Making Hay

It’s hay making season in our mountain valley. The process is interesting, even if it does play havoc with my husband’s allergies. One of the things that surprised me, though, was the parallels I saw between making hay and writing.

Stay with me.

2013-06-17-06_Swathed-hay-300x210Let’s look at the hay process first. There are three basic requirements for growing hay: land, water and sun.

Lots of each one.

Once the grass reaches the rightstage—tall, but not gone to seed—the ranchers start watching the weather even closer than they usually do. Hoping the forecast holds, they cut the grass in wide swathes and let it dry.

Over the next few days, the ranchers fluff—okay, the technical term is swath—the hay so it dries evenly. Once the hay is dry, they can bail it into bricks that litter the field at regular intervals.

2013-06-17-16_Baling-300x225This year’s first cutting looked terrific and the initial bids from Japan were $300/ton. The earliest cutters started bailing and there was happiness in the valley.

Then the unexpected happened. A storm boiled over the Cascades and drenched the valley. All the grass still on the ground went from being prime hay to cattle feed—not even dairy cow feed—at a price that will barely cover the expense of bailing it.

As soon as the sun reappeared and dried things out, the ranchers fluffed what was there and prepared to get it out of the field and make way for the next crop.


There are other ways things can go wrong. Balers break and things get stuck. Weeds invade from untended land. But the men and women who ranch for a living keep going, raising hay for their horses and other people’s cows.

So how is any of that like writing?

Well, you start with three basic ingredients to create a story: writer, imagination and paper—lots of each one. The author nurtures the story to The End and fluffs and cuts and edits, hoping for that premium bid for the manuscript. But things outside the author’s control can ruin that venture. A decision somewhere else that Steampunk/Chick Lit/Romantic Suspense/Whatever is “dead” means that particular manuscript isn’t going anywhere except a closest or thumb drive. (Hmm… considering indie-pubbing yet?)

Like a bale in the baler, words can get stuck. It’s much harder to find a repair person for a broken or missing muse than a machine.

Like the rancher, the writer keeps putting words on the page, creating stories, because that’s what writers do.

Can you think of any other parallels?

Originally posted at my group blog, Blame It On The Muse


The Fable of the Cat Blanket & NaNoWriMo

Last November I listened to a random urge to participate in NaNo and signed up for the Savvy Smackdown. One of the best parts was meeting my team mates, including the fabulous Teri Anne Stanley. Because I love her sense of humor, I asked her to be our guest today.

Here’s Teri –

Thanks for inviting me to visit your blog!  I have a fable to tell you…teri stanley

Once upon a time, a silly scientist with a house full of teenagers and dogs and other nonsensical chaos read a romance novel. “I could totally write better than this,” she thought.

Dionysus, sitting high on Mt Olympus (note that I said he was high), cracked up laughing. “Hey Apollo! Check this out. This human broad thinks she can write better than the author of that novel! This should be good.”

Apollo took a hit of whatever D-God was smoking, and said, “Well, maybe she can. She’s a scientist. She’s smart, right?”

Aphrodite stopped for a toke, and said, “She loves romance. Whoever loves romance has to be wonderful. I think she can do it.”

The three gods started placing bets. Aphrodite snuck to earth and whispered in the human’s ear, “Get writing. I’ve got a lot of money riding on this.”

And so the human was compelled to try her hand at writing a novel.

She convinced herself that it was just a brain exercise, that she really didn’t have any aspirations to publish anything. She took a couple of writing workshops and started blogging, just to connect with other writers.

Hades got wind of the wagering, and popped up to visit the human, and said, “You know you really want to be published.”

The human ignored him. She started writing a story about a guy who wakes up on the deck of a houseboat with no memory. And then she saw a tweet from an agent about how waking up with no memory was an overdone cliche. So she put that story away and started writing one about a raccoon that attacks a woman on her way to a job interview. But then she realized that there was no actual plot to that story, so she put it away.

And so it went. The human started a dozen stories, and finished none of them.

Then one spring, she decided to enter a contest. She dusted off a few chapters of a story, and sent them to Cleveland. Surprisingly, the judges were smoking the same thing the gods were when they convinced Teri to start writing, because she placed first. Amazingly, she finished that manuscript, but she was still in denial about publishing, so she filed that away.

Life started to happen. Her teenagers got more dramatic, and she allowed a couple of trolls to move into her basement. Her husband was travelling more.

The gods got bored, and started guessing when Prince William and Kate would have a baby.

The human was thinking that it might be time to delete her blog and start doing something useful for society, like make blankets for homeless cats.

Then, one day, she accidentally read a newsletter from Savvy Authors with an announcement about a NaNoWriMo Bootcamp. And the human thought, “Oh, hell. I might as well give it one more month.”

She signed up. She joined a team with four other romantic suspense authors and got some pointers from editor Nina Bruhns, as Entangled Publishing.

Aphrodite took a break from royal watching and took notice. She tried not to let Hades and Apollo see what was going on, however.

The human worked like crazy, and cranked out several thousand words of a story about a scientist who meets a maintenance man who is really an undercover cop. She tossed in a couple of gangsters and some weird drugs.

At the end of November, the editor announced that she would look at the unfinished manuscripts, and choose one for publication. Perhaps Dionysus then visited the offices of Entangled Publishing, because these stories were incomplete, unedited, and…rough–but in January, the human got a phone call from Nina saying that she wanted to acquire the human’s manuscript!

There is no moral to this story. Aesop is too hungover to mess with it right now.

But stay tuned for the sequel, which involves Hermes and Ares in a battle with the human’s self-esteem, trying to destroy it before her editor gets back to her with the next round of revisions and a publication date.

And so it goes with your less than typical “call” story! (this is Cathy back again).  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to read her debut from Entangled when it releases. I asked Teri for social media contact info – not that she’s a fiend on twitter or anything – but we might have to out her in the comments.

Originally posted on our group blog, Blame It On The Muse

And I tracked her down at 


On Location With The Waiting Game!

I’m thrilled to welcome Eve Devon to the Muse today. Eve is my “release mate” at Entangled Publishing. Both of us released suspense books a few weeks ago and have cheered each other on as we deal with the whirlwind of promo surrounding a new release. As we chatted, we dicovered both of our stories featured a strong connection to the story’s setting. Intrigued by the idea of two authors on two sides of the Atlantic joined by so many common elements, we decided to host each other for a guest post, focused on “location!”

So please welcome fabulous suspense author Eve Devon to the Muse!

Thank you so much for having me here today. As a reader I love getting to “visit” places I’ve never been to without feeling like I’m being given a geography lesson. And as I writer I love discovering how setting can lend an extra dimension to a suspense story.

When I began writing The Waiting Game I knew my heroine Brooke was living somewhere where she could get away with going through the motions and where she didn’t really have to engage with the world. Her psycho-stalker Andre Spinks had been placed behind bars after a very public trial and she needed to be where the press and paparazzi couldn’t endlessly feed off her—somewhere she could heal.

I chose France because it’s a hop across the English Channel. Close but very different. Chateauroux is a town in the Loire Valley, two hours outside of Paris. It’s busy enough that I could imagine Brooke quietly and anonymously blending in; living semi-isolated on the outskirts of town, surrounded by greenery, in a simple white rendered stone farmhouse.YURT-300x226When Cam shows up to tell her Spinks has been released from prison, he knows Spinks will want to get at her again. Having failed, in his eyes, to protect her the last time, there’s no way he’s going to fail to protect her this time. For Cam it’s simple: get Brooke somewhere completely unconnected to her and anyone who knows her; someplace safe where they can wait the situation out. Did I mention France is a really large country? Cue driving for hours to a place just outside Biarritz…and throw in a little glamping, What? Camping isn’t very; well, glamorous, is it? But wouldn’t you love to stay in one of these.

Unless you were waiting… And the waiting was getting to you. Then, no matter how open the space, you’d still feel trapped. The long days that carried in the warm breeze would start to feel suffocating—which is why Brooke prepares to show Cam she can be trusted to go back to London and bait her stalker into action so that they can get him back behind bars. Simple restrained luxury. A beautiful wildflower meadow surrounded by apple orchards. A little al fresco dining—maybe some al fresco showering! Warm spring days with skies full of cotton-wool clouds. And with no street lamps and buildings to interrupt, you’d be able to stare up at the midnight-blue sky at night, focus on the blanket of stars and feel free.


I love London! Yes, the celebrity culture is rife—but it’s rife against a wonderfully clashing backdrop of amazing historical buildings and modernity. New buildings in the City aren’t allowed to encroach on sightlines of landmark historical buildings. Nothing is uniform and individuality is celebrated. It’s sprawling, cosmopolitan, bustling, noisy and most of all, alive. And if you have the money, you can stay in hotels like The Savoy, which is just the type of hotel I imagined Brooke and Cam staying in. A hotel like The Savoy literally rebuilds its suites to suit the needs of the guest. Rooms are filled with elegant antiques and service is everything. The list of people who have stayed there is mind-boggling! If you’re famous and want to be seen you go in through one entrance and if you’re famous and don’t want to be seen by the waiting paparazzi you get in another way.

But for my heroine Brooke, returning to this heaving metropolis is difficult. She does it because she wants to be strong. She wants to
fight. She’s through waiting for her life to begin again. Being surrounded by the press and paparazzi is a necessary evil and drawing her stalker out works—with very frightening consequences.




When Cam realizes that being holed up in a swanky London hotel is just prolonging the agony for Brooke he makes the decision to take her to her friend on the South Devon coast.

I imagined Megan McGuinness renovating an Italianate Villa (the typical style of large coastal Devonshire house) and that it would look out onto a private beach just like this one.



The South Devon Coast is beautiful and Torbay, one of its boroughs, is referred to as The English Riviera. The area is surrounded by stunning coast and countryside and is most famous for being where Agatha Christie grew up.

From the stunning coastline you can walk inland along the River Dart…


To here…Agatha Christie’s holiday home “Greenway”!

GREENWAY-300x224As a writer who grew up reading Agatha Christie – this is one of my all-time favorite places to visit! She bought this house as a summer retreat and used to hold parties for all her friends. As you walk around the house you can hear recordings of interviews with her and (my fave) see closets filled with what she used to call her “Dress-up clothes”—gorgeous exquisitely beaded 1930’s gowns for the women and sexy tuxedos for the men. Let the murder-mystery weekend commence! You can arrive at the house via a river boat and look around the boathouse that she used to spend summer days writing in.

I spent my week-long holiday doing revisions for The Waiting Game in a hotel in Torbay. The view was incredibly inspiring but eventually I had to return Cam and Brooke to London to finish The Waiting Game.


Author Bio: Eve Devon writes sexy heroes, sassy heroines & happy ever afters…

Eve Devon_author photo
Growing up in locations like Botswana and Venezuela gave Eve Devon a taste for adventure; her love for romances began when her mother shoved one into her hands in a desperate attempt to keep her quiet during TV coverage of the Wimbledon tennis finals!

When Eve wasn’t consuming books by the bucketload, she could be found pretending to be a damsel in distress or running around solving mysteries and writing down her adventures. As a teenager, Eve wrote countless episodes of TV detective dramas so the hero and heroine would end up together every week. As an adult, still hooked on romance and mysteries, she worked in a library to conveniently continue consuming books by the bucketload, until realizing she was destined to write contemporary romance and romantic suspense herself.
Visit Eve at her website:

About The Waiting Game:

Five years ago a madman stalked her. Kidnapped her. Tattooed her.

WTheWaitingGamex500hen security expert Cameron Dexter—the man Brooke Bennett once loved—appears unexpectedly at her door with terrifying news, the former musician discovers she can no longer hide from her past. After five years, her vicious kidnapper is out of prison and on the hunt—for Brooke.
Now he’s returned to complete his art.

Cam failed to protect Brooke once before. Now he’d rather die than let her be captured. With her life at stake, Cam vows to keep her hidden and safe. Brooke, however, is done with running. Unlike Cam, she wants to stand and fight. Emotions both old and new roil between them, but addressing their heated past must wait. Together they set a trap in London to catch a killer. But they soon discover the enemy wears many faces…
And waiting is no longer an option.

Available at Amazon Barnes&Noble and Itunes

Originally posted to my group blog, Blame It On The Muse


Revise, rewrite … Release!

I’ve never participated in NaNo before. NaNo being National Novel Writing Month – write a novel or at least a big chunk of one in a month. Spew words onto the page without editing? No outline, breadcrumbs or even an idea who dunnit? Uhm, not my writing style.

So what does any of that have to do with a new release?


A series of coincidences (of course The Artist’s Way calls it synchronicity; the 60s, serendipity – both are more positive terms, aren’t they?) included a Savvy newsletter, Entangled Publishing’s Smack-down challenge, and the best teammates ever. Meet the Dangerous Divas: Teri Anne Stanley, Anne Lange, Camele W and Greta Genselman. The Divas cheered, pushed and prodded each other to the 50k finish line. Cheers, tears and laughter cemented the new friendships.

The teams in the Smack-down’s winning imprint (that would include the Divas) were invited to submit their “hot mess” manuscripts. Nina Bruhns, executive editor with the new Suspense imprint, saw some promise in the popularly titled “Holly Price and JC Dimitrak’s Book 2,” and asked to see the first book, So About The Money. In a head spinning few months, Entangled Publishing acquired both books, renamed the first one FOR LOVE OR MONEY, blew through rounds of editing, covers and a thousand details, fast tracking for today’s release.


For Love or Money full size copySo, after several dark stories, I’ve moved to the lighter end of the mystery/suspense spectrum with FOR LOVE OR MONEY. Written from Holly Price’s perspective, the mystery romps through eastern Washington State with its rivers, wineries, Native American casinos, and assorted farm animals. The relationship, with some wicked fun chemistry between the CPA amateur sleuth and JC Dimitrak, a Franklin County detective, is a big part of the story. FOR LOVE OR MONEY was huge fun to write and the advance reviews say readers like it!

The marketing people at Entangled have arranged a blog tour, complete with Rafflecoptor and prizes, but with the holiday weekend, I don’t have access to the code. Watch for the links later this week 🙂

In the meanwhile, what about you? Have you pushed your boundaries? Found synchronicity?


Interview with the Mysteristas

We are delighted to welcome Cathy Perkins, author of The Professor and Honor Code.honorcode

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
This question made me laugh. Do you remember the pageant Q&A with Miss Rhode Island in Miss Congeniality? …a day in April…a light jacket…She was so good in that role.

I do love a sunny day at our place in the mountains—getting outside with friends, family and the dogs. Then the evenings are cool enough for a fire, good food, and laughter. Good times.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Not really.  I like so many different things; it’s no fun to stick to just one!

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Hmm, every book I’ve ever read (and that’s in the thousands) probably isn’t a good answer. Three people who’ve had a direct impact on my writing career are:

Renee Rearden–fantastic urban fantasy author and the world’s best critique partner

Steve Vassey–South Carolina Writer’s Workshop local chapter head and the guy who encouraged me when I first inched out and showed someone my first story.

Jenny Crusie–Fabulous author and teacher at my first Lowcountry Masterclass. I think my head nearly exploded that week!

Do you listen to music when you write?  
I’m happiest when listening to music. I love it all–classical to pop; country to jazz.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Oh definitely dark chocolate; maybe with some sea salt or chili pepper for texture and a kick!

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
My muse delivered Honor Code nearly intact (ask any author–believe me, it’s a gift when that happens!). Apparently the story rolled around in my subconscious for a while, pulling characters and themes together. The story is a mystery–what happened to George Beason–but it delves into family relationships and how individual actions affect not just the person who does them, but those around them as well. Ultimately our personal choices–our code of honor–determines who and what we are.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing? 
My tag line sums up my recurring themes–Mystery with a Financial Twist; Trust Issues; Family Bonds.

The financial part wasn’t in The Professor (although the family aspect was there!)Honor Code has all of these elements, as do the two stories that will release later this year: For Love or Money (May) and Cypher (fall 2013).

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today? 
Like so many young men and women, Detective Larry Robbins used the military as a way out of his small hometown. He ended up an MP and to his surprise, he was good at it. The college opportunity the military provides helped him get a degree in criminal justice. Years of police work has left him jaded–maybe even cynical–but he’s never lost his capacity for compassion. Police see people at their worst, but Robbins also saw people like Miz Rose who have good hearts and act from love. Robbins strives to maintain a balance in his life, but like most of us, some days he’s more successful than others.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Part of me wants to give you six wonderful women (wonderful newer authors) I’ve met over the past few years at conferences and retreats, but I’m going to take a different direction.

John Sandford and Lee Child to guarantee a fast paced adventure

Jonathon King for introspection

Margaret Maron to add the family connection

Toni McGee Causey for a touch of crazy to keep things fun

And John le Carre as the political mastermind who pulls the strings behind the scenes

What’s next for you?
After several dark stories, I moved to the lighter end of the mystery spectrum withFor Love or Money, releasing in May with Entangled Publishing. Written from Holly Price’s perspective, the mystery romps through eastern Washington State with its rivers, wineries, Native American casinos, and assorted farm animals. The relationship, with some wicked fun chemistry between our CPA amateur sleuth and a Franklin County detective, is a bigger part of the story. For Love or Money was huge fun to write and the advance reviews say readers like it! Stay tuned for more.


Posted with Mysteriastis 3/28/13


Book Reviews & More by Kathy

I had a delightful visit with Kathy Branfield over at her blog, Book Reviews & More by Kathy.

Stopping by to chat with us today is author Cathy Perkins.  Her debut novel with Carina Press, The Professor, hits virtual bookshelves Monday January 23.

Kathy:  Ms. Perkins, thank you so much for taking the time to visit with us today.

Good morning, Kathy. Thanks for inviting me to stop by. Love your name, by the way.

I am infinitely curious about what motivates an author to begin their writing career.  What prompted you to try your hand at writing?  How long did it take for you to become a published author?

Ms. Perkins: While I’ve had a life-long love affair with reading, I didn’t start writing until fairly recently. This probably isn’t how most people start, but I had a lengthy consulting job in a city about 90 miles away. I’d listen to music and daydream during the commute. Pretty soon the day dream had dialogue and I thought, hmm, this is turning into a good story. That particular book lives in a box under the bed, but I was hooked. I’ve written several novels for my own enjoyment but The Professor is the first book I sought to publish.

Kathy:  The Professor is a romantic suspense novel.  How did you choose the romantic suspense genre?  Do you have plans to write books in any other genres?

Ms. Perkins: I read a number of genres but I love mysteries and suspense. I wanted to write a story I love so The Professor was born. The romantic suspense spectrum covers everything from steamy to ones like The Professor where the relationship is a major subplot rather than the focus of the story. I may move around – how light or dark the story is – but I don’t see a paranormal in my future.

Kathy:  Is The Professor strictly standalone novel or is there future potential for a series?

Ms. Perkins:  I wrote The Professor as a standalone, but I’ve already had several people ask me if there’ll be more from either Mick and Meg or the extended O’Shaughnessy clan.  I can see possible story lines, but I’m working on another project right now.

Kathy:  What is the typical day for author Cathy Perkins?  Do you write every day?  Are your plots strictly imagination or are you sometimes influenced by real life events?

Ms. Perkins: My typical day starts about 5AM – yes, it’s a horrible hour, but my wonderful husband gets up early and makes coffee. I write and check social media (and try to balance it so it’s more writing than Twitter and Facebook) until 8, when my day job starts. In the evenings, I may write, edit or simply enjoy reading someone else’s book.

My stories grow out of day dreams, the snippet of an idea, a what-if. For example, my husband and I were hiking in a game refuge near our house. While pushing through dense undergrowth beside the Snake River, I glanced over my shoulder and said, “Wouldn’t this be a great place to find a body?” My current WIP grew from that What-if.

Kathy:  As a reader, what types of books do you read?  Do your choices as a reader influence the books you write?

Ms. Perkins: I’ll read pretty much anything. As far as influences on my writing, I’m not sure anything directly impacts it, but I do think reading good stories lets you unconsciously absorb an understanding of structure, pace and character development. Studying craft separately solidifies that framework.

My reading probably reflects my mood—sometimes I want a light, beach read escape and sometimes I want a deeper connection. Since I’m writing suspense, I read across the spectrum of mystery and thrillers. Right now, I’m reading at the introspective end – Jonathon King, John Hart and pushing even further into women’s fiction, Mary Alice Monroe and Anne Rivers Siddons. And of course, I always have dozens of books on my e-reader.

Kathy:  Can you tell us a little about The Professor?

Ms. Perkins: A reviewer said, “This is a dark edgy murder-mystery/romance that will keep you spellbound page after page.” There are few statements that please an author more than hearing their story engaged the reader.

Set in South Carolina, stopping the serial killer who is terrorizing college campuses drives the plot of The Professor. The tension and stakes build as the characters’ wants and needs set them on a collision course: Charismatic State Agent Mick O’Shaughnessy wants more from life than work and a pretty face. Fiercely independent graduate student Meg Connelly always wanted a loving family and professional success, but has to learn to trust in order to get either. The Professor knows the only way to get what he wants is to take it—and taking Meg’s life will destroy Mick with the same stroke of his knife.

Kathy:  What projects are you currently working on?  What can readers look forward to from you in the upcoming year?

Ms. Perkins: I’m working on two very different manuscripts right now. One is dark and introspective, revolving around the theme of betrayal. The other is a light, amateur sleuth mystery about a CPA—houses, handbags or companies, she knows how to make a deal— who’s dodging a vengeful detective while staying one step ahead of a murderer.

Kathy:  I have thoroughly enjoyed our visit today.  Is there anything else you would like to share with us before you go?

Ms. Perkins: I’d like to share two things. First, for me, the book is always for the reader. Not every reader is going to like every book – and that’s okay. The other thing is, it’s never too late to follow a dream. There’s no guarantee you’ll reach your personal goal, but getting out and doing it is what’s fun. 

Kathy: Ms. Perkins, congratulations on your upcoming release and thank you again for stopping by to chat with us.  Feel free to drop by anytime you happen to be in the neighborhood.  

Thanks for inviting me, Kathy and giving me an opportunity to share The Professor. Please feel free to drop by my website or join me on Facebook or Twitter.

Originally posted here on 1/20/12