When I think of Connie Bailey I think of a happy sweet lady who has made me feel welcome from the beginning. With her loving heart and cheerful personality and happy smile, she lights up any room. And I am delighted that she is my guest today at The Shepherd’s Bean.
And look! Here she is, lighting up this room! Hey Connie!
Connie: Hi, Ben. It’s great to see you again. I had such a great time the last time I was in Kansas City. And of course, it’s been great seeing you in so many other cities. No matter where our tribe gathers, we feel at home with each other.
BG: Connie, you really don’t know how happy I am to be able to spend some time with you. You have always, from the very, very beginning, been so kind and welcoming to me.
Connie: I liked you the minute I met you. I’ll never forget our shuttle ride together in New York, the Big Apple, at the first Dreamspinner workshop.
BG: Sit down! Sit down! Let me get you something! Connie, do you drink coffee or are you one of those DSP tea drinkers?
Connie: I love high tea with all the little sandwiches and desserts, but I’m a coffee drinker. I like it strong, but I take cream with it.
BG: Good! They have a Yirgacheffe, Ethiopia coffee today that is to live for! I am crazy about it. What is it about all those tea ladies at Dreamspinner? *laughs*
Connie: I know what you mean! *chuckle* And I can’t wait to taste the Yirgacheffe.
BG: How have you been doing since I saw you last—was that Orlando? What have you been up to?
Connie: Yes, Orlando. Wasn’t the Gaylord Resort fantastic? Well, since then I’ve mostly been doing what I enjoy most—writing! When I wasn’t writing, I was helping out with the hang gliding competition held every year at the grass strip airport where I live. And of course, going for lots of walk with my Ickle dog and taking photos. *grin*
BG: A hang gliding competition? Do you hang glide?
Connie: I used to hang glide in the seventies. Not anymore. But it’s my husband’s business.
BG: Connie, when I think of you, a word that always POPS into my head is “beginnings.” Not only because you were there for me right from the beginning, but because you were there at the very beginning of Dreamspinner Press. That must have been incredible. To be there right on the ground floor.
Connie: I’ll never forget the moment Elizabeth first broached the idea of starting a publishing company. We were sitting in a Ruby Tuesday’s and she said she saw a need for a line of books for the LGBT community. There was no shortage of romance books on the market, but only a precious few, such as Torquere, featured gay characters. Such a shame that so many people had no stories they could identify with. I clearly remember my friend Pam, who is lesbian, saying that she watched movies keenly on alert for any hint of same gender romance. She would read books and pretend the male protagonist was a woman. So, I think Elizabeth did a wonderful thing when she founded Dreamspinner.
BG: How did that all happen? I mean with you specifically. How did you get to be a part of it all?
Connie: When Fellowship of the Ring and Pirates of the Caribbean came out in theaters, I discovered the online realm of fanfiction and started writing. Through posting my stories, I met other people who were writing fanfiction and we became friends online. Then one day, Elizabeth had the idea that we should all meet in person. She arranged a retreat in the mountains near Helena, Georgia, and we stayed for a week getting to know each other better. I’m not overstating when I say we became friends for life. The next step was Elizabeth having the idea for Dreamspinner.
BG: And you’ve traveled because of DSP. Didn’t you go to Korea? I mean, wow! What was that like?
Connie: I’ve been very fortunate in getting to visit several interesting places through DSP. I’ve been to Barcelona, Stockholm, Berlin, to name a few, and my personal favorite, Seoul, South Korea. It’s an absolutely fascinating culture and city practically hums with energy!
BG: You impress the hell out me too. Not only are you a writer, but an artist and photographer—a hang glider!—and who knows what else, plus you have a wonderful dog named Ickle.
Connie: Ben, you flatterer! *giggle* By the way, this coffee is excellent!
BG: I am so glad you like it. It’s my favorite. And by the way, I have learned something. Never ever ever flatter someone unless you mean every word that you say. Because if they find out you aren’t sincere, then they will consider you insincere forever after. And if word gets out, no one will believe you. So when I “flatter” you, believe me I mean it from my heart.
And stepping back…speaking of Ickle, I think you know I love dogs with all my heart. How did your magic dog come into your life anyway? And show everybody a picture!
Connie: Yes, the twinkle in your eye when you talk about dogs tells me how you feel about them. Ickle is a whippet who came all the way from California to be my dog. She was bought as a puppy by a dog trainer and used in the straight to video movie Hotel for Dogs III.
BG: Oh my gosh! A movie star!
Connie: The trainer, April, is a friend and asked if I wanted to foster Ickle (who was called Thelma at the time). I said yes, because it had been two years since I lost my rescue greyhound Lizard. Whippets are quite a bit smaller than greyhounds, so she looked tiny to me and I started calling her by an old English word Ickle, which means small. Long story short, April could see the bond I have with Ickle and gave her to me forever. Now she brings joy into my life on a daily basis. Love her so much!
BG: Oh what a wonderful dog rescue story! Dog stories make me so happy. Which is why I write about them so much. And of course it is because I write that we met. One of the happy benefits.
Connie: Hound Dog & Bean! Loved the foster dog and of course, I love the idea of no-kill shelters. And I agree with you one hundred percent. Meeting other authors and readers is a great benefit of our jobs!
BG: How long have you been writing?
Connie: I’ve been making up stories all my life, but didn’t start writing seriously until 2001. I’ve learned a lot since then, thanks to reviewers, editors, and other writers. When other authors are speaking, I listen like a hawk. Andrew Grey gave me a piece of very valuable advice once. He said, when you’re writing, don’t stop and try to think up a name for a secondary character, street, or town. Just keep writing. You can go back later and fill in details. Never break the flow.
BG: What was your first story with Dreamspinner Press?
Connie: That would be Miles to Go. Looking back now, it seems so naïve of me to write about an undercover police officer. *laugh*
BG: Connie, an old question I’ll bet you’ve been asked a dozen times—Do you have a favorite book of yours? I know that can be a hard question…. But for instance, I just love my book Hound Dog & Bean, no matter how many books I write and how much I fall in love with my characters….
Connie: If you don’t love your characters, your readers won’t either. I truly believe that. My favorite published book of mine would have to be Moonlight, Tiger, and Smoke. I suffered right along with the characters in that one.
BG: Which has a totally stunning cover by Mara McKennan. And you’re an artist. At least one of your pieces became a cover for one of your books—The Bastard’s Pearl. That one through the DSP Publications imprint. Can we see the before and after? Tell us about your art.
Connie: This is the original sketch. Paul Richmond worked some kind of magic on it before it became a cover.
BG: I think Paul is magic. But your sketch is lovely. I wish I could draw like you….
Connie: Drawing came naturally to me. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been able to take a pencil and sketch something that looks more or less like the subject. Not sure if this is interesting, but it’s the same reason I’m pretty good at playing pool. Both depend on hand/eye coordination. I think everyone has a skill they’re born with, and this is the one I was gifted with. Writing was a skill I had to develop.
BG: And then there is your photography! My gosh I love love love your work. How did you get into that?
Connie: Again, I have to put the blame on Elizabeth. A few years ago, she gave me her old camera and said, go take pictures.
BG: Can we see a few of your favorite shots? And don’t be shy. Show us!
Connie: Well, of course, a lot of my favorite photos are of my dog, but I do have some others I like.
BG: One of my favorite pictures was the one you took of that lizard catching its dinner! My gosh! You could win some kind of award with that one. How did you catch that?
Connie: It was a fluke. I just happened to snap the photo at the right moment.
BG: Which is the sign of a true photographer! I mean I think you need to submit it to some kind of Nature Channel or something…National Geographic. This is an award winner!
BG: Has any of your photos made it to the cover of a book yet?
Connie: You know, that’s something I haven’t looked into, but what a great idea!
BG: And as I said, beginnings…. You are one of the first of the Dreamspun Desires authors. How did Dreamspun Desires happen and how did you get involved?
Connie: That was all Poppy! I’m speaking of the scintillating Poppy Dennison of course. She had an idea for a series based on the Harlequin model. Over Cosmopolitans in Dallas, she asked if I’d be interested in contributing a book. Would I? You bet!
BG: And speaking of which, that just happens to be your new novel—Finding Family! Tell us all about it!
Connie: As you know, Dreamspun novels are built on romance tropes. My trope is the plucky orphan who makes good and gets the family he’s always wanted. I’ve always loved that character in books and movies, like Flora in Cold Comfort Farm.
BG: I’ve not seen it, but I will be looking for it now….
Connie: When I created Charles MacQuarrie (orphaned clothing company magnate), I gave him some of my favorite physical attributes: tall and toned with mahogany hair and tiger eyes. I had to be mindful of giving him flaws so he wouldn’t be two-dimensional. With Charles and Jon, I kept in mind the Captain and Maria from The Sound of Music. I really wanted that dynamic of the handsome, somewhat aristocratic man saddled with responsibility and the perky, practical “commoner” who shows him what’s really important in life.
BG: Oh! This sounds good! Tell me more….
Connie: I really enjoyed writing the characters of the children. I never had kids, but it wasn’t because I don’t like them. *grin* I’ve been around a lot of great kids in my life and I drew on each of them to create Julianna, Holland, and Madeline. Oddly perhaps, my favorite character in the book is the “villain” Chretien. It’s fun to write a snarky character. *giggle* I’m also very partial to the leading man’s best friend “Bunny.” I’m so glad Poppy approached me to write a book for Dreamspun. I’ve never written a book “to a purpose” so to speak. It was an interesting and rewarding experience that taught me a few things about writing romance.
BG: Anything in the pipeline? Anything your working on now?
Connie: Thanks for asking. I have a couple of things at second draft stage, but the one I’m excited about has the working title Sharpshooter. It’s really more of an action adventure than a full out romance. The main character is an ex-Marine who works on a SWAT team in Miami. When it comes out, I hope I can come back to The Shepherd’s Bean for some delicious release day coffee with you.
BG: Let’s make it a date!
Title: Finding Familly
Author: Connie Bailey
Genre: Contemporary, Dreamspun Desires
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: June 1, 2016
Edition/Formats Available In: eBook
When you find your family, you’ll do anything to keep it.
When Charles Macquarrie inherits a fortune and an international clothing company, he also inherits three young cousins he desperately needs help raising. By a stroke of luck, he discovers and hires Jonathan Lamb, who spent his life in a children’s home due to chronic illness, to be his nanny.
If Jon thought a budding romance with his wealthy boss complicated his life, he has no idea of the hardships awaiting him when he’s charged with embezzlement and kidnapping. But even when threatened by accounting discrepancies and mob connections, Jon and Charles won’t let go of the family they’ve built together without a fight.
JON RETURNED to the Blood of the Lamb Home for Children. He hurriedly showered and dressed in the white shirt and black pants he wore to Mass. He was waiting alone in the mother superior’s office when Albert Anthony, Charles Macquarrie’s representative, arrived for the interview. Sister Michael showed the visitor in and left after winking discreetly at Jon. Though Mr. Anthony was young, probably in his early twenties, Jon could see from his suit and bearing that he was someone of consequence. He was tall and leggy and elegantly dressed with a short, sleek haircut and a muted shine on his manicured nails. He reminded Jon of a Siamese cat that had been recently groomed.
“You must be Jonathan Lamb,” Albert said, extending his hand. “I’m Albert Anthony.”
Jon shook hands and waited for Albert to sit first.
“This interview is not a guarantee of a job,” Albert said as he sat behind the bare desk. “My employer, Mr. Macquarrie, is very exacting, especially as regards this position.”
“I understand,” Jon said. “Of course he’d be extremely careful about who he hires.”
“I’m glad you agree.” Albert took a slim laptop from his work satchel. “I’ve spoken with the sisters about you,” he said as he set the laptop on the desk and opened it. “However, I’d like to go over a few things about your personal life.”
“I don’t really have one.”
Albert looked at Jon over the lid of the laptop. His face was expressionless, but his disapproval of Jon’s remark was obvious. “Humor has no place in this interview.”
“I wasn’t—” Jon paused. “I apologize, but honestly, all I do is work and sleep.”
“We’ll get back to that.” Albert looked down at the screen. “You were left at the church when you were an infant.”
Jon was confused. Albert hadn’t asked a question, but he’d paused as though expecting an answer. Tentatively, Jon nodded.
“So you’ve been here all your life.”
“Yes.” Jon cleared his throat. “May I ask a question?”
“Should I call you sir? It’s making me nervous not knowing what to call you.”
“If you get the job, I’ll be your superior,” Albert said. “Do you think you should call me sir?”
“Yes, sir,” Jon answered.
Albert moved his fingers on the keyboard. “You were never adopted.” He glanced at Jon again. “You look like you were a cute kid, but no one picked you.”
“Because of this.” Jon undid the top two buttons of his shirt and pulled the collar aside so Albert could see the port-wine stain that came halfway up his neck. “I was sick a lot too.”
Albert made no comment about Jon’s birthmark. “But you’re in good health now.”
“I’m in very good health. I eat well and I exercise every day.”
“Good. The position requires someone with stamina.” Albert looked at the screen. “After your eighteenth birthday, you took a job here instead of leaving. You work in the kitchen.”
“I cook and clean and do whatever else needs doing around here. I’m sort of a handyman, I guess.”
“You like it here.”
Jon was getting used to Albert’s style of stating his inquiries and answered immediately. “Yes, I do. The people here are like my family.”
“But you’re willing to leave.”
“It wasn’t my idea, but after I thought about it for a while, I realized the sisters were right. I can always come back if I don’t like the rest of the world.”
“This job requires a deep commitment.”
Jon leaned forward. “Mr. Anthony, if I take on this responsibility, I’ll devote myself to it.
Because it’s not really a job, is it? It’s a life.”
Albert paused before he spoke. “That’s a very good answer,” he said. “You don’t drink.”
“Not at all.”
“No. I don’t have time for bad habits.”
“I have to say, you sound perfect for the position. I have a few more questions, though.”
“I’m happy to answer them, sir.”
“You aren’t married and don’t have a girlfriend.”
“You’re a homosexual.”
Jon blinked as his mouth fell open in stunned surprise.
“Yes, I thought so.” Albert closed his laptop. “Don’t worry, Mr. Lamb. It’s not a drawback. On my advice, my employer prefers a homosexual male for the position….”
Connie Bailey’s Bio:
Connie Bailey is a Luddite who can’t live without her computer. She’s an acrophobic who loves to fly, a fault-finding pessimist who, nonetheless, is always surprised when something bad happens, and an antisocialite who loves her friends like family. She’s held a number of jobs in many disparate arenas to put food on the table, but writing is the occupation that feeds her soul. Connie lives with her ultralight designer husband and Ickle the Wonder Whippet at a small grass-strip airfield halfway between Disney World and Busch Gardens. Logic and reality have had little to do with her life, and she likes it that way.
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