Friday, January 8, 2010

Juggling Writing and Life--Chat with Cheryl Brooks

Back Cover Blurb:

When a Zetithian fugitive meets a beautiful Earth woman, their passion may cost them both their lives…

Manx is a Zetithian fugitive with a feline gene that gives him remarkable sexual powers. He has been in hiding in the remote jungles of Barada Seven ever since being marked for extermination by the violent Nedwuts.

Artist Drusilla arrives on Barada Seven, enticed only by the promise of finding a nature paradise there. But she discovers a wildlife she wasn't expecting when she encounters Manx. Reckless with desire for the beautiful Earth woman, Manx risks his life to win her as his mate.

It's only a matter of time until the Nedwuts find them, but it will take all of Manx and Drusilla's passion, skill, and ingenuity to survive.

I've been intrigued with Cheryl Brooks and The Cat Star Chronicles, ever since I first met her last winter. I immediately went to my bookstore to get a copy of her book and found...They didn't have them! Didn't have them? Why? (might I add, that has changed. Never underestimate a determined reader, *winking.) So I put in an order and got my first read, wonderful stories combining Sci-fi, which I love, and Romance. I haven't had the chance to read all of Cheryl's books but what I have read I've loved. They're imaginative, take place in a well built world, full of wondrous inhabitants, and a solid story line.

My Thoughts:

What I enjoyed about Fugitive was the well-crafted world she creates. Not only was it a *place* but it included a cast of characters that inhabited the world. At first glance these inhabitants seems rather ineffectual, harmless, defenseless but while they aren't advocates of violence (no weapons allowed) they are far from defenseless. I also like the day-to-day glimpses of their lifestyle and culture, and flora and fauna.
To me, especially in a sci-fiction story, this is the base on which the rest of the story must sit, so if that's not realistic, than the story doesn't matter. Cheryl does a wonderful job of giving you a real world in galaxy far away.

Cat Star Chronicles are about a race of feline humanoids called Zetithians. The Zetithians are a hunted species and have a bounty on their heads and some rather nasty creatures doing the hunting. Someone’s pulling the strings of the hunt, but we don’t know whom or why, but we do get clues along the way.

The Zetithians are highly sexual, have more than their share of sex appeal--in fact, the sirens of legend have nothing on these guys when it comes to drawing sexual partners. While they can and do have affairs, they are men who look for their mate, someone they can bond with for life. I like the way Cheryl presents this bond and the importance of it.

Manx is literally a fugitive on Barada Seven, hiding from bounty hunters, existing, if you will. When a lovely artist from earth comes to Barada Seven to paint her specialty, birds, the two of them, Manx and Drusilla, meet. Drusilla has also merely existed in her life, although she is a highly acclaimed artist. Meeting each other kicks in the romance of the story. What a romance. Very hot and sizzles. All I can say is wow! I love the way Cheryl brings these two to life. The awakening if you will.

The story is well paced and skillfully puts you squarely into this world. The pace is varied—some lingering with the romance here and there, letting you discover who these two people are as they learn about each other. You care about them. However, the tension is constantly building. Your heart pumps in fear for Manx when the off-worlders hunting him land. You worry about the danger Drusilla is being drawn into. Your heart also melts with the love developing between the two. Well, it’s not only your heart, lol!

I love secondary characters. They add depth to a story and my favorite in this one is Zef. He’s an old coot with language filled with colorful metaphors, but he has a heart of gold. He also truly cares for Manx and wants him happy. He also does a bit of match making which made me laugh. With Zef and Manx you see not only two friends but also you see the sense of humor both have and they play off each other. Which was fun.

This story can be read as a stand alone, but there is a mystery to solve, and those clues start in the first of the series and build a bit in each book.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. There wasn’t a spot that made me lose interest. I had to make myself put it down to do chores that needed doing and I made the time (putting off other things) to finish it in a couple of days. The story grabs you and doesn’t let go. If you’re looking for a good romance combined with good Sci-fi, this is the book to read. I’ll be reading all of Cheryl’s backlist and any future books. I’d recommend you do the same.

I was thrilled to be able to have a chance to, not only read Fugitive but talk with Cheryl a bit:

  • Did you have a good holiday? Do anything special?

    Hmm, let's see, would driving an hour and a half to pick up my puppy from the vet in Indianapolis qualify as special?

    Oh no! Uh, no, that's not my idea of a great holiday. Is she okay?

    She had surgery on Dec 18th and again on the 21st and finally came home Christmas Eve. She's doing fine now, as are all of my family, which is the best Christmas gift anyone could receive.

    You work full time as a nurse? So how do you balance your career and writing as prolifically as you do? Do actually sleep, lol?

    Yes, I work three twelve-hour night shifts per week in the ICU, but I'm not balancing it as well as I used to. When I was just writing for fun, it was a whole lot easier because all I had to do was write and there were no deadlines. Nowadays I'm promoting and writing and editing and proofreading and trying to work a full time job and take care of my home and family all at the same time! The thing that has disappeared is time for myself, be it riding my horses or playing my guitar. Watching television is pretty much a thing of the past, and thought I do actually sleep, there are times when it doesn't feel like it. I learned a very long time ago that sleep is a night shift person's best friend and most essential nutrient. Not enough sleep equals lousy writing and unsafe nursing.

    Given your work and writing schedule, what do you do to relax and recharge?

    I still have my horses, but riding is something I rarely have time for anymore. However, reading a little Harry Potter before bed makes everything seem better and has become the thing I look forward to the most. I recently got a treadmill, so I'm hoping to start writing and walking at the same time. Not sure how well that will work, but my body is sending me signals I can't ignore any longer!

    Your first three books were first person, and the fourth and fifth have been in third. What made you decide to go with third person?

    That was an editorial decision. Some readers really enjoy the first person voice, while others thought it was wrong for romance writing. I was asked to make the switch with book four, Outcast. By that time, the book was already about two thirds written and making that change was very difficult. I had never heard of head hopping until I was writing Fugitive, and though I did my best to avoid it, sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do! Hero, the sixth book was written after I'd learned the “rules” of writing in third person, so hopefully I'm getting better at it. I loved writing in first person, but I've also discovered that the inside of my hero's head is a very interesting place to be. Not only that, but you have the opportunity to explore the motivations of the villains, which is something you just can't do in first person unless your bad guy is given to monologuing.

    Your main character, Manx, is a Zetithian, which is an alien species of feline humanoids. Did you study cats to accomplish realistic characteristics? Or was it merely years of observation of cats in general?

    I've had cats as pets for a very long time, in fact, I can't remember when there wasn't a cat hanging around my house. Their sleek grace and their incredible eyes are very alluring, as is their purr, but you have only to watch some funny cat videos to know that there is humor in them, too, which, for me, is an essential component in the perfect hero.

    Mine too!

    What did you like about your main character? He’s quite something. Blatant, very sexy, and yet surprisingly he's very caring of those around him.

    I liked Manx's sense of humor the best. The fact that he's gorgeous and sexy and not inhibited about it doesn't hurt any. Plus, my heroes are not the alpha male type; they are gentle and likeable and treat women as equals, but when it comes to a fight, they’re the guys you want on your side.

    What was the most fun about writing this story?

    I loved putting myself in the place of an artist and then dreaming up all the ways she and Manx could interact—the “body painting” scene is one of my personal favorites. Drusilla's character was based on a friend of mine who tends to mutter pithy comments under her breath, and I had a lot of fun with that.

    What scene do you like the best in your story?

    The scene where Manx asks Drusilla to marry him is my favorite. I recently read it aloud at our RWA chapter retreat, and though it got some laughs, it choked me up at the end, which is just the way I wanted it!

    Cheryl, I really enjoyed your story. I have to say I have a favorite secondary character. Well two—Zef and Klog. Can you tell us a little bit about them?

    Zef is an eltran—a lake-dwelling amphibian indigenous to Barada Seven—who has a penchant for collecting curse words in a variety of languages. He always says exactly what he's thinking and plays matchmaker for Manx and Drusilla. Klog is the kind of droid you want running your house. He always knows what you want without being asked and, if you’re ever in a tight spot, he's got your back. He doesn't talk much, just communicates with beeps, chirps, and buzzes, but he makes a mean margarita!

    Okay, I really, really want a Klog for myself. I wonder how I can import him? Where did you say Barada Seven was? Lolol!

    I know you are hard at work on another story. Can you tell us a bit about it and when it will be released?

    The sixth book in the series, Hero, has already gone to the copyeditor and will be released in August 2010. The story is about Trag, (the other brother in Rogue) and a Zetithian female named Micayla, who was orphaned at a young age and was raised on Earth. She is ignorant of her background and even the name of her species, but when she and Trag meet, everything changes and sparks begin to fly! This is also the book where the person responsible for the destruction of Zetith is revealed, but what happens to him is a secret! The next project is called Renegade, but I'm not sure when it will be released—mainly because I'm not sure when I'll finish writing it!

    Personally, I'm all for the comeuppance of that person. I did enjoy the deduction session between the Nedwuts (which I keep wanting to call nedbuts, lol), and of course Jack and her crew's ideas as well. I love a puzzle and I'm madly trying to figure out who's behind it all. I still have a couple of your books I need to read. Maybe I'll get more clues there.

    I’m really looking forward to reading the next story. I also appreciate you taking the time to stop in here at Over Coffee.

    Thanks for having me here, Sia. As always, it's been a pleasure!


    Cheryl Brooks is the author of The Cat Star Chronicles. This series of erotic science fiction novels explores the lives of the last of a race of feline lovers captured in war and sold into slavery. Discover how the men of Zetith could make an entire galaxy of men jealous enough to destroy their race...

    Slave was the first of Cheryl's books to be published with Sourcebooks Casablanca. What makes it even more exciting is that they have asked for five more novels in this series!

    Cheryl is a native of Louisville, KY, and graduated from the Kentucky Baptist Hospital School of Nursing and then went on to earn a BSN from Indiana University. Horse crazy from the time she knew what a horse was, her family moved to rural Indiana in 1989. Since then, she's managed to accumulate four horses and five cats. Cheryl has been working full-time as a critical care nurse for more than thirty years, which can be exciting, but she's itching for a different kind of excitement!

    Cheryl's other interests include cooking, gardening, singing and guitar playing. "I'm really hurt that The Eagles got back together without me!"

    You can visit Cheryl at her website:
    . And catch her blogs at Wickedly Romantic and Cheryl Brooks Erotic Blogspot

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Chat with Sharon Lathan

Back Cover Blurb:

"I love you, my Elizabeth. You are my soul, my blood and bone, my very life."

Married life is bringing out the best in the Darcys. Their mutual attentiveness brings readers into a magical world of love and wedded bliss.

Elizabeth is growing into her role as Mistress of Pemberley, and Darcy has mellowed under her gentle teasing and light-heartedness. Pemberley becomes a true home and a welcoming environment for loving family and friends. The Darcys travel to the seaside, welcome their firstborn, celebrate their anniversary and second Christmas, and at every moment embrace the love gifted to them.

Sharon’s stories are fun forays into Regency England with one of the most famous couples in Romance. You’re immersed in the world of the time and living with the Darcy’s. Most of the conflict is the natural inner conflict of two adults adjusting to being married. Add a dab of family issues, problems with friends, a couple of scoops of adventure, and you have the life of the Darcy’s, Lathan style.

Lizzy is feisty, which she would need to be with a man of Darcy’s character. Lizzy is not a modern woman of our time dressed in costume, spouting Regency dialog, as is the case with many historicals today. Elizabeth Bennett Darcy is written as a woman of the era, yet she is still a strong woman. She has a great sense of humor (which we do pick up a bit from Austen’s original story), she makes me smile and laugh. I admire her strong streak of loyalty and love for her family and her friends—and of course a deep love for Darcy.

What I like is the depth Sharon brings to Darcy. In Austen’s stories, Darcy is almost two dimensional… in Sharon’s stories we catch a glimpse of what’s under the surface of the reserve and we see his heart. Most definitely three-dimensional character with a deep love of family and a very strong streak of responsibility for those he considers his.

Overall, the Darcy Saga is a beautiful example of Happy Ever After.

I had a chance to chat a bit with Sharon Lathan about her life and her series on Mr. and Mrs. Darcy as well as her latest book

Did you have a good holiday? Do anything special?

I had a fabulous holiday! Christmas is our favorite holiday, so it is always special no matter what we do. However, this year we decided to go all out. We bought annual passes to Disneyland and spent four days touring the Magic Kingdom the week before Christmas. It was truly magical and enhanced our holiday cheer tenfold. I highly recommend visiting Disneyland when their Christmas decorations are up. They are simply incredible and literally everywhere you turn. The day itself was quietly spent at home with lots of food and a ton of presents. My hubby bought me a Kindle that I am thinking I will like after all! Sadly our families are far away, so it was just we four, but after hours on the phone talking to everyone it almost felt as if they were there.

  • Oh, what a lovely holiday tradition, Sharon. No one can do lights and magic quite like Disney. :-)

You work full time as a nurse? Is that correct? So how do you balance your career and writing?

I work just slightly less than full-time as an RN in a Neonatal ICU. I work 12-hour night shifts, so in one way that helps as it gives me many hours off. But the toll of working nights for 20+ years is beginning to affect me! It is very difficult to balance work responsibilities with my family and homemaking requirements while trying to write and maintain a dynamic website. Thankfully I am extremely organized, a hard worker, and passionate about both of my professions. Yet I still would not manage if it weren’t for the support of my family. They pick up the slack. And thank God they do or I am sure the house would have crumbled around us ages ago! Nevertheless, if anyone has any great tips on how to better do-it-all, I am all ears.

  • Working with babies. Awww. No wonder your birth scene and the Darcy's reactions are so true to life. As far as suggestions to help with how to do it better with regard to organizing home and professional life, don't look at me. I find myself picking up the *crumbles* every now then. It's a juggling act, that's for sure. I have to admire anyone that can handle two professions as well as you seem to do.

Given your work and writing schedule, what do you do to relax and recharge?

I have to take time for myself. I am not a pampering kind of gal, so pedicures or long bubble baths are a rare relaxing technique. But I do frequently put it all aside to read a book, play brainless but fun computer games, go on a dinner/movie date with my hubby, and watch my favorite TV shows. Strangely I look forward to my nights at work. It may be busy, but I love the tiny babies. It is a wonderful diversion from the publishing and writing demands, plus it is my time to socialize with my friends. I also make time to hang out with the gals from my Romance Writer’s group. They are awesome and the support and friendship with people who understand this crazy business and the weirdness of a writer’s mind is invaluable!

You write Fan-fiction. Have you considered writing anything else?

Well, for the most part I feel as if my saga has moved way beyond pure fan-fiction. I have taken these characters far past where Austen left them, interpreted them to fit my vision, have created a vivid, complex world, and have invented a ton of characters uniquely mine. The main players may have the names and basic personalities created by Austen, but they are profoundly different, as their lives have evolved with time.

However, I do know what you mean, and the answer is yes. I am currently writing a novel that follows Georgiana Darcy. Yes, she is originally Austen’s creation, but my story is five years beyond the vague incarnation Georgiana has in P&P, so I truly feel as if this story is completely set apart and all mine. Beyond that, I love writing historical fiction so I am pretty sure I will stay within that genre. But at present my mind is too occupied with the Darcys to dwell upon anything else! We shall see!

  • Now that one is one I'd love to read. I often wished that Austen had amplified Georgiana's role or done a sequel. But of course, that wasn't the way back then.

What do you like about your Mr. Darcy? What makes him different in your writing of him?

Austen’s Mr. Darcy is enigmatic and largely an unknown character. Of course that is fabulous for those of us who want to reinvent him!

My Mr. Darcy is on the one hand all male, commanding, domineering, forceful, and strong. He trains horses, is an accomplished hunter, flies falcons, avidly loves the outdoors, can fence proficiently, and adores swimming in the ocean. He is intelligent, an ardent reader, a brilliant manager of his estate, curious about new inventions, wisely aware of modern technologies and diverse business propositions, and keenly informed on current events.

Yet, at the same time he is loving, sentimental, and passionate. He is deeply devoted to his family, harbors a poet’s heart, and is fiercely protective. He is shy, reserved, controlled, and stoic, yet he has a quick wit, dry humor, and fiery temper.

Too perfect? Probably! But then do we not want that in our heroes? He does have flaws trust me. Lizzy, Richard Fitzwilliam, and Dr. Darcy love to point them out at every chance they get!

What was the most fun about writing this story?
  • One: The characters – all of them. I absolutely adore them and am thrilled to give life to them.

  • Two: Writing a saga-themed series of novels. I do not have to wind up the story in a few chapters or build up to one climax. My characters are allowed to grow and experience a host of adventures over a long course of time. And I am allowed to write dozens of interesting dramas within one book. How cool is that?

  • Three: The history and research involved. I love history, always have, and now I am able to “live” in a past world, bring it to vivid reality, and share that knowledge with my readers in an entertaining way.

  • Four: Presenting a positive story with a hopeful message. I won’t get up on my soap box, but will assert that I think the world needs more stories that tell of a happy marriage between two people who truly love, respect, and care for each other. And I also think there should be more books that inspire and encourage.

What scene do you like the best in your story?

Man, that is a tough one! I think in this latest novel – My Dearest Mr. Darcy – I would have to say it is the entire birth chapter, especially the very end. I am extremely proud of how that turned out. Plus, I had waited months for that baby to make an appearance! There is also a part earlier in the book where Lizzy shows her spunk and formidable strength against a certain someone. That was very fun to write and I am very proud of how Lizzy handled herself, even if Darcy nearly suffered a stroke!

What was the hardest thing for you to write in this book or this series?

I honestly can’t think of anything that was particularly hard. I have enjoyed the challenge of writing sequences that were a first for me, such as my first action sequence (a duel). I have enjoyed branching out to create new characters whose personalities and backgrounds are totally up to me. I did balk at writing conversations with a room full of people the first few times, but now it is fun to have each character speak in his/her voice.

Some research has been a trial, especially when I want to discover a specific fact and just can’t find it anywhere. Usually that falls in the realm of me wanting it to be in the story and not being able to verify the historical accuracy! Talk about frustrating!

There have been times when I found myself stumped, not knowing where I was to go next or unsure how to resolve a certain dilemma. But in all cases time and distance solved the problem.

Generally I prefer to write a trauma-free story, so adding unhappiness is not really easy for me. That being said, when I have strayed away from my patented hearts-and-roses plot line, I really enjoyed writing the dramatic stuff! Makes me wonder if I could tackle a pure adventure story… hmmm….

I know you are hard at work on another story. Can you tell us a bit about it and when it will be released?

The fourth novel in the Darcy Saga series – tentative title “Romancing Mr. Darcy” – is completed and my editor is beginning to do her thing. It will be released in October of 2010. I also have a novella that will be appearing in a Darcy Christmas themed anthology, along with Amanda Grange, to be released in November. That is written and will most likely be next on my editor’s agenda.

In between the editing process for those two projects, I will be finishing up “Darcy 5” (no title yet). I am more than two-thirds done, so it shouldn’t be too difficult. I hope! No hard date for release, but it will be somewhere in the Spring 2011 season. I am also finishing up Georgiana Darcy’s story. It is a pure romance, with strong history of course, and I have every reason to believe Sourcebooks wants it as my editor has asked for the synopsis and we have spoken about it frequently. But then, I am not counting those chickens as yet! Just trucking along and keeping my fingers crossed!

Thank you so much, Sia, for honoring me with the spotlight today. This was a very fun interview! I appreciate being able to talk about my Saga and the themes that are so important to me. I encourage anyone interested to click over to my website – - where I have tons of information, photos, a glossary, and more.

  • Sharon, you have a lovely website. I've enjoyed reading it! I also love the Book trailer of all three books there in one video. You have a bit of everything there and your blog too.

And thank you, for taking the time out of your busy schedule to be here today, to share the Darcy Saga with us.

Sharon Lathan is a native Californian currently residing amid corn, cotton, and cows in the sunny San Joaquin Valley. She divides her time as homemaker nurturing a husband and two children, plus the cat, dog, and fish; while also working as a Registered Nurse in a Neonatal ICU. Somewhere in there she finds time to write!

Monday, January 4, 2010

FTC Regs And Me

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) seems to think Bloggers are just raking in the dough and all kinds of free goodies. They are? Why didn’t anyone tell me about this? Sheesh. Free lunches or dinners? Uh, where’s mine, I might ask? Health spa certificates? I want one. New car? Well hell, why didn’t anyone tell about that before I bought my new Chevy Impala LT? I’d have sung its praises. I love my car.

Federal Trade Commission is moving to regulate social-media advertising. The FTC is planning to hold marketers liable for false statements published on blogs and social networks—meaning companies or Bloggers could get sued for saying a product was good if it really wasn’t.

In other words, if you were paid to write a review, or got a product for free, or use an affiliate link in your post, you need to tell your readers. New guidelines would clarify that the agency can go after Bloggers — as well as the companies that compensate them — for any false claims or failure to disclose conflicts of interest.

However, to comply with FTC regulations I did adjust my note on the sidebar to reflect that some publishers and authors do send me ARCs to review. I don’t get compensated/paid to do them. I do have quite a few unsolicited books sent to me. Just because they’re sent, and they’re free, doesn’t guarantee a review, either positive or negative. I don’t charge a fee to people to read my blog, via a subscription.

Everything I’ve read on the FTC guidelines tells me 99% of Bloggers have no worries about the FTC. It’s those Bloggers that get paid for the reviews of products, whether it’s makeup, spas, lotions, appliances, or books. Endorsements, if you will. I have no conflicts as I’m not paid exclusively by any publisher to review their books, or by Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Borders.

My blog, although well read, and this past week I celebrated having hundred followers in less than a year, is really small potatoes in the blogosphere. There are articles that have brought in 400 plus readers in a day, and others that only bring in 200. Still small when you compare it to the likes of Smart Bitches or Nathan Bransford, who can get that many comments, much less readers.

It’s been fun reading/researching various blogs that have commented on the FTC rules. Some are crying the sky is falling others are going big deal. Most I’ve read are either highly informative or funny as hell to read. I was referred to one of the latter by a friend of mine, Disclosure – The Full Monty Tim Ferris has some cute cartoons for the busy blogger to use as disclosures. I thought I’d share a few of them. They cracked me up.
  • Alas, I really have no use for them, darn it. Do you?

...if the male cover models were available...maybe.

Cartoons courtesy of Tim Ferris. See link above.