Monday, March 8, 2010

Pit Bull Approach to Writer’s Block

USA Today Best Seller, Catherine Mann, is my guest today. She’s a frequent speaker at RWA conferences. Writes emotional packed tales around some hot military heroes for Harlequin and Berkley Sensation. You may have read her Dark Ops stories with Berkley.

I’ve often wondered how authors handle deadlines around writing several books a year in more than one series. How do they keep it fresh? How do they handle the normal writing blocks when on deadlines?

Cathy shares how she handles it.

People often ask how I combat writer’s block when penning four to five books a year. My answer? I step away from the computer and search out new ways to clear the cobwebs. Although I never could have foreseen that this week’s cobweb clearing journey would lead me to Doga Class with a pit bull.

Yes, you read that right. Doga. Pronounced Dough-Guh. In essence, it’s yoga with a dog, or in my case, doga with a pit-bull.

I’ve never participated in yoga or mediation before. But I’m an active supporter of my local Humane Society, including fostering motherless puppies. When I heard that my local shelter was starting a monthly doga class, I was smack dab in the middle of a huge plot snarl and doga seemed like a great way to nab some cobweb clearing time. (Photo to the right Cathy with foster pups)

I had read up a little on doga and knew going in that the purpose for shelter dogs is to help them become more adoptable by:

1)Relaxing tension/aggression in a dog stressed from being penned up.

2) Relaxing nervous/timid dogs who need confidence.

Doga incorporates chanting, massage, acupressure, as well as reflexology with the paws. (Probably more than you cared to know - pardon my digression!)

Arriving at the shelter, I asked them to pair me with a dog that needed help rather than me just picking a doggie partner. Ask and ye shall receive.

Meet Tayler:

Now, I’ve fostered bulldog puppies before and have a deep affection for the breed. They’re sweet dogs by nature, and are sadly often misused by their owners. (Don’t EVEN get me started on the evils of dog fighting.) Yet knowing all of this, I was still nervous about finding my center and oneness in a lotus position with a huge animal I didn’t know, an animal clearly unhappy about being penned up.

Boy, was I ever in for a surprise. After only a little heart-to-hound Mudra and some Downward Facing Dog, Tayler was a regular pussy cat, resting her chin on her paws, rolling on her back, covering my hands and face with doggy kisses. She was totally mellow - and also apparently majorly into aroma therapy!

By the end of the doga session, my writer’s block had cleared. Thanks to Tayler, I realized I simply needed to look at the plot problem from a different angle and enjoy the unexpected path.

So this week when folks ask me how I combat writer’s block, I just smile and say, “I took the pit bull approach.”

For a chance to win an autographed book by Catherine Mann, simply post a comment. Three winners will be chosen, winner’s choice of HOTSHOT (Berkley Sensation) or BOSSMAN’S BABY SCANDAL (Silhouette Desire.)


MORE THAN WORDS: STORIES OF HOPE, an anthology by three bestselling authors: Catherine Mann, Diana Palmer and Kasey Michaels, Harlequin, March 2010.

  • Catherine Mann, Touched by Love
  • Read an Excerpt


USA Today bestseller Catherine Mann writes action-packed military suspense for Berkley Sensation and emotional, steamy romances for Silhouette Desire. With over two million books in print in twenty countries, she has also celebrated wins in both the RTIA and Bookseller’s Best contests. A former theater school director and university teacher, she holds a Master’s degree in theater from UNC-Greensboro and a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the College of Charleston. Catherine currently resides on a sunny Florida beach with her military flyboy husband and their four children. FMI check out her website at:


Becky said...

What a great blog! I learned something new. I never heard of Doga before, but it does sound like it would be interesting and fun. I love the picture of Taylor. I agree with you on how people misuse their pets. I think that bulldogs are sweet natured too.

Kat Sheridan said...

You know, I love this blog, but this time it hit home on SUCH a visceral level. I've been in some serious need of fur-baby-love (Sia knows I lost my beloved dog-companion of 18 years last winter). I had never heard of Doga, but now, I'm thinking I need to look into this! Sounds utterly beautiful!

And as irony would have it, I won a critique by Catherine at a conference last year. I think the universe is telling me to get my act together and send it off.

And BTW, "steamy" and "military" are two of my favorite words!

And on which Florida beach do you reside (I'm in Fort Myers)?

~Sia McKye~ said...

Welcome to Over Coffee, Kathy.

I had an *awww* moment when I saw Taylor. I like Pit Bulls. I've met a lot of real sweet ones. If not abused or inbred, they're great family dogs.

I have a visiting Bulldog, named Bruiser. He used to live about an 1/8th of a mile away, and he and his owners were my closest neighbor. Now they moved to a house on a different part of thier property and Bruiser comes a half mile through their cattle pasture to visit about once a week. He's a sweetheart, although my cats think he's the devil and I end up with *tree* ornaments when he comes by. My Great Danes aren't quite sure what to make of him. They know he's a dog, but they act...different when he's around. I usually have to call his owner to come and get him. Bruiser is a whiz at getting out of his pen, lol!

Other Lisa said...

OMG, what an adorable doggie! And what a great way to relieve stress and writer's block.

I too have had the pleasure of meeting really sweet pit bulls. They can be the nicest dogs in the world.

Catherine Mann said...

Hi Becky! I highly recommend doga! It was really fun seeing how intune the dogs got with the program too. They started mirroring us.... Tayler's kennel buddy Stella (another pit bull) was in the session too. A couple of times while they were both on their bellies, they reached out paws to touch each other, sooooo sweet.

I sure do hope both of them find loving homes soon!

Catherine Mann said...

Kat, I'm so sorry to hear about your companion dog's passing. We lost our dear Trooper - 15 year old beagle - a year ago this month. We still miss him and speak of him often. Hugs to you!!!!!!!

Catherine Mann said...

Hey there, Sia! Thank you so much for inviting me!! I can already tell what a delightful group of folks you have here. :-)

Catherine Mann said...

Lisa, so pleased to hear you've had positive experiences with bulldogs! Thanks bunches for posting. :-)

Tonya Kappes said...

WOW Kathy! You have a great story. I love dogs, well any animals, and I am know to take in any poor DH!
Thanks for introducing me to Doga!!!

Judi Fennell said...

Hi Cathy from a fellow Sourcebooks author! I have a healthy respect for pit bulls - and your feelings when you first met Taylor. I'm sure the trust you had to muster had something to do with her gentle behavior. Dogs really can sense things like that.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Cathy, I just love animals period. They've been truer friends and companions thru my life than many people.

I've volunteered at various SPCAs--bad thing with that is I want to take them all home. Worked with Organizations like Forgotten Felines which feeds feral cats and live captures them to do spay and neuter and release, captures the kittens and fosters them before finding them homes.

Kudos to you for volunteering.

~Sia McKye~ said...

So, tell me about this charity that's getting the proceeds from MORE THAN WORDS: STORIES OF HOPE?

Houston A.W. Knight said...

Sia...Love the post...Dogs you've got to love them. I have a little Zeus is 3/4 yorkie and 1/4 poodle. He's all black except for a white chest area...and he thinks he is the most beautiful dog on earth...I keep telling him he is to me, but when everyone he meets wants to take him home, he looks at me with "see, I told you I was beautiful" kind of eyes and a smug tile to his nose...ah, but you've gotta love 'em.


L. Diane Wolfe said...

That is so wonderful! Helping a dog in the process of clearing writer's block. And I learned a new word - Doga!

Catherine Mann said...

Hi Tonya! Yep, I hear yah on the poor hubby comment! My hubby enjoys the puppies we foster, but every now and again his brow furrows pretty deeply when it's time for them to go up for adoption. :-/

Catherine Mann said...

Tonya, I hear ya on loving all kinds of animals!! ;-)

Catherine Mann said...

Hey there, Judi!! I'm really looking forward to my Sourcebooks project - Deb's a delight to work with. :-) Thanks for the howdy!

Catherine Mann said...

Hi Sia! Each year Harlequin's More Than Words foundation recognizes five amazing women who've done great charity work (they choose from applications submitted.) The five winners each receive a check for their foundation and their charity is featured in a novella in a More Than Words compilation. All proceeds go into the More Than Words foundation to continue the donation process. My story features the Seedlings Affordable Braille Books for children.

Here's a link to additional information about the More Than Words program. Perhaps you'll find someone from your own community to recommed. :-)

Catherine Mann said...

Hi Hawk! Zeus sounds adorable!!!

Catherine Mann said...

Hi Diane! Happy to have introduced you to doga! :-)

VA said...

Wow Catherine, gotta say you are a brave woman. I think I'd be more than a bit perturbed trying to do yoga in a roomful of "stressed" dogs. I think the first few moments would be the frayers, as you two negotiate the surroundings and adjust to the other's presence.

The More Than Words Foundation sounds great. We have some favorites in our house. As I've told my daughter, it's all about finding the organization that speaks to you and volunteer. She's a teen and spent three years working with a local aquarium that introduces visitors to the local ecosystem and promotes stewardship of the bay, with a decidedly youth focus. Teaching the next generation the responsibilities and passing on the mantle of conservation.

Off to read the excerpt. Thanks Sia.

Catherine Mann said...

Hey there, Va! Rest assured, the doga numbers are kept low when working with dogs who are weary with cage life - just 2-3 dogs. We chose two dogs that were kennel buddies (in the same dog run) so we knew they got along with each other. We gave them a couple of quick runs around the Humane Society grounds before going into the doga class. One of my favorite moments from the session - the two buddies lay flat on their tummies and reached out paws to touch each other. Really a sweet moment!!

Thanks bunches for checking out the More Than Words program - and kudos to your daughter!!

Leah Marie Brown said...

I have been fortunate enough to be associated with Catherine Mann for many years now (In fact, I met her before she had published a single book). Since then, I have watched her experience the success I knew she would achieve. She is truly as bright, personable, passionate, daring, and determined as any of her heroines.

Thanks for an interesting blog and great ideas for combating the Block, Cathy!

Wishing you continued success.

Stephanie Newton said...

I do yoga at home and my dogs make fun of me. Maybe the secret would be including them!

What a great article!

Catherine Mann said...

Hi there, Leah!! Thanks so much for stopping by the blog and for saying such sweet things. Of course, you already know I think you're a gem!!!

Catherine Mann said...

Hi Steph! I think your precious poodles would totally love doga!!! ;-) Thank you for stopping by to say howdy.

aries18 said...

I've never heard of doga before. But I've had pitbull cross dogs and they're wonderful. Any dog can be a terrific pet if they're taught how to behave. Pit bulls have gotten a rotten rep because of the very traits that make them valuable dogs, their tenaciousness and, ahem, 'doggedness.'

I'd take my pal Fred to doga if it were offered here. Even though he's now 15 years old I know he'd enjoy meeting and greeting new friends. There's a reason he's named Fred the Friendly Canine.

Great guest Sia. It was so nice to meet you Catherine. Have a great week ladies.

Catherine Mann said...

Hi Aries! I completely agree with you about the special and sweet nature of the bulldog breeds! It's a shame the illegal activities of some people have given the dogs a bad rep.

Your pal Fred sounds like a sweetheart! Our lab mix dog Sam is a super mellow dude like that. :-) Our dog Sadie (Boston Terrier mix) is a bit more high energy, but she is so dear, and so very patient in playing mama to the puppies we foster.

Thanks bunches for the comment!

Catherine Mann said...

Hi Aries! I completely agree with you about the special and sweet nature of the bulldog breeds! It's a shame the illegal activities of some people have given the dogs a bad rep.

Your pal Fred sounds like a sweetheart! Our lab mix dog Sam is a super mellow dude like that. :-) Our dog Sadie (Boston Terrier mix) is a bit more high energy, but she is so dear, and so very patient in playing mama to the puppies we foster.

Thanks bunches for the comment!

Catherine Mann said...

PRIZE WINNERS!! Congrats to Kat Sheridan, Other Lisa, and Tonya Kappes! You've won the contest drawing. To collect your prize, e-mail me at: Please include your snail mail address and which book you would like to receive:
HOTSHOT - Berkley Sensation or
BOSSMAN'S BABY SCANDAL - Silhouette Desire

And also please note in you subject header: Over Coffee Contest.

Thanks so much, everyone! It's been a blast chatting w/you!!!!!

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Sia, I so love your blog! You have the greatest people and books here.

Hi Catherine, I had heard of doga but never tried it with my own. When I do a downward dog my bichon jumps on my head- every time. lol.

Thanks both of you for the great post. Cheers~

Catherine Mann said...

LOL, what a cute image, Nancy!!! During my experience with doga, the doggies definitely showed a trend of trying to mirror us - was really fun to see! (Although none of them jumped on my head. ;-)

Kat Sheridan said...

W00t! Thank you so much! I'm so excited to have won!

Other Lisa said...

YAY!!! Sorry to get to this so late -- crazy couple of days for me!

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