The men of Melissa Cutler's Catcher Creek series are irresistible, including the gorgeously rugged oil rights attorney Matt Roenick, hero of the third book, How to Rope a Real Man (out now!). He's certainly caught the eye of Jenna Sorentino, a single mom trying to get her act together and escape the tiny New Mexico town. In this guest post, Cutler shares her affinity for writing about strong, independent women and offers a sneak peek at Matt and Jenna's chemistry.
Melissa Cutler here, and I'm so excited to be on Bookpage talking about my latest western romance, How to Rope a Real Man. One thing that I hoped to achieve with this story—besides the most entertaining, engaging romance I could possibly write that left readers with a squishy, happy good-book high when they finished it—was that it would take a feminist stance. Even before this book, it was important to me that every book I write—from Harlequins to Westerns to small-town contemporaries—contain positive female relationships. And last year, I made a conscious choice to make sure all my books moving forward pass the Bechdel test (that, within the story, two women have a conversation about a topic other than men).
I’m not trying to write Message Books, but, rather, reflect our modern-day reality. The reality is, women are smart and capable. We form strong bonds with other women with whom we talk about things other than men; we often provide for our families financially; and we handle our shit. So in How to Rope a Real Man, single mom Jenna Sorentino is doing just that. She has strong relationships with her sisters and her best friend. She’s about to graduate college and has a job lined up that’s a strategic career move (with medical benefits, too!). And it was important to me to give Jenna a book hero who finds all those amazing qualities attractive. In fact, country lawyer Matt Roenick is my answer to the flood of alpha asshole heroes that have been all the rage lately.
I’m known for writing steamy romances, so you might ask: sure Matt is attracted to Jenna’s brain first and foremost, but is their physical connection present in the story? You bet. Do they have mind blowing sex? Heck, yeah. But like the vast majority of real life women, Jenna can’t easily orgasm during intercourse. Is that a problem for Matt? Nope. Matt has enough, er, tools in his toolbox that getting creative about Jenna’s pleasure is not an issue. Does it make their sex any less hot? That’s for readers to decide, but I think it makes those scenes even hotter.
I hope you’ll give How to Rope a Real Man a read. At its core, it’s a fun, heartfelt emotional journey of two people who are figuring out what they want out of life and falling in love in the process. Jenna is one of my favorite heroines, and Matt, one of my favorite heroes. Happy reading!
Here's the scene to whet your appetite:
With his eyes on the road, Matt cracked the knuckle of his middle finger and said, "I have a question I've been wanting to ask you. And I bet you've been asked it a hundred times."
As far as transitions went, this one was about as smooth as a dirt road after a rainstorm, but she decided to follow his train of thought around the mental U-turn. "You want to ask me about Tommy's father."
"That obvious, huh?"
She grinned and offered a shrug to show him she didn't mind. "He's not in the picture at all. Never has been, never will be."
Matt's breath gushed out in a whoosh and his torso folded in as though he would've doubled over if not for the support of the steering wheel. "What an idiot. I can't understand men like that."
One of Jenna's greatest sins was letting people believe Tommy's father wasn't around because he was a deadbeat. The truth was, the reason Tommy's father wasn't fulfilling his fatherly duties was because she'd never told him she was pregnant with his child. And unless she were to divulge the whole story of why she'd made that choice—which she'd never do because lives and livelihoods were at stake—then she came across as a borderline criminal, keeping a little boy and his daddy apart for no good reason.
“How are you coping with it? It's none of my business, but does the creep at least pay child support?"
Child support would've been nice. The money might have helped her cut down on her waitressing hours and given her more time with Tommy when he was little. "Tommy and I have managed all right. Rachel's helped a lot and now we've got the oil money coming in regularly." She touched his arm because gratitude was a good excuse to get her hand on him. "Thank you for being concerned about us."
He eased his arm away from her. "You almost told me something earlier but stopped yourself. You said you were juggling being a waitress and mom and something else."
It took her a lot of blinks to catch up with his second directional shift in as many minutes. And this time, she didn't like where they were headed. Not at all.
Her first instinct was to follow his lead by changing the subject. Then she thought about what a ridiculous conversational dance they were doing, twisting around every sensitive topic. How did she ever expect him to open up to her if she refused to do the same?
She scooted sideways in her seat, her heart pounding with a sudden burst of adrenaline. "I'll tell you something about me I've never told anyone, but it can't get around. Not even to my family . . . "
Thanks, Melissa! Readers, will you be checking out How to Rope a Real Man? Find our more about Melissa and the book on her website.
(Author photo by Tessa Desharnais)
Kristina McMorris' third novel, The Pieces We Keep, is a gripping tale of love, grief, family and secrets—and an exploration of the intriguing notion that firsthand memories can be shared between different generations. In this guest blog post, McMorris discusses the real-life experiences and stories that inspired her to write the book:
My childhood home was haunted.
It all seemed to come out of nowhere: the TV and lamps started turning on by themselves; my sister’s room gained distinct “cold spots,” similar to ones you might detect in a swimming pool; my mother would be cooking dinner and smell perfume behind her, though nobody else was there; or, I would be alone in the house, and the floor above would suddenly creak with enough footsteps to indicate a party in the making. Later, we learned that our next-door neighbors had also noticed oddities occurring in their own house around the same time.
Eventually, my parents invited our family’s pastor over for advice. When he arrived and noticed an exotic carved mask, a recent gift from a friend’s travels, he expressed an uneasy feeling and suggested my parents remove it—which they did. Our pastor then blessed the house, room by room, and all the strange happenings came to a stop. Only later did we discover that the mask had been purchased in the notoriously mysterious country of Haiti, and that our house had been built on the edge of what was originally a cemetery.
(Poltergeist memories, anyone?)
Whether our experiences were actually born of the paranormal, or simply dramatic perceptions of logical instances, I couldn’t tell you for sure. What I do know is that, as a result, I grew up with a mind open to possibilities beyond explanation.
Perhaps this was a large part of the reason a particular news segment piqued my interest two years ago. Apparently, as a toddler, the boy in the story suffered from recurrent night terrors about dying in a plane crash. His knowledge of obscure historical facts ultimately convinced his skeptical parents that he’d once been a WWII pilot who perished in battle.
On a personal note, my oldest son had also suffered from night terrors in his toddler years and would even speak of a grandmother who didn’t exist. Could they have been merely the creative ramblings of a youngster? Absolutely. Still, the writer in me began to wonder: What would I have done if he, too, had spouted historical details he couldn’t possibly have known? What if those details were secrets other people wanted to keep buried?
From these questions a novel started to take shape. Completing the premise was a declassified report a friend had shared with me: an astounding case of Nazi saboteurs who were dropped off by U-Boat on the East Coast of America in 1942. As I researched the topic further, I discovered a trail of romance and tragedy, deceptive dealings by J. Edgar Hoover, and a secret military tribunal convened by FDR. It all seemed the elements of a Hollywood film, a fascinating tale I couldn’t resist.
Needless to say, I hope readers feel the same about The Pieces We Keep.
What do you think, readers? Will you be checking out The Pieces We Keep? Find out more about McMorris and the book on her website.
Kate Douglas writes the DemonSlayers series for Kensington Zebra, the latest installation of which is called StarFire. Below the author—also an avid traveler—answers the age-old question: Where do you get your ideas?
Readers: Where do you get your best ideas for creative projects? Let us know in the comments.
Where DO You Get Those Crazy Ideas?
Guest post by Kate Douglas
It happened to me again this weekend—someone asked me the question all of us who write often have to answer: “Where do you get your ideas?” Since I write both erotic and paranormal romance, I guess it’s understandable curiosity. Needless to say, I’d much rather discuss the ideas for my paranormal stories. I’ll leave the other to your imagination.
My husband and I love to travel. We’ll take off with Rufus the mutt in our little motorhome and head out with a somewhat nebulous destination in mind. The thing is, when you’ve got your own bed, kitchen stove and potty close at hand, the destination isn’t important. It’s the journey that counts.
Writing is a lot like that. I always know where I’m going to end up—hopefully with a soft sigh and a “happily ever after” ending—but getting there is what it’s all about. For that you need ideas, and those wandering trips often spark the next story.
A couple of years ago, we took off for a long weekend of camping up near Mount Shasta, an absolutely glorious dormant volcano in northern California. Shasta is famous as an energy vortex, similar to those around Sedona, Arizona. While we were in the little town of Mount Shasta, we wandered in and out of the tourist shops. Two of them really held my attention—a rock, gem and crystals shop, and a funky little bookstore. The gem shop had absolutely gorgeous stuff, including some of the most beautiful geodes I’d ever seen. Geodes are totally normal looking stones on the outside, filled with unimaginably beautiful crystals on the inside.
If you’ve read Crystal Dreams in the Nocturnal anthology, you’ll know exactly what story I found in that shop. Before I’d even stepped outside, my head was filled with images of Marigold Moonbeam Schwartz, aka Mari, wielding a powerful geode against demonkind as she fights beside Darius the Lemurian warrior.
Our next stop was the bookstore, which had a wonderful selection of books on local legends. I picked one up about an entire civilization deep inside the dormant volcano and was immediately reminded of the tales my dad used to tell about the Lemurians—for those of you who’ve read any of my DemonSlayers stories, you’ll know where this is heading, too.
By the time we were driving out of town, my head was filled with the first scenes of DemonFire, where demon-possessed garden gnomes are attacking Dax, my demon-turned-demon fighter. Obviously, Lemurians were involved, and the energy vortex that eventually led us on another trip, this time to Sedona, Arizona.
I can’t really explain the segue between a visit to a gem shop and the completed story about an accountant-turned-witch, but trust me on this, if I’d not held those geodes in my hands, if I hadn’t camped in the shadow of Mount Shasta, those stories might never have been written. There truly is a connection between the smallest visual, the slightest comment, the tactile experience of grasping a strange piece of stone in your hand, and the books lined up on the shelves. I know where the idea begins and I know how it ends, but the rest of it in between remains a mystery. And isn’t that what makes reading such a joy? Wondering how it’s all going to turn out, and then going along for the ride?
StarFire, the third book in my DemonSlayers series, came out April 5, and the danger to my band of demon slayers is heating up. Selyn, one of the Forgotten Ones, is badly beaten, but she survives due to Dawson Buck's medical intervention. He might only be a veterinarian, but he treats Selyn's broken ribs and punctured lung and saves her life. Drawn into the battle between Lemurians and Demonkind, Dawson is an unlikely hero, but he proves that a strong heart and stronger will can overcome the greatest obstacles, and that with love, anything is possible.
The DemonSlayers story began with a beautiful mountain and a legend about Lemurians. Where it finally ends up is what makes the trip such fun. Read StarFire, and then watch for CrystalFire, the final installment in the series, scheduled for release in Fall 2011.