Saturday’s Adventure or, Apparently, All Roads Lead to Hell

Well, not hell, exactly. Unless hell is lush and green and sparsely populated…

Hell, in this instance, was not a location, but the Twilight Zone experience of my ride this morning to the Lehighton area. My fault, it was pointed out, for trusting the GPS. But the purpose of a GPS is navigation and so I permitted the instrument to dictate my travels. I paid good money for it. I ought to have a little trust in the system.

Yes. My fault.

I freely admit that now, although in the course of my travails—er, I mean my travels—I cursed that GPS with every name imaginable. But I should start at the beginning and proceed in proper order, the ways the roads would in a perfect world.

My writer’s group met at the home of one of its members today. I had a basic idea how to get there. The route was, in fact, rather direct, but I drove in the opposite direction to the grocery store to obtain a fruit platter and opted to use my GPS to find the way from that point. I took the “no toll” option. Made sense. The road I needed to travel didn’t have tolls. I figured this choice would put me on the right path.

Mistake. I recognized straight away that my car and I were not on the right path. However, I also knew generally where I was and with roads bordered by lovely scenery and in excellent shape, I saw no reason not to follow the whim of the female voice coming from the box on my dashboard.

Though meandering, I trusted (there’s that word again) I would get to my destination and enjoyed the ride. The little clock at the corner of the screen showed a thirty-nine minute ride. Right on schedule.

I passed through Alburtis, a perfectly picturesque little town not far from where I live, but which I’ve never had the opportunity to visit. I want to go back. I suppose this means trusting my GPS again. We’ll see. I won’t bore you with a blow-by-blow, but suffice it to say I eventually reached Route 309. Hoorah! All I needed to do was take a left and head north until I came to the next turn and then, seven or eight miles later, to my friend and fellow writer’s driveway.

My GPS had other ideas. Okay, I thought. A little exploration could be fun. Right?

Yeah. Loads.

It started out that way. I turned left and right on tree-lined lanes with charming names like Blue Mountain and Bake Oven. Then there was sudden misdirection which should have been an indication. I was told to bear left on a certain road which turned out to be a left hand turn so sharp it almost went backward. The second indication there could be a problem was the big yellow sign that read: Road Under Construction – Travel at Your Own Risk. Being addled by the lovely scenery, I assumed that to mean the road was being repaired and carried on. I drove slowly over a fifty-foot stretch of rough paving back onto smooth surface. Huh? Was that it? What a silly sign.

Suddenly, the condescending witch in my GPS told me to make another left. There wasn’t another left. There was a right and a straight. I chose the straight, and soon realized when the sign said the road was under construction that was exactly what it meant.

I backed up and promptly dropped the rear tire off the side of the road into a rain-washed gully. With a bit of earnest prayer I managed to get back on the road, turn around and head back out to the main highway. There had to be another road over the mountain, right? Not so fast, toots. Next was a dead end. I turned around and went back to the highway once more, forgoing the road under construction, as well as the next one which I knew (being smarter, I told myself, than a GPS) led to the same road under construction. I drove another mile to the prettily named Ashfield Road. Aha! Success. Clear sailing. Smooth pavement. I’d be over the mountain in no time.

No. It came out on the ravaged road as well. This time, though, the GPS was calling it Ashfield rather than Reservoir Road. Oddly, though, the actual street sign said Frank. I knew I was in the same place, however, because I had come upon an antique car parked catty-cornered to the meeting place of these two roads. The vehicle looked to be from the 1920’s, pristine condition, with a few yellow helium balloons affixed to it bobbing gently in the drops of rain. Did I not mention seeing that before? I certainly should have, because as soon as I saw it again—a beautiful piece of antique machinery a couple of miles from the nearest habitation—I began cursing so profusely and imaginatively at the #$%*&#* GPS that I forget the photo op altogether and decided, in my fury, to travel the Unconstructed Road. How bad could it be?

As I’ve said above, Apparently All Roads Lead to Hell. At least in this section of Lehighton.

It wasn’t, though. Not hell. Not really. Just an unpaved, sparsely graveled, pitted, gullied, collapsing stretch of trail awaiting blacktop at some distant future date. My GPS was telling me I had to stick with this mess for another four miles. Four miles that took me thirty minutes to traverse. Oops. Behind schedule now. Two huge SUV’s passed me coming the other direction. I had to stand my ground or drop off the side. They were better outfitted to ease around my own, smaller, ill-equipped-for-such-stupidity motor vehicle.  Being a sucker and not learning from my mistakes, I took their presence as a good sign as well. That was, until I saw the hiker with his walking stick and backpack. This was followed by a particularly huge rock in the road. I crawled past it with one thought: How did that get there? I looked up, then, and saw two spindly trees holding back a huge fall of boulders—and did I tell you torrential rain was coming? I began to swear again, but quickly took to laughing. (Can you say hysteria?) And all this time, I was driving up, up, up at a ridiculously steep angle.

Finally, the road leveled off. See picture at right—one of the only ones I took, daring to Road to Lehightonremove my hands from the steering wheel long enough to pull out my phone while stopped for a much needed respite from white knuckles and hyperventilation. Beautiful, yes? Green and lush and, well, you get it—anywhere else I would have broken out a picnic lunch.

The road was more evenly graveled here, almost wide enough for two cars. Piece of cake. Until I saw the fog ahead and remembered I now had to descend. I won’t give you all the details of the gullies, the positioning of my wheelbase in such a fashion that I could pass over the ruts, the hint of sunlight through the fog and trees to my right indicating a steep drop off… When I reached the bottom I breathed a sigh of relief. The dog chasing my car from a junkyard I could view as comical, the post office a sign of civilization—except for the lack of a town’s name across its brick front. Still, the road had become potholed blacktop. I had made it!

In short order, I reached another main road and took the left hand turn directed by my female non-companion and found myself a quarter mile from my destination. The GPS hadn’t misdirected me after all. She’d only displayed a really nasty sense of humor.

Visiting old friends

I grew up in Dover, Delaware, a town that has expanded to the point of confusion for someone like me, who no longer lives there and upon her return is easily confused by the spread of a once small community. Thank goodness I had Kim directing me.

Today, Kim and I had lunch at Grotto’s Pizza in Dover. Many years ago my first job beyond babysitting was at the Grotto’s in Rehoboth. The pizza is still the best and brings back its own memories. Once we had eaten, a drive around Dover was in order, visiting the site of our old high school, since torn down for the construction of the new (which we also stopped to see). Next was a pause at Dairy Queen for cones, followed by a trip to the middle school we both attended, and thence a ride along State Street to the Green, where people in period costumes had just finished some presentation we had missed. We watched from the car, though, as a group of dancers performed to an amazing drumbeat, whirling and chanting, and applauded them from the open windows when they had finished. The next stop was Old Christ Church.

Old Christ Church Dover DE
Old Christ Church, Dover DE

 

Old Christ Church in Dover is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. The church was originally built in 1734 and remodeled in the mid and late 1800’s. The center of Dover retains the constant of its 18th century heart. It’s like Williamsburg (another place I love) Church yardin miniature, but the buildings stand where they were originally erected, and have not been placed in historic illustration of the past, as a place of learning for tourists and students. But, like the design of Williamsburg, there is much to be discovered in and around Dover of our country’s beginnings. On the Green, I can sense history going back through the centuries and my connection is as strong as it ever was, first appreciated as long ago as the day Kim and I met, when I was in the second grade and she in the third.

Today it seemed I was not just visiting with my oldest friend, but that we were spending time with another. I have been experiencing a certain absence of roots in my life, but when I am in Dover I realize they still exist, quietly, stretching back through the years of my existence and beyond.

 

 

Words – Interview with Author Kathy Kulig

Best Selling Author, Kathy Kulig
Best Selling Author, Kathy Kulig

Robin: Today I am interviewing best-selling author Kathy Kulig. Hi, Kathy, and welcome! I’m so glad to have you here.

Kathy: Hi Robin. Thanks so much for having me!

Robin: You write and are multi-published in erotic paranormal and contemporary romance. For those readers who don’t know, what makes a romance erotic as opposed to spicy?

Kathy: The level of heat in romance book varies and there is a gray area between erotic and spicy. Different authors and publishers may have different definitions. For me, erotic means no closed doors, no euphemisms, and the explicit emotional and physical interaction between the characters is all on the page. Erotic usually has more kink, more straightforward verbiage and more sex scenes. The premise in these stories tends to bring about a sexual relationship quickly between the characters. Most readers who read erotic books expect sex early and frequently. But the important thing is that erotic stories are not just a string of sex scenes with well detailed body parts and stage directions, they are well developed stories and fully developed characters. Sex should never be thrown in without it causing something to change in the story.

Robin: Very well stated, Kathy. I think people who are unfamiliar with the genre don’t realize this. Your stories run the gamut from futuristic steam punk to stories about demons and vampires to members of the CIA. Recently, however, you mentioned that your favorite storyline involved shape shifters. Do you want to talk a little about why?

Kathy: I guess you can say I’m a gypsy writer. I do write in a lot of different genres because I enjoy reading in them too. But I do love shifters and have written a number of them. A couple are out of print right now, but I plan to re-release them with a new series and new books. My other shapeshifter series is my Demons in Exile series. The shifters are based on a Norwegian myth where a person can don any animal skin and change into that animal for a time. There are four books (one short story prequel) in this series.

Robin: You’ve written a series involving political intrigue and a group of operatives who work within the political sphere to protect individuals and the country. How do you research that topic?Kulig.RedTape

Kathy: Red Tape, book 1 in my FLC Case Files series took a lot of time to research. It takes place partly in the White House and I had to get an idea on the layout and then embellish it with a dungeon, secret passages and rooms. I also researched military weapons, foreign governments, CIA, Secret Service and many other things. I managed to contact someone who is retired from the Navy and now works as a merchant marine.

Robin: A lot of work! How does the erotic nature of the tale fit into this type of story?

Kathy: Ha! That’s the fun part. In the story, the First Lady’s Club is a secret organization run by the First Lady that uses blackmail, coercion and undercover sex scandals to manipulate foreign and domestic policies and take down some really bad guys.

Robin: You’re quite accomplished as an author, with a number of novels and novellas under your belt. When can we expect your next book?

Kulig.HisLostMateKathy: Thank you, you’re a doll for saying so. I still have much to learn. I just released His Lost Mate—a paranormal romance—a couple of weeks ago and I plan to release Red Tape Protector, book 2 in my FLC Case File series. It will be out around mid-August.

Robin: You have been published by Ellora’s Cave and also self-published, including anthologies with other authors of erotica. How did these collaborations come about?

Kathy: I was really fortunate to get in on the Spice Box collection last year. That was my first step into self-publishing. Talking with other authors online and at conferences, letting them know I was interested in taking part in a box set helped that opportunity come about. AC James was organizing it and she asked me. An opening came up last minute and I had a book ready so I jumped on the invite. There were sixteen authors in this collection and many were heavy hitters in the romance genre. Their huge mailing lists and fan bases and everyone’s hard work during the release pushed the sales where we hit the New York Times and USA Today lists. I’m in a couple author groups now and we’re working on new collaborative projects into next year. I really like working on these projects. Collaborative groups are like mastermind groups. Authors pool their knowledge, experience and enthusiasm. I’ve learned so much from these groups.

Robin: It seems that erotica is the underlying theme in all your stories, binding them together (excuse the pun) despite the varied settings and characters. Does having such a common theme make it easier for you to find inspiration for your tales, or more difficult to fit the theme into the setting?

Kathy: Some of my stories are hotter than others. My BDSM stories are probably the hottest and they’re pretty tame compared to some BDSM books I’ve read. All my books are very sexy, but they also have a detailed plot. Most have an adventure-type storyline and characters going through a major turning point in their lives. Those are the type of sexy stories I like to read and write. If I were to find a common theme in my books I’d say: The world may be coming to an end, but love will always find a way.

Robin: I love that! Great theme. You have been the interviewee in a number of interviews, eliciting reactions that are occasionally less than positive, almost personal in nature. How have you learned to handle such negativity?

Kathy: With a good sense of humor. Most erotic romance authors get the questions: Are your books autobiographical or have you done all the kinky sex in your books? Usually I answer with: Stephen King writes about serial killers. Would you ask him if he’s killed people to research his books?

Robin: You were also co-author on a non-fiction work, Write to Success, which is described as (taken from your website): Eight New York Times and USA Today bestselling authors share how to build a successful writing career. Write to Success covers all those frequently asked questions every new indie author wonders about self-publishing and has strategies for the advanced self-publisher. How did this come about? Can you tell me a little bit more about the book?Kulig.WritetoSuccess

Kathy: After the Spice Box set hit high on the NYT and USA Today lists, authors and new writers were asking us how we did it. So a number of the authors decided to get together and pool our expertise. This book gives a ton of information with lots of links to references. That reference/resource links page is worth the price of the book alone. We talk about the steps we took to make Spice Box a success. What we did right and not so right. The legal issues authors need to be aware of, as well as how to distribute royalties, cover, formatting, editing, coordinating, promotion, etc. There are also sections that are helpful to newer writers and those not pursuing self-publishing. I think it’s a very valuable reference book.

Robin: And, as I ask everyone, what are your plans for the future?

Kathy: I have a number of projects I’m working on now. I want to finish the FLC Case Files series and finish a four-book shapeshifter series. (Two of the four books are completed.) And I’m working on three box sets that will come out in the next year. Mainly keep writing and learning. I have met the most amazing people through my writing career—writers and readers—and many are my closest friends now.

Robin: Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you. It’s been informative and I look forward to speaking with you again!

Words – Interview with Author Karen Katchur

Karen Katchur
Karen Katchur

Robin: Today I am interviewing author Karen Katchur. Welcome, Karen. Nice to have you with me.

Karen: Hi Robin! Thanks for having me!

Robin: Your debut novel, The Secrets of Lake Road, is due out on August 4th from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. Congratulations! I can’t wait to read it. How did it feel when you got the call from your agent that it had sold?

Karen: I was super happy, of course! I waited a long time for that phone call, and all the hard work I’d put in had finally paid off.

Robin: Would you mind sharing with me the process by which you found an agent? And a bit of the process from pitch to representation to publication?

Karen: It took me eight years to sign with an agent. There were many, many rejections along the way, but I kept writing and working on craft. Eventually, I started getting rejections with constructive feedback on my fourth novel. The best thing I did was to listen to that feedback. I worked on revisions for six months, and the day I was ready to query again I happened to get a copy of Writer’s Digest Magazine in the mail. Carly Watters was the featured agent in the Agent Spotlight. She had been on my radar for some time, so I queried her right away. From there, it happened quickly. She requested a partial and then the full manuscript. We talked on the phone, and I signed with her a few days later.

While Carly was busy pitching my novel, I was busy writing my next one. Somewhere in the process and after several rounds of revisions, I fell out of love with it. I couldn’t work on it anymore. We talked about it, and agreed it was time I put the second novel aside. Meanwhile, the first novel wasn’t selling (although we’re still hopeful). Again, we talked and decided to put the first novel aside, too. I didn’t let it deter me. I started writing my third novel, which happened to be, THE SECRETS OF LAKE ROAD. When it was completed, Carly pitched SECRETS. We had an offer within a week or two.

So it took me eight years to sign with an agent, and another two years to get an offer from a publishing house, a total of ten years to publication.

Robin: Tell me about the story. And by the way, I LOVE the cover.

Karen: Thank you! I love the cover too, although I had nothing to do it. It was all SecretsLakeRoadthe design team at Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press. They did a fantastic job.

The story is a suspenseful women’s fiction about the destructive power of secrets. Below is the summary found in the inside jacket copy.

Jo has been hiding the truth about her role in her high school boyfriend’s drowning for sixteen years. Every summer, she drops her children off with her mother at the lakeside community where she spent summers growing up, but cannot bear to stay herself; everything about the lake reminds her of the guilt she feels. For her daughter Caroline, however, the lake is a precious world apart; its familiarity and sameness comforts her every year despite the changes in her life outside its bounds. At twelve years old and caught between childhood and adolescence, she longs to win her mother’s love and doesn’t understand why Jo keeps running away. Then seven-year-old Sara Starr goes missing from the community beach. Rescue workers fail to uncover any sign of her—but instead dredge up the bones Jo hoped would never be discovered, shattering the quiet lakeside community’s tranquility. Caroline was one of the last people to see Sara alive on the beach, and feels responsible for her disappearance. She takes it upon herself to figure out what happened to the little girl. As Caroline searches for Sara, she uncovers the secrets her mother has been hiding, unraveling the very foundation of everything she knows about herself and her family in this riveting novel that is impossible to put down and hard to forget.

asters_and_bluesRobin: You like to set your tales in the Pocono area. What is the reason for that? How and why does the area inspire you?

Karen: I grew up in the Poconos area with its lakes and rivers, streams and trails, and winding mountain roads. It’s got this great mix of beauty and danger, and it really makes for the perfect setting for the kinds of stories I want to tell, part women’s fiction and part mystery/suspense.

Robin: Are you working on your next book? What type of routine do you set yourself for writing?

Karen: I am busy writing the next book. When I’m writing the first draft, I have a 1000 word count a day, Monday through Friday, so 5000 words a week. I take the weekends off from writing to spend time with my family and to let things percolate. I find I need time away to think about the story and characters, or as I refer to it, recovery time. I get my best ideas away from the computer. I keep a notebook handy for each novel, so I can jot down the things I think of while I’m not at my computer.

Once the first draft is written, I take as long as I need to work on revisions, which is usually several more months where I do a lot of re-writing.

Robin: I know we’ve talked about other storylines you’ve come up with, and they’re always quite beyond the ordinary. Where do you get your ideas?

eveningalongthehosensack2TKaren: I tend to build my fiction around an event. The event can be of a personal nature or it can be from something I’ve read or heard about in the news or wherever. For SECRETS, it just happened to be from a personal experience. When I was nine or ten years old, a young teenage boy had drowned. I’d watched them drag the lake for several days until they’d finally pulled his body onto the beach. It was the first dead body I ever saw, and the tragedy of that day had stayed with me. The fear and helplessness I’d felt during that time was what I attempted to capture in Caroline’s character.

Robin: What do you plan or hope to write in the future?

Karen: I love writing what I do which has been called suspenseful women’s fiction, so I hope to keep on doing just that.

Robin: You have several book signings scheduled for the near future. Where and when?

Karen: Yes! Thank you for asking.

Book Launch on August 4th at 6 pm at Moravian Book Shop, Bethlehem, PA

August 6th at 7pm at Open Books Bookstore Elkins Park, PA

August 13th at 6pm at Let’s Play Books! Emmaus, PA.

Robin: I will definitely see you there. I want you to sign my copy of The Secrets of Lake Road! Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you. Perhaps when you have a publication date for your next book we can get back together to talk about that one, too.

Karen: Of course! Thank you so much for having me, Robin! It was fun!