Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Meet Author Cathryn Parry

Cathryn Parry

Cathryn Parry’s first piece of romantic writing was a love letter she wrote to the boy who sat next to her in first grade. By the next Christmas, she was asking for a typewriter to organize her growing collection of adventure stories inspired by Nancy Drew.

But it wasn’t until Cathryn was an engineer working a less-than-inspiring job in a ball bearings factory that she dared to write her first novel, a romance about a woman who found the courage to pursue her deeply-held dreams. After that, Cathryn knew for a fact she was a novelist, and was hooked on the writing process.

In her non-writing life, she figure skates (she competes yearly at the U.S. Adult Nationals), travels as often as possible for fun and adventure, and haunts archives in the addictive quest for genealogy research. She lives in a small town in Massachusetts with her husband and near her large extended family.  Cathryn loves to hear from readers. Please visit her website at www.CathrynParry.com.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

You can’t keep a good man down – but it sure is complicated bringing him back from the dead

I’ve always wanted to write a back-from-the-dead book, which is one of my favourite tropes in romance. 
A Prior Engagement wasn’t supposed to be it.
But through the writing of the first two books in my Special Forces series I’d become intrigued by Lee Davis – outgoing, fearless and larger than life – killed when an IED exploded under the patrol vehicle in Here Comes The Groom.
I’d originally intended that his fiancee Juliet Browne would find a new love through his army buddies’ matchmaking except I couldn’t come up with a character as interesting as Lee. So I thought, Can this man be saved?
One of the problems of resurrection is that, in the absence of a body, the legal process of being declared dead can take seven years (twenty in Italy!).
However if the person has been in "imminent peril" – a plane crash, battle, a passenger on the Titanic - and fails to return “courts will generally assume the person was killed even though the usual presumptive death period hasn't elapsed.”
By filling in more details in Bring Him Home - Lee was thrown clear by the IED blast, and ‘lost’ in confusion of battle - my circumstantial evidence was in place.  
Except I had another challenge. The military make every effort to retrieve their fallen and Lee was in a Special Forces Unit  - the NZ SAS - ruled by the maxim, “No man left behind.”
Clearly, I needed a body.
So I got to thinking, What if his captors – aware they’d be hunted down  - dressed another body in Lee’s uniform and strapped it with explosives, which were detonated by a trip wire when the retrieval crew approached? This would all but destroy the corpse, create more carnage and make identification nigh on impossible.

Disclaimer: In real life writers are sensitive and care passionately for all living creatures. When it comes to solving plot problems we’re up there with Freddy Krueger. Apologies to the squeamish.

Certain I’d cracked the case, I ran this scenario by a doctor who helps writers with forensic questions and got this:

“Though the blast might harm some tissues and make them unusable as far as DNA analysis is concerned there would be plenty of material left to do the proper testing. There is no way that an explosion would completely destroy a body so that there were no tissues left at all.”

So how do you solve a problem like Maria DNA?

After much head-scratching, I decided a Taliban insurgent infiltrated the local allies militia. Not only did he provide a sample – a fingertip - for DNA, he was responsible for the insider information that led to the original ambush. And finally the circle is neatly closed.

Will you be able to suspend disbelief reading A Prior Engagement?  I think so. Did I labor on this constantly in the book? All this research probably resulted in  two paragraphs! But because I've answered my plausibility questions, hopefully I've answered yours and we can all relax and enjoy the romance.

I went to so much trouble because I wanted my hero to come home and discover his estate has been distributed and spent by the woman wearing his engagement ring. The woman who'd also rejected his proposal on the eve of  deployment. And I wanted him to be ambivalent toward the army buddies who unwittingly ‘left him behind.’ The same guys who, believing their dead buddy would want his ‘fiancée’ to be happy, introduced her to her new boyfriend.

Disclaimer: No heroes were (permanently) harmed in the writing of this novel.

So how about you? Love, hate or back-from-the-dead romances? If you love them, I’d really appreciate recommended reads/movies. At the end of March I’m doing a draw for backlist books on my website. Visit karina@karinabliss.com to enter.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

There is kindness out there. Honest.

Mary Sullivan

There has been a lot of press coverage of the Steubenville rape case and Sunday's verdict. I feel sorry for the young girl who has been victimized again and again in social media and even in the press. The boys who perpetrated the crime? Not so much. None of my sympathies lie with them. I find today's attitudes toward women, among young people, disturbing. I had hoped that there would be movement forward, that women would receive more respect these days, not less.

Rather than dwell on negativity, I want to talk about how some young people are making this world a better place and how they give me hope for the future.

One young man I know attends the largest university in the city in which I live. Lamenting the dearth of healthy food options close to the school, and the expense of fast food, he and his friends decided to open a café on campus that serves vegan food at extremely affordable prices. Because I know this young man, my sister and I visited a couple of weeks ago to check it out and enjoyed a healthy, delicious lunch for an excellent price. Everything was made from scratch, including homemade bread.

A huge chalkboard on one wall showed a drawing of the area in which I live and a list of all of the ingredients they use in the café and arrows to where in the province they originated.

Not only was the place full of students, but also professors. No wonder. Great food at the right price? A no-brainer.

The kitchen was full of four staff members preparing meals. It was gluten-free Friday, so there was GF chocolate cake available for dessert. Did I mention that this is all run by volunteers?

It's been in operation for a few years now, but at the beginning the young man I mentioned worked there three days a week, producing nine loaves of bread a week—all without pay, for the greater good.

Another young woman I know volunteers in a bicycle shop. Everyone in the shop is a volunteer. They sell used bikes that are donated by members of the community. Once a month, they will pull an all-nighter on a Friday night repairing the bikes to sell. Volunteers make a communal meal that they share. Sales of the bikes keep the shop alive for its true purpose, which is to teach bike owners how to repair their own bikes. All of the teachers are volunteers.

Don't get me wrong. These young people aren't saints. They have parties, they drink, they have fun. But, women are never hauled around as though they are carcasses of meat and they aren't violated sexually while unconscious and they don't have photos and videos of these things spread all over the Internet. (I'm not so naive that I don't know that rape happens even with a 'friend,' too often, but the young woman in Steubenville should have been able to trust the boys she was with that night. To be violated and then held up to public ridicule in social media is appalling.)

There are young people out there who are good, who do good things, who counteract the bad things done that gain nationwide coverage. These acts of kindness being performed by young volunteers will never receive the coverage that the Steubenville rape did. Sometimes, amid all of the negativity about today's youth, we need a reminder of goodness.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Question of the Month: The End of the Rainbow

It's time for the Question of the Month! With St. Patrick's Day just around the corner, Superromance authors were asked this question: 

What would you want to find at the end of a rainbow?

Pamela Hearon: At the end of the rainbow, there's a journey back in time to meet the real King Arthur--or the man who inspired the legend.  He's always been my secret passion:-)

Jeannie Watt: Easy one--Pierce Brosnan and Guinness.

Joan Kilby: Whatever is at the end of a rainbow would be magical, right? I would love to find a pure white unicorn and seated astride it would be the Old Spice guy. He would lift me on behind him and we would ride through a sunlight dappled forest to a beautiful meadow full of flowers and birds. We would alight for a picnic all set up at a linen-clad table with champagne and delicious foods. Mmm mmm. I would be decades younger, of course, and wearing a flowing gown with flowers in my long golden locks, lol.  

Liz Talley: I’d love to find one of my Christmas Eve celebrations of year’s past. In the past ten years, I’ve lost many, many family members, including my grandparents with whom I was very close. I would love a one evening do-over where I can eat sausage balls, my grandmother pralines and tease my Uncle Bubba while everyone tells old stories and hugs each other often. It’s mushy and overly sentimental, but you did ask what I’d like to find. I miss that big, noisy, teasing family and I’d totally take a rewind on one of those Christmas Eves.

Rogenna Brewer: I'd settle for a wealthy Irishman and a pint of Guinness--oh, wait that's Jeannie's answer.

Kris Fletcher: A giant restaurant filled with all the people I love. There would be a dozen or more  stages, each one holding one of my favorite groups (at the point in their career when I loved them most). The bands would play, the kids would stop complaining that I only like Geezer Rock, and there would be an endless supply of pasta and iced lattes. Oh and after spending too many hours in the dentist's chair lately, I would also like to find good teeth.

Geri  Krotow: At the end of the rainbow I'd like a massage, in-home dry sauna installed in my basement, and a weekend spa get-away with my closest gal pals.

Vicki Essex: Jeremy Renner, sitting in an all-you-can-eat gourmet ice cream shop, offering me the cure to lactose intolerance and weight gain.

Ellen Hart: At the end of the rainbow, I'd like a magic wand and a book of well-documented spells. Not that biting spell book from Harry Potter, but one more like Real Simple magazine with an excellent index.

Karina Bliss: Since no one wants the actual pot of gold, I'LL take it (if only to prove that writers can also be business-minded). But in keeping with the spirit of this, I'll leave the pot as a water bowl for the unicorn.

Linda Warren: I like this question because in my October Super the heroine's sister has painted a mural of a rainbow and clouds on her bedroom ceiling. When the heroine asks her what she expects to find at the end of the rainbow, she replies, "An awesome guy who will love me for me." (every girl's dream). For me, I'd like to find a pair of red four-inch Jimmy Choo heels. I'd slip my feet into those beauties and dance off into the clouds. Of course, I'd be wearing one of those sexy outfits they wear on Dancing With The Stars, too. Most of you know I have rheumatoid arthritis and dancing is one of the things I miss doing. So I'd like to find a miracle at the end of the rainbow and just dance.   

And of course, because we are romance writers, we must include this beautiful song from A Mighty Wind: A Kiss At The End Of The Rainbow. 

What would you want at the end of YOUR rainbow?

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Author as Platypus

Consider the platypus.
Part mammal, part reptile, part bird, all bound together with some kind of cosmic humor, it is one of the animal kingdom's most contradictory constituents. How do you begin to make heads or tails of it? Where does the mammal end and the reptile begin?

Parts of it seem too awkward to be real. That bill, for example. Doesn't it look like someone sewed it on as a joke? The webbed feet work when it's underwater, sure, but on land? Let's not even discuss the venomous stingers located by the rear ankles - or the fact that it makes milk but has no nipples - or that its genome contains bits and pieces of at least five different species of genes.No doubt about it, the platypus is probably the craziest mishmosh of traits and characteristics currently roaming the planet.

Now consider the author.
Part artist, part salesperson, part promoter, all bound together together with chocolate and/or wine, the author is almost as contradictory as the platypus. And, as I am discovering as I draw ever-closer to the release of my first book, much of this feels incredibly .... well ... awkward. In the very best way possible of course, but still, sometimes equating me with the term author feels about as natural as that bill on the platypus. It's a lot like being sent home from the hospital with your first baby, when you're excited and happier than you have ever been and simultaneously 100% certain that you are going to screw this up big time.

Sometimes, when I consider all the new things that I want and need to do - write and promote and sell and revise and design and volunteer and do the mom & wife thing - all at the same time - I panic. There's too much that's new and so many things to learn, and how on earth am I supposed to do all these new things at once?

That's when I must remember the platypus. Because you know, logically speaking, there's no way that animal should ever function. Five different varieties of genes? Seriously? Yet not only does the platypus function, it functions so well that it hasn't changed in one hundred thousand years. It has pulled together the world's wildest collection of bodily flotsam and jetsam, and it works. Despite everything that says no way, the platypus works. So maybe - just maybe - there is hope for the insane collection of bits and pieces that is the new author.

Or maybe I just need to move to Australia.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Mary Sullivan

I read a story the other day that warmed my heart.

We hear so much these days about poor behaviour in sports that I miss a time when good sportsmanship meant something. Players seem to be involved in the big major leagues more for their huge paychecks than for love of the game.

In El Paso, Texas, the coach of a local high school basketball team has a team favourite, his team manager Mitchell Marcus, who is a developmentally disabled student at the school. Mitchell adores basketball and his team members like and respect him.

In the last game of the regular season, with the team's full support, the coach surprised Mitchell by giving him his own team jersey and putting him in the game to play, an absolute dream for Mitchell. Unfortunately, whenever he was passed the ball, he missed the basket. Then, with less than a minute left in the game, a player from the opposing team made the conscious decision to pass the ball to Mitchell, who took it and dropped it into the basket, scoring for his team.

The crowd went wild!

Here's the full heartwarming story if you want to read it, including a video of him sinking the ball:


I had to reach for a tissue when I read this. Seriously. I cried.

We need our uplifting stories. We need to see life working at its best. We need to witness acts of generosity. I mean, that kid from the opposing team gifted Mitchell with an astonishing act of kindness. He didn't have to. Someday, that player is going to be an amazing man.

I read a comment at the end of one of the versions of this story from one newspaper, in which it was stated that the two teams playing that day are usually bitter rivals. I don't know whether that's true, but at the very least, teams are there to do everything they can to advance their own interests and not those of the opposing team.

The team was down in points and Mitchell's basket didn't win the game, but what a great story.

It occurred to me that this would be a great plot point in a novel. The coach could be the hero and the boy who called Mitchell's name and passed the ball to him could be part of a subplot—a great pair of heroes.

Have you witnessed any acts of kindness that lifted your spirits and renewed your faith in those around you?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Winners from the "February Beach Break" Book Giveaway

Thank you for your participation!

Because of the number of comments, I increased the number of giveaways.  The winners from Tuesday's book giveaway blog post are: Kathleen O, Snookie, EllenToo, lindaS and Kaelee.

I have three releases to choose from: "Something to Prove"; "The Long Way Home"; and, (if you don't mind waiting until the books arrive in June) the July 2013 release "Out of His League."  This is a new story set in Boston with a pro baseball player hero.

Please send your mailing address and choice of book using the contact form at my website: www.CathrynParry.com  Thank you!

December 2012 Superromance
January 2012 Superromance

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