Hi Dana. I really appreciate you taking the time to visit Angie's Attic today. I know you were rushed to be here so I am especially grateful for the chance to toss out a few questions to get to know you. Also, I can't wait to hear about your new book, To Catch A Billionaire.
How did you start your writing career?
I began writing around 2001, mainly due to being unable to settle on a book that caught my interest long enough to read it to the end. The plots seemed old, the characters scattered and witless, and frankly, while it could have been just my attitude (since it was during winter and I was snowbound), I decided to put my own characters to work and came up with my first book. I’d always been a story writer as a kid, but hadn’t really put pen to paper.
If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Hindsight is always interesting. Whenever I reread a book I’ve written that’s been published, I think ‘why didn’t I say or do this or that?’
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
I often find it difficult to keep the pace of the story going. When that happens, I know it’s time to hit the treadmill for an hour or to take a walk outdoors (weather permitting, of course). Invigorating those endorphins in my brain helps me to pick up the pace and keep it going.
Do you write an outline before every book you write?
As a pantser, I rarely write more than a sketch of the beginning, middle and end.
When the book takes a turn, as characters will do that to you, I adjust my story to fit the direction it’s taken. I do write a short synopsis for my publisher (and for me), though.
While you were writing, did you ever feel as if you were one of the characters?
I think writers tend to pull feelings or incidences from our own lives when we write, so it would be hard not to feel that way.
How did you come up with the title of your book?
It’s funny that you ask. I find it easy to come up with titles. Usually, I have my title before I have the story. The same thing happens with covers. When I wrote Murder on Spyglass Lane, J.M. Griffin I happened to be riding through a neighborhood in Florida with a friend of mine. I glanced at the street sign and saw Spyglass Lane. My friend and I rode the street, which just happened to border a golf course, and the story just came from that.
Tell us a little bit about your cover art. Who designed it? Why did you go with that particular image/artwork?
Give us an interesting fun fact or two about your new book.
I visited a few galleries to get a sense of how they’re run and how the art is guarded. The I took writer’s license and wrapped the information around to fit my story.
What are your current/future projects?
Currently, under the pen name J.M. Griffin, I’m working on the Linty Dragon paranormal mystery series. As Dana Stone, I have another novel in the works called, Dragonwood Magic.
Is there anything else you'd like to say to your readers?
I always appreciate emails from my readers. They are kind and cheer me on when I need it most. Authors tend to be tough on themselves, second guess our decisions, and become overwhelmed by the timeline we work under. Even in indie-pubbing, we work with a schedule, which is more difficult than working under a traditional publisher’s deadline. I work under both and find the publisher’s deadline to be much easier, since I can’t postpone of extend my deadline.
Where can readers find more out about you and your book (webpage, blog, buy link, etc.)
Readers can catch up with me on my blog. I enjoy comments and input from them. http://mycozymysteries.blogspot.com
Thank you, Dana for joining me in the attic today. I thoroughly enjoyed getting a chance to know you and of course, adding you to the collection of good things in Angie's Attic.
Thank you for inviting me to stop by. I enjoyed hanging about with you here in the attic.
And now, before you climb down from the attic, how about a snippet from your book that will intrigue and tantalize us:
Rain pelted the ground. It beat down on her fast and furious as she hurried up the road. Soaked to her skin, Erin swore under her breath. Why had she believed the repairman when he said the car was now in tip-top shape? What the hell was she thinking by trusting that he’d done his job correctly? To make things worse, her cellphone was deader than dead. Not that it mattered. There was no one to rescue her anyway.
Angered by her stupidity, Erin slogged up the driveway in full temper. The drive home from the gallery had been fine until the dashboard lights faltered. That was an instant before the car threw a seizure and abruptly died. She’d contact the repairman and give him a piece of her mind. The miserable twit.
She stamped up the front stairs and had just reached the door when it flew open. Mrs. Hardy ushered her inside as a clap of thunder rolled over the hills.
“My dear girl, you’re drenched. At least you’re home now. I was so worried. I’ve been watching for you. Come inside, before you catch pneumonia. Go get changed and come into the kitchen, I’ll have a nice hot cup of tea for you,” Mrs. Hardy ordered as she draped a heavy knit shawl around Erin’s shoulders.
Mollified by the care given to her by the woman who’d been with the Cameron family for more than twenty years, Erin’s temper abated.
“It’s cold for early June. Of course my car broke down a quarter mile from here and I had to walk. Then the rain started. I hurried as fast as I could, but by the time I reached the gates I was sopping wet,” Erin complained as she peeled off the dripping coat and handed it to Mrs. Hardy. Glancing down at her Kate Spade shoes, she saw they were ruined. The only part of the outfit that had survived the ravages of Mother Nature was her handbag. Even her suit was drenched beneath her coat.
“Miss Erin, you know the weather is unpredictable at this time of year, especially so near the coast,” Mrs. Hardy said. She hung the coat to dry and followed Erin upstairs to her bedroom. While Erin showered Mrs. Hardy took the dripping clothes away to dry them. After Erin donned a robe, she took the back stairs to the kitchen. Mrs. Hardy’s eyes lit up when Erin entered the room and she motioned toward the table set for supper.
Dry and warm, Erin slipped into the seat across from Mrs. Hardy’s place setting. A streaming cup of Earl Grey awaited her. Most evenings the two of them dined together as family. No fancy dining room with a table that seemed to stretch for miles and certainly no company to entertain. Guests were rarely invited to Cameron House. Not since her parents had passed away, that is.
“There was a call for you earlier,” Mrs. Hardy remarked while she ladled supper onto Erin’s plate. “Tristan Forsyth will call on you at the gallery tomorrow. He said he wishes to speak with you face to face. I told him you’d be unavailable, but he was quite adamant.” Mrs. Hardy passed Erin a serving of steaming hot chicken pot pie.
“He insisted, did he?” Erin remarked in her husky voice followed by a throaty laugh. “I’m sure he thinks he can waltz into my gallery and order me around like he does his little minions in Scotland and other parts of the world.” She snorted. “He’s in for a rude awakening now that he’s on American soil.”
Mrs. Hardy pointed to the food on Erin’s plate and said, “Eat your dinner before it gets cold, Miss Erin. I made strawberry-rhubarb pie for dessert.”
With enthusiasm, Erin wolfed down the delicious fare while she wondered if she could best the man who thought he could take over her business. There was no time like the present to find out. Erin had been happy to send others like him packing and Tristan Forsyth wouldn’t be any different.
Interested to see how he’d approach her with an offer, she chuckled, finished her meal and sipped the tea as she waited for pie.
With her eyes twinkling, Mrs. Hardy asked, “Will Cam be handling Mr. Forsyth?”
Erin dipped her head in assent as she gobbled the scrumptious dessert. She’d swallowed a mouthful and then said, “She’ll give Mr. Tristan Forsyth just what he has coming to him. Make no mistake about it, Mrs. Hardy – we’ll win out. People who think they can buy my gallery for a mere pittance are quick to find out they can’t. Cam will make short work of him.”
“I read a more recent newspaper article about him than the last one we had. From the way he answered the interviewer’s questions, I’d say Mr. Forsyth is a bit of a rake. He’s a handsome fellow too,” Mrs. Hardy remarked with an unreadable expression on her face.
Erin had also seen pictures and agreed, but wasn’t about to admit that. It wouldn’t be the first time the woman had played matchmaker when she thought a man met the standards she alone had set for Erin’s love life.
“Mr. Forsyth is filthy rich, wealthier than rich, and enjoys persuading others to sell to him when they should know better. He owns famous galleries all over the world and exhibits what’s hot in the latest and greatest artwork available. By all accounts, he’s just plain bossy.” Erin grimaced as she considered how her alter ego, Cam, would handle him.
Cameron Boucher had come into being when Erin returned to Greenwich, Connecticut, straight from studying at Oxford University.
An only child of artistically inclined parents, Erin had learned the gallery business from the ground up. As soon as she was old enough to wander the rooms, watched over by her father and management, she’d found her calling. Erin’s relentless questions, one after another, had delighted her father. She’d wanted to learn the process behind setting up art exhibits and gauging authenticity of individual pieces, and he’d taught her. Erin was confident she knew the best way to present artists at openings, along with procedures for the ultimate promotion of their work. Erin had insisted she accompany her father when he’d met with famed, worldwide gallery promoters, and she’d absorbed a great deal.
“Your father would be proud of the way you represent the gallery, Miss Erin. Your mother, well, she’d want you to marry, have children and taste that side of life,” Mrs. Hardy said wistfully.
“I’m enjoying my life, more than ever. As Cam, I handle the business end of things and as myself, I show up for gallery openings and such. This way, Cam is aware of what’s happening in the day to day business, while I only have to wine, dine and smile at people like Tristan Forsyth, whom I could care less about.” Erin plucked her napkin from her lap and began to clear their place settings.
“Here, here, let me do that. I’ll take this away while you catch up on Mr. Forsyth’s latest interview,” Mrs. Hardy insisted, her short, gray-haired curls bobbing all over the place. “Besides,” she said with a chuckle, “Cam will need to be on her toes tomorrow if she’s going to take this guy on.” Mrs. Hardy stacked the dishes and gathered the remaining food.
On her way toward the door, Erin glanced back and asked, “What time did he say he was coming to the office? Meredith never mentioned anything specific when I was there earlier.”
Mrs. Hardy lifted a shoulder, “Mr. Forsyth wasn’t specific. He said he’d drop in later in the day. Maybe he wants to catch you off guard.”
“Mm, I’m sure,” she remarked and left Mrs. Hardy busily loading the dishwasher. As a housekeeper, there was no one better. As a longtime family friend and confidant, Erin couldn’t have asked for more. In the beginning Mrs. Hardy had encouraged Erin to keep Cam’s character in place, which was a surprise in itself. As of late, she had advised Erin to drop Cam and take her rightful place as director of the gallery. The woman might be on the right track.
Thoughtfully, Erin climbed the stairs and idly wandered toward her bedroom. Bold-colored drapes and bedding accented the softer hues of hard wood flooring and warm oak furniture. She lounged on the bottom of her bed and considered the upcoming challenge Forsyth presented.
Mesmerized by his green-eyed handsomeness in magazine articles presented to her by Mrs. Hardy, Erin remembered how his rough good looks had caught her immediate attention. And the shape of his lips made her appreciate him even more. She’d absorbed every detail of his features. Tristan Forsyth was just too good looking and rich, for his own good. That hadn’t stopped the rush of excitement she felt when she studied his photo and read about Mr. Forstyh’s life. He’d be a challenge, and by the reaction she’d had to his photo, the man would be a dangerous adversary if she weren’t careful.
What caused him to want the Cameron Gallery so badly? Why would he, an international gallery owner, want hers? By modern standards, her gallery was successful. She was desperate for money, and there was the poor return her recent investments produced. Erin’s finances hadn’t been an issue until the stock market took a nosedive a few months earlier. The market hadn’t fully recovered.
Settled in a soft wingback chair, Erin left a scathing message for the car repairman on his answering machine before she considered the fact that Meredith Blane, the gallery’s receptionist, had failed to mention Mr. Forsyth in their last conversation. Why hadn’t she told Erin he’d be stopping in? They’d spoken of the present exhibits, new ones lined up, and Erin’s other responsibilities. Not a word had been said about Forsyth.
When Meredith answered Erin’s direct question concerning upcoming appointments for her or Cam, she’d wondered if the woman still held something back. Had Meredith joined forces with Forsyth in his efforts to take over her business? If that were the case, Meredith would soon find she no longer had a job at the Cameron Gallery, or in any other.
Erin’s head ached. Massaging her temples with her fingertips, it occurred to Erin that she just might be jumping to the wrong conclusions.
Loyalty from her staff was of paramount importance to Erin. Using Cam as a good cover for Erin when it came to finding out what happened behind gallery doors, she remained abreast of what the gallery and its staff required. A regular owner might not truly know what their employees were up to, and that was most important. The television program, Undercover Boss, was a great example. She giggled at the thought of how those employers were surprised to find the good, the bad and the ugly that was going on under their very noses. Thanks to Cam, there was little Erin wasn’t aware of.
She’d left the reception area and met with William Stockton, her exhibit installation expert, who’d given her the rundown on upcoming exhibits and what she should know. The area with tightest security held extremely expensive and irreplaceable works. She’d been educated about those standards by her father. He’d explained who each artist was and their specialty. She’d asked about Gaugin, Renoir and Vermeil. Her father said they were long dead and buried. That’s when Erin had nicknamed the section the ‘dead and buried wing.’ Stockton and others had admonished her on more than one occasion when she’d referred to that well-guarded gallery section as such.
They’d strolled past seascapes, on through the watercolor section, and into the twentieth century wing before reaching the security guard who watched over famous paintings done by the old masters. The artwork in the ‘dead and buried wing’ changed every few months as work became available for showing or had to be returned. These works often came from private collections or were on loan from other museums.
Her thoughts of how she’d learned the business from the bottom up were replaced by thoughts of future exhibits. Despite tight financials, everything was in place for the next six months. Beautiful exhibits her father would be proud to have in the Cameron Gallery. These too, Erin pushed aside,
She drew her laptop onto her knees and tapped the ‘open’ screen. Within seconds, she’d scrolled though whatever could be found on Tristan Forsyth. She read it all and then visited the Forsyth website with its grandiose online gallery showing who was being exhibited where, and when. She even found a link to a recorded interview with the Mr. Forsyth. She clicked the play arrow and watched the way Tristan carried himself, his mannerisms and oh, those green eyes. Rich as emeralds… She took a deep breath and felt her lower parts warm each time he stared into the camera, as if he looked directly at her. His magnetism came through the lens and grabbed her where it counted. She decided Cam would have to be on guard to avoid falling victim to his charms and wit.
* * *
The full-length mirror reflected her outfit, makeup and wig. The familiar image gave Erin the confidence she depended on to meet the day’s events. Not only would she embark on a mission to save her gallery from what was likely to be a hostile takeover, she’d also meet the man who she’d heard would do anything to wrest it from her once he decided he wanted it.
Long, sun-streaked, ash blond waves surrounded Erin’s oval face. The look was a drastic change from her shoulder-length, dark-haired real self, which made it all the easier for Erin to hide her true identity. Tinted lenses turned her light purple eyes to a warm brown. A pair of tortoise-shell rimmed glasses completed the look. Two sports bras bound her breasts for a flatter appearance, covered by specially designed blouses she’d had tailored for the disguise.
Shoes, a favorite to shop for, weren’t Erin’s style. These were important to Erin’s overall costume and were flat and ugly. No Kate Spades for Cam. Erin slipped her feet into the shoes and viewed her attire. The plain pantsuit nicely denied her attributes. Inexpensive flat-soled shoes left her looking shorter than her five-foot-four inches, and the authentic hair wig finished her look perfectly.
Yep, she was ready for Mr. Tristan Forsyth. A throaty chuckle set Cam’s day off to a grand start.
“I’m leaving now, Mrs. Hardy. I’ll catch breakfast at Starbucks on my way to work,” Erin called as she crossed the foyer.
Mrs. Hardy popped around the corner, a dust cloth in one hand and furniture polish in the other. “You say that every morning. I do wish you’d consider ridding yourself of Cam and operate your fathers business as you should. You don’t need the disguise anymore. You need to reclaim the total you… I wish you’d try.” Mrs. Hardy sighed lightly and asked, “Will I see you for supper, or do you plan to wine and dine with Mr. Forsyth?”
“I’m not sure what time I’ll get back. Don’t wait for me just in case I’m late. Do save last night’s leftovers for me, though. As for Cam, well, maybe after Mr. Forsyth is out of our lives, I’ll dump her and confess to the staff.”
Mrs. Hardy nodded her approval. “George Flint called from the garage. He picked up your car and will fix it properly today. He was quite apologetic.”
“I called him last night. He’s not going to like me very much when I refuse to pay him twice for repairs he said he’d made the first time.”
“Now that you’ve cooled off, I know you’ll be kind. You always are,” Mrs. Hardy said as she watched Erin – a.k.a. Cam – leave the house and scoot toward the garage that housed a Volkswagen Jetta and a variety of fast, expensive, powerful cars.
Cam drove past the cast iron gates onto the less traveled road that went past the Cameron estate. The quick drive into town was no longer than if she lived on the outskirts of Greenwich instead of a few miles from the entrance to the Connecticut highway.
Singing to rock music, she pulled into the Starbucks parking lot on the outskirts of the city. A Jaguar XJ slid into the slot next to hers and idled there. With her sunglasses hiding her eyes and her interest, Cam glanced at the expensive sports car. The beauty of its lines and the powerful hum of the engine thrilled her. For Erin, cars were as important as an accessory, as handbags and shoes.
Inside the coffee shop, Cam waited for her usual latte and ordered a carrot cake muffin. She paid for the purchase and turned to leave, stumbling back as she plowed into the man behind her in the line. Close behind her. Too close.
The cup flew from her hands. The pastry bag crushed flat as Cam blundered against his hard body.
“Oh, excuse me,” she blurted and looked into Tristan Forsyth’s face. Though rattled, her skin warmed when she saw who she’d run into. The instant Erin looked into his eyes, so like those on the online video, she was lost.
“No, excuse me, lass,” he murmured, catching hold of her arms to steady her.
Her sunglasses had been knocked askew. Cam straightened them before brushing strands of hair back from her face. She smiled nervously. His accent and smile had disarmed her completely. “I didn’t spill my latte on you, did I?”
“Not at all. The cup landed a good distance away.” His brogue was distinctive, his deep dimples charming…and those eyes, well, they were all-seeing and oh, so sexy.
Jittery, she stepped away from his touch, and smoothed her suit. A staff member mopped puddled latte from the floor and off the shelves where it had splashed. Before she could think what to do next, she heard Tristan Forsyth say, “Lass, they’ve poured another drink for you.”
Cam turned, took the latte Tristan offered and mumbled her thanks. She glanced at Stuart, the clerk who generally had her drink ready when she walked in every morning, and smiled. “Thanks, Stuart. You’re a sweetheart.”
His thin face held a wide grin as he gave her a wink. “You’re welcome, Cam. See you tomorrow.”
Without another word to Forsyth, Cam strode to her VW and drove off as if the devil were on her rear bumper. She took the back streets and reached the gallery before even taking a sip of latte. All the while she worried over Forsyth’s ability to rattle her to the core and how he generated an unfamiliar sexual need in her, without even trying. His smile alone was enough to turn her bones to jelly. This attraction she felt for him had her rattled. How would she thwart his attempts at a take-over if she wanted to give herself to him and her body’s inclination was to tear off his clothes and screw the daylights out of him?
Heaving a sigh, she parked the Jetta and sauntered into the gallery by way of the employee entrance. Her desk phone rang as she entered her office.
“Good morning,” Meredith softly greeted her.
“So far it hasn’t been stellar, Meredith, but good morning. What’s up?”
“There’s someone here insisting on seeing Ms. Cameron. He refuses to make an appointment and Ms. Cameron isn’t answering her phone. Would you like to deal with him?” Meredith murmured into the phone.
Annoyed that her day was off to a bad start, Cam uttered, “Fine, I’ll be right there.” Cam flipped open her calendar, Christopher Medellin had an appointment to discuss his exhibit at ten. With a glance at her watch, Cam realized the man must have arrived early.
Cam swigged down a mouthful of latte and headed for Meredith’s reception station. She’d no sooner turned the corner when she choked back a yelp of surprise. Instead of Christopher Medellin, she gaped at Tristan Forsyth – so much for the predicted late afternoon meeting.
With determination, Cam summoned her courage and strode toward the duo. Meredith appeared flustered. Tristan walked to and fro, flicking his fingers as though he’d washed but not dried them. His body language showed his impatience.
She smiled and said lightly, “Can I help you with something?”
He swung toward her and his eyes widened with surprise.
“We meet again,” Cam said with a chuckle.
She watched as he looked her over from head to toe and she noted how his luscious lips tightened a tad.
“You aren’t Erin Cameron.”
With a soft laugh, Cam adjusted her glasses and said, “Right you are. I’m her assistant, Cam Boucher. Do you have an appointment with Ms. Cameron?”
He shrugged. “I figured she’d be here, so I just stopped in.”
Cam held her ground though his intense gaze left her uneasy. “Ms. Cameron won’t be in at all today. She has business elsewhere. What can I do to for you?” she asked. She glanced up at his face and all thoughts of work disappeared. He was just so good looking. Instead of sending him packing, she thought about what it would feel like to throw caution to the wind and invite him into her office. And slam him onto the top of her desk, rip his clothes off and having wild, passionate sex.
Steady, keep your mind on business.
Forsyth, as if he’d read her mind, stepped closer and asked, “Do for me? That depends. What are the options?” A good head and shoulders taller than Cam, he peered past her toward the gallery proper.
She turned and invited him to join her while she made the gallery rounds. She could smell the woody tang of his Bulgari Cologne. Sensual heat seemed to roll in waves from his body and wash over hers…
Cam struggled to stay focused on business. This man was her enemy, and would never be her lover. Though, he’d surely be a nice snack.
“Have you worked here long, Ms. Boucher?”
“It’s pronounced Booshay, but call me Cam. I’ve been here for quite some time. What’s your business, Mr. Forsyth?” she asked innocently.
“Then call me Tristan.” His flirtatious smile wasn’t lost on her, and again she struggled to keep her mind and wits on business.
Cam repeated, “And your business is?” They’d stopped before David Hatton’s “Coming Home” painting. Cam gazed at the soft hues that led to bold colors that drew the eye to it. The scene painted on the lower third of the canvas thrilled her every time she saw it.
“You display the work of many talented contemporary artists here. I’m impressed,” Tristan remarked as he swept his hand toward the work of Susan Elliot and Miya Ando.
“We do. These are but a few of the artists we have on display. They’re the newest additions to the gallery. Are you interested in acquiring some of them, Tristan?” Cam threw out the bait and waited to reel him in.
“I’d rather acquire the gallery itself,” he answered with sincerity.
Bluntly, she said, “It’s not for sale.”
His sly smile should have warned her, but Tristan’s sexual magnetism enveloped her. “That’s not what I’ve heard,” he said smoothly.
She smiled at his bantering tone. “What have you heard, Mr. Forsyth?” Cam wondered who’d said she’d be open to selling her family’s business, and why he’d believed it. Surely a man as worldly as Tristan would investigate the state of any business he wished to acquire.
“Tristan, please,” he said.
“Fine, Tristan, then. Where would you ever get an idea like that? This gallery has been in the Cameron family for generations and isn’t about the change hands now,” Cam said softly. Her husky voice was difficult to disguise. Only by speaking softly and at a higher pitch could she fool listeners like Forsyth. She persisted because he needed to know that to pursue this was useless.
But then, when he moved on to the next gallery area, Cam had a clear view of his long-legged stride, wide shoulders and the dark hair that touched the edge of his shirt collar. His suit jacket covered his butt but… Cam forgot about the gallery as she wondered if his ass was as tight as the rest of him.
Focus, now. The command pushed her errant thoughts away and grounded her.
“When will Ms. Cameron be available?”
“Not for a few days, at least,” Cam assured him. “As I said, she has other business to attend to at the moment.”
“Too bad, I’d like to make her an offer for this,” he said waving his hand to encompass all.
“The gallery isn’t for sale. Not now and not in the future. I’m sure. I can guarantee that I would be the first to know,” Cam ventured.
“Really? You know Ms. Cameron that well? She’d take you so thoroughly into her confidence?”
Apprehensive about his line of questioning, Cam took in his keen stare and nodded. “She most certainly would, since I handle the everyday running of this gallery.”
“Are you so sure? I have an assistant, but when I’m about to make a life-altering decision, I speak to no one until I’m comfortable with the ins and outs of what I’m considering.”
Wary that he might have caught on to the fact that Erin and Cam were one and the same, Cam sidestepped the issue with a shrug and glanced at her watch. “I must be getting back. I have an appointment in ten minutes, so if you’ll excuse me?”
His dark brows rose. “Go ahead, lass. I’ll take another look around. I’ll speak to, uh…” Tristan paused thoughtfully and then said, “Meredith on my way out.”
“That’s fine. I’ll be sure to tell Ms. Cameron of your visit when she calls in.” With that, Cam turned on her heel and left his range of vision. Once she’d entered the high-columned corridor, she leaned against a thick marble pillar and blew a sigh of relief. He hadn’t answered her question concerning what he’d heard, but even so he had sent her scurrying away like a frightened rabbit. Get a grip on yourself, or you’ll lose everything.
Unwilling to allow her thoughts to tumble one over another, Cam focused on her meetings with artisans. The day was filled to the brim.
She didn’t see Forsyth leave.