Welcome to another beautiful FoX Friday. Today’s guest is a first-time FoX, so let’s give a warm welcome to the lovely and talented Ines Johnson! Ines is here with her latest, Rumpeled: a Cindermama Story.
Former model, Midori Miller, left the fashion world in disgrace and now lives quietly as a small town dressmaker and single mom. When her talented daughter catches the ear of a New York record producer, the last thing Midori wants is to return to the harsh glare of the spotlight. Caught between the producer’s charms, her daughter’s dreams, and her own new chance at success, Midori isn’t sure she can design the right path for herself or her family, especially when the producer makes a play for her heart.
After a string of flops, producer Guy Rumpel believes he’s lost his golden touch. He needs to turn his career around with a hit record, and the young songbird from his hometown just may be the key. But when his family’s gift for finding their one true love shines its light on Midori, he’ll have to convince her to make the deal of a lifetime.
Rumpeled is the second book in Ines Johnson’s bestselling Cindermama series. If you love contemporary romance with a touch of magic then this series is definitely for you!
Ines writes books for strong women who suck at love. If you rocked out to the twisted triangle of Jem, Jericha, and Rio as a girl; if you were slayed by vampires with souls alongside Buffy; if you need your scandalous fix from Olivia Pope each week, then you’ll love her books. Trust me!
Aside from being a writer, professional reader, and teacher, Ines is a very bad Buddhist. She sits in sangha each week, and while others are meditating and getting their zen on, she’s contemplating how to use the teachings to strengthen her plots and character motivations.
I asked Ines a few fun questions and her answers are everything! She’s so adorable. =)
What was the most romantic date you’ve ever had?
I wince to write that I have planned all of my most romantic dates. Is that even romantic? Anywho, my favorite was in a bookstore café. I don’t remember the menu. Sorta remember the guy. I definitely remember the candlelight and the smell of the books!
Nice! Okay, name three authors (living or dead) who you’d like to sit down to dinner with and pick their brains.
The three writers I’d love to sit down with all wrote/write for the Doctor Who television series. They are Russell T. Davies, Steven Moffat and Neil Gaiman. I’d want to sit with these guys to talk about how they planted seeds that blossomed into payoffs that still have me obsessing years later in the books, television shows, and movies they’ve created.
The river is the only pond in the forest. Neil Gaiman, The Doctor’s Wife (Season 6, Episode 4)
Yes! I am so there with you. Although, I might want to shake Moffat by the shoulders, even as I thank him for bringing such wonderful stories and characters to my small screen on Doctor Who. Which TV show(s) can you absolutely not miss every week?
I’m a huge consumer of media; it’s actually my primary business. For the winter television season, I was obsessed with The Shannarah Chronicles, The Walking Dead, and Into the Badlands. I love shows with strong female leads and the complicated men who love them, mixed with a touch of the fantastic like magic, martial arts, and zombies.
Same! Though I couldn’t latch onto The Shannara Chronicles. Maybe I need to give it another try. What is your greatest accomplishment as an author so far?
Clicking the Publish button across e-platforms has been my greatest accomplishment. I spent five years writing my first novel, which had been a script that I was unable to sell. I saw what Stephanie Myers did with Twilight and assumed writing a book was easier than writing a script. Hey, I can hear you laughing at me! Anyway, I made a pact with another writer friend of mine to publish in 2014. We both did it and have had great success.
Not laughing at all. *grin* That’s an awesome pact and an awesome feeling! My first was in 20144 too. So, what inspired you to write Rumpeled: a Cindermama Story?
It’s book two in the Cindermama series, which are fairytale retellings with mothers cast in the princess and damsel roles and get a second chance at true love.
I love that concept!
The first book, Pumpkin: a Cindermama Story was my first attempt at NANO [That’s National Novel Writing Month, if you didn’t know, dear readers] and my second attempt at novel writing. This story is based on actual events. Shortly after my divorce, I was out with my two children at a community farmer’s market. A really handsome politician waved me over and began chatting with me about his platform. I was more interested in his light-colored eyes. But my burgeoning fantasy was dashed when my son sauntered over and embarrassing words spewed from his mouth. I ushered myself and my kids away, chiding my silly imagination. What man would be interested in a single mother of two school-aged kids? There are no fairytales featuring mothers as the heroines.
That night, I rewrote the events of the day to my liking. In my imagination, the light-eyed politician asked me out, after winning over my guard dog of a son. We got married and I moved out of my apartment and into some big mansion with a closet stocked full of name brand clothes. Oh, that closet…
Anyway, it was October, and so I plotted the book for the next month of NANO. The completed manuscript sat in a drawer for years because I didn’t think anyone would want to read a story where a single mother was the hero. Thankfully, I was wrong. Every woman deserves an HEA.
Absolutely!! I’m a huge fan of second-chance love stories and fond of writing them myself. If you could date the hero from one of your books, who would it be and why?
I’m obsessed with my hero, Jian, from my first published book, The Pleasure Hound. Ever since I was a tween and watched The Thornbirds, I’ve had a thing for priests. Jian is a monk, but of an order that teaches the sexual arts. He studies women’s bodies like textbooks. After thorough perusal of, he emerges ready to ace the examination.
See? I told you she was adorable. Ines lives outside Washington, DC with her two little sidekicks who, she says, are growing up way too fast. Reach out to Ines via her website, her Facebook fan page or Facebook profile, on Twitter: @ineswrites, and on GoodReads.
Ines brought along an excerpt from Rumpeled… for your reading pleasure. Check it out!
[Mature audiences only]
Guy fought a monster headache without the benefit of having imbibed any alcohol. The bright lights and boisterous sounds of New York City at night roiled through his body like vodka over rocks. Surviving the unwanted advances of a sexually aggressive stripper who was out of touch with reality, and the pressures of trying to keep up a hot and heavy relationship with a closeted lesbian, left Guy with a stiff neck instead of a stiff cock.
Escaping to a hotel room where no one could bother him would be a welcome relief. After a peaceful night’s sleep, he would escape the incessant throb of the city for a trip down south where things moved at a slower, quieter pace.
Guy grimaced as a room service attendant rolled a cart of unfinished, roasted vegetables down the hall. The asparagus lay limp, untouched. A speared stalk of broccoli wilted over the tines of a fork.
His stomach grumbled, but not for any of the green fare on the cart. He hungered for something sweet and decadent on his tongue. A lush chocolate cake to assuage his throbbing head. A velvety slice of cheesecake to ease its way down his stiff throat.
Guy’s fingers went numb with anticipation of the treat. It took him a second to fish the room key card from his pocket. The first swipe netted him a red light. He tried it again, with the same result.
The young woman at the concierge desk had been a mess with a large wedding party trying to check in. The hotel had been booked solid even though Guy had a reservation. It had taken a bribe to get the concierge to get the key he now held in his hand. She’d recognized him, it was New York after all. She was a budding songstress, of course. Guy had slipped her his business card in order to secure his room. He had to remind himself to put the chain lock on the door or face a midnight visitor with hopes of sweetening a potential record deal.
After a third swipe the key card failed again. Guy shut his eyes. The last thing he wanted to do was go back down and face the budding songstress who’d had a thick Jersey drawl and a straw colored aura. He sent up a prayer and tried once more. This time it worked.
Guy stepped inside, closing the door behind him. The light was already on, which was odd. His first order of business was to reach the phone to place his room service order. Before he could reach the desk where the phone lay, he caught a flash of white from the corner of his eye.
In the middle of the room was a mannequin in a wedding dress. Guy nearly laughed at the absurdity of it. Was this some kind of joke?
While Guy’s tired brain tried to puzzle that one out, another flash of movement caught his eye. He turned his head. Standing to the left of the mannequin was a woman dressed in only a towel. All the anticipation of dessert slumped out of him.
Guy had his fair share of groupies, desperate women and men trying to slip him a CD. Models and video girls sneaking back stage or into his hotel room. Even children coming up to his table in restaurants. But he was not in the mood for it tonight. He did not have the time or disposition to deal with a groupie or wannabe starlit after the day he’d had. He just wanted a moment of peace where he had to focus on no one but himself.
The woman made a movement towards him. Guy assumed it was to drop the towel and show her wares. He held up his hands in a stop motion and shut his eyes.
“Look,” he began, “I’ll make a deal with you. Whatever you’re selling, pushing, or promoting just leave it on the desk and I’ll look at it or listen to it in the morning.”
He heard a shuffle, which indicated she’d moved. When he didn’t hear her belt out a tune or make a sexual suggestion, he decided he’d better chance a look. Not because he was interested, because he wasn’t.
Guy lifted a tentative eyelid. Then he wrenched them both open in utter shock.
A tall drink of a woman was standing before him. She had honeyed skin that was the color of piecrust just out of the oven. Her eyes, the color of caramel drizzled on top of a warm brownie, slanted in an exotic way. She had plump, strawberry red lips that didn’t look artificially injected. The towel was pressed down on her chest, not buoyed, which would indicate a lack of silicon. The towel was still pulled tightly around her body, but Guy could make out the humps and bumps of her body. Her mouth was agape, but no sounds came from her lips to try and impress or seduce him. Most shocking of all, she had a pair of scissors in one hand, and they were pointed at his chest.
Guy dropped his hands. “What the hell is this?”
“Get out of my room,” she snarled, waving the sharp shears at him.
“Are you studying to be an actress? Because this is feeling pretty, damn real. I could probably get you on as an extra—“
“I said out.” She waved the shears again.
Guy took a step back, utterly confused. How would she get what she wanted from him if he wasn’t in the room?
“What are you?” She waved the shears again. “Some friend of the groom’s? All of you guys are the same, thinking women want you for your money or your connections or whatever.”
Guy cocked his head. Yeah, that was what women typically wanted him for. What was this particular woman’s game? Guy looked down at the keycard clutched in his hand. “You sneak into my room, with this bawdy wedding dress, right after I-“
“Bawdy!” The scissors lowered, but her chin rose sky high.
He looked into her eyes. The deep hazel brown contrast made her skin shimmer with more honey, or was that gold?
“I’ll have you know, this is top of the line quality lace.” She reached out and ran a hand gently over the fabric.
Guy looked over the dress. Then back at her. She looked more interested in the dress than him.
Guy was an excellent read of people. He could make anyone a star, had made a great many people stars who would’ve never reached the altitude without his guidance and golden touch. He could always tell what people wanted, and he could see how to help them achieve it. He was more a talent magician than talent scout.
But this woman, he couldn’t quite get a read on. It was as though a cloud surrounded her aura, as though she were shielding herself. Guy focused and stared just in front of her person. A single ray of golden-yellow broke over her shoulder, but he blinked, and it was gone.
She had the height and posture of a model, but she had to be in her mid or late twenties, too old to enter that arena. She didn’t strike him as a singer either, not with that husky voice. He would’ve guessed actress by her indignant performance, but the way she looked at the dress instead of carrying on with a performance gave him pause.
Guy was intrigued. “Tell me what you want from me?”
She tore her gaze from the dress. Her grip retightened around the handle of the scissors. “I told you, I want you to get out of my room.”
“Where’s your key card?”
She flinched. “Well, it’s not exactly my room. It’s the dress’ room.”
“Oh,” Guy backed away. “The dress booked the room.” She was a crazy.
She frowned at his retreat. “The bride. She got the room for the dress.”
Now she was looking at Guy as though he was the one talking crazy.
“There’s a wedding happening here tomorrow,” she said. “The bride booked the room so we could do the last minute alterations.”
“The bride is my client. I thought you might be one of the groom’s guests?”
Guy shrugged. He had no idea who was in the wedding party. He looked at the dress. Then down at the shears in her hands. On the floor was a case with measuring tape and materials. “So you’re a seamstress?”
Her eyes blazed once more. “No, I’m a designer. I designed this dress.”
Another fire in those hazel eyes.
“Look, I’m sorry.” Guy put his hands back up. “I don’t know anything about fashion.”
“This dress is more than nice. It’s a masterpiece.”
She stood there in a towel and detailed the technicalities of her craftsmanship on the garment. It all went over Guy’s head. He studied her again. Her long legs. The purple paint on her toenails. The way the corners of her eyes tilted up like a secret smile. As she spoke about the dress another ray of golden-yellow broke from her person. Guy focused on the ray. It looked pure and golden, but the moment she stopped talking and turned back to him it blinked away again.
Guy cursed under his breath. He was seeing things now. His gifts only lent themselves to the performing arts. He had no understanding of fashion. There was no reason he should see any light around this designer. The curse must be getting worse.
The tiredness returned to his shoulders. “I guess the hotel mixed up the rooms.”
“No,” she put down the scissors. “We were just using this room as a fitting room. I’m supposed to have checked out by now. I was just getting freshened up before leaving. Just let me get dressed and I’ll get out of your way.”
She ducked into the bathroom.
Guy sat down on the bed, his appetite suddenly gone. He massaged to the place where his neck and shoulder connected and tried to ease the stiff ache. He could deny it no longer. His Sight was failing him. He was well and truly cursed.
For the last year he’d taken on more than one artist he’d thought was a deep shade of yellow. Rather than admit he’d stepped on a banana peel, Guy had worked twice, sometimes four times, as hard to get the duds onto the bottom of the charts.
The numbness returned to Guy’s fingers and his head began to throb once more. He wondered if the constant headaches and numbing were more aspects of the curse. His fingers and toes weren’t his only appendages that were constantly numb.
Guy didn’t have time to sink any further into his woe-is-me. The designer reemerged only five minutes later. He was stunned at the quickness.
“That was a fast change.” He stood, remembering his manners when a lady entered the room. He’d spent so much time around women who acted anything but the genteel lady, his knees creaked as he straightened them for this one.
“Occupational hazard,” she said.
She was dressed in a simple black dress, but the belt at the waist showed off her hourglass figure. Guy’s fingertips and toes warmed as he regarded her curves.
She bent down to gather the rest of the fabric and her scissors into her case. Then she stood and put the wedding dress in a garment bag. Guy watched as she loaded the garment bag, her case, and the mannequin into her arms.
“Let me help you with that.” He’d been standing still, watching her body swish around in the confines of the dress.
“No, no. I’ve got it.”
“Seriously, I can—“
“I’m good,” she insisted. “I’ve been doing this for years without an any help. I can handle it.” And as though to illustrate her point she headed for the door, arms full, back straight. Her long legs carried her forth with grace and ease.
Guy dashed ahead. The least he could do was get the door for her. “You going to your room?”
“I don’t have a room. I’m gonna drop the dress off and head home.”
“You’re not staying for the wedding?”
“I don’t do weddings.” She crossed the threshold into the hall.
“I didn’t catch your name,” Guy called after her.
“Why would you need it?” She paused, looking over her shoulder, her arms loaded with her wares.
Guy caught a glimpse of her rounded ass under the contours of her dress. It was heart-shaped. “Want to be able to say I met the famous dress designer before she blew up.”
She didn’t smile at that. “Name’s Midori. Midori Miller.” She turned and continued down the hall without waiting for his name.
Upon her retreat, Guy checked her aura again. He saw a ray of the brightest gold shine through, and this time it stayed after he blinked. Even if it were a mirage, a trick of the curse, Guy drank it in. It had been so long since he’d seen real, golden talent. He felt the tiniest kick in his pants. But then Midori turned the corner, and the ray, the woman, and his erection were gone.
I jumped the gun on Raven’s cover reveal. Check back for it next week! =)