Megan's 5 star rated Contemporary Romance

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

A Warm Welcome to Amy Corwin

Amy Corwin is a charter member of the Romance Writers of America and recently joined Mystery Writers of America. She has been writing for the last ten years.  She writes romance, historical and cozy mysteries. To be truthful, most of her books include a bit of murder and mayhem since she discovered that killing off at least one character is a highly effective way to make the remaining ones toe the plot line.

Amy’s books include the three Regency romantic mysteries, I BID ONE AMERICAN, THE BRICKLAYER’S HELPER, and THE NECKLACE; Regency mysteries, THE VITAL PRINCIPLE, and A ROSE BEFORE DYING; and her first cozy mystery, WHACKED!, will come in in 2012 from Five Star.
Join her and discover that every good romance has a touch of mystery.
Blurb for 'The Necklace'
Legends foretell death for anyone who possesses the fabled Peckham emerald necklace, lost by an Archer ancestor. Certainly, it has brought the Archers nothing but heartache. So Oriana is relieved it’s missing, assuming it ever existed. She has enough difficulties protecting her uncle—and her heart--from his dangerous new friend, Chilton Dacy. However, when Oriana finds the necklace, the curse reawakens. The necklace disappears, only to reappear clutched in a dead man’s hand.
The stranger’s death leaves Oriana with a frightening choice: ask Chilton for help, or face the possibility that she may hang for murder.

'The Vital Principle'
An inquiry agent seeks to expose a spiritualist as a fraud only to uncover a murder.
In 1815, inquiry agent, Knighton Gaunt, is asked by Lord Crowley to attend a séance with the express purpose of revealing the spiritualist as a fraud. When the séance ends abruptly, an unseen killer poisons Lord Crowley, leaving Gaunt to investigate not fraud, but murder.
Suspicion turns first to the spiritualist, Miss Prudence Barnard. But as Gaunt digs deeper into the twisted history of the guests at Rosecrest, he discovers a series of deadly secrets. Long-time friends soon turn against one another as the tension mounts, and Gaunt is challenged to separate fact from fiction before another death at Rosecrest.
The Vital Principle is the first mystery in the Second Sons Inquiry Agency series and features coolly intellectual Mr. Knighton Gaunt, the agency’s founder. This witty, historical whodunit in the tradition of Bruce Alexander’s Blind Justice will keep you guessing until the unexpected end.

“Murder, mystery, and a dash of romance combined with witty dialogue and unforgettable characters make The Vital Principle a book that will definitely go on my keeper shelf!” —Lilly Gayle, author of Into the Darkness and Slightly Tarnished.
And the blurb for Amy's latest release,
'A Rose Before Dying'

A murderer is stalking the streets of London and the evidence points to Sir Edward, the uncle of Charles Vance, Earl of Castlemoor. The first victim is none other than Sir Edward’s mistress who threw him over for a younger man, giving him a clear motive to kill her. However, Charles is convinced Sir Edward is innocent and enlists the aide of Mr. Knighton Gaunt of the Second Sons Inquiry Agency. When more clues surface, including roses hinting at another victim, Charles steps in and takes control. He can’t let his uncle hang for murders he didn’t commit, despite his uncle’s foul temper and abundant motivation.
Charles teams up with noted rosarian Ariadne Wellfleet to decipher the clues and prove Sir Edward’s innocence and stop the murderer before he can strike again.

Before treating us to an excerpt, Amy Reveals...
From where do you get inspiration and what inspired you to write A Rose Before Dying?
My most recent book, A Rose Before Dying, was inspired by my rose garden. For years, I tried to grow fussy, modern Hybrid Tea roses and they just didn’t thrive the way I wanted them to. I didn’t like working with chemicals and because our yard is designated as a Nature Conservancy Wildlife Habitat, I did not want to expose all the birds and other creatures to poisons. So I started researching roses and discovered the world of Old Garden Roses which are perfectly suited to my policy of no chemicals. The Old Garden Roses did so well in my garden that I actually entered them in local rose shows and won several awards.

As I researched roses, I realized that hybrids frequently go by a variety of names and it can be very challenging to identify exactly which rose you may hold in your hand. I can’t exactly explain how that connected up in my admittedly twisted brain with the idea of a serial murderer who taunts a detective with a clue the murderer is sure the detective can’t decipher: a rose. If the rose is correctly identified, it will help the detective identify and possibly save the next victim.

Quite a dilemma and one I could not resist posing to my fictional detective who must enlist the assistance of a rosarian to find the answers he so urgently needs.

In a couple of sentences, describe the hero’s character.  What do you like best/least about him?

For some reason, I’m always attracted to “nice guys” and Charles Vance is no exception. He’s the kind of guy who would stop to help a stranger, and in fact, this puts him in a bit of a humorous bind when he saves the life of an orphaned girl and then is left with trying to figure out what to do with her. He can’t just abandon her. So while I admire him for helping others, he can also be rather irritating because of his excessive sense of responsibility. That, and an impulsive streak are his two biggest weaknesses, but they are also what makes him so endearing (at least to me).

And the heroine? How do you relate to her?
The heroine is definitely a woman of her time (the Regency period). I like her calm, thoughtfulness and wish I had her self-control. I’ve always tried to control my temper—it is the bane of my existence—so I tend to write women who manage to control their tempers. Perhaps it’s my way of compensating. But Ariadne Wellfleet isn’t perfect. Because she is so controlled and thoughtful, she tends to over-think things. She may be too willing to play by the rules and meet the expectations of those around her. While she is strong, she is not stridently so—it is a more subtle, internal strength.
I admire her greatly. In fact, I wish I were more like her.

Who controls the story – you or your characters?
I’d like to think I control the story, but after the first three chapters, the characters always take over and that’s that. Whatever I planned pretty much goes out the window and they begin to tell me what to do. But in the end, I have the upper hand because if any of them get too obnoxious, I can always kill them off. That is, after all, the advantage to writing mysteries.
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your books?
I’d really like them to come away with a smile on their face and a feeling of optimism. Over the years, I’ve learned that no matter how clear you think you see the future, you really don’t know what lies around the next corner, and that’s a good thing because it’s so easy to lose your hopes and dreams. I’d like to think that readers come away with the idea that our greatest gift is optimism.

What do you think are the main ingredients for a successful book?
The characters. If your characters don’t come alive or don’t resonate with the reader, then no matter how good the plot, it won’t be memorable or successful. I read a lot of mysteries and I never remember the end or how the plot works out. The characters, however, stick in my mind if it’s successful.

What do you most enjoy about writing romance?
I love, love, love happy endings. I read a lot of mysteries, suspense and other genres and while I enjoy them, I often have a sense of something missing at the end if the characters don’t find someone to share the adventure. I want them to be happy in the end and looking forward to a happy future.

How do you like to spend your free time?
I garden. In fact, I love gardening and am fortunate to live in an area where you can grow things year around. When I’m well organized, I can grow lettuce under floating row covers throughout the winter and it’s wonderful to be able to go out and pick a fresh salad for dinner.
I’m also an avid birdwatcher and in fact, that’s how I met my husband. He’s also a birdwatcher and some of our best vacations have consisted of flying to a distant location, renting a car, and driving at random to various parks and locations where we can spot a few more birds for our life lists. We also enjoy crabbing and fishing and I love kayaking.

I also love to cook and sew, and if I ever find the time, I may finish a sweater I started knitting a few years ago.

In fact, I have so many interests and hobbies that I figure I need at least ten more lives to do even half the things I want to do.

What would you most like to accomplish this year?
I’d like to get three more books published this year. Ambitious, I know, but I like having high goals. I’d also like to clean our house. LOL

Which flower would best describe you and why?

Blackberry. I’m thorny and often in a hopeless tangle, but I’d like to think I do eventually produce some sweet treats like A Rose Before Dying. I also like the simple, white blooms. Like me, they are not fantastically beautiful like a rose, but there is a certain elegant simplicity. As my mother used to say, “You’ll never be beautiful, but you are interesting-looking.” (Gee...thanks, Mom.)

Any exciting plans for the near future?I sure hope to get those three books out. In fact, I should have a new Regency romantic mystery, Escaping Notice, coming out by the end of March. My second paranormal romance, A Fall of Silver, will be out by June (with luck and help from my editor). I’ve got a hardcover mystery, Whacked!, coming out later this summer, and then I hope to round out the year with a second Regency romantic mystery featuring Prudence Barnard and Knighton Gaunt in the fall.
Whew. Just writing that makes me tired (and nervous).

And now for A Taste of Amy

In this excerpt from
A Rose Before Dying, Charles Vance, Lord Castlemoor, has brought a rose to the Wellfleets, hoping someone can identify it. The rose is the only clue he has to identify the next victim of a vicious killer bent on framing Charles’ uncle.

He pulled out the small bundle containing the rose. He knew it was useless, her father, the rose expert, was dead. But he couldn’t stop a small spurt of hope. “I’d like to identify this rose. Do you recognize it?”
“I supposed you’re only asking me as a last resort. Because my father is no longer with us.” She held out a peremptory hand. “Let me see it.”
Her face was a smooth, expressionless mask. However, he detected traces of tired resignation at the implication that she could not be expected to have the depth of knowledge exhibited by a man.
When he placed the limp spray in her palm, she held it up to her nose and breathed in several times with closed eyes, cupping the flowers in her hands. Then she gave it a cursory examination before pulling the petals off of one flower.
“Stop!” He reached over to wrench it out of her hand. She turned her shoulder, blocking him. “What are you doing?”
“Counting the petals. Why?”
“You’re destroying it! How shall I identify it if you ruin it?”
She held it out. “Take it. Plant it, or allow me to root it. Or graft it. If it grows, you can ask your friend, Mr. Lee, to identify it in two or three years from the shape of the bush and bloom habit. Most men who grow roses agree that it takes at least one cycle of blooming to identify a rose with any assurance.”
“Two years!”
“Yes—if you want to be sure. And isn’t that why you wish to identify it? So you can purchase a specimen for your own garden?”
He gazed into her coolly discerning eyes and realized she was aware that he was not being open with her. But given Mr. Lee’s reaction, he could not bring himself to tell the complete truth. The rose wouldn’t last long enough to find another master gardener, assuming he could even locate one in London. “It’s…a wager. Silly, I know, but one of my friends said I couldn’t identify this rose.” The tips of his ears burned.
“I see.” Her eyes grew colder. “This is all a wager?” She glanced at Rose.
“No, of course not. Not Rose—she’s not part of it.”
Miss Wellfleet’s fingers pushed the petals into a line on the table and hovered over them. Thirteen petals, thin and wilting, spread in a tattered line. The slender spray was dying. The small, tight buds had already blackened and hung limply. His chest tightened with frustration.
Then with a theatrical gesture that suggested more defiance than scientific inquiry, she ripped apart the remaining flowers. She arranged the petals in three parallel lines, one for each flower. The roses didn’t all have the same number of petals. The first had thirteen petals. The next had eleven. The final rose had seventeen.
After examining what remained of the stalk, the yellow stamens, and leaves, she looked at him.
Although she didn’t precisely shrug, there was a quality in her expression that spoke of disdain when she said, “Rosa Collina fastigiata.”
“That’s it?” His tired disappointment reminded him of the lateness of the hour. Useless. He needn’t have come here at all. Lee had it right the first time.
“Well, yes. What were you expecting?”
“Something…more. A name….”
“That is a name.” Irritation sharpened her voice. “Or Flat-Flowered Hill Rose, if you prefer an English one.”
“You’re sure?”’
Her eyes hardened. “As sure as I can be from this small spray.” She flung the petals and twig onto the table. “No one can be absolutely sure without seeing the bush and knowing the growth habit and bloom cycles. Have you any idea how many roses there are?”
“That’s why your friend made a clever wager—if wager it was.”
“No. Truly, I apologize. I sincerely appreciate the name.”
“It’s late. You have your name. I hope you win your wager.”
With a coolness he deserved but saddened him nonetheless, she gestured for him to leave. The butler, Mr. Abbott, waited just outside the French doors to the greenhouse. His silent presence ensured Miss Wellfleet had never been truly alone with Charles. Somehow, this reminded him of how attractive he found her, and he flushed when he caught Mr. Abbott’s curious gaze.
However, his embarrassment faded as he remembered his purpose.
A life could be saved if he interpreted Rosa Collina fastigiata properly.
How many people named Collins lived in London? Unless the clue rested with the English name, Flat-Flowered Hill Rose. Did this blossom point to a location instead of a person?
Time was slipping away.
Find out more about Amy at these links: Facebook: Blog:    Website:   Twitter:
Thank you, Amy, for visiting here today. It has been a pleasure to meet you.
Follow the rest of Amy's tour at this link
Now leave a comment for the chance to win a $25 Amazon GC

Friday, 16 March 2012

A Warm Welcome to Christine Young writing as Ann Christine
First a little background on Christine:
Born in Medford, Oregon, novelist Christine Young has lived in Oregon all of her life. After graduating from Oregon State University with a BS in science, she spent another year at Southern Oregon State University working on her teaching certificate, and a few years later received her Master's degree in secondary education and counseling.
 Now the long, hot days of summer provide the perfect setting for creating romance. She sold her first book, Dakota's Bride, the summer of 1998 and her second book, My Angel, to Kensington.
 Her teaching and writing careers have intertwined with raising three children.
  Christine's newest venture is the creation of Rogue Phoenix Press (click link). Christine is the founder, editor and co-owner with her husband. They live in Salem, Oregon.

Here's the blurb for Safari Moon
Solo St. John, a wildlife photographer, is preparing for a trip to Alaska.  Suddenly, Solo finds women of all sorts invading his privacy, his home and his office, all cooing nonsense words and blatantly throwing themselves at him.  Solo doesn't know why, and he has no idea how to rid himself of the persistent women.  He finally decides to beg a favor of his best buddy Nyssa Harrington. 

In love with Solo for the past ten years and knowing he doesn't return her feelings Nyssa doesn't want to talk to Solo.  She knows if she accepts his phone call, she will not be able to resist the temptation to hope again.  
Now Christine Reveals...
1.      In a couple of sentences, describe the hero’s character. 
Steven Oliver Lawerence O'Neil St. John, AKA Solo, is an extremely likeable character. Handsome, charismatic, intelligent and playful, he has all this going for him, yet he acts like a normal guy. He doesn't know he this great a catch.
2.      What do you like best/least about him?
The best of solo is his fun nature. The worst is his inability to see what is staring him in the face. He has tunnel vision when it comes to his relationship with Nyssa.
3.      And the heroine?
Vanytha otherwise known as Nyssa is generous to a fault. She is intelligent and hard working. Her career began as an investment broker on Wall Street but she soon grew tired of the constant stress and decided there were better things in life than making money. Her worst fault is that she cannot say no to Solo when he asks her on adventures.
4.      How do you relate to her?
Other than hardworking we don't have a lot of similar traits. Of course I love the fact that despite all the things Nyssa goes through, she never really gives up on Solo.
5.      Who controls the story – you or your characters?
Oh my, I always start out in control. When in the story I loose control of the characters varies with each book. It rarely takes the characters very long to take over their story. After all it is their story to tell. And when the characters begin talking to me, watch out. Once they are speaking they don't stop.
6.      What do you think are the main ingredients for a successful book?
In a romance the characters have to be likeable. And I ask, if you are reading a romance and either the hero and heroine are terrible people, will you keep reading? I won't. Characters are so important to a romance and to other books as well. If a reader hates a main character they will most likely stop reading or finish the book unsatisfied. I doubt he or she would recommend the read to another person. After that component of a good romance there are other essentials. The plot must progress in a logical manner and quick pace. POV or point of view must be maintained; one person's pov per scene please. I truly get annoyed with head-hopping. Other elements would be turning points as well as the black moment. But this only touches on a few factors.
7.      What do you most enjoy about writing romance?
Weaving the characters together so the puzzle is complete by the end of the story. In Safari Moon Solo and Nyssa pretty much knew each other's weaknesses. They had been friends for ten years. They called on each other whenever they were in need. Unknowingly they were slowly progressing to a relationship other than best friends.
     8.      What do you like best and least about writing?
Solving the puzzle is my favourite part of writing. The dialogue is fun to write and I really like to write descriptions when I have visited the setting of that particular story. Deadlines are difficult to deal with. Most of the time the deadline is my own. But I find it difficult to stay in the character's head if I keep thinking about the date I have to have this finished.
9.      Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What would be your tips to overcome it?
I don't get writers block very often. In fact I can only recall one time and it was recent. I had a plan for the hero and heroine. Unfortunately they didn't like this plan of mine. When I finally let them talk to me, I discovered this pair were not the hero and heroine. They actually loved different people. Once I heard their voices, the rest of the story was easy to write.
10.  Do you have a writing routine?
Oh my, a routine would be nice. My life daily takes so many twists and turns that I can rarely schedule any time for writing. But when I can, I write in the morning and edit in the afternoon or evening. Speaking of routines gone awry, my two-year-old granddaughter just arrived.
11.  Anything special you require to keep the creative juices flowing?
Reading other books really helps inspire me to write more. I love to write and so it doesn't take much. Also travel brings new ideas. Just a location can create a new world. I visited Atlantic City last fall and have a book waiting in my head. I just don't know when I will get to it. I have books on Hawaiian legends. Each legend is another story. Geez, and my haunted castles call to me every day.
12.  What can we look forward to from you in the near future?
I have a new release coming out in June. It is a futuristic. I loved writing this because there were no barriers. I created the world and enjoyed every minute. Rebel Heart is the first in a three book series.
13.  How do you like to spend your free time?
What spare time? Well, I like to spend quality time with my family. I love to travel. Right now I only have some short trips planned, one to Eagle Crest just outside Bend, Oregon, coincidentally the city where Safari Moon begins. Other spare time is spent on: reading, knitting, needlepoint, jazzercise, running and walking.
14.  What would you most like to accomplish this year?
A huge accomplishment for me would be to finish the edits on my third regency romance title A Marriage of Inconvenience. If I could do that, I would be a very happy  camper.
15.  What is your culinary speciality?
This was a hard one because I love to cook. But my family loves my homemade cinnamon rolls. Now that the kids have all moved away, I only make them for Christmas morning breakfast. They would all be so upset if they didn't seem them on the counter.
16.  Any exciting plans for the near future?
We are looking forward to a trip to Athens, then Santorini, Crete, and last Albania. Hoping to see and take photographs of lots of castles.
Finally a Taste of Safari Moon
Wanted: A professional wildlife photographer to take pictures in the Alaskan wilderness. Experience first hand a real safari moon. Call(555)381-1252 or send resumes to 2286 Main, Suite 2D Bend, Oregon.
Solo St. John was in the middle of an erotic dream about his buddy, Nyssa Harrington, when the click of his front door shutting brought him to instant alert mode. 
Solo looked up, caught a flashing glimpse of a good deal of naked flesh; long legs, perfectly rounded derriere, and a waist he could span with his hands. The intruder's long blond hair curled around her shoulders an inch above the ties of her bikini top.
Then he saw the skunk. He blinked twice.
This woman and the skunk were not the subject of his brief and very strange dream, a fantasy that made his mind speed along at sixty in a residential zone. This was someone he had never seen before and he resented the intrusion.
"Hello," she cooed seductively from his living room. "Will you come out and play?"
The skunk stuck a black and white head around the open door to his bedroom. A second later the animal turned and lifted his tail before disappearing into the living room.
Solo was out of bed and pulling on his jeans before the count of five. Yet in that short time, the lady in question, along with the skunk that was now exploring his fireplace hearth, had taken over his living room.
The lithe, supple blond sported an expensive camera, and all the while the lady in question babbled nonsense words.
"I'm willing, able, and eager." She posed for him, a pose meant to entice.
  Read more about Christine at these links:   Christine's website
 Rogues Angels blog    Facebook     Twitter    and  BUY Safari Moon
Now leave a comment for the chance to win one of these great prizes:

* A Safari Moon bookmark to one randomly drawn commenter at every stop.
* ebook copy of The Gift (partof A Valentine Anthology) and StarCrossed (part of St. Patricks Day anthology) to one randomly drawncommenter during the tour.

* One commenter during the tour will win the right to have a character namedfor them in her next release--either GhostDance (a western historical romance) or Rebel Heart (science-fiction romance)

* Two randomly drawn commenters during the tour will each win a $25.00 GC toStarbucks

* The host with the most comments (excluding the author's and the host's) willwin a $15 GC to Starbucks
Thank you so much for dropping by, Christine. It has been a pleasure to meet you!

Thursday, 8 March 2012

A Warm Welcome to Brenda Whiteside
First a little about Brenda
Convinced she was born to be an artist, Brenda never took her love of writing seriously. And then one day, sometime after college, after marrying a man doing a stint in the army and the birth of her son, she found more satisfaction filling a blank page with words than an empty canvas with color. She left her paints behind. After publishing several short stories, she turned to writing novels. Regardless of the length of her story, the characters drive her forward, taking her on their journey of discovery and love.

Brenda and her husband are gypsies at heart having lived in six states and two countries. Recently, they moved to prairie country in Arizona and are enjoying the wide-open spaces while tending fruit trees and veggie gardens. They share their home with their dog, Rusty. When Brenda isn’t at her laptop writing, she enjoys hiking, motorcycle riding and the company of good friends.
Visit Brenda at to view all her published short stories and books

Her recent book Honey on White Bread is available from Melange books. Here's the blurb:

When seventeen-year-old Claire Flanagan is wrenched from her father and deposited at the Good Shepherd’s Home for Wayward Girls, all dreams for Hollywood stardom are lost. But when twenty-year-old Benjamin Russell helps secure her release, she starts to believe in a happy future with him…until she discovers his ex-girlfriend is pregnant.

In this post WWII coming of age novel, Claire discovers the silver screen can’t compare with the fight she takes on for the leading role in her own life. 

Brenda Reveals:
From where do you get inspiration and what inspired you to write Honey on White Bread?
My inspiration comes from the people who populate my life. The inspiration may come from a family member, a friend or a person I ran into at the grocery story. I like a good setting and interesting twists in a story, but first and foremost I have to start with a character. The story isn’t necessarily about that person. For instance, Honey On White Bread was inspired by my mother. She grew up in the 30s and 40s, and I grew up listening to stories of her life. My heroine, Claire, shares some similar experiences, but once I started writing, Claire developed her own unique story.

In a couple of sentences, describe the hero’s character.  What do you like best/least about him?Benjamin Russell is admirable, determined to do what’s right for his family, and single minded in pursuit of a better life – not only for himself but for his mother and siblings. If I was a 1945 woman, his manliness would be swoon-inducing. As a woman of today, the line he draws between what is expected of a man and his expectations of a woman might drive me a little nuts.

And the heroine? How do you relate to her?

Claire Russell begins the story as a mature young woman but is a little starry-eyed. She matures over the course of the book into a loving, strong woman. I can relate to her in her battle to balance her desire for an acting career and the career of marriage. Even by today’s standards, trying to have it all requires some sacrifice.

What do you most enjoy about writing romance?
To tell the truth, I didn’t intend on writing romance when I started writing. Back then, I didn’t categorize the stories in my head. My intention was to write about people and relationships with all the entanglements. What I came to realize is romance figures into every story. Love makes the world go round and all those other love clichés. That is what I enjoy – telling the story of relationships because without them, no matter what else is going on, we’re pretty lonely, boring people without love.

What do you like best and least about writing?

Writing is what I love about writing. I love words and language. Putting them down in an order that is entertaining to someone besides me is so rewarding. Promotion is what I least like. Unfortunately, if I don’t promote no one will know I’ve written a story that might be entertaining. And all the while I’m promoting, I could be writing. But can’t have one without the other!

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?
Write everyday for any amount of time you can. I’ve only recently been able to work at writing fulltime. When I worked, I would get up fifteen minutes early and that was my writing time. Honey On White Bread was written almost entirely in fifteen minute segments. But even if you aren’t working on a book, write everyday – write something, anything. It keeps your juices flowing.

How do you like to spend your free time?
If I could choose (that means forget household chores, grocery shopping, blah, blah), I would be at a movie or play, riding behind my husband on the motorcycle or sitting with good friends over a bottle of red wine and good conversation.

What is your culinary speciality?
I make a mean pot roast. The trick is to do it on top of the stove. And you have to start by dredging your meat in flour and seasonings, then browning it. After you brown it, take it out of the pan and brown the cut side of your potatoes in the same oil. Be sure to dip the cut side of the potatoes in the same flour and seasoning. Do not peel the potatoes. Add back the roast, carrots and water and cook  several hours until the roast about falls apart and the water is thickened from the flour off the meat and potatoes.
Now for a Taste of Honey on White Bread:

We let the screen door slam behind us and turned into the kitchen in time to see Benjamin lift his mother from the floor and spin around twice.
“You stop that, Benjamin Willis. Man or no, I can take a hand to your hide, if I need to.” Her hands flailed gently at his chest.
He laughed as he set her down, steadying her before letting go. Taut muscles on the back of his arms flexed with the effort; his deep laugh filled the kitchen. I couldn’t help being drawn into this entirely pleasant scene, comical and radiating warmth, inviting me to take part in their joy. His mother snatched a dishtowel from the counter and swiped at his legs.
“Hold off now. I give, I give.” He withdrew what appeared to be a check from his back pocket.
Mrs. Russell accepted the paper without comment and stuffed it into the frayed pocket of her red checked apron. He kissed her on the forehead, took the bottle of beer she offered him and leaving the kitchen, nodded in my direction.
I sniffed the sweat of hard work and the yeasty smell of beer as he passed by. My head reeled for a moment with the warmth of the kitchen and the people within, combined with the essence of what I labeled man.

My gaze lingered on Benjamin. His smile was tepid, his blue eyes veiled, as he politely applauded. The only one I cared about pleasing gave me nothing. I briefly curtsied for the judges, flashed my Hollywood smile at each of them and strolled off the stage. I glanced back over my shoulder before sliding behind the curtain. On second look, Benjamin’s smile was crooked, warm and he was still watching me. Perhaps I was making something of nothing, still, hope swelled in my chest.
“You knocked their socks off, Claire.”
“Thanks, Kevin.”
“I’ll be watching you in the movies some day.”
Doubt loomed.
That’s what I wanted, wasn’t it? I felt at home on the stage. There were no nerves, and I liked to wow the judges. Could I compare the thrill of being a Hollywood star with the thrill of a future with Benjamin Willis Russell as my real life leading man? The bright lights of Hollywood paled in comparison to his blue eyes. I leaned my elbows on my knees with my head in my hands.
“Don’t be nervous.” Kevin leaned down to whisper in my ear. “I have a feeling you have them all in the palm of your hand.”
All? Benjamin was barely at my fingertips. Hollywood fame seemed more attainable. Maybe I didn’t have to choose. I bolted upright. The solution appeared to be easy enough. I calmed myself with the rationale I could have it all. A decision to choose between Benjamin and a career didn’t need to be made right then, if at all.
Follow the rest of Brenda's blog tour
  LINKS: You can find Brenda at her website and on Facebook PLUS she blogs on the 9th and 24th of every month at and occasionally on her personal blog 
BUY at Melange Books  Amazon  AllRomanceeBooks
Thank you so much for having me today, Megan. You ask some tough questions! Hope everyone found something of interest.
We found plenty of interest! Great to meet you and I wish you huge success with Honey on White Bread.
Leave a comment for the chance to win this prize:    Brenda will be giving away a 1940's double feature night at the movies which will consist of two DVD movies from the era starring the movie idols the heroine mentions often in the book - one Betty Grable movie and one Tyrone Power movie - plus popcorn and a box of candy to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour (US/Canada only please).

Thursday, 1 March 2012

A Warm Welcome to Jann M. Contento and Jeffrey Ross
Authors of  College Leadership Crisis: The Philip Dolly Affair
'an over-the- top, life-in-the-fun-house look at a community college'

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While community colleges are currently receiving heightened attention, this novel provides a behind-the-scenes analysis of many whispered truths, those simmering but unspoken workplace behaviors, issues, and machinations every worker (Everyman!) will recognize. A humorous and biting read with a clever mix of satire, political intrigue, failed romances, and tragic-comedy, this novel will open your eyes to the truth about community colleges …

PDA has fun with acronyms, meeting-speak, old and new campus romances, and generally doesn’t hold any punches when it comes to pointing out some funny characteristics about the daily college work experience.  Don’t let the title fool you-- the truth of the matter is this novel is for Anyone, for Everyone, who works in America, and hears the ever-present ‘whispered truths’ about the workplace and management—truths usually denied by the bosses but ultimately irrefutable. Recent ‘events’ in Wisconsin and on Wall Street give new, ‘real time’ meaning to the labor-management discussions in PDA
Review: By Leah Wescott, Editor of Cronk News
The Philip Dolly Affair opens as a higher education satire, providing character studies of familiar academic colleagues, nemeses and campus idiosyncrasies. Soon, however, you're drawn into an Our Town-ish drama that spans beyond the community college political landscape into a tale of actual socio-political irony that provides context for the life and career of the eponymous President Dolly. Love him or hate him, you can't help but feel for him.
The story of Copperfield Community College is told through a melange of genres, including short biographical essays, poetry and even theatrical dialogue. If you're looking for straight prose, you may be pleasantly surprised with the mixed bag.
I was most drawn to the descriptions (regardless of genre) of the no-win conflict real life community colleges face between missions of vocational preparation and ambitions of higher learning. Both visions are ridiculed brilliantly though neither is without merit. Faculty, staff, students and townies are also held under the humor microscope. There's plenty to laugh and cry about as you recognize your community and yourself.
More reviews at amazon
Now to Meet the Authors...
Jann M. Contento has a broad range of experiences in higher education including student affairs administration, athletics, and institutional research. He is currently working in a community college setting and has co-authored several articles on leadership and college culture. 

Jeffrey Ross
, who resides in Gilbert, Arizona with his wife and son, is a writer, rockabilly musician, and former full-time community college teacher. He has had four "Views" pieces published on since 2007, has authored and co-authored several op-ed articles on community college identity, purpose, and culture, and has recently had several pieces published on the Cronk News  higher education satire website.

 I asked them: From where do you get inspiration and what inspired you to write The Philip Dolly Affair?
Jeff: We have had quite a few Op Eds published that deal with the changing culture of community colleges.  Post secondary education has been increasingly influenced by corporate management practices (both good and bad)—and we thought it would be fun to work out some of our ideas in fiction. We also sensed that a comic novel might give us a wider reading audience. We’ve had pretty good response (via blogged comments) on some of the pieces we’ve written in the past—and even received a suggestion or two that we try to write a book. So here we are!

Can you give us a brief description of the main characters and what makes them tick?
 What do you like best/least about them?

Jeff: Dr. Dolly is apparently a power-mad administrator. In many ways, he and the other characters in PDA are victims of a culture (especially at our imaginary Copperfield Community) that increasingly celebrates professionalism and organizational theory more than teaching and learning. Dolly and his sidekick, Dean Preston, are not appealing characters, but they are very good at what they do and are quite successful as careerists because they know how to function, how to behave, within the culture.  McDougal, the bat-wielding apparently womanizing socialist bartender, is a lot of fun. He misses the good old times back in Glasgow at the soccer matches when he could rumble with the capitalists, and he pines for the dear wife (and six kids) he deserted. Barkeep McDougal represents, supposedly, the dreaded socialist menace about to take over America. Hah. His meeting with Dean Preston, in the first chapter of the third section, is one of the great moments in American literature. Maybe. Or Not.

Who controls the story – you or your characters?  
Jeff: Community college culture in the 21s century controls the characters in sections 1 and 3—and most of them should be recognizable no matter where you work. In the middle section, set mostly in Argentina, the politics, ethics, and culture of the early 1960’s scripts our characters’ behaviours. The overall story is repeated, we think, at nearly every community college in America every day. We tend to believe that pop culture and a “follow-the-money” mentality controls most everybody’s behaviours anyway.
Jann: The author most likely has creative impressions, but characters can drive the story beyond the author’s intent. Often “dynamic” or even “flat” characters begin writing themselves, surfacing in unwanted places. 
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
Jeff: Community college culture is pretty isolated. We would hope our readers learn more about the community college work place and the pressure such schools are under to perform. Plus, we would like to see our readers question the notions of Leadership— what do we really want from those who call themselves leaders? Even so—we hope our readers will recognize PDA’s literary qualities—its symbolism, imagery, metaphors, and rich historical texture—and the failed romances and personal tragedies.

Jann:  I hope readers recognize they are surrounded by a cast of playful characters who cleverly expose societal “whispered” truths. We hope this novel changes, or at least alters, the way one views many institutions

What do you think are the main ingredients for a successful book?

Jeff: I suspect readers enjoy seeing a formula with expected outcomes. Romance is probably necessary—just like big explosions in a movie. We hope the uniqueness of our text (the first community college campus novel) will help it become successful—but we do include romance and intrigue and adventure.  For example, Phil Dolly’s mom, in Argentina, back in the 60’s, is a beautiful dancer and freedom fighter…. I guess we’ll discover what our readers enjoy best-- the romances, the comic policy debates, or   Dr. Dolly’s Abrupt Decline!

What were the advantages/disadvantages of co-writing?
We have written several “academic” articles together. Jann and I have known each other for years, played in several bands together, spent quite a bit of social time together. The process was easier than I expected it to be. The character sketches in the first section developed from a “short story” I had published on back in 2008—“Call Me Phil.” I had a fairly easy time developing additional characters. But Jann gave the novel the plot line, the total Phil Dolly Story, and was instrumental in bringing context and closure to the book. We found having two pairs of eyes very helpful as we edited and revised (a billion times!). I think our common sense of being “outside” social norms  and mores helped us immensely—and we made a genuine effort to reel each other in to keep the book basically family friendly and accurate (in a representative kind of way). But we have always used each other as sounding boards for pieces of writing we have constructed—both together and separately.
Jann: There were many wonderful advantages in having a trusted colleague and friend as a co-writer. This particular writing adventure required an exceptional understanding mind willing and capable of exploring and critiquing creative ideas. Having a co-writer proved indispensably valuable.

Anything special you require to keep the creative juices flowing?
Jann: I find daily physical exercise imperative in maintaining a clear writing focus. Unlike many historically famous boozers, beer and books, alcohol and academics fail me.

What is the best writing advice you have ever received?

Many of my liberal arts college professors repeated the same mantra “read, read, read, write, review, review, review, read, read, read...” An old faded message on a colleagues door keeps me grounded, it reads “Studying the classics teaches one the values one needs to live without the money one gives up because one studied the classics.”

What can we look forward to from you in the near future?
Jeff—I like to write poems that capture brief dramatic moments, but I don’t know if an audience for my poetry exists. I think I will continue working on my Jack Frost poetry. [There are several examples in our novel.]
Jann: I enjoy non-fiction, especially historical biographies and philosophy. There may be in the works, more historical backed satirical fiction. 
How do you like to spend your free time?
Jeff—I try to do things that contribute to my own development physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I’m not one who needs much entertainment. I like to head up to my Quonset hut cabin and putter around, listen to the AM radio, read, write a little, spray weeds. The daily buzz and
TEXT of American life seems like a puppet show, a big distraction, something that seeks to erode my core being. I am not pessimistic or dark or arrogant about this, but I am more interested in my own daily life than what happens in Hollywood or the CMA’s or the NFL. What is the outcome, for your personal life, of eating buffalo wings on Sunday afternoon?
 What would you most like to accomplish this year?
Jeff: I suppose I would like to be recognized as an artist, as opposed to being a craftsman.
What was your favourite book as a child/teen? And as an adult? What are you currently reading?
As a teen I enjoyed J.D. Salinger. We had to read Catcher in high school, and I became hooked on his satirical prose. I really liked his series of short stories, particularly The Laughing Man. In college I fell upon Kingsley Amis’ Lucky Jim and was again hooked.
I am currently reading a contemporary literary novel, The Brothers' Keepers by John Paddison and Charles D. Orvik. The dual author approach shares a sensitive narrative voice in this progressive-minded literary work concerning societal social responsibility. The story is about child neglect and abandonment of five young boys during and after the Great Depression. The text involves the inclusion of numerous letters, which co-author Jeffrey Ross and I also exploited within The Philip Dolly Affair. 
What is your culinary speciality?
: I really don’t spend much time thinking about food (click link)
   Jann: I enjoy preparing Italian cuisine, especially vegetable and tomato garlic tainted sauces.
Here's a Taste of The Philip Dolly Affair
Excerpt One: Mr. Hose made a mistake when computing his retirement pension. He retired one year too early, and this error will cost him 646.40 dollars per month for the rest of his life.
Sometimes, Mr. Hose sits on his back patio and feeds the birds and squirrels. He is always too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter, and too dissatisfied in the spring and fall.
His wife, Myrtle, cooks and cleans and does the laundry. She is not happy with her life, but she has Mr. Hose to take care of now.
Certainly Mr. Hose had a career at CCC. He graded many papers and attended [by his computation] 16,453 meetings during his 17 years at the college. He was never able to pass his CPA exam, and has trouble doing his own taxes.
But he is quite able to measure out appropriate quantities of bird seed for his feathered friends and squirrel buddies. “Come to Daddy,” he says every morning to Snappy the fancy pigeon.
He also maintains an old but pristine collection of Green Stamps.
Some days Mr. Hose just stays in bed, or watches Oprah, or reads from his gaggle of old Tubby and Lu Lu comic books.
Mr. Hose is neither happy nor sad. He had a career at CCC, and then he retired. Now, at 63, he has nothing much to look forward to and he cannot really pinpoint any grand moment from his past life.
Mr. Hose has a pet Duck named Wilbur. Wilbur is white. Mr. Hose keeps a collar and a leash on Wilbur [who spends most of his days quacking around in a small wading pool]. Sometimes Mr. Hose takes Wilbur for a walk around the house while riding in his Lark.
Mr. Hose’s wife smiles at this and knows it is good for Mr. Hose to have a loving companion like Wilbur.
In their frequent conversations, Mr. Hose questions Wilbur about what he likes to eat, what temperature he likes his pool water, and why he doesn’t lay eggs.
Last Friday, he asked Wilbur if he had ever taken a course in Cost Accounting.
When answering Mr. Hose’s frequent questions, Wilbur smiles and speaks without guile or excuse. He is a kind and good hearted duck, and Wilbur has become Mr. Hose’s best friend.
[Wilbur has his own chapter in the novel, too]

Excerpt Two:
Jack’s girl is big... A Poem by Jack Frost, Espanol Professor
She’s got jowls and big hams for thighs...
Poor thing…
Who knows where she finds those jeans.
Her little blue eyes twinkle like chickadees, and her laugh is a stampede
His girl is big…
Oh, Jack hears the whispers and snickers and nasty remarks
About her size and about him and about them
But Jack will tell you.
He wouldn’t trade her for a super model--and here’s why…
She loves him--not in the Hollywood kind of way--she’s no Bond girl--
But in real terms, real simple terms in the way a man wants to be loved--she loves him…and is nice to him.
She is nice to him and respects him.
When they are sitting together in the Copper Coin, blowing smoke rings from their Camel lights, eating pickled eggs, and cheering at the tele, arm and arm, two big bears on tiny stools,
Well, they are happy, my friend, and their little sudsy pint-clover moment is the galaxy--
Time [and space!] has no meaning for these lovebirds.
Every Friday and Saturday, my friends, you’ll see them on the same stools [sometimes three stools!], laughing and loving and putting away fish and chips and drinking and smoking, arm in arm, and loving each other like you can’t imagine…
Jack’s girl is big, and she always asks him how his day at work went--and asks about his problems, and his sadness, and misgivings.
Jack isn’t all that small himself...
And she doesn’t complain or try to control him.
Jack’s girl is big. And he loves her. And she loves him.
And they are nice to each other without script or agenda…
And what you think doesn’t matter to them.
Jack’s girl is big. Jack isn’t all that small himself.
Leave a comment for a chance to win a "chapbook" of poetry "voiced" by Professor Jack Frost

And check out these links: 
Open Salon Blog    Getting to Know Phil Dolly Blogspot     Facebook Page    Video Discussion of Philip DollyAffair (Youtube)   BUY

Thank you, Jann and Jeffrey, for regaling us today. I absolutely love the premise of The Philip Dolly Affair.

It has been a pleasure to meet you. 

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