September 22, 2017 by Valerie Ullmer
Series Spotlight – Val & Pals by Margaret Lashley
VAL & PALS series
by Margaret Lashley
The first 2 books will be specially discounted to 99 cents on Sept 19th.
Absolute Zero: Misadventures From A Broad
A Midlife Meltdown…with a Side of Fries.
Val’s long-suffering life as a patient daughter, dutiful wife and reliable workhorse has turned her into a snarky, miserable nag.
She has the house, the husband and the career. The only thing missing is the happy.
Before she’s set out to pasture, Val wants one more go around the track. Unbridled. In Italy.
La dolce vita or bust.
Will Val find her happy ending abroad? Or someplace she never thought to look? And will she get there before her money and her sense of humor run out…
If you’ve ever dreamed of ditching your life and running off to Europe, now’s your chance! Join Val on a roller-coaster ride through Europe that will leave you gasping! From gut-busting hilarity to gut–wrenching gaffs, finding yourself again is always worth the price of admission. Buy it now!
The plane came to a halt. A mechanical bell binged. I looked around nervously. I slung my purse across my shoulder and sardined myself into the line of passengers inching their way down the narrow aisle. When I reached the plane’s exit door, I paused hesitantly, like a convict who’d gotten free of her cuffs without anybody noticing. My mind swirled with excitement and abject terror. Goosebumps rushed across my body. The hair at the base of my neck pricked up like a scaredy-cat.
What the hell was I doing?
Mere days before, I’d slammed every single door – including the screen one – on my life back in Florida. The last chance to change my mind had come and gone, as unheeded as a speed limit sign at a NASCAR rally. Every safety net I’d ever known was thousands of miles away, across the Atlantic Ocean, out of sight and out of reach.
I took a deep breath to steady myself, then stepped off the plane into the complete unknown. I glanced back and waved goodbye to the Air Italia flight crew. I turned again and meandered down the gangplank behind a frail, elderly couple holding hands. Their long-standing marriage triggered flashbacks of my own, long-suffering one.
Seven weeks ago, I’d signed the final divorce papers ending fifteen years of matrimony to Jimmy Johnson, a man I no longer knew. I envisioned the beautiful house Jimmy and I had shared together. I’d sold it and my advertising business just days before the flight. After splitting the pot with Jimmy, I’d netted a hot-damn jackpot of $473,000. I pictured my best friend, Clarice Whittle. I’d left my Ford in her garage, along with a few boxes that held the final remains of the cranky, resentful woman I hoped this trip would get rid of for good.
I’d brought next to nothing with me. I’d left even less behind. No kids. No pets. No job. No husband. No responsibilities. No nothing.
I’d spend the last forty-one years in perpetual motion – Val Jolly’s non-stop stint as dutiful daughter, long-suffering wife and brown-nosing business woman. I’d catered to everyone else’s needs for as long as I could remember. Somewhere along the way I’d turned into a crabby, shrill woman that even I didn’t like. I’d forgotten who I was and what I wanted. This trip was going be my R&R&R – relaxation, romance and re-invention.
I was in Italy to try my hand at living irresponsibly, like my trampy cousin Tammy Jeter. She’d always done as she damn well pleased. Up ‘til now, I’d thought she’d been selfish. Especially when she left Whitey Large and their five pit-bulls (One with puppies!) to run off with Tater Johnson. Turns out, that girl had had it right all along.
Available for only 99cents Sept 15-19
Glad One: Starting Over is a …!
How Many Do-Overs Do You Get in One Lifetime?
One crazy old lady. Two gin & tonics. Three wacko beach-bum friends. Will Val’s fourth stab at starting over add up to a big fat zero?
Val’s down, but don’t count her out just yet. Broke, but not broken (just seriously cracked), Val Fremden returns to her hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida to find everything she knew squashed under the heels of change.
With nothing left to go on but her own dry sense of humor and the life coach advice of a beer-guzzling old lady she meets at the beach, can her life get any crazier? Just wait.
Glad One is a satirical look at divorce, single-hood and climbing back up the social ladder. It’s told through the eyes of a snarky, reluctant, midlife-crisis survivor who lost everything — but regained herself.
Is there a light at the end of the tunnel for Val? Or is that just the headlamp of another train wreck heading her way? Knowing Val, it’s probably both.
If you like wacky, deeply flawed characters and laugh-out-loud situations, you’ll love Glad One! It’s the second book in Margaret Lashley’s hilarious, irreverent Val & Pals Series of seriously funny women’s fiction.
A puff of jaded air forced its way between my pursed lips like steam from a relief valve. I needed a good cry. But this was not the time or place for it. To distract myself, I started counting my blessings.
One decimated pocketbook. Two cottage-cheese thighs. Three maladjusted ex-husbands…. Crap!
Whoever was running the show up there had a wicked sense of humor – and I was getting damn tired of being the punchline. I scrounged around for my powder compact and opened it, intent on repairing my makeup after the nine-hour flight. One glance in the mirror at my worn-out face made me snap it shut. Why bother?
In forty-five years, I’d accumulated a good portion of wrinkles, a fair amount of belly fat, and, apparently, precious little wisdom. These questionable assets, along with $5,726 and a suitcase full of inappropriate clothes, were all I had left to launch my latest life makeover. I slumped back into my seat. I was bone-dragging tired. Even so, a wry grin snuck across my lips like a stolen kiss from a stranger. I was not defeated. Not yet, anyway.
The way I saw it, I still had two viable options. One, I could finally learn to laugh at myself. Or two, I could drink myself into oblivion. I fished around the bottom of my purse for a coin to determine my fate. I flipped a tarnished nickel into the air with my thumb. It did a triple gainer, plunged into my coffee, and splashed a nasty brown stain on the crotch of my white stretch pants.
Awesome. Let the festivities begin.
My last life makeover had begun over seven years ago, and had turned out to be a spectacular, downward spiral reminiscent of diving off a cliff with a bowling ball in my pants. Drowning in dullness and fueled by movie-inspired stupidity, I’d ditched a tiresome marriage and lucrative writing career, sold all my belongings and took off for Europe. In Italy, I met a German and fell in love with the idea of life with a stranger in a strange land. Things had been great for a while. But then the shiny wore off and the cracks showed up, like they always did.
On my arrival back in St. Petersburg, Florida, I’d discovered that seven wasn’t such a lucky number. In fact, seven years abroad had been just exactly long enough for my entire credit history to be erased – just like most of my money. I’d gotten off that plane with no driver’s license. No place to live. No credit card. No phone. No resume. And, worst of all, no friends. Incredibly, I’d somehow managed to become a foreigner in my own homeland.
As a lifelong lover of irony, I’d had to smile at my own ingenuity. How many other people on the planet could have claimed such a monumental fuck-up?
Available for only 99cents Sept 19-22
Two Crazy: Fickle Finger of Fate
The World is not a Safe Place for Figurines.
When you’re pushing 50 with an industrial bulldozer, birthdays can be a bitch. What was intended as a gag gift for Val ends up making her gag all right – and lands her in a whole heap of trouble with the law.
With one hot cop on her tail and a mean one on her trail, Val turns to old friends and new ones to help prove she’s not into human dismemberment.
Who’s the good cop? Who’s the bad? And who’s the dwarf in the Halloween mask?
Will a pair of falsies help Val stumble onto the truth? If not, she’s got to rely on her wacky, beach-bum friends if she’s going to escape the fickle finger of fate.
Two Crazy is a satirical look at how life seems to take pleasure in screwing up all of our well-laid plans. It’s told through the eyes of a snarky, middle-aged woman with major trust issues and dubious, yet highly original coping skills.
If you like deeply flawed characters and laugh-out-loud situations, you’ll love Absolute Zero. It’s the third book in Margaret Lashley’s hilarious, irreverent Val & Pals Series of seriously funny women’s fiction.
I woke the morning after my birthday party with a cop in my bed and a dead body in the kitchen. Okay, it was just a roach carcass. But I swear it was big enough to draw a chalk line around. It was legs-up in the middle of the floor. I’d fumbled, bleary-eyed, toward the cappuccino machine in nothing but Tom’s t-shirt, and had managed, of course, to step right on it. The disgusting crunch of its carapace underfoot made me scream like a little girl.
As a native of the Sunshine State, I’d grown up learning to deal with the worst that Florida’s flora and fauna had to throw at me. Poison ivy. Cabbage-palm spikes. Daddy long-leg spiders. Fire ants. Kamikaze tree frogs. Ghoulish house geckos. Deadly rattlesnakes and cottonmouths. Even the occasional gator on the road or in a swimming pool. I’d managed to make my peace with all of them – except one.
Let a roach get anywhere near me – especially a flying one – and my bravado disappeared faster than Oreos at a Weight Watcher’s convention. When I’d stepped on that nasty bug, I’d let out a scream that could be heard on the International Space Station. If that marked me as a sissy, so be it. But there was something abhorrently primeval about a creature that could live for months without its own head.
“What’s going on in there!?”
Tom dashed into the room. He was naked except for his state-issued revolver. The sight of his tan, muscular body almost made me forget about my predicament. Almost.
“A roach,” I grimaced. I held up my foot like it needed stitches.
Tom grinned at me and shook his head.
“There appears to be no permanent damage. What happened to my fearless partner? Valliant Stranger?”
“Hey. Roaches are my kryptonite, okay?”
“Duly noted. I thought you put out some traps. Roach Motels, right?”
I took a paper towel off the roll and ran it under the tap. I bit my lip in disgust and wiped my foot.
“Yeah, I did. I guess there was no room left at the inn.”
Tom sniggered. “Don’t those things come with ‘No Vacancy’ signs?”
“Very funny, Mr. Morning Sunshine. Can we please change the subject now?”
A dirty grin crept across his face. Tom sidled up to me and put his hands on my hips.
“Have you got a vacancy that I can fill?”
I knocked his hands off of me.
“Geeze, Tom. I think that may go down in history as the most disgusting foreplay line ever.”
Tom scooped me up into his arms. His naughty grin deepened his dimples and crinkled the corners of his hypnotic, green eyes.
“Okay, how about this? I’ve got a gun, lady. Better do what I say.”
Both my hormones and my imagination went haywire.
“Now that’s something I can work with.”
Three Dumb: Wheelin’ & Dealin’
Baloney and Cheesed.
They say three’s the charm. But charming isn’t Val’s style.
Val Fremden is a lot of things. Quirky. Jaded. Disaster prone. But more than anything, she’s afraid of commitment.
When boyfriend Tom tells her he loves her – then trades away her mom’s ashes for a tiki hut – Val’s just not feelin’ it.
On the warpath with Tom, Val’s forced to rely on her oddball friends to help track down her mom’s cremains. But three botched stakeouts and two disasters later, she still hasn’t got peanuts. Through trial (but mostly error), Val discovers it’s not easy to outwit a mobile master of disguise when she’s stuck driving a paddy wagon full of nutcases.
She loves Tom…she loves him not. Knowing Val, she’s gonna need a bigger flower….
Three Dumb is a satirical look at how life, over time, changes our perception of love and the things we value. It’s told through the eyes of a snarky, middle-aged woman with legendary commitment issues and a gnawing reluctance toward romance.
If you like deeply flawed characters and laugh-out-loud situations, you’ll love Three Dumb. It’s the fourth book in Margaret Lashley’s hilarious, irreverent Val & Pals Series of seriously funny women’s fiction.
I’d spent Sunday evening alone, cooling down slowly, like the nuclear reactor at Chernobyl. I’d avoided a critical meltdown, and when I woke up Monday morning, I’d found myself on the verge of no longer being a lethal danger to other life forms.
After a cappuccino and a long, cool shower, at 8 a.m. I called Lefty’s Hauling again. It rang fifteen times, unanswered. This was, of course, totally unacceptable. It was time for Plan B.
I slipped on a sundress and sandals, put my hair in a ponytail and climbed into the red pleather driver’s seat of Maggie, my 1963 Ford Falcon Sprint convertible. With a little encouragement in the form of smashing her gas pedal to the floor, Maggie carried me north along Gulf Boulevard. The four-lane road, lined with two- and three-story beach resorts, skirted the Gulf of Mexico like stiches in a hem.
Year round, tourists flocked to the quaint mom-and-pop motels and sugar-white beaches. I couldn’t blame them. All-in-all, St. Pete Beach was a great place to be.
I turned east on 107th Avenue. Immediately, the salt air and kitsch beach shops disappeared, replaced with anywhere-USA strip malls. At 66th Street, I turned north in the direction of good-old Pinellas Park.
Every major metropolitan area had a section designated especially for rednecks. How they found each other, I didn’t know. Maybe they were all related, or there was some special redneck hotline I wasn’t privy to. At any rate, in Pinellas County, the mecca for country bumpkins and politically incorrect-and-proud-of-it folks was definitely Pinellas Park.
If it weren’t for Florida’s history of hurricanes and tropical storms, Pinellas Park would have choked to death on doublewide trailers decades ago. But in 1993, a freak storm took out all but the very highest quality manufactured homes. It had been dubbed the “1993 Storm of the Century” by some, the “’93 Super Storm” by others, and the “Great Blizzard of 1993” by the Yankees up north. But we locals simply called it the “No-Name Storm,” because it had come up so quickly and unexpectedly not even the weather forecasters had had time to register it with an official moniker.
It had begun on March 12th as a cyclonic storm in the Gulf of Mexico, then quickly grew into a beast that stretched from Cuba to Canada. It moved into Florida around midnight, catching us unaware with winds over 100 mph. It spawned 11 tornadoes and a storm surge in St. Pete that topped out at seven feet. For folks along the coast, bay and rivers, it had been devastating. It wiped out or damaged over 18,000 homes in the Sunshine State and killed 47 of our citizens, more than Hugo and Andrew combined. Suffice it to say, it was not a good time to be living in a tin can on wheels.
November 7, 2017
Most Definitely Contains Nuts.
All Val wants is a quiet holiday away from her oddball family. But a promise pried from her lips earlier in the year has blown that wish out the henhouse window.
When Val and her boyfriend Tom arrive at her mother’s house in Hicksville, USA, the annual Family Fruitcake Competition is well underway. And there’s more than a few fruits and nuts in the running.
But the biggest contest is between Val and her mom.
As their battle of wills heats up, unexpected ingredients get thrown into both women’s batter. It may be time to call in a referee….
Who will get best in show? Who will get their just desserts? And will Val’s half-baked family turn out to be too much baggage for Tom to handle? Order a copy and find out!
If you like deeply flawed characters and laugh-out-loud situations, you’ll love What Four. It’s the fifth book in Margaret Lashley’s hilarious, irreverent Val & Pals Series of seriously funny women’s fiction.
Like the characters in my novels, I haven’t lead a life of wealth or luxury. In fact, as it stands now, I’m set to inherit a half-eaten jar of Cheez Whiz…if my siblings don’t beat me to it.
During my illustrious career, I’ve been a roller-skating waitress, an actuarial assistant, an advertising copywriter, a real estate agent, a house flipper, an organic farmer, and a traveling vagabond/truth seeker. But no matter where I’ve gone or what I’ve done, I’ve always felt like a weirdo.
As a child I lived in my own pretend world of tickling fairies and talking cats. I began writing when I found an ancient black typewriter on my grandparent’s back porch. (Inspired by my brothers, Boys are Stupid was my first masterpiece.)
I’ve learned a heck of a lot in my life. But getting to know myself has been my greatest journey. Today, I know I’m smart. I’m direct. I’m jaded. I’m hopeful. I’m funny. I’m fierce. I’m a pushover. And I have a laugh that makes strangers want to join me at restaurants. In other words, I’m a jumble of opposing talents and flaws and emotions. And it’s all good.
In some ways, I’m a lot like Val Fremden the main character in my Val & Pals Series. My books featuring Val are not autobiographical, but what comes out of her mouth was first formed in my mind, and sometimes the parallels are undeniable. I drink TNTs. I had a car like Shabby Maggie. And I’ve started my life over four times, driving away with whatever earthly possessions fit in my car. And, perhaps most importantly, I’ve learned that friends come from unexpected places.