Tag Archives: writing

the writing chair – an update

Last I left you, I was sitting in a holey chair with no support and little time or energy for finding a replacement. Well here is a happy ending update for you. We have this building on our property, probably from the late 1800’s, and when we first moved in over 10 years ago, I got it in my head to furnish it and turn it into a ‘playhouse’–bar, bar stools, antique collectibles, big screen TV, chess, cards, books, stereo, and–wait for it–a chaise lounge. So I started thinking, would that fit in my writing room? Would it be comfortable? I made the mistake of thinking out loud and the next thing I know I hear a strange noise outside, and go downstairs to find the husband dragging the chaise from the playhouse, up the stone path to the back door of the house, because, you know, why ask for help.

Anyway, since it was here I thought I might as well try it in the room. Between the two of us we got it up the stairs and lo and behold, I love it. It’s big enough I can fit on it with a few cats (always a consideration in this house). I can sit upright, or lay down. I can work or I can nap or I can watch TV when I’m supposed to be working. And it is finally a chair befitting a romance author. Everyone thinks we lie around on chaise lounges eating bon bons and drinking champagne in our negligees anyway, at least now I’ve got one thing right–a leopard chaise! And I didn’t even have to leave the house and go to a store to find it! Let’s see if it inspires any good stories, shall we?

Cat Johnson's Leopard Writing Chaise

Cat

a new year

New years resolutions

New Year’s Eve is just around the corner. Of course, it’s a time for bubbly (check out Amy’s post on the best bottles HERE). I’m thinking of going healthy this year and maybe splashing some pomegranate juice in my champagne on Monday night. Can’t have enough anti-oxidents, I always say!

New Years is also a time for resolutions. Are you staring at a blank piece of paper now trying to come up with some? I’m not big on resolutions, myself. Yes, I’ve unofficially tried making them in the past and yes, as expected, all I did was set myself up for failure. So this year I’m taking a new tactic. I’m looking back and seeing what I did successfully accomplish over the past year, and I vow to try to continue that success.

Like what, you ask?

#1 Well, for one I actually said no last year. To quite a few people actually. Work wise I said no to: Publishers (yes, more than one) who wanted me to write for them. An agent. And a special project. Why? I’m busy enough now I have to choose what projects are best for my career.

Saying no personally is pretty freeing too. Just last night I was too tired to drive to have a casual dinner with friends, the same friends I will spend all New Years Eve with just days from now, so I said no to last night. I was in bed and asleep by 8PM and slept until 7am. My body knew I needed it. My mouth finally had the nerve to agree out loud.

So yes, for 2013 I will resolve to continue saying no, when necessary, so I have the time and energy to say yes when it’s important. It’s scary, this saying no, but I’ve proven I can do it already.

#2 Last year I gave up the powdered creamer and the splenda artificial sweetener and started drinking my coffee with half and half, a spoon of real sugar and a little bit of all natural stevia. Quite the concoction I know, but guess what? I didn’t blimp up the way I feared I might from the change.

I will resolve this healthy change will continue in 2013.

#3 I also finally moved my “office” (and I use that term lightly). I no longer work in bed. I get up each morning, go to the spare room and sit in a chair to work on the laptop. No, it’s not by any stretch of the imagination an ergonomic office chair, but at least it’s a chair. And you know what? I’m sleeping better now that I’m only in the bedroom to sleep, not to work. All the electronics–cell phone, iPad and laptop live in the spare room, not next to the bed any longer. My brain must know this.

I resolve this too will continue. No more working where I sleep, though I have been known to sleep where I work. Authors perogative–napping in the office. Don’t be jealous.

Anyway, give it a try. Recycling small victories as New Year’s resolutions is way better than trudging into the great unknown with new ones. Trust me.

holy, wholey holey sweater, batman!

Confession- I guess I can get a bit obsessive. Such as my need to wake up each morning during the colder weather and put on my writing sweater. It’s a comfy, cozy black cashmere hoodie. It goes with everything. It’s warm. It’s comfortable. Most importantly, it requires no thought on my part. I can throw it on with fleece pants, or jeans, or my pajama bottoms and if someone comes knocking at the door, I feel mostly dressed when answering it.

Well, I’ve worn it so much over the past few years that I now have holes in both elbows. Big ones. And I just noticed yesterday one starting under the arm. I’m heartbroken, and now torn. The husband strongly suggested I throw it out. Immediately. I can’t bring myself to do it. I’m trying to figure out how to patch the elbows–that’s a fashionable look, no?

Meanwhile, yeah, I guess I could replace it, but the child in me, the one who carried around the same baby blanket until it was also holey, doesn’t want to.

Right now I’m trying another one of my sweaters out, taking it for a spin to see if it’s worthy of becoming my new writing sweater. So far, not so good. It doesn’t match my PJ bottoms, it’s cut too slim to be uber-cozy comfy, and I haven’t written a word yet today except for this blog post.

I guess I’ll give in eventually. Suck it up and just buy a new black hoodie, but until then I’ll wear my holey sweater, look like a hobo, and mourn the day when it’s gone, thereby proving that writers are indeed a little bit nutty.

coffee!

dreamstimefree_148418I laughingly joked last week on Facebook that I should be able to deduct a new coffee maker as a business expense on my taxes because any writer knows caffiene is a tool of our trade. I was only half joking, and I definitely wasn’t in a good mood after yet another coffeemaker bit the dust.

So there I stood in my kitchen with one Grind-n-Brew which ground the beans just fine, but refused to drip, and a slightly older Grind-n-Brew which would drip fine but wouldn’t grind. Thank God my hoarder tendencies made me keep my half broken coffeemaker. Little did I know I’d need it for my counter-coffee-maker lineup. That’s when I decided I was done with both Cuisinart and with the combo machines.

So I took my coffee, once I finally got it made, and I googled and I found what I hope will be the Cadallac of coffeemakers and provide me with years of caffeinated bliss–I bought a Viking. They make great stoves so I figured why not?

I also ordered a separate burr grinder and so far, so good. Yes, we’ve had two mishaps. I’m so used to my Grind-n-Brew that I keep forgetting to actually take the grinds out of the grinder and transfer them to the filter basket in the coffeemaker. But I’ll get over that eventually.

What sold me? The Viking’s claim to fame was that it heats the water to what experts say is the optimal brewing temperature–195 degrees fahrenheit. The longevity of this machine as compared to the short-lived Cusinarts has yet to be proven but I have hope…and now, nice hot coffee…and a pretty new maker. And I’m going to need it too, since tomorrow is new release day for FLANKED, and as you know there’s no rest for the wicked.

Cat

poppies, pics & posts

Poppy Field

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

I guess writers view the world a little differently. Little things that I would have in past overlooked, now can reach out and grab me. This morning, out of a twitter feed filled with tweets from the some 2000 accounts I follow, one message jumped out at me and I clicked on it. It was posted by a USMC account and the article was about Marines in Afghanistan.

So many things about the article struck me, to the point I saved it so I could refer back later–yes, for research, because it seems everything in my life relates somehow to writing. But the larger point is, I didn’t have to read the article. My current military romance books are all written right now and I haven’t planned or contracted new ones yet. This is the kind of thing I would have groaned about reading back in high school for class, but now, I’m IMing a Marine friend to discuss interesting tidbits I found in the article, because I was excited about it!

For instance, I’m excited there was a bad poppy harvest, the bad guys’ largest source of income. I noticed that tidbit, a single sentence, buried on page 2 of the article because I wrote a scene in an Afghan poppy field in an upcoming military romance novel of mine.

Six years ago I would have looked at a picture of the poppy field and thought of Van Gogh. Or perhaps thought, “how pretty”. Or maybe even decided I was craving a lemon-poppyseed muffin. Today, I see a poppy field and, for better or worse, I immediately see it as a source of illegal drugs, the income from the sale of which buys weapons to kill American soldiers. Am I sorry for this loss of naiveté? Not at all. In fact, I’m grateful, because for us to truly appreciate the beauty in the world, there has to be an awareness that there exists ugliness as well.

Cat

red hot & blue chicken salad

Red Hot & Blue Chicken Salad

A Red Hot & Blue Signature Recipe:

I’m no chef but I do pride myself on my creative uses of leftovers, which is how this dinner came about. Hot wing sauce and blue cheese dressing makes this a great way to use up leftover chicken with all the satisfaction of eating hot wings. You get all the good stuff you’d get in a bar if you ordered chicken wings–the blue cheese dressing, the carrot and celery for dipping, and of course the tasty hot chicken wings, all on top of lettuce so you can pretend you’re being healthy! AND as I’m sitting there deciding what to name my recipe, it hit me. Red Hot and Blue–just like the name of my book series. It’s not often I can be both a promo ho and a foodie at the same time… okay, maybe more often than you’d think. But in any case, try this with 4th of July leftover chicken. Quick, easy and you’ll never notice you’re eating leftovers!

1 cup leftover cooked chicken, sliced to bite sized pieces

1 Tb Butter

2 Tb Hot Sauce (such as Crystal or Frank’s Red Hot)

Lettuce

Carrots, chopped

Celery, chopped

Blue Cheese dressing

Buffalo Hot Wing ChickenIn saucepan melt butter and add hot sauce. When blended, add chicken and heat just until warm.

With the remaining ingredients, assemble your salad (in either individual serving bowls for each person or one large bowl for serving family style). Place warm chicken pieces on top and serve immediately.

Note: You can add other salad ingredients if you’d like. I usually like to keep it purely chicken-wing themed, but tonight I had a cut tomato I needed to use up so that’s in there too.

Cat

it’s a wiki world…

…but you can’t wiki everything.

I’ll admit it, I turn to Wikipedia a lot. No, it’s not the most reliable source of information but it is quick, easy, straightforward and a good starting point for more research.

But some things can’t be looked up, can’t be researched from your nice comfy office chair. Sometimes you have to get out there and smell the bull shit. Literally. Oops, what’s that smell? Did you step in it? Good! You’ll be a better writer for it.

I recently read another author’s blog post about her new book release. The hero was a bull rider. In this post she wrote (and I’m paraphrasing the idea since I don’t remember the exact wording) how she didn’t understand why any man would want to get on the back of a bull just to get tossed around like a rag doll and thrown in the dirt.

I shook my head while reading that and said, aloud to no one because it was 4 am and only the cats and I were awake, “I understand it.”

Why? Because I’ve researched? Yes, in part. I’ve talked to bull riders on line, on the phone and in person, but most importantly, I’ve seen why first hand.

I’ve seen a rider close up immediately after getting off a bull. I’ve seen his hands shaking because he’s so hyped on adrenaline. The effects of adrenaline on a body are as strong as any drug, illegal or legal. It’s addicting. It’s a high and a rush, and when it’s over the person coming off that high wants nothing more than to do it again. Ask anyone really into extreme sports. It’s not the sport they’re addicted to, it’s the adrenaline.

Here’s what I’m saying… I’ve walked into an arena and been struck by the stench of bull. I’ve walked out of that arena hours later and realized I no longer smelled it because I’d become so accustomed to the odor. I’ve felt the platform I was standing on vibrate when the chute gate crashed open feet from me. I’ve jumped from the loudness and close proximity of that clanging of metal on metal. I’ve watched  the cowboy next to me take off his hat and take a knee when a rider got bucked off and wasn’t moving. I’ve been eye to eye with the bull when it was looking for the out gate after dumping a rider, but instead made eye contact with me on top of the chutes. I’ve had arena dust cover my pretty leather boots. I”ve seen bull fighters and riders in various states of undress as they prepped for a ride. I’ve seen the holes in the soles of the boots bull rider’s reserve just for riding before they change into their good boots for afterward.

And I hope to God with every book I write that I can adequately impart every one of those sensory images to my readers.

Still don’t understand it? I’m truly sorry for that, and more than grateful that I have the privilege to.

Cat

things that make me tingle

It’s Valentine’s Day, which means across America there are some men spending much too much on flowers, and some men who are in trouble because they didn’t. There are some women who are celebrating the gifts from their mates, and others who are bemoaning their lack thereof (either the gifts or the mates).

Here’s a little secret… Flowers wither. Chocolate is fattening.  Here is what really makes me tingle–

  • A new book contract. Seriously, heart-racing, hand-shaking tingles. Read the tale about my most recent contract offer HERE
  • Finding my titles on a bookseller’s shelf and turning them all to face cover out! Feel free to do that for me as well in your local bookstore. You might want to not let the clerk see you though.
  • Sticking my book promo inside the books of my fellow authors who write similar books to mine. Hey, no one of us can write as fast as our readers can devour our books so why not share? Again, I try not to let the salesclerk see me doing that.
  • Typing THE END after working to complete a new work for weeks, sometimes months. The adrenaline rush is amazing.

Maybe it’s an author thing. Who knows? Sure, I’ll take take the flowers, candy and cards, and I’ll enjoy them and be very grateful. But give me a good book contract and some kick-ass sales figures and then you’ll see some real happiness, and as an erotic romance author I can be very creative in my gratitude, believe me.

Cat

new years day reflections

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As I pry my eyes open, both from the lack of sleep and the false eyelash glue from the New Years Eve festivities of last night, I can’t help but reflect on the year that’s past. 2011 was a hell of a year, and more than I ever expected. Some things I’m still having trouble wrapping my head around. Some things are still works in progress and my superstitions won’t let me talk about them for fear of jinxing them. But here is a list of some of the random, but memorable things from the year past.

  • A fan telling me when they Google ‘hot naked cowboys’ my picture comes up right along with the hot naked cowboy pics.
  • The cute cable guy calling his romance novel-loving mother to tell her I was an author and her not only knowing my name, but having read my Red, Hot & Blue series.
  • Signing a contract for a super secret and very exciting project with the lovely and talented Amy Reiley (chef, author and owner of the Eat Something Sexy blogs).
  • My first original self-publishing eBook ‘experiment’ which sold 6,000 copies in 6 weeks.
  • Watching, live and in person, the bull rider I sponsored compete in the NBR Finals in February in North Carolina.
  • Hitting an all new sales high, thanks to my publisher Samhain making my TREY a free read on Amazon.com back in March.
  • Watching my fellow Samhain Publishing eBook authors hit the NY Times Best Seller list and knowing it is possible!
  • And finally, the opportunity which I hate to say ‘fell into my lap’ since I worked damn hard to prepare for this moment, but it did kind of fall from the sky–an amazingly, unprecedented opportunity. I’m going to have to work damn hard to take advantage of it, and  I still won’t talk about it since it could amount to nothing at all OR it may make my career… Anyway, yeah, this surprise opportunity which happened just before Christmas, may be the most amazing of all and I hope to one day soon have an announcement for you. But even if I don’t, that’s okay, because it was amazing, nonetheless.

There are so many more things, meeting some of my PBR (professional bull riding) fans live at Madison Square Garden last January, having the father of one of the top riders in the country fact check my last cowboy release, the surprise gifts my generous readers send me, meeting so many great people both live and online. It all adds up to memories I’ll always cherish.

Happy New Year to all. If 2012 holds even half the magic that 2011 did, we’re in for one hell of a year.

Cat