Office Romance

Cypher-Cover-Woman-Final1-72dpi“Office romance” conjures up images of an assistant – usually the heroine – walking into the corner office to takes notes for either an unrequited love interest or a crusty/pompous/ice-cold guy who’s going to actually have a heart of gold. A wee bit outdated, wouldn’t you say? Today, the roles are likely to reverse (anyone else love The Proposal?) with a female executive leading the company and the notes may be via IM, while the lovers hope the company isn’t logging keystrokes.

When I started playing with ideas for CYPHER, my latest release, I thought, What if?

What if I turned the idea of an office romance completely on its head? What if instead of a person at the office, it was the company itself that everyone wanted? Although Caroline (Cara) Wainwright says she’s perfectly happy working for the advertising agency, what if she really wanted to work for the family business like her brother, if only to snag her father’s attention? The rest of the “what ifs” about Cypher, the family’s corporation, might give away plot twists, but from the beginning, Cara wonders: since her father has always made the business a higher priority than his family, how far will he go to protect it?

With Cara pulling on family dynamics inside Cypher, Detective Davis Morris can push from the outside, tying together pieces of forensic evidence. He’s also falling for Cara, which makes him wonder if their attraction is desire, manipulation…or real. Talk about your personal conflict! David is investigating the murder of Cara’s friends—with everyone in her family hiding secrets and on the suspect list, including Cara. Unless they overcome their distrust and work together, more people will die.

I love it when the stakes are higher because the hero and heroine stand to lose both personally and professionally.

I had a lot of fun writing CYPHER. It’s been tagged, A twisty mystery with a compelling romance.

What is your favorite romance trope? Are you a traditionalist or do you prefer stories that take the trope in a new direction?

Excerpt:
In this section, against her attorney’s instructions, Cara Wainwright has arranged to meet Detective David Morris at the hospital where her terminally ill mother is a patient. Newspaper coverage speculating about her murdered friends and Cara’s role in their death prompted her to give him a different perspective on all of them. Through his investigation into Cara’s life and personality, David is already fighting his attraction to her. He doesn’t know if she’s the murderer, a co-conspirator—or innocent.

Before Morris could ask [Caroline] to explain the “error in judgment” or prod her about Reese’s drugs, she said, “There may be another possibility.”
“Oh?” His attention immediately sharpened. They’d already covered his primary motives.
Her fingers drummed the table. “As far as I know, no one hates me. My family has money, but most of it’s tied up in Cypher. The company’s never been an active target before.”
“Is something different this time? Have there been threats?”
“I’m not aware of any.”
She was hedging. “Anything from a disgruntled employee?”
“It’s just a feeling. That something’s going on. With the company.”
He found himself in the uncomfortable position of pulling a Pennell. He couldn’t take her instincts to court. He needed something solid. “You aren’t involved in the company?”
Caroline shook her head. He tried to focus on the subtext of her words rather than her perfume and the way her chest rose and fell sharply when she tried not to cry.
“It was a mutual decision. I enjoy my work with Robeshaw Advertising. I called Crystal earlier today. She said the police were there. Was that you?”
He wasn’t going to let her off that easily. “I could talk to your father about threats to the company.”
Her body language said, Good luck with that one.
The corner of his mouth twitched. “Already tried that, huh?”
“He’s big on Need to Know.”
“What about you?” He tried to say it neutrally. He didn’t want to be attracted to her, but he wasn’t looking forward to hearing about her love life either.
“Me? I’ve already told you, nobody’s threatened me.”
“This could be directed at you personally rather than your family. Maybe an old boyfriend?”
She recoiled as if he’d slapped her. “Bill would never—”
“If it is directed at you,” he interrupted, “the guy could try again. We need to consider the possibility.”
For a long moment, she stared at him. Then she released a slow breath and relaxed her shoulders. “You can take my old boyfriends off your suspect list.” A wry expression twitched her mouth. “I can think of one guy who broke my heart back in college, but I didn’t exactly leave a trail of crushed men in my wake.”
Don’t sell yourself short.

Originally posted at Just Romantic Suspense blog

Moving House – and moving a new release?

2014-03-30 13.07.18I 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.

cabin in the snowWe’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.

BD: Yes.

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.

Head. Desk.

2014-04-26 10.04.11It took forever to find anyone who’d even consider taking a small, off the wall, structural engineering project. While we searched, we went ahead and disassembled the cabin and treated the logs.

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).

in process

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?

Yes.

Picks up papers and shuffles back to car.

rebuilding beginsThe building department did issue a permit and we’re working on the foundation, so hopefully soon I can report back that the cabin is securely stationed in its new position on the farm.

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.

Nah.

CYPHER released this week. An early reviewer called it a twisty mystery with a compelling romance, which describes it well.

Cypher-Cover-Woman-Final1-72dpiWhen 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 Suspense

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!
GLIASbanner-June2014
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.   

http://notyourusualsuspects.blogspot.com/2014/08/moving-house-and-moving-new-release.html

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

CYPHER interview with Kate

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.

 

Collecting a Network

Thanks for inviting me back to the Mysteristas!

Carolina beachIt’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.

 

scstateshellThat 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.

Cypher-Cover-Woman-Final1-72dpiIn 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!

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.

Cypher-Cover-Woman-Final1-72dpiColor 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