Teasing You with Some Tidbits

I’m at that point where I’m bogged down in the soggy middle of this work in progress. If I can get over the hump, the ending will fly, I’m sure, but until then each and every word feels like it has to be pulled out of me like a large headed child. So…let me tell you a little bit about this WiP in hopes that getting you excited about it will get me excited about it, because my little sidebar status meter, though helpful, just isn’t doing it for me right now.

A good indication about what’s in a book is what research the author does to write it, so for FLANKED (Studs in Spurs, Book 5) I have looked into the following topics…

Body Piercing (specifically nipple, clit & hood)

Tattoos

Marriage License Laws in various states in the US

Centrifugal Force in bull riding

Building a Tree Stand for deer hunting

Shoulder injuries requiring surgery in bull riders

Health insurance

The sports medicine crew in the arena at bull rides

So, does that give you some kind of hint as to what Garret James, the hottie pro bull rider from my Studs in Spurs series, might be up to in his upcoming book? I hope so! Now, back to writing. About 19K left to write to finish this big-headed baby up and send it away to my editor. Now THAT is exciting.

Cat

New Release (again) – Gillian’s Island

Gillian's Island What’s happening? I recognize this cover. It’s not new!! Yes, yes, I hear you. Let me explain…

Due to circumstances beyond the owners’ control, Sapphire Blue Publishing, the original publisher of my erotic short story Gillian’s Island, has closed its doors, and as of December 1st, all rights for stories published with them revert back to the authors. So that means this to you… I’ve reworked Gillian’s Island, expanded a smoking hot sex scene bringing the story up to 22k words and rereleased it for 99 cents on BARNES & NOBLE NOOK, Amazon Kindle, All Romance eBooks, and Bookstrand.

It was fun going back in and revisiting this story. It was while researching the writing of it back in 2009  that I first discovered the Eat Something Sexy site where I researched the aphrodisiacs I have my characters eat, which eventually leads to some pretty wild times for them. It was shortly after signing up for the Eat Something Sexy newsletter that Amy Reiley put out a call for bloggers to join her team, and I, taking a chance that a site about sexy food might be interested in an author who writes sexy stories, responded. She was interested and Confessions of a Romance Writer on the Eat Something Sexy blogs was born. The rest is history! And in fact, look for more collaborations between Amy and myself in the future…

So long story short, Gillian’s Island is back and slightly ramped up in the S.E.X. department. Read an excerpt HERE

Enjoy!

Cat

What Erotic Romance Writers Read

Fair warning, the answer is going disappoint you. I’m sure you look at what I write (that being erotic romance novels) and you think I’m reading the hottest books around, when I’m not out there in real life trying out all the crazy things in my books. Yeah, I know what you all think and you’re wrong.

Of the last 4 books I read, 2 of them (and 1 more on order right now) were non-fiction (and none of them were the Kama Sutra either). The sad truth is becoming a writer has changed what kind of reader I am. When I do devote time to reading, it is usually for research in one way or another. Yes, 2 of those past 4 books read were fiction romance but I read one because I tour with the author for book signings and I felt like I should be familiar with her work, and I read the other because it was from a publisher that I considered subbing to and it’s important to read books in a publisher’s catalog to make sure they are a good fit for you, so I count the motivation to read both of those as research as well.

Don’t cry for me though, as I sit toiling away, reading non-fiction books for research because no matter what the motivation for picking up those books, I truly enjoyed reading every one. At least parts of each book have stuck with me on a deeper level. What were these books? While I do not want to be a reviewer in any shape or form, I will pass on the titles and the parts that impressed me enough to stick with me.

UNDER THE SABERS ~The Unwritten Code of Army Wives by Tanya Biank

Quite honestly, I bought this because it’s the book the Lifetime TV series “Army Wives” is based upon. It was pure research (with a heavy dose of envy thrown in). I had one of those “if SHE can turn her book into a TV series, so can I, dammit!” moments. I had wrongly assumed Tanya Biank was a first time author who got lucky while I, an English major with dozens of published books to my credit, toiled away in obscurity.

Boy, was I wrong. It turns out Biank is a reporter based in Fayetteville, NC who has not only covered the military beat for the local paper there for years, but has also been embedded with deployed troops all over the world. The second surprise was the subject of the book and her motivation for writing it.

During the summer of 2002, 4 Fort Bragg Army wives were murdered by their husbands during a 6 week period. In this post 9-11 era when troops surged into the middle east and the entire country mourned, it seemed to Biank that this story needed to be told, and told by more than just a short article in the local paper for each of these women killed.

I will copy here the passage from the book that has stuck with me most. Remember this is Biank writing her own opinion so don’t email me. I’m not saying I agree or disagree, just that it made me think.

Everyone I met who knew Bill Wright extolled his virtues: great father, husband, and NCO. Even the cops had compassion for him. It was harder, in this town at least, for me to find people who had compassion for the wife he had just murdered.

To many at Bragg it was Bill Wright who was the victim, the politically incorrect point of view that was never part of any media coverage, including my own. At the time I never asked the one unthinkable question: Did she deserve what happened to her? The question seemed absurd. Since I didn’t ask it, I couldn’t learn what I know now. More than a few soldiers who either knew the Wrights or had heard about the case later told me, “She got what she deserved.” Or “She had it comin’.” These quick-trigger outbursts (they were never said casually) always caught me off guard. To understand the root of such venom, I thad to take a step back and realize that these men identified more with Bill Wright the patriot, Bill Wright the war vet and family man, than they did with his supposedly cheating wife. An unfaithful Army wife might as well be a terrorist, soldiers hate them that much. Soldiers tend to consider infidelity as a personal slight on their own manhood. When a woman cheats on a buddy, she is desecrating not only her husband but also the flag and all those in uniform. Of course none of this applies when soldiers cheat on their wives.

Rumors of Jennifer Wright’s alleged affairs had been flowing through her husband’s unit for a long time before her death. And in the Army rumors are as good as reality; here perceptions are reality. Sadly Jennifer Wright has never been able to defend her reputation. In the end the ‘great’ father had orphaned his three boys. ~from Under the Sabers page 2-3

Those few paragraphs have stuck with me since the day I read them and dog-eared the page. I added the underscore to the most impactful sentences in my opinion.

Biank goes on to inform the reader that of the 4 wives murdered by their husbands, 3 of those 4 husbands killed themselves afterwards. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, those same 3 men were Special Forces. She explains that back in 2002 they investigated everything they could think of to explain this phenomenon. Was it the malaria injections these men had been given before deploying? Had the Army turned them into trained killers who no longer valued human life?  What didn’t fit was the thousands of other men who received the same injections and the same training who choose NOT to kill their wives (affairs or not).

What Biank concludes is this–the Army doesn’t cause marital problems, but when those problems exist they are easily magnified by the stress of long separations, money problems, frequent moves and the perceived stigma which prevents military families in emotional turmoil from seeking help for fear it would negatively affect their careers. Not that I feel at all qualified to render an opinion, I agree with her conclusion.

SOME GIRLS – My Life in a Harem by Jillian Lauren

I saw this author on The View promoting this book. I immediately thought 2 things: 1) I am about to rewrite a story that is set in a modern-day harem and this would be good for research and 2) here is another person who got a publishing contract not because she can write, but because she happened to have a good story which in light of the recent Oprah book club memoir debacles may or may not be true. Amid the depressing thoughts that I would perhaps have to join a harem to get a NY publishing contract, I ordered the book immediately.

Again, I was proved wrong. This woman was no sham, she can really write. It is later revealed in the text why. To keep her sanity while in this harem she would write. First a journal, later short stories, then later her memoir.

This book is very thought-provoking, the main question being how in the world does a girl who grew up in New Jersey end up in a Prince’s harem in this day and age? The answer soon follows in this passage. Besides the money, jewels, nightly parties, free-flowing champagne and gourmet food, designer clothes, lush accommodations and free international travel, there was this…

Sometimes I fell prey to fantasies of becoming a princess. It seemed so strange that it had entered my orbit of possibilities. What Disney-brained American girl hadn’t lain in bed and known deep in her heart that she was worthy of being woken from an evil spell by the kiss of a prince? That she would open her eyes and, due to no effort of her own, find that she had been saved? Who wouldn’t consider attempting to grab that gold ring, that diamond crown? ~ from Some Girls page 189

The more I thought about it, the more I read, the more I realized that this modern harem was not such a phenomenon after all. I had visions of Hugh Hefner’s mansion teeming with ‘girlfriends’ and ‘Playmates’ at nightly parties. Of ABC’s The Bachelor where 25 women will claw each other’s eyes out for the chance to be with a man who yesterday was a complete stranger to them.

How did Lauren, an NYU student/drop-out, end up there? A struggling actress from an abusive family she went from stripping, to being an ‘escort’, to the harem within about a year when she was 18 and struggling to pay to live in NYC while waiting for her big acting break.

My impression, besides the realization that the Playboy mansion and The Bachelor were both very harem-like, was that being in a harem was far less exciting than I had imagined. The girls wore their normal clothing, not see-thru I Dream of Jeannie outfits. No one made them perform the “Dance of the Seven Veils”. Instead they disco danced. Even though this was the early 90s and disco was long dead, apparently the Sultan of Brunai’s prince brother still liked it and he always got what he wanted. There was no training for the girls on how to be a sexual expert. In fact, there was hardly any sex at all. Understandably. There was 1 prince with 3 wives, and 40+ girls. Hard to get to them all for any mortal man, even a prince. Some girls had sex with him once then were sent home after their 2 week stint. Others became a favorite and stayed for a year, not because they were particularly good at sex, but because they added to the ‘drama’ which entertained the prince, much like the crazy girls on The Bachelor always seem to hang around for a long time because they are good entertainment.

For the Disney-fied little girl in all of us… Yes, the prince did eventually propose to a harem girl since he was allowed legally to take 4 wives, and his first wife had already provided suitable heirs. The joke was on him. The harem girl of his dreams took the money and jewels and disappeared, never to be heard from again. She wasn’t an American, apparently Disney doesn’t reach Thailand and being Princess #4 didn’t appeal to her.

So there you go. My recent reads. I am currently waiting for my next big exciting non-fiction to arrive. I’m torn between thinking I will be bored to death by the 300 page WAR written by war correspondent and author of The Perfect Storm Sabastian Junger, and knowing that after the lasting effects of the past 2 books I read, I will likely again be surprised and enthralled by the story.

Never judge a book by its genre. You never know.

Cat

The best tools on the net you’re probably not using…and they’re FREE

Necessity is truly the mother of invention and the kick in the butt procrastinators such as myself need. It was through desperation that I began using two tools that every person should be aware of.

MESH.COM

My PC was having issues so I’d moved exclusively to working on my MAC. I usually try to make a habit of emailing my work in progress to myself regularly so that I have a back up copy stored on Hotmail’s servers. Not the perfect system at all, particularly when I go days without remembering to do it. That is how when the MAC started acting up and I couldn’t even log into it to get the latest version of my WiP out, I started to look for a better solution and found Mesh.com

What is it? I am totally not equipped to explain it well so I suggest you go check out the site yourself, but here is how I see it, and use it. I opened a free Live Mesh account and from there I have 3 (soon to be 4) options. I can store files (Word docs, excel, JPGs, MP3s, anything) on their servers and log in to access them from any computer with an internet connection. The free service places a limit on the size you can store, the pay service does not but they write that unless you store huge files, you will never exceed the limit on the free account.

Okay, so you see that is good, especially since my friend who had no back up just lost all her photos and docs thanks to a power surge that blew her desktop. BUT this storage is NOT the exciting part. Oh no, it gets way better than that. I also installed the Live Mesh on BOTH my MAC and my PC. I set it to log into the Mesh automatically. Then I created a folder on each computer that syncs to the Live Mesh servers and guess what?? Any changes I make to any file in those synced folders automatically update versions on the Live Mesh servers AND on the other synced device (IE my MAC or PC). So this means if I work on my book on the PC, but then tomorrow boot up the MAC and open the file on that computer to continue working I will automatically have the most recent version.

How cool is that?!?! Gone are the days where I have an old version on one computer and have to email the newer one to myself. No more having two laptops in front of me. No more putting docs on a thumb drive to transfer between the two computers, and then having a heart attack when I can’t locate that thumb drive which contains my entire professional life. AND if my computers are lost or stolen, or blown up by a power surge, my docs are still safe on the Mesh.com servers and can be accessed anytime, from anywhere, even on vacation if I don’t want to carry my laptop with me.

The site says the support for smart phones/PDAs is on the way which will make this service even more amazing. One word of caution, it is a Beta edition and my friend had trouble finding where to add her MAC to her network of synced devices, so it takes a bit of navigating on the site and some clicking and searching on your part, but I assure you it is there and it is incredible!

Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die

Okay, so onto the next tool. Where that last one has obvious uses for everyone with a computer and digital files to protect, this next one is probably most useful for writers only. I’m talking of course about the amazing Dr. Wicked and his wonderfully evil Write or Die.

I’m a big procrastinator (as you made have heard). I can also find myself with my work in progress open all day and only add a few hundred words to it. Not a good use of my time. However, thanks to Dr. Wicked, I can log into Write or Die (for free), set a goal by either length of time or word count, and I can produce a minimum of 500 words in 15 minutes. That is 2000 words in an hour. That is more than my typical daily word count goal. Imagine how excited I was to realize that I could get all of my writing done for the day in an hour. I had time to cook. I had time to clean. I could play on Twitter and Facebook later in the day and not feel guilty. It was quite the epiphany.

How does it work? Well it is like an online version of an electrical shock. If you stop typing it gently reminds you to start again by turning the screen pink, then red, then it plays the most obnoxious loud music it can find, all designed to let you know you stopped writing. No more staring into space thinking about what to write. You find yourself writing simply to keep Dr. Wicked’s evil prods to a minimum. My fear when first using it was that I would churn out crap and have to rewrite it. That wasn’t the case. In fact, I think I wrote better by letting my mind go, letting the characters go. No it won’t be perfect or even a very clean first draft. I misspelled words and Dr. Wicked doesn’t auto-fix them the way Word does while you’re typing but that’s what spell check and self-editing/proofreading before submission is for. The increase in productivity is well worth any extra effort using this requires to get the work perfect later on. In fact, Dr. Wicked is mentioned in the dedication of the book I just finished. I think I love him!

The online version is free and perfectly adequate. There is a pay desktop version that is said to have more features and can be downloaded and used without internet access, but to date, I’ve found the free version fine for my needs. One word of caution, the formatting from what you write on Write and Die and then copy and paste into your WiP won’t match, so you’ll have to reformat it. A small price to pay in time and effort in my opinion. Another warning, you do have to copy and paste your words from the Write or Die site before you close the window or you will lose them. And be careful because when you click the ‘Tweet this’ button to brag to your friends about your productivity, it sends you from the Dr. Wicked site to your Twitter page so make sure you copy your words before you leave, as tempting as it is to go run to Twitter right away.

So there you go, two tools you shouldn’t live without.

HOW DOES A NY ROMANCE WRITER DO RODEO RESEARCH?

As I gear up for release of my next cowboy book, UNRIDDEN, on May 26th, I can’t help remininscing. Below is a blog I posted on the Linden Bay MySpace back in December when Rough Stock was released. The Work in Progress I talk about is UNRIDDEN, back when it was in it’s infancy.

Enjoy.

Cat

 

Research…every writer has to do it occasionally, some more often than others depending on the genre being written. I know I have to do quite a bit for my military romances or risk committing factual faux pas which will cost me the respect of readers. There is research where you get a book or find a website to get your facts, and that is important and helpful, but it’s not enough. It’s not enough to immerse both the writer, and consequently the reader, in the world of the characters in the story. It is not just laziness that has me, more often than not, seeking information and factual details from my “muses” rather than another resource.

Picture this… I am on the phone with one of my military consultants when I hear a bugle being played in the background. After spending all of his adult life on a military base, he doesn’t even hear it anymore, but of course I am so excited I can barely contain myself. “Oh my god! Is that Taps?” Yes, it was. Twenty-two hundred hours, lights out. Hearing that immersed me in the world in which I was writing, and I wrote the playing of Taps for lights out into the award-winning A Few Good Men.
Another time I was on IM and a consultant typed to me, “Gotta go. Inbound vehicle born IED. We need to get to the bunker.” That elicited an “OMG!” on my part once again, and after I’d heard from him and found out all was well, I wrote the event into Crossing the Line. The sights, sounds, emotions in the opening scene of Model Soldier are from a description of an actual training one of my military muses emailed to me.

You can see the value of personal contact in research, so it was no surprise that when I tried to write my rodeo book, Rough Stock, using only the internet and television as research I couldn’t do it. And so along came amateur bull-rider and part-time horse trainer/full-time college student Mike Short…

I did a People Search on MySpace for Rodeo Cowboys and there he was. I messaged him out of the blue, explaining my dilemma, begging for help while praying he wouldn’t delete a message from a stranger without reading it. But he didn’t. Mike took pity on this desperate author, though he may regret it one day.

Mike and I collaborated on Rough Stock, and now, he has been invaluable as I write my work in progress about two professional cowboys and a romance writer who asks them to help her with her research. (sound familiar?)

My consultants know, because I warn them upfront, that anything they say can and will be used in my books! Whole conversations between us can end up as character dialogue. (IE the “Shit Pit” scene in A Prince Among Men was pretty much a conversation I had on IM with my soldier consultant deployed in Afghanistan) Luckily, my consultants don’t mind. Look for the conversation between bronc rider Clay and his fellow rider Mike in Rough Stock. The dialogue is paraphrased from an email Mike sent me. As is Clay’s observations on Mason’s riding style, which is taken from when I questioned Mike about the differences between Saddle Bronc, Bareback Bronc and Bull Riding. One night on IM, Mike described to me his first time on a bull so beautifully with so much emotion, I saved it, knowing I will use it, word for word, in my WIP when the hero describes his experience to the heroine.

It’s things like the above that I credit with every good review, and every sale. The quality of my books, my writing, and my stories are only as good as the foundations they are built on, and they are built upon the backs of the people who inspired them. To them, I will always be eternally grateful.

So there you go, the answer to the question posed in the title… How does a New York romance author do rodeo research? You get yourself a cowboy. (And it doesn’t hurt if he is incredibly sweet and damn cute, too!)

Cat