Tag Archives: Cathryn Grant

The iPhone: It’s like having another brain.

That’s what my friend told me, when I said I was considering an upgrade from my old-school cell phone to an iPhone. “I keep going back and forth, though,” I sighed. “I mean, I don’t really need it.”

“Get it,” she insisted. “You’re a writer.”

My ears perked up, then. I love it when someone outside the circles of writing helps me acknowledge that I am, in fact, a writer. Some days, I still have trouble saying those words out loud. Plus, I was intrigued by how certain she was that an iPhone would complement my other writing tools. So, I bought one.

It is lovely. Even the box it came in is pretty, with its minimalist and sleek design.

(Taken with my iPhone and emailed to my laptop. Just call me Fancypants.)

I’ve already put the phone to good writerly use, too, downloading the Kindle app and buying a copy of Roz Morris’ Nail Your Novel. The other day, when I suddenly had a few hours to sit in a coffee shop, I whipped out my phone, my pen and paper, and read through the beginnings of Morris’ book. I scribbled down notes. I wrote out the first few tasks. I felt productive.

I also purchased an eBook novella by Cathryn Grant, a book only available for eReaders. That “Buy now with 1 click” button on the Kindle Store page is a little dangerous, but I’d be missing out on Cathryn’s novella without this iPhone and that Kindle app.

Technology, be it wireless internet or free apps for a phone, makes a writer’s life a little easier. I’m finally getting that, in bits and pieces.

What about you? How are you using the technology you have on hand to move your writing along? Or, do you have a secret iPhone app I should know about? My son keeps pushing me to download the free Monster Truck game, but I’m not so sure I’m ready for virtual mud-bogging.

While you’re thinking, here are a few other posts on technology and iPhone apps for writers:

  1. Lisa Rivero talks here about all the fun things she’s doing with technology and writing these days, including this great video she created in conjunction with a current book project. The video, like a mini book trailer, is a great way to whet the appetites of readers and introduce her main character, Hattie, to the modern world.
  2. “Ultimate iPhone Apps for Writers: 30+ Productivity and Creativity Boosts,” from Jane Friedman, There Are No Rules. As always, Jane offers plenty of links and great information.
  3. “iPhone Apps for Writers,” from appadvice.com. This one includes information on Writer’s Studio, an app that mixes visual and audio components with writing.
  4. “12 applications for writers on my iPhone right now,” from Michael Alexander on The Editorial Engine. Listed here is iBlue Sky, an app that makes a map of your brainstorming ideas.

Soccer Moms, Indie Publishing, and a Kindle: An Interview with Author, Cathryn Grant

“…[A]ll the beautiful yards and parks make it look so peaceful and quiet.
That can make you feel safe and it’s not always safe.”
~The Demise of the Soccer Moms

~

People often leave behind the city life and take up residence on a quiet cul-de-sac in the suburbs. They expect to find the camaraderie of neighbors, and they brag about a low crime rate. But, under every silver lining there’s a dark side. And, maybe even a killer.

In Cathryn Grant’s debut novel, The Demise of the Soccer Moms, Grant takes readers through the niceties of small town life and into the dark corners of a suburban mind or two. What we discover is a group of women desperate to fit in, if only to distance themselves from their own skeletons in the closet.

Full of tension – so much so that I wasn’t sure which Soccer mom would unravel first – Grant’s novel shows us that when one woman refuses to follow the rules, the picture perfect world of Suburbia falls apart.

I’m honored to interview Cathryn Grant here, where she talks about her novel, indie publishing, and writing. At the end of the interview, read how you can enter to win a Kindle, fully loaded with The Demise of the Soccer Moms.

*****

CC: The Demise of the Soccer Moms paints a vivid picture of life in suburbia, with its illusions of perfection and grandeur. How much of the story comes from real life observations? If you run into someone with the same demeanor as Amy Lewis in your novel, do you get the chills (or do you grab your notebook)?

CG: I’ve lived in suburbia all my life, so I think my sense of its positive and negative sides is part of who I am and I don’t think of myself as observing it. I am always taking notes, and not just on suburbia. People fascinate me, and one of the themes that’s always knocking around my head is what would drive a normal person to commit homicide? (or any crime). When I see the mental and emotional suffering that some people endure, I wonder how people keep going, how they still manage to cope with life. (That sounds really, dark, but I’m not saying it in a negative way, I’m saying it because some people have had to endure so much.) I guess I have sympathy for people who go off the rails.

CC: In your novel, each of your main characters has a significant insecurity that leads her to commit a crime of one sort or another, but it’s the unraveling of one of your characters, in particular, towards the end that is especially chilling. In writing suspense, do you outline much before you type out your first draft? Or, do you let the characters’ lives (and secrets) unfold as you go?

CG: I tend to let it unfold. These characters came to me after a line of dialogue floated through my mind one day: “That woman’s not wearing a bra.” I saw these women sitting outside their children’s classrooms, and I wondered what what kind of person would come unhinged over another woman’s clothing choices. I wondered what would have happened in her life to make her so concerned about this stranger who walked onto the playground. I usually have a list of possible scenes, what might happen, and I work from that, adding scenes that come to me as I write through the first draft. I usually don’t know the ending, and one of my novels still in the virtual drawer doesn’t have an ending that satisfies me. I hope it comes to me some day.

CC: You spent a great deal of time considering and researching the idea of becoming an Indie Author. Now that your first book is published and in the hands of so many readers, how do you feel? Also, I know that you have a second book in the works; can you give us a little teaser?

CG: The publishing landscape changed enough, even from the time I started considering the Indie route, so that it helped cement my decision. Right now, I mostly feel relief because I worked on this novel for a very long time. A ridiculously long time. Some of the feedback from my early readers derailed me and I started to question the stories I wanted to tell. So right now, I feel relief that I’m done with this novel. But I’m also happy that even when I was making the final edits, I still got caught up in the story, still enjoyed my characters.

The working title for the next novel is DEBT. I’m working on the 2nd draft and expect to publish it in November 2011. It’s about a young couple that both work in high paying jobs but have still managed to get deeply into debt. As they try to hide their debt from their friends, their situation gets worse, and the conflict among the three couples leads to murder. (Wow, I can tell I need to get to work on that log line!)

CC: What are you reading these days?

CG: I’m reading a novel by an Indie crime writer, Darcia Helle, called THE CUTTING EDGE, and PORTOBELLO, by one of my favorite authors: Ruth Rendell.

CC: Do you have any thoughts or advice for writers on the rise?

CG: Two things inspired me. Years ago I read a quote from James Michener that said you would be a competent writer after you’d written a million words. Then recently I heard a quote from the book, OUTLIERS, that said people who put 10,000 hours into developing their craft or sport became successful. I actually tracked the 1,000,000 words in a spreadsheet. I’m still working on the 10,000 hours. (If you want to link to this … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outliers_%28book%29 )

*****

Enter the Suburban Noir contest for the chance to win a copy of “The Demise Of The Soccer Moms”. The grand prize is a Wi-Fi Kindle. Here’s how you do it:

Between February 4 and midnight PST, February 11, comment here or on any other OR ALL of the participating blogs (listed below) to get one entry per comment. Limit of one comment per blog for a possible total of 7 entries.

  1. Cathryn Grant’s very own blog
  2. Linda Cassidy Lewis at Out of My Mind
  3. Natasha at Nancy Drew Too
  4. Shelli Howells at A*Musings
  5. Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen at DJ’s Krimiblog
  6. And, on Feb. 10th, Amy Rose Davis at  A Modicum of Talent

Between February 4 and midnight PST, February 11, tweet any one OR ALL of the participating blogs. Limit of one tweet per blog for a possible total of 7 entries. Tweets must include @CathrynGrant for tracking purposes.

Participants can have a total of 14 entries between commenting on blogs and tweeting.

Winners will be announced on Cathryn’s blog on February 11th.

Ten people will win their choice of an eBook or paperback copy of Cathryn Grant’s Suburban Noir Thriller, “The Demise Of The Soccer Moms”. One additional person will win a Wi-Fi Graphite Kindle (valued at $139) pre-loaded with a copy of “The Demise Of The Soccer Moms”. Please note the paperback copy will not be available until March. Winners will be chosen by a random number generator.

Now go – read, comment, and tweet. And, while you’re waiting for the winner to be announced, read more of Cathryn’s words on her website, Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook.

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A Baker’s Dozen of Links for Writers

It’s the season of sweets, gift giving, and toasting to a new year.

So, from me to you…

…A Baker’s Dozen of links to articles, interviews, and posts from this last year that have inspired me to write, reaffirmed my commitment to write, or changed my perspective when I write.

1-5. Stocking Stuffer posts by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi (at The Bookshelf Muse) on:

Each post offers five simple tips that will help you tighten up your writing and/or strengthen your story.

6. Lynn Capehart’s article in The Writer on inclusionary writing. I won’t ever look at character descriptions the same again.

7. Lydia Sharp’s post on the Difference between inciting incident and catalyst. This post, along with a great first chapter critique I won over at Becky Levine’s blog, helped me reshape the first chapter of my novel and set my story on track again.

8-11. Author interviews I’ve had the honor to conduct, in which authors share the story behind the story, offer insights into the challenges of historical fiction and research, or talk about the passion behind their characters:

I’m looking forward to several more author interviews this year from Cathryn Grant (whose debut novel, The Demise of the Soccer Moms, will be published as an e-book in January), from Danielle Evans (Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self, a wonderful collection of short stories), and from Rebecca Rasmussen (The Bird Sisters, due to be released April 12, 2011).

12. Kristen Lamb’s post on the Writer Reality Check. “Takes guts to be a writer,” Kristen says, and she lists some realistic expectations for those of us who want to make writing more than just a fun little hobby.

13. A call to action from Writer Unboxed for all Writers to Pay It Forward. “Paying it forward is something we can all do because no matter where we are in our writing careers, there’s always someone just one step behind, hungry to learn.” Much of the time, I’m the one a few steps behind. I could not grow without the encouragement, support, and wisdom from writers who are further along than me, and I can’t fully embrace those lessons until I pass them on to someone else.

There you are! Happy New Year, my friends!

May your days be full of writing and your muse be close at hand.

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Welcome Cathryn Grant to Wednesday’s Word

Every Wednesday, on Writing Under Pressure, you’ll find an essay or a flash fiction post based on a word prompt. Today, I am honored to publish a flash fiction piece by Cathryn Grant.

I met Cathryn Grant online.

That means, she lives too far away for me to chase her down for a cup of coffee and some writer-to-writer face time. So, I follow her on Twitter; I read her blog; I email her with writing questions and advice.

Hmm, as I re-read that sentence out loud, I sound strangely like a stalker.

My point is, as a writer, Cathryn’s been an inspiration and a great support, even if we’ve never sat in the same room together.

I love Cathryn’s writing style. Every Sunday on her blog, you can read a new flash fiction piece. Click around her site and you’ll find links to some of her published works. On her About page, the first sentence sums up how writing fits into her life. She says:

I make my living in high tech Competitive Intelligence, but I live to write fiction.

She works a hectic day job, and at the end of the day, she writes fiction – Suburban Noir – to shake off the stressors of the day. On a post entitled “Crime at Work,” Cathryn reveals how – like many writers – her mind is always open to a story:

I see crime in ambiguous places – white lies, posturing, extravagance in the face of poverty, stealing company time, back-stabbing, obscene bonuses for cheating the average working man or woman, subtle cruelties and road rage.

Her stories reflect what she sees through her writer’s eye.

I’m thrilled to present you with an original Cathryn Grant piece based on a word prompt. Well, make that three word prompts. I chose three words in succession, thinking the first one too Cathryn-esque (I didn’t want her to think I picked it on purpose). But, after I pulled the second and third words, I realized the Fates had spoken. Cathryn’s prompts were: crimes, cheating, and bars.

Enjoy a taste of her writing here, then read Cathryn’s blog for more.

*****

Non-violent Crime

By Cathryn Grant

Elaine turned the page of the newspaper and looked at the snippets of information printed in the police blotter. In suburbia, the crimes were mild, but something still compelled her to read about them. Perhaps she was looking for something exciting – a violent attack, brutality, even death. Instead, she saw that two cars had been broken into. A bad check was passed at a business on Henderson. A woman’s purse was taken from her shopping cart, a bicycle was stolen and there were three reports of tools removed from construction sites. There was an incident of fraud on Crocker Way. She wondered about the details of that one.

She took a sip of coffee, it was icy and tasted sour. She thought about refilling the mug but a quick sniff revealed the stale odor from a pot left too long on the warming plate.

The crimes in the police blotter weren’t the real crimes. Those happened inside people’s homes – children left alone in front of the television for hours a day, women gossiping about their “best” friends, children plucking dollar bills out of their mothers’ purses, and husbands and wives lying to each other. Most of them were small lies, half-truths, but still the lying went on. She heard about it every day from her friends and co-workers. I didn’t tell him how much I paid for the shoes. He doesn’t know our son cut class, again. She thinks I’m working late, but come on, she gives me too much grief if I want to gripe over a few drinks at the end of the day. None of that was reported in the police blotter.

She turned the page and scanned the comics. They refused to elicit even a smile or a flash of recognition. She turned the last page, gently closing the newspaper as if closing the back cover of a book that offered a melancholy ending. She picked it up along with the other partially-read sections, folded the stack in half, then in half again.

Shade still bathed the side of the house where the recycling bin stood, but the June air was already warm. Bars of light came through the gaps between the boards of the fence and fell across the concrete, making it look cleaner than it was. The lid to the paper receptacle was hot on her fingertips. She lifted it open and smelled newsprint, slightly mildewed. She dropped the papers inside but as she was about to let the lid slip closed, something caught her eye – an envelope, still sealed.

Reaching inside was difficult, the edge cut into her armpit and she knew her shirt would be smudged, not an attractive look for the office. She was late already, she shouldn’t be digging in the recycling bin, but she had to see what was in that envelope. Rick gave her a hard time because she insisted on opening all of their mail, even the advertisements and solicitations.

Finally her fingers touched the edge of the envelope. It was light, almost as if it was empty. She nudged it toward the side of the bin and grabbed it. She turned it over, nothing was written on the front. Then she saw a tiny R in the upper right corner. Rick?

She peeled up the edge and slid her finger along the fold. The tear was rough and the paper crumpled behind her finger. She pulled out the single sheet of lined paper, ripped from a legal pad. A credit card slipped out and fell on her toe. She picked it up – a Visa card with Rick’s name embossed on the front. Why would he throw away a credit card, wouldn’t he shred it? Maybe he didn’t know it was in there. After all, he hadn’t unsealed the envelope.

She unfolded the paper. A lone sentence was scrawled across the center, crossing several lines of the paper – I can’t do this anymore.

One of the bars of light fell across the edge of the credit card, making the background sparkle. She stared in fascination. How long would it be until the sun moved enough that the strip of light no longer crossed the card? She couldn’t decide whether she’d known all along he was cheating on her; but she did know that not all the crimes of suburbia were non-violent.

© Copyright 2010 Cathryn Grant

*****

Cathryn Grant’s suburban noir fiction has appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine and Every Day Fiction – twice: “So Lucky” and the story posted tomorrow, June 3rd (you’ll have to click onto Every Day Fiction to discover that tale). 
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From Fifth Grade to NaNoWriMo

The first book I ever wrote was during my fifth grade year in Mrs. Young’s homeroom class. She asked us to write a How-To book and to consider ourselves author and artist.

I didn’t think I knew how to do anything well. I played softball every summer, but I did cartwheels in the outfield during most games. I made one attempt at soccer then quit when the ball hit me in the face. I was a skinny, asthmatic kid with low self-confidence and little willingness to take risks. Still, I liked Mrs. Young and I was a dedicated student. I sat on the assignment and observed my fellow fifth graders for a few days. A popular phrase flew around the halls of elementary school that week and sparked an idea for a story: gag me with a spoon!

I remember my excitement as the idea formed in my budding writer’s mind. My heart raced. I ran around the house with wide eyes and hair on end searching for any and all loose sheets of construction paper and a few crayons. The assignment was due the next day; time was my enemy. I sat down at the kitchen table and feverishly scratched out a first (and last) draft.

My idea was solid. Using my author’s creative license, I tweaked the phrase a bit and titled my book How to Gag Yourself with a Spatula. I dressed a quirky Mr. Duck in a black bow tie and gave him prestigious role of the main character.  Mr. Duck’s words flowed onto the paper with ease. He explained the equipment needed, the risks involved, and finally the crucial steps towards the climax of a spatula induced gag.

I finished the book with a bold “THE END” and shook my papers straight. I stapled them together and slid them carefully in my folder. The next day at school, I held a finished book in my hands and waited, for my turn, to read my story aloud. The book was a big hit. Mrs. Young leaned her head back and laughed. I stood at the front of the classroom enveloped in a cloud of joy, elation, success!

That experience, at ten years old, of leaning over sheets of construction paper and scattered crayons with wild eyes and quick hands, reminds me of my last few days of NaNoWriMo. Last week, the words poured out slow and rough. With my idea only partially formed, the main character walked around the story like a cardboard cut out. I closed the file and flipped through other writer’s blogs, where I found solace and inspiration.

Yesterday, Linda Cassidy and Natalie Whipple wrote out exactly what I’d been thinking all afternoon. Recently, Ann M. Lynn’s post reminded me that even though NaNoWriMo is mostly about word count, it’s also about the story. Even in a writng frenzy, authors must avoid developing bad writing habits. And, the last several posts on Cathryn Grant’s blog told of another strategy: balance NaNoWriMo with other ongoing projects.

I took an afternoon and handwrote some thoughts about my main character. I jotted down a few prospective scenes. I let go of my obsession with word count. I picked two short stories to rewrite and refine during NaNoWriMo breaks.

This week, I have a clear idea of the story I want to write. My main character is taking shape slowly. She’s filling out like the inflatable pool I struggled to blow up last summer for the kids. I’ve expelled a lot of hot air, fought off an asthma attack, readjusted my focus. Now, the plastic is finally lifting off the ground. Last night, I closed the file at a little over 19,000 words.