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Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Unfinished Business by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson (Author Guest Post / Book Review)

Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host a virtual book event for Unfinished Business by author Carolyn Ridder Aspenson!

Author Guest Post

Why I Don't Swear Much In My Writing
By: Carolyn Ridder Aspenson

I'm Italian. I spent eighteen years living in the Chicago area. I married a guy who used to drive an eighteen-wheeler. I know a few swear words. In fact, I probably know a few swear words other people don't know. I bet I've even made up a few or at least used a few in a unique, interesting way.

I am not a virgin when it comes to cursing. My husband and kids have even said, "We know when Mom is mad because she uses the F word. A lot." So yeah, I can talk trash with the best of them, I just don't like my characters to do it. Not too much, at least.

I'm not opposed to fictional characters with potty mouths but I think there is a time and a place for everything and too much of anything is never a good thing.

The other day I was sitting at Starbucks listening to the conversations of strangers (where do you think writers get a lot of the good stuff? Snooping, of course) and this woman sounded like she'd been hanging out with six graders all day. Sixth graders swear constantly. Something happens between fifth grade and middle school and those sweet, innocent children suddenly become foul-mouthed, smelly tweens who think it's cool to spew profanities every time they speak. Yup, this lady had definitely been hanging out with a bunch of sixth graders. She swore so much and so loudly, two people moved outside to get away from her.

I found her oddly appealing but after about ten minutes of 'F this' and 'F that' I started counting her swear words. She swore-and I'm not exaggerating here-twenty-one times in two minutes. Over the top much, lady? Later that day I came home and read my work in progress to make sure none of my characters sounded that horrible.

Listening to that woman reconfirmed my thoughts about swearing in my books.

Like I said, I'm not a prude but there is a fine line between swearing because it's effective at making a point and swearing just to swear and that's how I look at it with my characters, too.

Angela, the main character in Unfinished Business An Angela Panther Novel (and my second book, which is scheduled to be released in December) is loosely based on me and her mother, Fran is largely based on my mother. My mother has passed so I have her swearing more in the book than Angela. I figured I could get away with it since she can't really do anything about it now. I am a little worried about what she'll do when I see her again but hopefully I've got enough time to figure out how to handle that. Fran is a full-blooded Italian but you won't read F--- in my books. I just can't go there, even though I'm pretty sure that's an Italian word.

While my book is fiction, I do want my characters to have realistic qualities (okay, so one is a ghost but she was once a person so she's got to have some realistic qualities, too!) but I don't want them to be obnoxious. I don't want them to be idealistic either so I allow them an opportunity to swear when swearing would be considered appropriate instead of swearing just to swear.

When I started to write my first book, I hadn't even thought about swearing or sex for that matter but as I got into the writing process I realized I was a bit more conservative than I thought I'd be. Instead of graphic sex scenes, I opted to lead into them and then let the reader imagine the good stuff. So my books are light on the sex and swearing. Some will appreciate that and others won't. I never expected to please everyone and I'm okay with that. If there is one thing I've learned through this process of becoming an author, it's not to compromise my beliefs for the sake of success. And considering I'm not ranked on any best sellers list, I'd say I've lived my lesson.

About The Author

Carolyn Ridder Aspenson is the author of Unfinished Business, An Angela Panther Novel.

A native of Indiana, Carolyn spent a good portion of her youth and adult life in the northwest Chicago suburbs, where she dabbled in the health and fitness industry until finally landing a full time career in insurance. Not liking the cold, gray winters of Chicagoland, Carolyn moved to a bright and sunny suburb outside of Atlanta, Georgia. She started her professional journalism career in Cumming, Georgia, where she continues to work as a freelance writer for various media outlets.

A life long fitness enthusiast, Carolyn writes a monthly column for Northside Woman, an Appen News monthly magazine.

Carolyn enjoys reading and reads mostly mysteries and chick lit. She loves to read Harlan Coben, Robert Crais and the late Robert Parker, whom she feels was the ‘most incredible writer ever’.

Married since 1998 to her ‘hottie hubby’, she is the mother of three children and two very old, very high maintenance dogs.

She is currently working on the November 2013 release of Unbreakable Bonds, book two in the Angela Panther series.


Unfinished Business - Book Trailer

Unfinished Business by Carolyn Ridder Aspenson
Book 1: An Angela Panther Novel Series
Publisher: Independent Self Publishing
Publication Date: April 24, 2013
Format: Paperback - 269 / Kindle - 475 KB / Nook - 582 KB
ISBN: 9871484817704
Genre: Chick Lit / Paranormal / Women's Fiction

BUY THE BOOK: Unfinished Business

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review. 

Book Description:

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.

Book Excerpt:

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 Hershey 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.”

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.

My Book Review:

When Angela Panther's mother Fran passes away from lung cancer, Angela knew she would be dealing with the grief from her mother's death, but she never thought that she would see her mother return as a ghost! It seems that before Fran could rest in peace in heaven, she has some unfinished business to attend to on earth. Thinking that she is dreaming at best and hallucinating at worse, Fran's celestial reappearance awakens a psychic gift of sight in Angela where she can see dead people, making her a reluctant medium who becomes a ghost whisperer helping the dead with their own unfinished business.

In her debut novel, author Carolyn Ridder Asperson weaves a wickedly humorous and touching paranormal chick lit tale about the unending love that survives death between the living and their departed loved ones. Written in the first person narrative and set in Atlanta, Angela Panther takes the reader on a wild and emotional roller coaster ride as she tells them about her ghost whisperer adventures and life lesson experiences that is spurred on by the reappearance of her mother. I absolutely loved Fran, she was my favorite character, this Italian mama kept me in stitches with all her crazy antics. I also loved the best friend relationship between Angela and Mel, everyone needs to have a BFF like Mel, her one-liners were hysterical. I would be remiss if I didn't touch upon the poignancy of the loss of a loved one and the need for closure of unfinished business, it took me back to the bittersweet loss of my own mom in 2007. I believe that the author wrote from her heart, she has a way of keeping the story light and entertaining, while also providing a therapeutic touch that simply warms the heart and makes the reader smile.

The author easily draws the reader into this entertaining story with a mixture of sassy humor, joy, sorrow, and true-to-life experiences that pulls at the heartstrings and keeps them turning the pages. With a witty cast of characters who are larger than life; a balanced mixture of laugh-out-loud moments, serious dialogue and fun interactions; and a touching storyline that anyone who has ever lost a loved one can relate to; Unfinished Business is a thoroughly enjoyable tale that leaves the reader wanting more.

Unfinished Business is the first book in the Angela Panther Novel Series. Unbreakable Bonds, the second book in the series is scheduled to be released in November 2013.



  1. Great post, Carolyn! And that is so true about sixth graders. Potty, potty mouths. LOL.

    1. Hi Shelly! Thank you for stopping by and visiting with Carolyn! :)