Catherine lives in Tucson Arizona and is a bass player. Good combo – author and bass player.
She has written a sci-fi novel called Aztec Eagle that is the first of a series. She is also with Jumpmaster Press.
Stephen: today on Discovered Wordsmiths, I wanna welcome Catherine. Catherine. Hello. How are you doing today?
Catherine: Doing fine, thank you Steven.
Stephen: Alright, so we’re gonna talk about your book Aztec Eagle, but before we do that, let’s find out a little bit about you.
So tell us a little bit about where you live and some of the things you like to do besides writing. I
Catherine: live in Tucson, Arizona, and of course with the fabulous weather we have here for most of the year, I enjoy outdoor things like bicycling and hiking and indoor things like making music.
Stephen: Oh, nice.
What do you play? I
Catherine: play bass guitar. So do
Stephen: I. Good, good choice.
Catherine: Yeah, my my husband and my daughter and a friend of ours had decided they were gonna put a little trio together. They had a keyboard and drum kit and a singer, and when I heard them perform the first time, I said, you really need a bass player? Yeah. Yes. I’ll have to learn to play bass.
Stephen: And so I did.
Yeah, that, that was the same with me. I had some friends that had a band, they needed a bass player. So my buddy showed up and said, hi, this is a base, this is the e a d and G strings. Each fret is a half step go. Literally, that was my introduction. Let’s go. Yeah. Alright, so Katherine why did you wanna start writing?
Catherine: I have to think back and I was in elementary school and I think what happened was my older brother had an assignment in his class to write a short story. And I read the short story that he wrote. I thought that was just the coolest thing and I’d like to do that too. So I started writing when I was about 10 years old.
Stephen: Nice. Nice. That, that was about the time I was reading Stephen King. All right. We’re gonna talk about your book, Aztec Eagle and it, you said it’s your seventh book, correct? That’s correct. Yes. Okay. So tell us about Aztec Eagle and is it part of a series or is it a standalone?
Catherine: Aztec Eagle is book one in a series called the Aztec Eagle Series.
Book two, we hope we’ll be out later this year. And I’m editing book three we’re on our way. A little bit about it. It’s set maybe 200 years in the future where earth has one colonial planet called Alpha. But the story starts in a small town in Mexico on the shore where a young urchin named Enrique is selling trinkets to the tourists, and he meets a captain in the peacekeeper Pilot Corps.
And the interesting thing about this pilot core is that many of the pilots have a neural implant. That allows them to connect with their aircraft so that they’re getting data instantaneously from their aircraft. And the way they select for pilots who get this implant is if they have a high cyonic ability.
And as it turns out, young Enrique, who was maybe five years old at that time has a pretty good cyonic talent. And El Capitan takes him under his wing to develop and train the cyonic talent. And Enrique then just becomes fascinated with becoming a pilot. He’s obsessed with it. And of course, as with all obsessions, he runs into some major difficulties.
He’s poor, he can’t afford secondary education. He can’t, he can hardly afford the books for his schoolwork. So there are obstacles to conquer. And then his world turns upside down when he finds out that El cap. His hero, who, he was planning to become a pilot and be just like El Capitan and fight side by side with El Capitan.
His hero defects to the other side goes over to the rebel cause, and now Enrique has a dilemma. What does he do? So that’s, that gives you an introduction without giving away too
Stephen: much of the plot. Nice. Good. What made you choose and all, what genre would you say it’s in? I call it science fiction.
Catherine: Okay. Or speculative fiction would be, it’s a little more inclusive. It is in some opinions it is what they call cross genre. That is, it’s a combination of science fiction and fantasy. And the fantasy element that comes in is Enrique has a little spirit companion a creature that lives in the spaces between matters, shall we say.
But it’s skirts into that magical realm as does cynics. You’ll find people on both sides of that question. Whether cynics is just, a science of the brain that we don’t understand yet, or if it’s just mythical and it’s more in the realm of fantasy. But this little spirit companion of his.
Is very elemental and sees the world and the people in it as colors. So he sees Enrique as a nice warm amber most of the time, except when he gets mad, then there’s some red in there, or he sees a pretty girl and then this purple stuff floats up. So it, it’s an interesting perspective on the doings of and fleshed creatures from the viewpoint of this little
Nice. Cool. And what gave you that idea? I. Well,
Catherine: when I first had the idea for the book my husband said, Enrique needs a companion a familiar of some kind. And I thought let’s see, Mexico, maybe an iguana. But I thought, nah, you can’t take an iguana in an aircraft very well. And then I find out it gets too cold for them up there anyway.
He just, sees up and fall over. I thought A spirit can go anywhere. So that’s where that
Stephen: came from. Nice. Cool. And why’d you decide to write a book science fiction and this particular book with these fantasy elements?
Catherine: I have written several science fiction books ahead of that and the fantasy element, I don’t know it just seemed natural.
It seemed like a part of Enrique and. As I got into the writing of the book with this little thing flitting around it, it just tickled me. I get such a kick out of that character.
Stephen: Okay. And can you think of any books out there that are similar for people that like certain types of books?
Catherine: From a science fiction standpoint my earlier works have been compared to okay, now the name’s gonna escape me. This always happens. Connie Willis. Okay. I like to think it’s more Ann, not Ann Mcca a little like Ann McCaffrey Cher cherry, CJ Cherry, in that mode.
It’s more about the people than about the science. The science is there. The advanced technology mostly. But it’s really about people and people are pretty much the same no matter which century they live in.
Stephen: Nice. Okay. And since you have written several books what are, what’s been the feedback from readers on your books?
A, any feedback on this one?
Catherine: The, I haven’t got a lot of feedback yet on this one from readers. My, my beta readers were very enchanted with it and particularly with the character of, I call ’em Chop the little spirit creature that hovers around previous books. I’ve actually, one of the Mother Grim was nominated for the Philip t Dick Award the year it came out.
So that, that’s encouraging. And I also write short stories in novellas, and two of my novellas now have been selected as best of the year for the Ann Lab Awards given out by analog, and I believe as OVS is in on that too, with their reader awards. So that’s
Stephen: reader feedback. Nice. Wow. That’s a pretty big deal actually.
Yeah. I’ve read And Asimov’s quite a bit, even though I’m more of a fantasy guy. I still get there. There’s a lot of crossover quite often. Yes. If you had a choice, would you rather see these turned into movies or TV shows?
Catherine: Oh gosh. That’s a good question. Movies can get into a little more depth in the short term, but, television, there’s, you ha if you have a series of shows, then you have more opportunity to really explore the stories and the character.
I would say probably television because of the serial aspect of it. When you have a series of books coming up and my writing does tend to be episodic. So it would lend itself more, I think, to the television
Stephen: serial. Okay. And television is completely different than it used to be. So that, it’s a completely different question now, instead of a season with 24 episodes, it shows a eight at night.
It’s some streaming service with 10 episodes and that’s all, totally different, but they. Apple TV pulled off foundation, which nobody thought they’d ever be able to do foundation, so it’s totally different world. But I agree when you have a good story like science fiction stories with the characters, throwing it into a short movie a lot of times just doesn’t it’s not satisfying enough.
Catherine: You can’t really cover all of the events that go on. It particularly if you read the book already and then you go to watch the movie, then it’s oh, but they didn’t put in this part or that part, and they didn’t develop this character and they left out that character. They combined these two characters.
Stephen: Yeah I think the Hollywood people are finally figuring out that. Having a really great successful book does not mean you can make a really great successful two hour movie because that movie and timeframe is very specific as to what you can do with it. And a lot of good books need more than that.
Thrillers a lot of times work because you can fit a thriller more often, it seems into that timeframe. And I think they’re also finding out that. Working with the authors is actually beneficial. It used to be like we just paid for that. So author goes Shut up. But now they’re working like Hugh Howie silo is coming out.
Or maybe it’s already out really close, so he was an independent author and now they’ve got a, I think it’s on Apple TV show coming out on his books, and he was involved to a small degree, not large, but that’s, Gayman was involved with his shows. The oh, it’s alluding me now, but yeah.
More authors are getting involved with the show. Yeah. And they’re the streaming shows, not the. TV shows of old
Catherine: right, the streaming you’re not limited to a certain number of minutes. You don’t have to, structure it around ads. So yeah. It’s a whole new ball
Stephen: game. And I think Johnny, I don’t know if you ever listened to Sean, Dave and Johnny podcast I forget the name of that podcast that they used to do, but he had his Fat Vampire story and that just got turned into a TV show on a m c.
So a lot of independence now are starting to get their books out there because. Good. Content is good content. That’s right. So Catherine, do you have any plans? You said you’ve got a book two and then a book three that you’re working on for this series. Is there plans for a different series after this?
Catherine: Not for another series. I still, dabble in the short story medium. So I have a couple of those things on the back burner. But series nine, I’m not sure I wanna get that involved to develop another whole series. Enrique’s got plenty of adventures ahead of him. I think this will keep me busy for a while.
Stephen: Okay, good. And do you write anything besides science fiction or have you thought of writing anything else?
Catherine: I do actually. I have a historical fiction book out called Macbeth which is based on the historical High King Macbeth. And if you peel away the legends that have arisen around it and try to get back to and it’s really difficult because there’s so little material that’s extant from that time period.
And what there is, of course, as they say, history is written by the winners. So they don’t have a very kindly view of Macbeth. But in fact the historical record that does exist, Shows us that he was probably a very good king. He ruled for 17 years at a time when most High Kings lasted about six.
Stephen: Wow. Nice. Okay ha, have you ever thought of doing like a remake of Macbeth in science fiction? I don’t. There’s mashups like that, yeah.
Catherine: Yeah I’m not sure how I would pull that off. And I like the story so much the way I have it. I’m not sure I’d wanna Fair,
Stephen: fair enough. Yeah. Fair enough.
Catherine, do you have a website?
Catherine: I do not have a website at the moment. I am on Facebook. You can find my Facebook page. Also if you go to Amazon Author Central, you’ll find some information about me and my
Stephen: books there. Okay. We’ll put some links in the show notes for everybody. Okay. The science fiction readers.
All so let me ask you a couple other questions about you. What are some of your favorite books and authors?
Catherine: Oh boy. I love Connie Wilson’s stuff. I really do. And I enjoyed the Orson Scott card books Hein Line. Of course, master Just a Master,
Stephen: always. And there’s a book that didn’t get made into a very good movie, battlefield Earth.
That, that was a huge book and they throw it into a movie that didn’t work so well. Yeah,
Catherine: Yeah. That’s tough to deal with that. I also read very widely in historical fiction. No big surprise. And part Godwin I think is probably my all time favorite in that genre.
Okay, great. He was also, he was writing science fiction before he went into historical fiction, but his series on Robinhood and the one on Arthur, they’re just wonderful.
Stephen: Oh maybe I’ll put some notes links to show notes. I haven’t read those. Yeah they’re ex Oh, I’m sorry. Do you have a favorite bookstore around where you live?
Catherine: The book stop here in Tucson is is very friendly to local authors. And yeah, I like the book stop.
Stephen: Okay. And I’ll put a link to that too. I like pointing out some of the bookstores authors like to go to all so before we talk a little author stuff if someone stopped you on the street and said, Hey, I heard you wrote a book.
Why should I get your book and read it? What would you tell ’em?
Catherine: I’d say if you want an interesting tale with a little touch of humor to it and some color draws on the southwestern roots and yet has all the excitement of a, like a space opera then that’s what this book is for you.
Stephen: Nice. Great. Okay. You’ve got seven books out you said. Yeah. What are some things that you’ve learned that you’ve changed or done different from the beginning to now?
Catherine: Wow. It took me five years to write the first book that I got published. The Earth is All That Lasts by the second book.
I had that down to 15 months to get the sequel out. And it really was a process. I had a wonderful in-house editor and feedback person, and my daughter April and she was at that time, I think 12 years old, but she would read my manuscript and say, mom, this doesn’t, and this my advice to beginning writers is, Find someone who reads other writers have a tendency to tell you how they would write this story, but if you find people who read and if you can get them to give you honest feedback.
That’s the biggest help to an author, to say, oh gosh, your book was wonderful. I really loved it. We love to hear that, but that doesn’t help us make it a better book. Yes. When you say, oh, that this character just seemed a little phony to me, or I didn’t believe this action sequence right here, that’s helpful to us and that’s how we learn and are able to.
To grow and, keep reading yourself. Read other people’s stuff, see what they’re doing.
Stephen: AB absolutely. And I try and explain to people, I’m like, look, if you read my book and tell me, Hey, that was great. I loved it. And that’s the only thing you tell me, then that’s actually worse for me.
You’re actually being much more mean to me because you’re making me think that, oh, this is great and perfect and I can put it out and everyone will love it. Then I put it out and people are like, wow, this sucks, and that was boring and I didn’t like this, and sometimes I’m getting all these people hating me and I feel much, much worse.
I’d rather have a friend tell me what they didn’t like because I trust them and it’s hard to get people to understand that they’re actually being mean to you by not telling you what’s bad about it.
Catherine: Yeah, when as I was doing drafts of my first book and I would give them to various people to read and get feedback, and when I finally had a draft that the reader said, oh, that Castle Rock character was really a, a mean character.
And I thought, She’s criticizing the character’s personality. She’s not criticizing the
Stephen: book, I think, and that’s what you want to go, I think I’m ready to go. Yeah. Yeah. When people get that invested in the character that they can hate them, that, yeah. Okay. Then I nailed it. That’s what I wanted, exactly. I know my mother, oh man, my mother. Even though she reads thrillers, she reads Patterson, she reads occi, she reads cussler and what’s his name that did hunt for red October? She reads all these stuff with all this thrillers going on. But then she reads my stuff. She’s oh, why’d they have to get so mad at each other?
And why was there this fight? And I’m like, It’s a boring story if there’s no conflict of any sort. No. Everybody should get along. Should be roses because it’s my book. I’m like, mom, you’re not reading my stuff anymore.
Catherine: I have, I’ll tell you a funny story about when I got my first book published and I grew up in North Dakota and my parents still lived there at that time.
And I went back to and combined a book tour, went around and hit the local bookshops to do readings and so forth. But as I arrived for the first time since the book came out and my mother came running out of the house to greet me and. With a copy of my book in her hand and said, I found 14 typos that you should have them correct before the next edition comes out.
Stephen: That’s pretty cool. Thanks, Bob. That would’ve been nicer before published it, but, okay, thank you. Yeah, but with eBooks, it’s so much easier to just make that change and even print. Now you can make the change pretty easy. You can’t correct the people that already have, the problem, but, it’s still not that hard.
So you mentioned talking about rules of writing and what did you mean by that and what are some examples of rules that you’ve had?
Catherine: Somerset mom famously said there are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. And I love that I’m very much of that mindset.
But you’ll find people who say you can’t ever do this, or that. And you can only have two points of view from, from two characters when you write or you can never use and to start a sentence because that’s improper. Or it is good to know the rules. It’s good to know what they are, but you also have to know when it’s okay to break them.
Yes. You have to know what they are. When you get to know that you are breaking
Stephen: them. Exactly. Why you’re breaking them.
Catherine: Exactly. Exactly. And it’s very very frustrating. There are a lot of writers workshops out there where basically what they’re doing is teaching you rules. Which is, fine, as long as they understand these are general rules and they’re not absolute rules.
And I’m not sure that message is coming across right now. There is a trend in in genre fiction toward a particular style, and there are a lot of rules that just try to push you toward this style. Which may or may not be suitable for your work if you’re writing action suspense then if you wanna look at Dan Brown’s stuff and say, yeah, hey, follow the rules for that.
There’s another writer whom I won’t mention, but he’s, bestseller and his rule is never use anything but said to carry dialogue. For that particular style, the style that he writes, that’s absolutely correct for some of us that I write with my tongue so far and my cheek that I would choke if I had to do nothing but said to carry dialogue.
I imbue my stuff with a little more humor and a little more folksy style than what he, he uses.
Stephen: And again my, my advice that I’ve started giving authors, and again, I understand I’m not a worldly experienced, multi-decade multi bestseller author, so take that with a grain of all. But the advice I give is any advice you get.
Take it with a grain of salt and evaluate it for your situation, because not every bit of advice works for you or is good for you. And the said thing, I, early on I had the, it was maybe the trend the hot thing people were saying, don’t even do. He said, she said, or anything like that, take it out because for audiobook it sounds better.
And so I tried it and the thing is, it worked for me and I do it like, without even thinking about it now. So I hardly have any said or, offered congratulatory, you put something like that and he, he yelled, exclamatory, whatever. And there’s always someone saying, oh no, take that out. That sounds horrible, and stuff.
And. And you gotta just see how it works for you, your writing, and never overdo anything good or bad. I do have a friend that wrote a book and I stopped reading it because it, it was a scene of a bunch of people sitting around talking and it was literally, No, I don’t think we should do that. She said disgustedly.
I think we should. He’s, he declared authoritatively and I’m like, oh my God. It sounds like Scooby-Doo, like a fifth grader wrote it, and I wasn’t even a writer at the time and it just stuck out to me. It sounded so badly. ’cause 20 people talking and everyone was some, something other than sex.
Some arb. Yeah. Yeah.
Catherine: Some adverb
Stephen: attached to it. Yeah. It was just way too much. Go ahead. Go ahead. There,
Catherine: There was a time when that was actually promoted to, don’t just say something, but add some qualifier to it. And that was a style for a while, but it’s it wears out in a hurry.
Yes. Yeah. Now we’ve, the pendulum has swung the other way, and now it’s don’t put any of that in. And fine if that works for your material. But if it doesn’t, cut yourself a little
Stephen: slack. And the thing, the other thing is that I started thinking of, ’cause I write middle grade, you know it’s for kids and when a kid writes something, you get.
He declared, he yelled excitedly. And they use a lot of, they break a lot of the rules ’cause that’s how they’re still learning and that’s kinda how their thinking goes. So I don’t always think it’s bad for me as a middle grade writer to write, Like what? They’re a little bit used to sometimes, I’ve had editor cut things out and rearrange sentences and stuff, and I’m like, wow, that sounds much more dry.
Oh, but it’s much more proper. Then I’m going to leave it like it was because I have that. I’ve read a lot of books in my life. I’m assuming you’ve read a lot of books in your life and I look at books that I love, books I may have even read more than once because I loved it and I could give you the basic story.
I can’t tell you. Chapter for Chapter Beat. For Beat. I got, I can tell you what happens in it, but I don’t remember the details. I don’t remember the grammar. I don’t remember the structure, the sentences and all that. Those are just what lead me through the story. I remember the story. So if what people focus on so much is the grammar and the writing of the sentences, they lose track of the story.
And if the story isn’t a good, I don’t care how good your sentences are you can get away with less than. Grammarly perfect. A hundred percent sentences. If your story’s good, you draw the people in and they get it. You can break rules to engage your reader. Yes, that’s
Catherine: true. And there is a flow to writing.
There’s a flow to sentences, and sometimes you want smooth and sometimes you want choppy. Sometimes you can wander a little a bit. But you have to find the style that fits you and fits your writing and follow that flow and not get it herky jerky and broken up unless you are trying specifically to do that for a particular scene to get a particular emotional
Stephen: reaction from the reader.
But it all comes back to you have to have read widely and you have to have written a lot of things. I know I, I know a lot of authors that go to lots of workshops and lots of critique groups and classes, and they read every book and they do online courses and they’re studying all this stuff. It’s how many books have you written?
I’m still working on my first one. I have learned, and this is me from experience in hindsight, that 90% of what I learned early on, I didn’t retain, I didn’t even understand. It wasn’t until I wrote multiple pieces and multiple things that the stuff I was learning made sense and I, I could apply it in my head, I could apply it to my writing, then it made sense, and I could figure out what worked, what didn’t, and move on.
I, there’s, that’s been my advice for newer writers than me, is stop reading the books and the courses and the classes. Just sit down and write multiple things. Don’t focus on that one story. Write a couple short stories. Write a book, put it aside. Write another book and just write it.
And then you can figure out all the rules and all the grammar and whatever else. I,
Catherine: I was part of a writer’s group for a while that I was the only published author in it, but, these were good people and they were, trying to, but as we would share material around and you look at each other’s stuff to critique it, and you could spot the ones where it had just been overwork shopped, they’d been to so many people who gave them so many different kinds of advice.
That yeah it just had become stilted as they tried to incorporate all the rules.
Stephen: And if it’s the first thing you’ve been working on and you’ve been working on it for so long, you don’t understand. You can’t take everybody’s advice. Not everybody’s advice is correct. I had a.
A group I sat in on, and it was a couple thriller writers that were critiquing this guy, reading his first couple chapters or whatever, and they told him he should cut out the first three parts and just start here and I was like, no he shouldn’t, because he’s writing horror, not thriller horror. You need more of a buildup, you need that long tail of suspense.
With thriller, you wanna see the dead body so you can move on with the story. Horror isn’t like that. And they didn’t agree with me. But I’m like, have you guys read horror? Because I’ve read a lot of horror. That’s how horror works. But I, without having the experience of writing something else, that guy wouldn’t know so much about what would’ve worked and what didn’t.
So it’s, again, you’ve gotta write a lot.
Catherine: I remember After I’d been published and so I thought I had a little better grasp on novel writing. I read a mystery for the first time since I had this new body of knowledge, and my reaction was why did they make me care about this person in the beginning that just then was murdered?
That was the victim. It’s.
Stephen: That’s the point, right?
Catherine: Oh, okay. That’s how you do mystery. You start, you build up sympathy for the victim, and then you have the death. So you’re invested in it. Then different genres have different approaches and different needs for that, that opening attack.
They, it’s, it is most important to get a hook. And depending on the genre, sometimes you’ve got a page to do that hook. Sometimes you’ve got a paragraph to do that hook. With thrillers and action things, you need to get in there right away and get that hook and get that writer hooked in.
With historical you have a little more leeway you can build
Stephen: into it. But even then, you can break that rule if you are a, have a long established series with a character and stuff that people know, of course know. If you’ve read Jack Reacher, you’ve read multiple of that series. You don’t need to have that body on the first page because you like Jack Reacher and you wanna read a little bit about him.
You’re into him and that’s why you’re on book 28. So exactly. That rule can change in certain circumstances again, but without writing that much you wouldn’t realize that or know that or get the feedback for that or whatever.
Catherine: You have to get a sense of the flexibility. It’s a craft.
It’s not a science.
Stephen: Exactly. And there, there’s a writing book. It’s called This Writing Life by Jeff Strand. And not a lot of writers have heard about it. It’s more of an inspirational book. It’s not. Devoted to craft or anything like that. It’s just basically, here’s some of the crap I’ve put up with over 20 some years of writing is essentially what it’s, and there’s so many things easily in there.
People tell you leave out the adverbs and do this and do that. He’s That’s crap. Do what sounds good for you. And essentially what it is. So I love that book because of that. It’s a it’s a great book to check out. If you’ve read Stephen King’s on Writing a hundred times, this is a good one.
That’s a counterpoint to some of that. Alright. Yeah. So Catherine Before we go is there any last things you’d like to say to authors about your, or readers about your book or authors about writing,
Catherine: To authors, my advice is just keep writing even if it doesn’t sound good. Even if you get a bad reaction to it.
Keep writing. Find someone to give you good, honest feedback. Don’t be afraid to make the changes and just keep writing it. It’ll come eventually. Yes. If you’ve got a gift, it’ll come eventually. Okay. Readers I just wanna say thank you. Thank you for being readers and thank you for delving into these works and letting us share our imagination
Stephen: with you.
Nice. Great. Wonderful. All right. Katherine, I appreciate you being on today. It has been a fun talk with you. And I’ll make sure and put links to your book and everything in on the show notes.
Catherine: Okay. Excellent. Thank you Steven. Yes.