floppy hats. The book cover depicting a gaggle of fun-loving women decked out in tiaras and leopard-print ensembles seemed to be calling my name. Filled with inspiring quotes, recommended reading lists and stories of family and friendship, this book has a little something for everyone. A lot of the essays  really struck a chord with me, especially the chapter about how Kathy (who actually avoided reading as a kid) found her passion for all things literary after her teacher recommended that she read “Honestly, Katie John.” Just that little bit of encouragement spurred her love of reading and gave her the confidence to write. On a personal note, this really reminded me of when a 9th grade teacher wrote a footnote in one of my essays that said, “You’re a talented writer. You should pursue this.” Mr. Demaro, wherever you are, THANK YOU!

FOR JUST ABOUT ANYONE ON YOUR LIST!
Another Bad Dog Book by Joni B. Cole

This book makes a great gift for anyone on your list who likes to laugh! You don’t even have to be a dog lover (though I don’t understand why you wouldn’t be!) to get hours of entertainment out of this collection of funny and inspiring essays.  From dealing with a terrible tween and aging parents to finding inspiration at an American Idol concert, this talented author expertly combines humor with some pretty weighty issues. Reading this book is like visiting with your best gal pal. I actually had to force myself to slow down and savor it because I didn’t want to say goodbye to my new dog-loving friend. The fact that she’s a Murder She Wrote Fan is just the icing on the cake!

FOR THE SOUTHERN BELLE
The Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery Series by Carolyn Haines

This mystery series is sure to please any gal – Southern or not – who enjoys a good atmospheric mystery set in the Deep South. The leading lady, Sarah Booth Delaney is one of my favorite protagonists, which says a lot because I’m hooked on several mystery series. She’s smart, sassy and not afraid to risk life and limb to save her friends from fiendish murderers. How I wish I could hang out with Sarah Booth and her bestie, Tinkie, on a lazy Sunday afternoon drinking mint juleps on the porch of her beloved plantation home. Oh and did I mention that in between writing and teaching, this wonderful author rescues animals? She’s truly fabulous and anyone who reads her books will agree!

FOR THE GHOST HUNTER
Paranormal State by Ryan Buell

Okay, okay I know this is not chick lit, but I have to include it! I’m a total sucker for ghost-hunting shows – even the ones that I know are fake! Although I have to admit that I mainly watch Ghost Adventures because Zach Bagans is a hottie. But out of all of them, Paranormal State is the spookiest. Ryan Buell genuinely wants to help people rid their houses of malevolent spirits – and he’s not afraid to confront even the most demonic entities. I’ve always wondered what happens behind the scenes, and this book really fills in the blanks. You learn more about the clients (the good and the bad) and the eerie encounters that were edited out of the 30-minute episodes. I made the mistake of reading this book while my hubby was out of town and had to sleep with all the lights on! If you’re looking for a good scare, check this one out.

Book Review & Giveaway: The Pig and Me by Lindsay Frucci

  I never knew I liked memoirs until I picked up Lindsay Frucci’s The Pig and Me. When she contacted me about her new book, I thought it would be filled with the nuances of running a business. But I love those delicious little fat-free brownies, so why not give it a chance? Little did I know, this rollercoaster ride of a book had me in its grip from page one all the way to the epilogue. This is the first time in a long time I have actually read a book in one sitting. Seriously guys, it’s just as good – and as addictive – as those No-Pudge brownies! 

It all begins one warm summer morning when Lindsay, a forty-something stay-at-home-mom, realized her jeans were fitting a little too snug. Bogged down by financial stress and a demanding real estate job, she knew she needed to do something big to help her family recover from bankruptcy… and lose some weight in the process. While ruminating about her financial woes and weight gain, a light bulb flashed above her head: She needed to build a better brownie.   

After turning her kitchen into a mad scientist lab filled with mixing bowls, pans and batches of brownies, she discovered a key ingredient that made her healthy brownies taste sinfully delicious: yogurt. She knew she had to share her brownies with the world when her friends and family all agreed that they tasted just as good – if not better – than the fat-laden gooey goodness she used to make with gobs of butter and chocolate chips. 

On a leap of faith, she decides to embark on the biggest and most challenging journey of her personal and professional life. When she announced her new business endeavor to her husband, he was unenthused to say the least. 

 “You’re finally making enough money to pay the bills,” he says with suppressed anger. “Why start a business you know nothing about?” 

“I can learn,” she said with naively foolish yet stubborn certainty. “I can do this.” 

And so begins Lindsay’s quest to make No Pudge Brownies a household name, not an easy feat for a busy mom with very little knowledge of the business world. Plus it doesn’t help when your own husband isn’t in your corner. Armed with a batch of brownies and whole lot of moxie, Lindsay sets forth into the cutthroat food industry by wowing her very first business consultant. When he advised her to stop the silly brownie business and go back to mothering her children, she almost called it quits. But before she could scurry out of the building like kicked dog, in walks her soon-to-be hero, Bob Fox. A retired business executive from General Mills, this guy knows what sells. And after taking a bite out of one of her brownies, he knew she was sitting on a goldmine. 

Teaming up with Bob and his colleague (another retired food industry exec) Jay Albert, Lindsay learned the how-to’s of owning and operating a diet-friendly brownie company.  These two men, who she calls “her angels,” helped her package, sell and market her bags of brownies, which involved countless hours of food demonstrations, stock room deliveries, research and number crunching. 

From her first food demo at the local grocery store, to the creation of her pink smiling pig logo, to her very first fancy foods trade show, these two wonderful men were there for her through thick and thin. I don’t know if it was divine intervention or what – but I have a feeling Bob and Jay came into her life for a reason. And throughout the book, you’ll see a number of people swoop in to help this brave entrepreneur overcome some really tough situations.

Like a cheerleader on the sidelines, I found myself whooping with glee when she conquered obstacles like catching the interests of food industry big wigs like Weight Watchers, Trader Joes or Ben & Jerry’s. One of my favorite “take that!” moments was when her husband found her pink smiling pig logo smiling back at him from the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Boo Yeah!  I was also riveted by her personal struggles like taking care of her aging father, raising two kids while juggling a high-stress job, and dealing with tension (aka the 800-lb gorilla) between her and her husband. 

On a personal note, I grew up hearing “you can’t” by the people who had the biggest influence on me.   If I listened to them, who knows what kind of path I would have taken in life? Although I have no interest in making a name for myself in the business world, this book really inspires me to go ahead and take that leap of faith into the wonderful world of book publishing. At the risk of sounding like a self-help guru, I must point out that life is short, so why take the path of least resistance? Whether you plan to become a novelist, build a business empire, or climb Mount Everest – this book will give you a good kick in the pants! 

I should also add that The Pig and Me was not picked up by those persnickety publishing houses, so Lindsay is counting on her readers to spread the word. I’m hoping that – just like her surprisingly delicious fat-free brownies – this book will get picked up by someone important and will end on the New York Times bestsellers list. Considering that this is a self-published book by a first-time author, I wasn’t expecting too much in terms of writing. Boy was I wrong! Chock-full of humor, witty dialogue and insightful prose, this book is very well written and full of surprises – even until the very last page! Lindsay is a very talented writer, and I hope to see more books by her in the future.

How to win The Pig and Me:
Simply post a comment!  

Giveaway ends Dec. 31.

In My Mailbox: The Pig and Me by Lindsay Frucci

Back when I started Weight Watchers (which by the way is the best diet out there!) I had to severely restrict all of my most favorite sinfully delicious treats – including chocolate brownies. It was incredibly hard – dare I say almost impossible – to swap out a sugary confection for a piece of fruit. But thanks to No Pudge Brownies, I didn’t have to go cold turkey! So you can imagine my excitement when the creator of these delectable treats offered to send me her new book! Even if you’re a skinny-minnie who can eat fat-laden goodies without permanently gluing a stick of butter to your hips –  this book is a great read for anyone interested in inspiring stories about fearless women who rise up and conquer in defiance of adversity – Ya Ya sisters!

In My Mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by the Story Siren.

Here’s a synapsis:

When a personal bankruptcy robbed her family of financial security, Lindsay Frucci decided the way back to marital and family bliss was to start a business that would make gobs of money. Out of the mantra “there must be something I can do” and a passion for fat-laden, fudgy brownies that made it hard to zip her jeans, an idea was born: healthy brownies for the masses. In a leap of faith borne on the wings of innocence and naiveté, she founded No Pudge! Foods, Inc., and began an epic journey of unexpected personal growth and discovery. Frucci owned No Pudge! for ten years, and when she sold it, her Fat Free Fudge Brownie Mixes were sold in every major grocery chain in the United States. The fairy tale is an enviable, business success story. The reality is the story of a woman who was raised hearing “you can’t” and found, to her surprise and great satisfaction, she could – and then some.

Gizzy’s Pick: Another Bad Dog Book by Joni B. Cole

At first, Gizzy wasn’t too thrilled about me reading a bad-dog book, but when I told him the author’s adorable bat-eared Chihuahua only makes a couple of appearances in the book, he decided to let this one slide. So why is this book titled “Another Bad Dog Book,” you ask? Well, although the collection of personal essays is not centered around a mischievous mutt, it was inspired by the author’s love for her scruffy little rescue dog, Eli.

It all began one fateful day at the bookstore when Joni stumbled upon a slew of bestselling memoirs about bad dogs. She realized she, too, could land on the bestseller list by publishing her own “bad dog” story.

As I sat in the bookstore’s café thinking about my dog and how much more fascinating he was than most celebrities, an idea started to take shape. I pushed aside the gossip magazines I had been skimming, retrieved a notepad from my purse and began to write.”

And so begins “Another Bad Dog Book,” a title that hits home with me –and judging from my fellow bloggers’ websites – a lot of other bookworms who share a passion for four-legged cuddle mongers and good writing.

From the pains of raising a surly tween, to coping with the realities of midlife, to dealing with eccentric parents, this book is filled with an array of funny and outrageously honest stories about life, love and neurotic behavior.

Here’s a taste of just a few of my favorite chapters:

The Boy of Summer In this essay, Joni journeys back in time to the summer of her high school junior year when she spent her days at the pool waiting for a sighting of her big-time crush, Dale Zug.  Lean and easy-going in his 501 jeans, he had the swagger of a cowboy and the brooding good looks of James Dean. Decades later, she finds him on Facebook and discovers that he’s more Jeff Foxworthy than James Dean.  A word to the wise, if you don’t want to shatter the illusions of your high school crush,  don’t “friend” him on Facebook!

Rest Home: As a daddy’s girl – and a big-time Murder She Wrote fan – this chapter really struck a cord with me.  While hanging out with her father in his private room at Garden Spot,  Joni observes all of the cheerful aspects of rest home life, like watching uninterrupted episodes of Murder She Wrote, taking a stroll down the cheerful halls adorned with colorful artwork, and letting others worry about cooking and cleaning. Although this chapter offers a humorous look at nursing homes,  Joni also writes about her love for her father, who after a massive stroke, drifts in and out of lucidity. She closes the chapter with a touching father-daughter moment when her father drifted back into his old self and reminded her of the father he used to be. Life is pretty fragile, and this chapter helped me realize that things cannot be left unsaid.

But Enough About Me:  In my line of work, I sometimes have to endure networking mixers. Aside from public speaking, there’s nothing I dread more than struggling to make small talk with complete strangers while awkwardly eating rubbery banquet food. My palms get sweaty just thinking about it! In this chapter, Joni struggles to strike up a conversation with two disinterested old bitties at a luncheon for women of the arts. Desperate to capture their attention, Joni launches into a long monologue about her work as an author and educator. While droning on and on about her book projects, writing workshops, and – eek! –sexual dysfunction,  she realizes that she can’t stop talking.  Since I have had a similar inner discussion with myself while inadvertently cornering a helpless victim at an obligatory social mixer, this part really had me in stitches.

“I have been in the position Marion finds herself in now, held hostage by the nonstop talker. First, you are transfixed by the torrent of words, the cluelessness, the solipsism of the speaker. Then you begin to attend to small, previously overlooked details: the number of times she blinks per minute, the pull of her earrings on her earlobes…You continue to feign attention, but your mind wanders: Do my bottom teeth show when I talk?

While reading this chapter, I laughed so hard, I began snorting in an unladylike fashion, which was rather awkward while sitting between two strangers on a plane.

Needless to say, I thoroughly enjoyed each and every chapter in this book.  Joni has a knack for turning random situations  – like sitting in the nosebleeds at an American Idol concert – into hilarious and meaningful life lessons. After reading this book, I felt like I just spent a relaxing evening drinking margaritas with a best girlfriend.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Get it, read it, share it!

This book is scheduled  to be released on Oct. 11.  If you want to know more about this talented writer, check out her super cute website.