Babe in The Woodshop by Ashlyn Kane, Claudia Mayrant & C.J. Burke, Interview & Excerpt!

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Hi peeps, we have Ashlyn Kane, Claudia Myrant and C.J. Burke popping in today with their upcoming release Babe in the Woodshop, we have a fantastic interview with the trio of authors and a great excerpt, so check out the post and enjoy! ❤ ~Pixie~

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Babe in The Woodshop

by

Ashlyn Kane, Claudia Mayrant & C.J. Burke

When long hours and crushing stress push Bellamy Alexander to his breaking point, he walks away from his consulting job and drives until he runs out of gas. Fortune deposits him in front of Antonio’s, a place with decent pizza and an opening for a delivery boy. Even better, he finds an apartment right across the street from his new job. And best of all, Chris McGregor, the property manager who runs the custom furniture shop below Bell’s new digs, is super hot—and super into Bell.

It seems too good to be true—and maybe it is. Things aren’t exactly going smoothly. Bell avoids telling his mother the truth about his new job because he doesn’t want to hear how he should go back to the corporate world. On the other hand, he doesn’t think he wants to deliver pizza forever either. He’d like to think about settling down, but Chris runs hot and cold. Between Bell’s uncertainty and the hang-ups Chris refuses to talk about, they have their work cut out for them. Fortune may have caused their paths to dovetail, but it will take more than wood glue to hold them together.

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Q&A (&A&A) with the Authors of Babe in the Woodshop

Hi, MM Good Books Readers, and thanks, Pixie and co., for having us! We’re CJ Burke, Claudia Mayrant, and Ashlyn Kane, authors of the new contemporary romance Babe in the Woodshop, coming your way soon from Dreamspinner Press. It’s a sweet, simple story with a lot of banter, some secrets, some family drama, and a small-town feel.

When long hours and crushing stress push Bellamy Alexander to his breaking point, he walks away from his consulting job and drives until he runs out of gas. Fortune deposits him in front of Antonio’s, a place with decent pizza and an opening for a delivery boy. Even better, he finds an apartment right across the street from his new job. And best of all, Chris McGregor, the property manager who runs the custom furniture shop below Bell’s new digs, is super hot—and super into Bell.

It seems too good to be true—and maybe it is. Things aren’t exactly going smoothly. Bell avoids telling his mother the truth about his new job because he doesn’t want to hear how he should go back to the corporate world. On the other hand, he doesn’t think he wants to deliver pizza forever either. He’d like to think about settling down, but Chris runs hot and cold. Between Bell’s uncertainty and the hang-ups Chris refuses to talk about, they have their work cut out for them. Fortune may have caused their paths to dovetail, but it will take more than wood glue to hold them together.

For all the juicy details about Chris and Bell, you’ll have to read the book—which releases September 30. You can preorder it here, here, and here.

For the juicy details about us, our writing process, and our thoughts on the characters, look no further! Here’s a Q&A(&A&A) with us!

What’s the best thing about working as a writing team?

CJB: I like the serendipity of writing with people whose styles are so similar—I couldn’t remember who wrote what when I read the final galley. And also combined with being easy to write with, which is not the same thing AT ALL.

AK: It seems so selfish after CJ’s answer, but I like the instant feedback. Writing to an audience really keeps me on track and stops me from getting stuck. And of course things go three times as fast and there’s the opportunity for the story to go somewhere I never would’ve thought of.

CM: I like that in collaboration you have an instant feedback for questions—either A could happen or B, and if you’re not sure, you get an answer with a possibility you’ve not even considered.

And the worst thing?

AK: Scheduling. It’s a nightmare trying to get us all available at the same time.

CM: For me it was not just scheduling free time but time when we had energy at the same time.

Favorite location?

AK: For me my fave location is Chris’s house, which used to be his grandparents’ house, because I based it on my grandparents’ house. I lived with them for a little while and I liked the idea of Chris taking care of it now that his grandfather is gone, restoring its glory. Places are important to him.

CJB: Mine is the apartment, because it’s such an intentional space.  It’s a space that Chris has built out from what was probably just storage, but there’s a charming bathroom with older fixtures, the bed is built into place and dominates the space but doesn’t overwhelm, the kitchen is a working kitchen, and in my head the layout is efficient and natural. But there are things that Chris probably thinks are “projects yet to happen” that are so Chris—the mismatched china that is still actual china and not plastic, the swallows outside the back door, the quilts that don’t match the color scheme…

The book is untouchable now, but if you could add one more thing, what would it be?

CJB: If I could add one more thing… hm. Someone spilling a pot of coffee on DJ, maybe.

CM: I wish there had been a way to put in a flashback of Bell at his old job.

AK: The first time they have sex in the apartment.

Favorite research you did for the story?

CJB: Mine was googling “barnyard kitsch images.”

CM: Checking the prices on handmade wooden sex toys on etsy!

AK: Y’all… I actually hate all research (shhh).

Which character would you most like to have dinner/drinks/play laser tag with?

CJB: IDK, Will for all of them.

CM: Yes, Will.

AK: Will. I want to see those pics of Chris with his hair dyed blond. Though I bet Chloe has horror stories about all the times Chris and Bell think they didn’t get caught making out in the shop.

CJB: Joseph cannot unsee or unhear—it is why he invested in enormous headphones.

CM: Bell discovers all the places where it is uncomfy to find sawdust.     

Where do you see Bell and Chris in five years?

CM: Bell is using his talents at a charitable foundation affiliated with the college.

CJB: I think Chris has allowed Bell to market his woodworking a little more, so he’s showing up in regional and national magazines. Plus he’s started teaching woodworking at a folk school nearby, and he’s terrified because someone has requested he start doing YouTube videos.

All this is because of dildos, he thinks.

AK: I think they’re living in Chris’s (now their) house, and it’s still not done, and Bell’s starting to realize that it’s really never going to be done because it’s a house and there’s always something unless you drop a boatload of money to have someone do everything at once, and that’s not how Chris is.

But he doesn’t care, because it’s just the two of them (for now) and they don’t need more than they have. 

Also Bell has the opposite of a green thumb and is forbidden from doing anything in the garden.

CJB: He’s gotten better at cooking, though.

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Excerpt

A flash of movement caught the corner of his eye, so Bell turned around to see. His own reflection stared back at him from a mirror set in a large, ornate frame. He looked ridiculous standing in his slightly grubby clothes, surrounded by custom furniture, holding a pizza box.

Which was what he was doing there. Not gawking, but delivering pizza. Only no one had come out when the bells rang, so there was no one to give the pizza to.

Bell set the box down on the least-cluttered part of the counter—dark wood polished to a gleaming shine—and looked at the curtained doorway behind. He cleared his throat and rapped on the counter a few times, but before he could say anything, he heard a voice from behind the curtain.

“Sorry! Hands are a bit full, but you can leave it on the counter, Fred. Money’s under the ashtray.”

Bell looked down, and sure enough, a foot or so down the counter was a ceramic ashtray full of odds and ends. Thankfully they didn’t include cigarette butts. The corners of a few folded bills stuck out from underneath. Either the guy was really trusting or small-town living was even more different from the city than he thought.

“But what if I’m not Fred?” Bell reached for the bills, but before he could tug them free, he heard a thunk from behind the curtain and then a few coughs. “You okay?”

“Fine,” his customer said as he came through the curtain. He was a shade shorter than Bell’s six-one and seemed to be mostly yellow, until Bell realized that was sawdust and woodchips. Black plastic glasses framed kind blue eyes, and a set of safety glasses pushed up on his head made his hair stick up everywhere. He wiped his hands with a mostly clean towel as he moved toward the counter. “Sanding makes dust. Where’s Fred?”

“I don’t know,” Bell said, trying not to stare at the guy’s forearms. “Jenny took away my beer and gave me the keys to the Rabbit, along with your pizza, delivery of which did not actually involve driving. But all she said was that there was someone who gets priority for weekends. I assume that’s Fred.”

“Yep. Fred’s the young guy. He’s in his sixties.”

“I think I can beat that,” Bell said and held out his hand, wondering if he could ask why someone across the street from a pizza place would bother with delivery. “I’m Bell, by the way. Nice place.”

“Chris McGregor—and that’s kind of you, but it’s a mess and I know it.” He shook Bell’s hand. He had nice hands, big and warm and calloused. “You up at the college or something? You’re new around here if you don’t know Fred.”

“Nope, just running away from home. I stopped for lunch and got a job instead.” Bell frowned, suddenly sidetracked. “Hey, is Fred why the Rabbit smells like Icy Hot?”

Chris laughed as he leaned against the counter, arms crossed. Bell didn’t know whether to look at his laugh lines or the biceps straining the fabric of his purple T-shirt. “Menthol is Fred’s signature scent. He’s the easiest man to find in town. Nice guy, but I know way more about his back pain than is strictly necessary for a pizza-based relationship.”

“I didn’t realize pizza delivery had such strict rules.”

“Definitely,” Chris said. “For example, no comments on the customer’s preferred topping combinations, just like tipping with pennies is rude.”

“Quarters, though? Helps a guy out with laundry issues, which in turn helps out with not smelling so much like Icy Hot and oregano.”

“See, you understand. You’ll go a long way in this business, kid.” Chris grinned at him, wide and easy. “As you’ve probably figured out, pizza delivery in this town can be a lifelong career.”

“Sounds like it,” Bell said after a moment. Wow, he needed to get a grip. Since when was he incapable of carrying on a conversation with a hot guy without lag time?

“You okay?” Chris’s brow furrowed.

“Yeah.” Bell blinked and shook himself out of his distraction. “It’s—you’ve got sawdust in your beard.”

“Oh.” Chris reached under the counter and produced another small towel, presumably cleaner than the first, and scrubbed at the short, neatly trimmed reddish hairs. “Occupational hazard, and the source of a lot of sneezing. Better?”

It wasn’t exactly unattractive before. “I just wanted to make sure you get the full Antonio’s Pizza experience, unmarred by any environmental pollutants.”

“Good sell,” Chris said. He tapped the pizza box absently. “Glad to see Antonio’s is shifting back to its artisan roots. Does your dark, hidden past contain marketing experience?”

“Maybe,” Bell said, “but that usually works against me, so I keep my mouth shut about the degree.”

“Wise choice.”

They smiled at each other, but Bell couldn’t figure out what to say next. He’d already embarrassed himself with the sawdust comment, though he thought it was forgivable—the light catching on Chris’s beard, mixed with the dark flecks of wood, had interrupted whatever Bell was thinking.

The sharp ring of Chris’s phone saved the silence from becoming too awkward.

“Hello?” Chris laughed as a stream of words poured through the receiver. “Yes, he’s here. No, he didn’t get lost. We were talking about Fred.” He held the phone out to Bell. “Your boss wants to talk to you.”

Bell took the phone. It was warm from Chris’s hand. “Hi, Jenny.”

“Come on back, kid. Got a delivery to one of the sorority houses. Good chance for tips, so hurry the hell up.”

 ~~~

THE AROMA from the stack of pizzas made Bell look wistfully at his own forlorn calzone in its to-go box, but he thought better of trying to eat and drive. Probably a good call, as the Rabbit began to sputter a bit as he drove up the steep hill to Sorority Row. He really didn’t want to hike the rest of the way to the house and show up dripping sweat on Zeta Pi’s dinner. That would not lead to a good tip.

When he pulled up to the house, he took a quick look at himself in the Rabbit’s rearview. He still looked as sloppy as he had in the mirror at Good Wood. Bell squinted at his reflection. Sloppy, maybe, but not scary. At least he didn’t have any obvious zits and his second-day stubble looked charmingly scruffy—he hoped—instead of borderline disreputable.

Bell just wanted to hand over the pizzas so he could eat his calzone on the way back to the pizzeria. But the sorority president, a tall, pretty girl with corn rows and short shorts, seemed eager to chat.

After the first minute, Bell figured out she was flirting. He racked his memory for the name from the delivery slip. “Hey, uh, Mikayla?”

Mikayla smiled and leaned against the doorjamb as though she was expecting a dinner invitation. “Yeah?”

God, Bell hoped this didn’t backfire. Though he supposed he could always buy some gas and hit the road again. “Do you like sausage on your pizza?” he asked, in blatant disregard of Chris McGregor’s Pizza Delivery Etiquette.

She gave him a strange look and cocked her head to one side. “Yes…?”

“Yeah, me too,” Bell said meaningfully and handed her the pizza boxes.

For a few long seconds, Mikayla stared at him, and he was afraid she wasn’t going to get it.

Then she laughed and put the boxes down to reach for her wallet. “Well, you can’t blame a girl for trying.”

Bell earned a good tip and got to eat his calzone, so he was calling it a win.

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About Ashlyn, Claudia & C.J.

Ashlyn Kane is a Canadian former expat and current hockey fan. She is a writer, editor, handyperson, dog mom, and friend—sometimes all at once.

On any given day she can usually be found walking her ninety-pound baby chocolate lapdog, Indy, or holed up in her office avoiding housework. She has a deep and abiding love of romance novel tropes, a habit of dropping too many f-bombs, and—fortunately—a very forgiving family.

Find her on Twitter @ashlynkane or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ashlyn.kane.94.

Claudia Mayrant has been exploring the world around her since she was old enough to get around under her own power. Her early travels took her on her bicycle “all the way to but not on the main road.” Happily, since then, she’s enjoyed visiting as many places as she can, from bustling marketplaces and enchanting castles to funky dives. She can’t possibly decide which she likes best, but details of her favorite people, places, and things usually get put in the fiction blender so they can make an appearance in her stories.

Claudia maintains that each new adventure requires the appropriate footwear, which explains her closet. Her passion for taking photographs of the things she sees, does, and eats far exceeds her skill with the camera, but no matter the setting, she has fun trying to get a good shot.

For all her love of travel, she’s most relaxed back in the South on a Gulf Coast beach with good friends, refreshing beverages, and plenty of sunscreen.

Her smartphone isn’t literally connected to her hand, but anyone would be forgiven for thinking so.

Twitter: @claudiamayrant | Pinterest: ClaudiaMayrant

CJ Burke’s first book was the self-published A Fancy Witch, illustrated in crayon with particular attention to the witch’s footwear. While CJ is now long past first grade, she’s still hunting that perfect pair of equestrian boots.

CJ’s life has always been centered on words. She’s written a couple of those familiar yellow books about computers, and more user guides for obscure software than necessary, but she’s never given up the habit of plotting romances in her head during boring lectures or staff meetings. Along the way, she’s been a lifeguard, an English professor, and a dozen other things in between. In a perfect world, CJ would work between an independent coffee shop and an amazing yarn & fabric store, then go home to alphabetize her spices while dancing around the kitchen to whatever’s on the 80s channel.

CJ can be found on Ravelry, Instagram, and Twitter as cjburkebooks.

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