We knew a winter blast was forecast, so we took the dogs out for a romp along the river.
The trees are showing that first lovely hint of “winter wonderland” lace.
That’s The Puppy racing back to check on us.
I originally planned to post this piece earlier this summer when a friend said she was “moving house.” While it’s not what we’d call it – we’d simply say “moving” – the term stuck with me since we’re literally moving a house. Well, it’s an old log cabin, but let’s not get too technical.
When we bought our property in the mountains, it came with an assortment of fallen or tumbling down barns, sheds and cabins. Thousands of pounds of debris later, we’re close personal friends with all the people who work at the county dump.
We’re down to the last barn standing. Snow banked against the lower tier has made at least one log rot, so the building lists precariously. Having grown up in the South, I was used to older buildings and loved the charm of Charleston where the building age has crossed the 300-year threshold. (Okay, those of you in Europe quit laughing. Three hundred is old over here.) It was a shock to find that out here in the west, a building that’s a hundred is a rarity. So we wanted to preserve the cabin if we could.
Unfortunately the cabin occupied the prime high ground (big surprise, right?) where we wanted to build our house. We’d learned with some of the other buildings we’d constructed that anything over 200 square feet required a permit. Off we went to chat with the building department about what moving the cabin would require.
Here’s the gist of that conversation(s):
Us: We’d like to salvage this historic old barn but weren’t sure about the building requirements.
Building dept: If you take it apart (and treat the logs so they are less likely to rot) and move it, you have to bring it up to code.
Us: It’s a barn. Like stacked Lincoln logs.
Us: So what does code mean? (How in the hell do you bring a stack of logs to code and who wrote code for them in the first place???)
BD: You have to have engineered trusses and …
Us: Whoa, whoa, whoa. What would we put the trusses on?
BD: You’d have to build a structure to carry the beams and trusses and you’d need an engineering analysis that the roof can support the snow load.
Us: It’s been standing for over 100 years. Apparently it can handle the snow load.
BD: But it MIGHT collapse. So you’d have to bring it up to code.
Us: Wait, you said “if” we take it apart. Is there an alternative?
BD: If you pick it up intact, you can move the barn, but you have to have a building permit to put it down. An analysis of the foundation and footings. And to issue the building permit, we really need an engineering analysis of the foundation and whether the roof…
Us: What if it falls apart when we try to pick up a stack of logs?
BD: Then you’d have to apply for a building permit to put it back together. Bringing it up to code.
Finally, a friend of a friend agreed to write it up after my engineer husband drew up a discreet structure that carries the trusses and that we can bolt the logs to (making the new part nearly invisible). The balance will be hidden by salvaged wood from other long gone buildings. The frame will also support a new sliding barn door (easier to open when there’s several feet of snow).
Several months and several checks later, we had the analysis and hubby once more visited the building department.
BD: Ah, this design might work and I see you have the engineering analysis. Yes, I could approve this.
Us: Great! So you’ll issue the building permit?
BD: Oh, no. This just approves the engineering analysis. We need this (ream of paper) for the building permit.
Us: Pause…consideration…do we really want to save this (ridiculously expensive) bit of history?
Picks up papers and shuffles back to car.
What does any of this have to do with a new release? Nothing that I can think of…unless you talk about structure of a story. Foundations. Perseverance.
CYPHER released this week. An early reviewer called it a twisty mystery with a compelling romance, which describes it well.
When a hit-man kills the wrong person, a Greenville, SC detective confronts hidden agendas and conflicting motives in a powerful local family, while trying to control his attraction to the intended victim—a woman who should be dead, but instead is hell-bent on saving the remnants of her family.
Unwilling to stand by while her family and world are destroyed, she rips apart the secrets surrounding Cypher, the company her father built—and will take any measures to defend.
This story originally appeared on my group blog, Not Your Usual Suspects – here – with slightly different pictures.
Get Lost in a Story is one of my favorite blogs, so I’m always excited when they let me visit. Donnell Bell interviewed me–and I think we both had fun with it!
DONNELL: Cathy, I’m so excited to have you here. Welcome back!
Now I have to share, Cathy was my roomie at Left Coast Crime, so I know she knows something about Greenville, SC. But she also lives in the Pacific Northwest. So, I’m going to put her on the spot—which place is your favorite?
CATHY: Oh that’s not fair Donnell – I love both places!
I grew up in the Greenville area and still have family there, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. Greenville sits in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and has thousands of trees and lush gardens that are very different from my current home. Although Seattle, aka Emerald City, is also known for its fantastic greenery, we’re in the process of building up in the Cascade Mountains, which has its own enormous evergreens and cottonwoods.
The biggest difference between the two areas is, of course, cultural. The South has managed to hang onto its outgoing charm, while Seattle-ites are more likely to wear earbuds and a hooded rain jacket and avoid eye-contact.
DONNELL: Cypher, it’s the name of a company. Tell us about it, and how it ties into the story, and why it should be the title.
CATHY: Cypher is the name of the Wainwright family business, a company her father built and devoted his life to nurturing. Cara, the heroine, at times refers to it as “the la-la land of Secret Military Stuff.”
Here’s a short description from her point of view:
Frontage Road paralleled the Interstate, providing access to the businesses lining the highway. Moments later, [Cara] turned at the discreet sign marking Cypher’s entrance. Densely planted arborvitaes hid the tall fence and razor wire surrounding the grounds, but she knew what the trees concealed.
A landscaped drive curved toward the main building. Up-lighting hidden amid the birches enhanced the white bark, converting the trees to sculptural elements. This was the part of Cypher people were supposed to notice. From this perspective, the company appeared tranquil and prosperous. Very few people knew the company made guidance components for missiles and military aircraft.
Cypher is at the center of the mystery, but its connections and secrets are as hidden as the buildings in the excerpt. The company provides a tangible symbol of the family relationships and dynamics, which are a key component in the story. Convinced her father knows more than he’s telling, Cara pushes from the inside—both within the family and the business—for answers. Stonewalled by both Cara’s father and other Cypher executives, Detective David Morris pulls on the external forensic evidence. Unsure whether they can trust each other, Cara and David have to join forces to get to the truth and stop the murders.
DONNELL: How is Cathy Perkins like Cara Wainwright, and in what way is she different?
CATHY: Cara and I are both Southern women, but over the course of the story, Cara becomes much more outspoken in confronting her father and determined to find the truth. I love seeing this resolute determination in today’s young women!
DONNELL: What’s the most attractive thing about David? What’s his major character flaw?
CATHY: The most attractive thing about David is his intelligence and refusal to take the easy way out, but he’s generally “gone along to get along.”
I think this short excerpt captures his character:
Morris understood pressure. His parents wanted him to live their dream and run the family business. As a detective, pressure came in all shapes and forms. But the force he felt working on him now surpassed anything he’d experienced before—massive demands grinding as inexorably as continental plates. That kind of pressure changed rocks, turned carbon into diamond.
In his mind, he saw Cara crossing the lobby of the sheriff’s department, with no idea she had the undivided attention of every male in the room, earnestly holding her list of names, trying to help. He saw the stubborn set of her jaw before she admitted talking to the investment guy. He felt her passionate response to his body during sex; heard her voice, warm and intimate, talking about her mother, confiding her fears. He remembered the expression on her face when she opened the lake house door—all lit up, excited to see him. Then the slow fade when she saw his anger. The final vision ground into him: Cara’s limp body in a pool of blood and glass.
Those images kept building up. He had to decide where to go with them—whether the pressure would crush him or turn him into a diamond.
He’d do his job for the other three victims.
For Cara, he’d push all the limits.
DONNELL: What would you label this story? Mystery or suspense? And what was the most interesting thing you learned while researching this story?
CATHY: I think everyone has their own definition of the two genres, but I see CYPHER as more suspense than mystery. While both genres draw on the characters as much as the plot, in a mystery, if the hero and heroine stop pushing, then the villain gets away and the action stops. With a suspense, even if the protagonist stops, the villain(s) will still keep coming after them. In CYPHER, Cara and David have to figure out the mystery surrounding the company and the family because the assassin isn’t going to stop if they give up.
On the research side, I learned a tremendous amount about Triads and Tongs, and even read the FBI white paper that Detective Morris reads in the story. The Asian organized crime is scary because they’re very smart and decentralized, making it even harder for law enforcement to infiltrate.
DONNELL: When you’re not writing, where will we find you?
CATHY: I’m still working at a financial day job but we’re also in the process of moving to our place in the mountains. I shared our latest challenge–moving a 100-year old barn—last week on our group blog, Not Your Usual Suspects.
DONNELL: What comes next for Cathy Perkins?
CATHY: I’m working on a lighter story right now, set in the Cascades instead of South Carolina. The starting point for it occurred while cutting up with a friend. We riffed off the opening line—there’s a body in the beaver pond. Oh, dam(n).
Note to readers: Cathy and I brainstormed a bit of the dam(n) story; you’re in for a real treat. Cathy, now it’s your turn. Time to ask the reader a question.
CATHY PERKINS WANTS TO KNOW: Have you ever found yourself thinking about a character – after the story is finished? What makes you think about them? The character themselves or the situation he or she was in?
Thanks for letting me visit today, Donnell. This has been a lot of fun.
Our pleasure. Good luck with Cypher!
Originally posted here
The delightful Kate Wyland invited me to visit her blog. Kate’s stories include horses, so it wasn’t a surprise when this was her first question:
So Cathy, if you were an animal, what kind would you be?
Oh, I’d definitely want to be one of our dogs. We aren’t sure if our dogs are part of the family or if we’re part of their pack, but the result is the same—one big happy unit. The Lab and the Puppy hang out in my office during the day, snoozing on giant beds, gnawing on marrow-packed bones, and placing their heads on my thigh to claim pats and back scratches. (If ignored because I’m paying too much attention to that small box, aka the computer, they’ll lift my hand off the keyboard with their nose.) On weekends, we’re all in the mountains at our place on the river, which our kids and their friends—along with all the family animals—have dubbed Best Dog Park Ever.
Can I join your pack. Sounds wonderful.
What’s your favorite dessert?
Ice cream is my weakness, with Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie way up there in the deliciousness register. I will venture out of the strictly chocolate category for Cherry Garcia.
I knew we were kindred spirits. Cherry Garcia is my downfall too.
What’s your favorite room in your house?
My favorite room is actually the main room of our small weekend place in the mountains. The cabin has wonderful views of the river and surrounding mountains. It’s cozy with a fireplace for the winter and windows all around to let in delightful breezes and the sound of the river and songbirds the rest of the year. Heavenly! It’s compact, but filled with carefully chosen furnishings. We really hate leaving on Monday mornings.
Sounds delightful. Can I visit?
How do you develop your stories?
Most of my stories start with a “what if?” Without giving away the plot and all the twists, my most recent release, CYPHER, starts with, What if a hitman killed the wrong person?
The “whys” line up from there—why was the killer sent to murder the heroine? Why wasn’t she home? Why was her friend there and mistaken for her? The characters grow and become three-dimensional as I think through the implications and how that character will react to events unfolding around him or her. In CYPHER, both Cara and David have to fight for what they really want, and each has to trust the other, something that doesn’t come easily for them.
Because I love tightly plotted stories that twist and turn, I generally outline the major story lines. I’m always surprised when I finish the first draft and find small setups and details that my subconscious added. During edits, I weave these bits into the story to build out a suspect or enhance a theme.
Can’t wait to read it.
What’s your next project?
I’m working on a lighter story right now, set in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state instead of South Carolina (where my other stories are set). The starting point for my WIP occurred while cutting up with a friend. We riffed off the opening—there’s a body in the beaver pond. Oh, dam(n).
Oh my, watch out for those beaver ponds!
What types of books do you like to read?
I’m a voracious reader. Mysteries, thrillers and suspense are my ‘go-to’ stories, but I also enjoy literary, fantasy… I’ve been on a women’s fiction binge lately. So many of those stories delve deeply into relationships.
My stories are predominately mystery/suspense, but I tend to make them more character-driven than strictly action-oriented. I enjoy the way the characters’ internal conflicts play into the external plot, raising the tension and the stakes when it’s personal.
Originally published here.
Thanks for inviting me back to the Mysteristas!
It’s been fun reading all the collecting posts this month. I was at the beach last week—a writing retreat with a wonderful group of authors—and watched people stroll the beach, head down, collecting shells. Don’t get me wrong, I have quite an assortment of shells at home—whelks, sand dollars, scotch bonnets, conchs and shark’s teeth. Bits and pieces that remind me of places we visited and good times with our children.
That day I was looking for shells for a friend—another author who’d never seen a lions paw or auger, much less a lettered olive, the smooth shiny official state shell. Of course, she’s convinced an alligator is going to lumber out of the shallows or a shark will show up in the waters beyond our island cottage—but that’s a different story.
Except, when you think about it, maybe it is the story. Everyone at the retreat needed to write to meet deadlines—and because writing is what we do—we were also collecting memories, weaving new sections of a friendship tapestry. Those shells serve as a trigger—a remember when—to memories that nurture friendships. A network of friends sees you through the darkest—and brightest—times.
In my latest release, CYPHER, Cara Wainwright calls on her network of friends for insight into the deadly mystery surrounding Cypher, her family’s business. Although Detective David Morris wishes Cara would stay out of the investigation—and out of harm’s way—she can’t stand by and watch her family be destroyed.
My network of friends offers a different kind of support from brainstorming to cheering each stage of a new story. While I write stories where the plot twists and turns and everyone has a secret, I’m glad I’m not running from an assassin when I do it!
Originally posted here
Cover Reveal for CYPHER!!
I love the way Naomi Raine, the cover artist, illustrated Cara’s determination to pull the truth out of her family. And the building makes a great stand in for Cypher – the family business at the center of the mystery.
Color me happy!
Here’s a sneak preview of the story:
When a hit-man mistakenly kills the wrong person, a Greenville, SC detective confronts hidden agendas and conflicting motives in a powerful local family while trying to control his attraction to the intended victim—a woman who should be dead, but instead is hell-bent on saving the remnants of her family.
Unwilling to stand by while her family and world are destroyed, she rips apart the secrets surrounding Cypher, the company her father built—and will take any measures to defend.
CYPHER releases August 12, 2014
It’s always an exciting day when you hold your book in your hand. I love my e-reader, but the tangible weight of the paperback is a different sensation.
Way back in the dawn of time, I made the silly decision to not only participate in NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) but to also join the Entangled Smackdown on Savvy Authors. In one of life’s balances to What Was I Thinking? that Smackdown introduced me to some fabulous people who were also terrific writers. One of those women was Teri Stanley, who made us laugh with the Tale of the Cat Blanket.
Today is release day for Teri’s debut story – Deadly Chemistry, released by Entangled Publishing’s Ignite imprint. I had the pleasure of reading random early scenes and jumped on the chance to review an Advance Reading Copy. And it’s fabulous!
Here’s the scoop:
By Teri Anne Stanley
Sex, Lies, and Science Geeks, # 1
Some chemical reactions generate too much heat…
Former undercover cop Mike Gibson has been lying low, working as a maintenance man to put his troubled younger brother through college. But when a beautiful scientist enlists Mike’s help to repair the damage done to her lab by a group of vandals, Mike finds that his, and his brother’s pasts, are about to be brought to light.
Laura Kane was happy having a secret crush on the hot maintenance man at Tucker University, but when the drug she was studying is stolen, Laura has a chance to get to know Mike in person. The problem is, he seems to know more about what’s going on than any maintenance man should. But then the drug turns up in the wrong hands, and Mike and Laura have to decide if their own chemistry will help, or hinder, the race to save innocent lives.
Teri Anne Stanley has been writing since she could hold a crayon–though learning to read was a huge turning point in her growth as a writer. Teri’s first stories involved her favorite Saturday morning cartoon characters, followed by her favorite teen idols. She has also authored a recipe column (The Three Ingredient Gourmet), and scientific articles (Guess which was more interesting!). Now she writes fun, sexy romance filled with love, angst, and nekkid parts.
Teri’s career has included sex therapy for rats, making posing suits for female body builders, and helping amputee amphibians recover to their full potential. She currently supplements her writing income as a neuroscience research assistant. Along with a variety of teenagers and dogs, she and Mr. Stanley live just outside of Sugartit, which is—honest to God—between Beaverlick, and Rabbit Hash, Kentucky.