Arizona · Entertainment in AZ · Sara Dobie Bauer

Intelligent erotica that’s both hot and heavy

The first time I heard the name Anais Nin, it was in Jewel’s “Morning Song:”
“You can be Henry Miller and I’ll be Anais Nin.
Except this time it’ll be even better,
We’ll stay together in the end.”

As a teenager, I had no idea Nin would have a huge effect on my life, but eventually, I found an aged copy of Delta of Venus. I found Anais Nin, and I fell in love.

Some would consider her the mother of modern erotica. Her work is gritty, dark, depressing, and lovely. In real life, she paired up romantically with author Henry Miller (and his wife). She and Miller inspired each other … and me. I even went to the Henry Miller Memorial Library when I was out in Big Sur.

What does this have to do with Mofo Pubs’ newest anthology, HOTEL? Editor Megan Lewis mentions both Nin and Miller in her introduction. For the collection, she sought out “authors who weren’t afraid to explore human sexuality while still maintaining a standard of literary excellence.”

When friends first read my HOTEL story, “Breathing Underwater,” they looked at me kind of funny and asked if I was feeling all right. I had fun stepping outside the playful banter that usually characterizes my work, and I went to a dark, angry place.

I am truly honored to be part of the HOTEL anthology. I’m among authors who amaze me with their prose. Although most of the stories are quite short, each writer manages to create complex characters who not only leap off the page but also writhe, scream, and claw your eyes. Are there happy endings? Several. (Bad joke.) There actually aren’t many happy endings in the emotional sense, but that’s what makes the stories feel so real. I think Anais Nin would approve.

Below, read an excerpt from my HOTEL story, “Breathing Underwater,” then buy the anthology. Not only is it an erotic adventure, but it’s a lesson in great literature.

“Breathing Underwater” (Excerpt)
By Sara Dobie Bauer
Featured in Mofo Pubs’ HOTEL anthology

We skipped the elevator and took the outside stairs all the way down to the pool. Middle of the week, the hotel was kind of deserted, except for the boys at the other end, splashing each other in their tiny trunks. I took off my shoes, sat on the edge of the pool, and stuck my calves in cold water. Amused me to no end when David Francis knelt down, untied his wingtips, pulled off his socks, and rolled up his trousers. His bare feet hit the water with a quick plunk as he took a cigarette from me and we wallowed in a silence of mistakes.

“How the hell did you knock a woman up? Half the country is hungry for your sperm.”

He exhaled a cloud of white that floated on a wave of classic Beach Boys. And we’ll have fun, fun, fun … “We used a condom. I don’t know.”

“She probably poked holes in it.”

His tall brow furrowed. “But it was my condom.”

I rolled smoke around my mouth—a cancerous jawbreaker. “Maybe the baby isn’t yours.”

“Maybe. So what kind of man cheats on a woman who looks like you?”

“It’s not all about looks, dude. I can be a real bitch.” I tossed ash right into the crystal clear water. Death to imaginary fishes.

He chuckled, but the sound came out through his nose, so it was half hiss, half deep rumble. I didn’t like seeing him that way. I don’t mean his pale calves in the water; he had nice calves. I mean shoulders slumped with pathetic face. In a movie, David once squeezed a guy’s head until his eyes popped out. Now, some crazy wench had him trapped via crotch fruit?

Oh, Jesus, but what did he see in me? Jaded, washed up thirty-year-old in a slutty dress. I probably had pathetic face on, too.

You know that moment when everything seems so clear? Like when you’re really drunk and you suddenly realize no amount of water is gonna sober you up? Water. We needed water.

I grabbed the front of his navy blue suit and leaned back. I had just enough time to watch him flail before my head went under, which was the first time I learned they played Little Mermaid ballads beneath the surface of the Clarendon hotel pool. I opened my eyes, holding onto him for dear life, and shit, David even looked hot under water. Pathetic face was gone, replaced by something like glee. Glee or horror, I suppose. Depended on how expensive that suit was.

We came up for air, both sputtering, laughing. I looked past six stories of balconies and the edges of white umbrellas on the roof to that cheerful cerulean sky and wished for a big strike of lightning. Bring it, God. Go ahead.

But then his hands were on my waist, and those lips of his were good for more than just talking—they were good for kissing. Naw, they were fantastic for kissing. We both tasted like chlorine-soaked ashtrays, and yet, our tongues shoved, lips sucked, and teeth nibbled, nibbled. My hands latched onto his ears like handlebars and tugged him underwater again. I’d never done much underwater kissing, but I give it two thumbs up—big thumbs—especially when his hand made it up my dress.

(Read the rest of “Breathing Underwater” and the HOTEL anthology in all its gorgeous glory. Buy your copy HERE.)

The Clarendon Hotel pool in Phoenix.
Arizona · Entertainment in AZ · Mental Health · Sara Dobie Bauer

I’m the featured speaker at Arizona’s Mental Health Awareness Week

For the past month, I’ve been weaning off my anxiety meds—little blue pills that have been my crutch for six years. Meanwhile, University of Arizona called and asked me to fly to Tucson to be their featured speaker at Mental Health Awareness Week. One of the reasons I started taking anxiety pills was due to my fear of being in public. The irony is not lost on me.

So why on Earth did I agree to speak in front of God knows how many complete strangers in the Arizona desert? Honestly, I was pleased as punch with the theme. My contact at the university informed me that they want my speech to be funny, happy, and cheerful. Instead of bemoaning my depression and PTSD, they want me to talk about not just surviving mental illness but thriving despite it.

treeApparently, I’m the poster child for this thriving thing, which is surprising to me as I currently battle drug withdrawal, insomnia, and depression. I don’t feel like I’m thriving right now. I feel like I’m drowning. Despite my head being underwater this week, however, I sort of see what Arizona means.

Despite my social anxiety, I attend book conferences and speak on panels. (People actually consider me charming and funny at these things. I find this shocking.)

Despite my depression, I continue to write and work. I go to the gym and beat up weight machines. I cook dinner for my husband even when my appetite is gone, and I laugh at ridiculous things even when my heart hurts.

Despite my PTSD triggers (never walk up behind me when I’m sitting at my desk), I create. One of my friends recently called me the most prolific writer she’s ever seen—probably because I write to combat my mental illness.

I now have a speech to write. I need to talk about what it feels like to have a mental illness. I need to discuss treatments and techniques to manage. I need to put a positive spin on all the bad stuff, and even though it’s hard to be positive when you’re not sleeping, it’s possible. Anything’s possible.

On March 30, I will stand at the high tide of University of Arizona’s Mental Health Awareness Week, completely terrified to be the center of attention. I will share my story, though, which is something I’ve never been scared of. I’ve always been open about my illnesses, because demystifying a taboo steals its power. I will be funny, I hope. I will be honest. I’ll also be free of anxiety pills for the first time in several years.

Part of thriving is acknowledging our problems. We can’t hide behind mental illness. We can admit to it and move on. As I told a friend recently, “Slay the day.” Even if you’re terribly sad. Even if you’re scared to leave the house (or fly to Tucson, for that matter). Even if you’re just too tired. Don’t just survive … but thrive.

(Photo of me by Bill Thornhill Photography.)

Arizona · Entertainment in AZ · Gina's Team · Mental Health · Publishing · Sara Dobie Bauer · Writing

Goodyear, AZ, author featured in new book (Hint: it’s me)

Photo by Ray Thomas.
Photo by Ray Thomas.
(Article by Jeannette Cruz, featured in the West Valley View.)

Most people don’t spend time discussing literature with inmates, but Sara Dobie Bauer isn’t most people. The Goodyear author established a book club three years ago at Arizona State Prison Complex-Perryville in Goodyear.

Dobie Bauer, who is a board member for the nonprofit Gina’s Team, which works to improve the lives of inmates and ex-convicts in the Valley, said she was inspired to write an essay about her experience at the prison after realizing the importance of hope.

Her essay “Hope in Orange” will be featured in the upcoming Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering and Giving Back.

“I wrote an essay about what it’s like going to a prison, spending time at a prison and realizing that no matter how much I think I have to offer, the women behind bars have so much more to offer me,” Dobie Bauer said. “Together, we lift each other up. Together, we bring each other hope. Together, we laugh, together we cry — all through the catalyst of books.”

With shows such as Orange is the New Black, many people think all inmates are “scary and tough,” Dobie Bauer said.

“Once you sit down, you realize most of them are the same age as you and they just made one mistake, or maybe life dealt them a bad hand and they had a really bad upbringing, and the only way they could get out was through crime,” she said.

She considers herself an ideal candidate to go into the prison, because she suffers from mental illness, Dobie Bauer said.

“I have depression. I have an anxiety disorder. I have post-traumatic stress. So, some days, even though I am not behind bars, I still feel trapped by fear and by sadness,” she said. “Emotions can be my prison, whereas these women have emotional prisons and literal prisons. But, despite the prisons we inflict on ourselves and that we suffer through, there is hope.”

She believes books have an amazing power to heal, and when selecting books for her book club, she looks for those that have had an emotional impact on her life, Dobie Bauer said.

“These women are really into it. They are so smart and so good at taking out the important things in these books, talking about it and really relate to everything,” she said.

Earlier this year, the book club read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, and explored a plot surrounded by murder, a poisonous marriage and dark elements.

“I didn’t think it was that great when I read it, but I was curious about what the women would think, and it was the most fiery conversation we’ve ever had because the opinions were so divided on who was more of a psychopath — the husband or the wife,” Dobie Bauer said. “I didn’t even have to speak the entire time.”

(Read the rest at West Valley View. Pre-order your copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Volunteering and Giving Back HERE.)

Entertainment in AZ · Entertainment in SC · Film · Television

12 Tumblr moments that make me love life

Now that I’m living life without antidepressants, I’ve learned ways to cope with creeping sadness. I’ve learned you gotta kick that sadness right in the ass, and there’s no better place to be surrounded by beauty and laughter … than Tumblr.

There, I said it. Make fun of me all you want, but the following round-up will remind you: life is tough but it’s funny and beautiful, too. I present my 12 favorite Tumblr moments.

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1. When David Tennant made this face on Doctor Who.
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2. When Mulder made this face on The X-Files to scare Scully.

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3. When Harry Potter pretended to be a spider with fangs while high on Liquid Luck.

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4. When this dog took a second to enjoy the sun.

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5. When Bill Murray pet Benedict Cumberbatch like a dog.

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6. When Jerry wore glasses on Seinfeld.

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7. When Chandler told a secret on Friends.

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8. When I thought a shark was beautiful.

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9. When a strange little picture made me slow down.

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10. When the ocean looked like a mountain.

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11. When this dog had a very bad day.

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12. When the Sirens boys had an even worse day.

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If you need more funny, beautiful things, join me on Tumblr. Be sure to find what it is that brightens YOUR day, whether it be silly pictures, a cuddle with your pup, BBC murder mysteries, or singing Total Eclipse of the Heart at full volume.

Arizona · Entertainment in AZ · Life without Harry · Mental Health · Publishing · Sara Dobie Bauer · Writing

LIFE WITHOUT HARRY official release on Amazon: For the Harry Potter fans

LifeWithoutHarry_Cover2
Cover art by Katie Stout Purcell.

Today, I re-released my 2013 novel LIFE WITHOUT HARRY on Amazon. What’s it about? Consider it an homage to my love of Harry Potter …

Xanax-dependent author Samantha Elliot is on deadline with a literary festival three weeks away when a white owl flies into her windshield and then disappears. This wouldn’t be the strangest thing, if not for the magic wand that soon shows up and the Invisibility Cloak that just happens to make Sam invisible.

Then, there’s Paul Rudolph: the office crush who finally asks her on a date. With the help of anti-depressants and her friend, Julie, Sam must navigate an ever-escalating world of Harry Potter and an ever-hotter relationship with Paul while finishing a manuscript before her agent (who might be Lord Voldemort) arrives for the literary festival … and possibly Sam’s head.

An excerpt for your enjoyment!

“An owl? You hit an owl in the middle of the day on a crowded downtown street?” Sam had her best friend, Julie Grant, on speakerphone while she brushed her teeth. “Are you sure?”

“I’m pretty damn sure.” She spat toothpaste into the bathroom sink. “Then again, there was an ambulance involved.”

“An ambulance?” The volume of Julie’s voice increased. “Are you hurt?”

“No. I had a panic attack.”

“I thought you weren’t having those anymore.”

“Yeah, well.” Sam rested her palms on her bathroom sink. “Tell that to the owl.”

“I thought the drugs were supposed to help with all that.”

“They have been helping, generally, but there’s no pill that fits the category, ‘Feel like you’re going to pass out? Take this.’ You should have seen the paramedics. I swear they thought I was dying. I’m pretty sure I was the color of sea foam.”

“What about the owl?” Julie asked. “Its bloody corpse must have been nearby.”

“The critter disappeared.” She made a heebie-jeebie noise and rinsed her toothbrush before grabbing the mouthwash under the sink. “Or maybe I’m just nuts.”

Sam’s dog, Ripley, watched from the hallway, listening. She was the color of Bambie with a wrinkled forehead that made her look constantly concerned.

“Is hallucinating owls a side effect of your meds?”

“I don’t think so, but I can check.” Sam poured mouthwash into her mouth and swished it around. She tried to remember all the Paxil commercials she’d seen on TV. When they listed possible side effects, she didn’t remember anything about birds.

This is a novel for the true Harry Potter fan but also for the true romantic … and for people who generally just want a good laugh and some magic in their day-to-day. Head on over to Amazon and buy your eBook today!

Arizona · Entertainment in AZ · Mental Health · Sara Dobie Bauer

You’re not pretty enough to be a model

"Dark Beauty" by Scott Miller.
“Dark Beauty” by Scott Miller.

I used to be the chubby girl. Not in the obvious way but in a way that made me think, No matter how much you work out, you’re just big-boned. Not to mention large-breasted. In college, I never felt like the “pretty one,” probably because my close knit group of gal pals were all absolutely stunning. I was the wild one. I was the funny one. Pretty? My roommates were pretty; I wooed via wit.

Guys didn’t seem to mind my fuller figure. I didn’t mind it … most of the time. Then, sometimes, I just felt big and ugly.

Through all this, I had a friend who was an amateur photographer. Janine was not only my roommate, post-college, but she was another one of the “pretty girls.” Nay, she was smoking hot; yet, she wanted to take pictures of me.

Me? Why?

I agreed because I trusted her, and I liked the photos she took, even though I still felt kind of nervous about how I looked and the occasional appearance, on film, of my lazy eye. When I moved to Charleston, I didn’t think about photography anymore. I thought about beer, beaches, and boys and mastered all three, thank you.

Milk Bath by Ben Stadler-Ammon
Milk Bath by Ben Stadler-Ammon

I didn’t think about having my photo taken again until I moved to Phoenix with Jake and only did so as a boudoir shoot for his eyes only. Then, something weird happened in Phoenix. I lost thirty pounds. I wasn’t big-boned after all. I had become a “skinny bitch.”

One day, I received one of the funniest compliments EVER from a dear friend of mine. She said: “You could be a model. Or a hooker. At Cannes. I hear they have expensive hookers at Cannes.”

My first official photo shoot in Phoenix was in character as Fight Club‘s Marla Singer with the super talented Chris Loomis. And for the first time in my life, I looked at those photos and thought, “Huh. I look pretty good!”

I’ve since gone on to do many, many photo shoots, some completely nude. I’ve become utterly fearless about my body, and I question: Why? Is it simply because I’m “skinny?” That would be the easy answer, wouldn’t it? That would be the stereotypical, media-embraced answer. But I don’t think me being skinny has anything to do with it.

Sahuaro Ranch Park by Daniel DiTuro.
Sahuaro Ranch Park by Daniel DiTuro.

For the first time in my life, I have a man who loves me, supports me, and tells me I’m beautiful all the time. This may be controversial and old-fashioned. I understand we are supposed to love ourselves. We don’t need a man to give us self worth … but it doesn’t hurt.

With Jake, I have grown to become more confident. Trust me, I never needed a man. Until I found a man I needed.

But I don’t do the photo shoots for Jake. I do photo shoots (and runway) because I think it’s fun. It’s fun putting on makeup, wearing crazy hair, and dressing up in costume. It’s fun playing a role and seeing how that role comes across on film.

Modeling has shown me that being skinny isn’t the “pretty” part. Certain poses aren’t exactly complimentary, let me tell you, but who cares if I look a little bloated one day? Who cares if my hair is a frizzy mess? And okay, yeah, I have a kind of strong, manly jaw, but with that camera looking at me, I feel beautiful.

Milk Bath by Ben Stadler-Ammon
Milk Bath by Ben Stadler-Ammon

I wish I had done this earlier, back when I considered myself the “chubby girl.” I wish I had more of a visual time line of where my body has been and where it is now … and eventually, where it’s going. I wish I could tell my younger self just how empowering it is to own the skin you’re in, no matter the shape or size. Marilyn Monroe sure as shit wasn’t a size two, and she’s considered the most beautiful woman in history.

So to all of you (the friends of mine who say they aren’t pretty enough to do a photo shoot, aren’t confident enough to walk the runway), YES YOU ARE. It’s a mental state; not a physical one. Think you’re beautiful, because damn it, you are.

I’m lucky to have Jake as a confidence booster, but I still believe a man is not a self confidence necessity. Single, married, pregnant, post-kids: do a photo shoot, just so when you’re seventy years old, you can look back, see where you’ve been, and know you’ve been beautiful. Always.

Sahuaro Ranch Park by Daniel DiTuro.
Sahuaro Ranch Park by Daniel DiTuro.
Entertainment in AZ · Film

Benedict Cumberbatch gets married: What do I deserve?

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When news broke Saturday morning that my “boyfriend” Benedict Cumberbatch was having a secret wedding on the Isle of Wight in England, I texted people as if I was the one getting married. Then, I scoured the internet and waited for some sneak peaks of the ceremony.

Imagine my disappointment when there were none.

Believe me when I say I quite literally know what’s happening in this man’s life before he does. I have never, ever delved so deeply into celebrity worship in my life. This is due to the aforementioned internet: sites like Facebook, Twitter, and the most efficient celebrity stalking site, Tumblr.

Since the start of my Bed-Addiction, I have felt no guilt mooning over photos of him at airports or caught out on the town with friends. Then, when there were no photos of him in a tuxedo Saturday, I felt irritable, cheated. I felt like Benedict Cumberbatch owed me something.

I recently interviewed British author Nick Hornby for work. A charming man with an Alan Rickman voice, he’s spent a lot of time working the Hollywood scene. I asked him if he thought we made celebrities into gods, and he said, yes, of course we do, which sets us up for disappointment.

As he told me at SheKnows.com, “I think we don’t actually have a fantasy about meeting somebody; we have a fantasy that that person will become our friend. All it will take is a handshake, and you’ll end up going on holiday together.”

Therein lies the problem; I’ve started viewing Benedict as my friend, and of course he owes me a wedding photo. Isn’t that CREEPY?

My oddball realization begs the question: What do celebrities owe their fans? Adversely, what do fans owe celebrities?

There are celebrity attention whores like the Kardashians who share everything (literally). There are charming celebrities like Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki of Supernatural fame, who make me laugh with their Twitter feeds. Then, there are celebrities like Benedict who aren’t on any social media and who keep their private lives private.

As a celebrity with a psychotic fan base, I’m sure Benedict is aware fans linger on his every word and discuss every outfit he wears ad infinitum. I’m sure he knows we want to see a picture from his wedding, but he has kept careful watch over his now wife, Sophie Hunter, probably because he knows he’s a hunted man. The couple is due to have a baby this year, too, but I’m sure we’ll never see it.

Should this upset we, the Cumber Collective? It does upset me, but it shouldn’t.

To be honest, celebrities owe us nothing. And if we are true fans, we owe celebrities respect. Sure, they might walk red carpets at gala events. They might buy 10.8 million dollar houses (ahem, Benedict), but how soon we forget: they’re just people. They wake up with bed head. They have morning breath. They go grocery shopping and have messy kitchens.

Celebrities are not gods. (Most of them only look like gods because of Photoshop anyway.) They are just human beings doing a job, no matter what TMZ tells you.

Arizona · Entertainment in AZ · Gina's Team · Mental Health

The Art of Love

Saturday, I MC’ed an event for Gina’s Team called “The Art of Love” at Cup O’ Karma in Mesa. It was a fundraiser where we featured musicians, spoken word poets, roses, hand-painted coffee mugs, and inmate art. Even I sang a couple sets.

Needless to say, I was terrified. Let’s face it: generalized anxiety disorder feels like heartburn in your brain. I’d already give myself permission to consume a vodka martini post-event, but first, I had to make it through the event.

Once things got rolling, I found a rhythm, assisted greatly by the likes of emotive piano player Nate Rosswog, sexy chanteuse Tiffany Brown, and Gina’s Team co-founder Sue Ellen Allen. Ex-inmate Sandi Starr and one of the phenomenal Gina’s Team interns, Samantha, brought us practically to tears with their witnesses on how the organization saved them both.

me-and-russWe kept on rolling with kingpin poet Tristan Marshell, gravel-voiced god Jon Rodis, and Rasheda Poe, who translates pain perfectly into poem. It was a relief for me when I got to sing two sets—one with jazz prodigy Jesse Sumter; the other with my gifted, spirited guitarist, Russell Braman—because I could just shut up and sing, wrap myself in lyrics like warm ocean waves.

The ever-glamorous wordsmith Emily Cimino reminded us that love ain’t always pretty. Then came the cast from Four Chambers Press, Jared Duran and Jia Oak Baker, who made us laugh and consider what love is all about (even if it involves Costco). We closed the afternoon with Teneia: a melodious married duo that had us dancing in our seats.

But let me be honest: all my artists, my volunteers, were not the highlight of the day. A small busload of teen girls from Mingus Mountain Academy came for the show, as well, and a certain girl (let’s call her Mary) who I’ve connected with in the past sought me out because she needed to talk.

We headed to the alley behind Cup O’ Karma, and Mary admitted she’s been barely able to cope with her depression. She’s been having nightmares. She wants to isolate herself from everyone. She’s scared she’ll never feel okay again.

A strange epiphany: Mary and I have been experiencing the exact same emotions, she in Prescott, me in Phoenix, for months. Divided by miles; connected by despair—connected by “The Art of Love” event this past Saturday.

I told Mary I didn’t have the answers, because if I did, I would have remembered how to eat by now, how to get out of bed in the morning, how to smile at good news. I told her that the only way I make it through the day is one step at a time: one hour of one day of one week … I told her, “Just make it through this hour and the hour after that and the hour after that.” She seemed relieved. We hugged a half dozen times before she had to leave.

I wondered later, while surrounded by Gina’s Team supporters, if I’d done enough. I always wonder if I’m doing enough. Then, I remembered, we do what we can for who we can when we can.

That’s what Saturday was about. That’s what Gina’s Team is about. That’s why all my musicians and artists agreed to do an event for free for a good cause—no, a great cause. Like Sue Ellen says, “Been there, done that; now, how can I help?” I’ve been in love; I’ve been broken by love; I’ve cut myself until I bled.

If not for our own experiences—the good, the bad, the ugly—we couldn’t help other people. And because we survived those experiences, we can give back, hence Saturday’s “Art of Love.” What can you do today? (If you’re moved to do so, donate to Gina’s Team.)

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Book Review · Entertainment in AZ · Interviews · Publishing

An H and Five Ws with debut steampunk author Beth Cato

BethCato-HCVBeth Cato writes about wild adventures on airships. She writes about mechanical gremlins and sexy (sexy) stewards with long hair. She is a Steampunk Goddess. She is also soft-spoken, beautiful, and fond of spending time with neurotic other writers, namely me.

Our husbands set Beth and I up on a blind date over a year ago, because we were both “artists.” We fell into friendship easily, because indeed, we were both “artists” with quite a lot in common (including a love for British TV). When the news came that her debut, The Clockwork Dagger, had been picked up by Harper Voyager, I was one of the first to hear … and REJOICE! I mean, seriously, if there ever was a reason for celebration!

The Clockwork Dagger will be published September 16, but because I “know people” (um, Beth), I got a look at an ARC. My full review will be posted Thursday, but in the meantime, take a gander behind the red curtain and learn more about a girl who’s about to take steampunk by storm.

An H and Five Ws with Debut Steampunk Author Beth Cato

How did you come up with the world of Clockwork Dagger?

A number of years ago, I wrote a steampunk story I was unable to sell. A while later, I was trying to figure out a new novel concept and I hit on the idea of doing Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express, but on an airship with a healer as the main character. I decided to use the same world from that old short story, though I had barely developed it there. The characters from that story do show up briefly in my novel as well.

Who is your favorite character in your novel?

Oh, that’s such a hard question. I have to say Mrs. Stout. She’s inspired by one of my favorite television characters of all time, Mrs. Slocombe on the British comedy Are You Being Served? Mrs. Stout is a fifty-something woman with a loud voice, loud hair, and loud clothes, but as vibrant as she is, she carries some terrible secrets. She’s so over-the-top with her mannerisms that she’s a delight to write.

ClockworkDagger_PB_Final1What is the best thing about being a writer? Worst thing?

Best thing, no question, is seeing people react emotionally to my writing. If I can make someone cry or feel angry or cheer out loud, it’s the most amazing thing in the world. The worst thing … rejection. Always rejection. Soon enough, I’ll have that in the form of harsh reader reviews, too. I fear my skin will never be thick enough to deal well with that.

Where have you felt most inspired?

I took a cruise to Alaska last summer. One morning, our ship traveled through the fjords to view a glacier. I sat by our open balcony door and wrote in my journal and read a book. We then did a day trip by bus and train from Skagway up into British Columbia. I breathed in that crisp air, as if I could store it in my lungs as long as possible. I knew I needed to write about characters going to these places. In my next book, I hope to do just that, though it will be hard for words to do justice to that wild beauty.

When (if ever) have you wanted to give up on writing?

I have an urban fantasy novel that I wrote and rewrote and wrote again. It was near and dear to my heart. The problem was, I worked on it for ages but I never had anyone critique it an an early stage. When that finally happened, the feedback was devastating. The book, quite simply, did not work. You can’t accept all critiques (some people are just plain wrong) but I knew this person was right.

I spent about three days in a horrible depression. I could barely eat or sleep. I really debated if I should completely give up, but then the next question was, “What am I going to do if I don’t write?” I couldn’t think of anything else. So, I figured, I need to fix this book. I need to prove I can write. I tore the novel apart. I rewrote it yet again. I had it critiqued by a whole group of people. Six months later, that novel is what snared my literary agent.

Why steampunk fantasy?

Adding magic and mythological creatures in with history makes things fresh. I made things a little easier on myself by setting the novel off Earth, so I didn’t need to rely on strict historical details, though a lot of World War I-era research still went into it. I had the chance to think about so many what-ifs: “What if battlefield medical wards could use healing magic alongside standard surgery? What could limit that magic? What if your enemy in trench warfare had fire magic … and airships?”

Airships in particular are a trademark of steampunk. I was obsessive about making them as realistic as possible. I based the principal airship in my book on the infamous Hindenburg, down to the room descriptions and the angles of the promenade windows. For me, those historical details make it more real and believable, even with the heavy reliance on magic. Plus, it’s just plain fun to write and to read!

Learn more about Beth at http://www.bethcato.com, and look forward to my review of The Clockwork Dagger Thursday!

Entertainment in AZ · Television

How Benedict Cumberbatch helped my career

1469a00fa4b6e1cc37e6620e88533c1fBenedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch is a thirty-seven-year-old British actor who closely resembles either an otter or space alien. I’m really not sure if he was even considered mildly good-looking until 2010, when he premiered as title character Sherlock in the BBC’s modern adaptation.

Co-creators of the show Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have famously been interviewed as saying the BBC didn’t think Cumberbatch was sexy enough to play Sherlock. Now, oddly enough, he’s considered one of the sexiest men on Earth, with a trove of maniac fans known as “Cumberbitches.”

Empire Magazine listed him number one in their list of 100 sexiest movie stars. He made Glamour Magazine’s list, too. Oh, and number one in the British Sun (two years in a row). In response to this, Cumberbatch says, “I enjoy being considered handsome, even though I think it’s hysterical.”

Do I think he’s good-looking? Yes. God, yes. (See obsessive Pinterest board.) That’s right, folks. Embarrassing as it is, I’m a member of Benedict’s maniac fanbase. And it is kind of embarrassing. When I was a kid, I had this thing for Brad Pitt (posters on the wall, signing my name “Sara Pitt”). I haven’t had that kind of obsession again until now, and I’m thirty-two and married.

What does this have to do with my career? Since getting to know Mr. Cumberbatch via BBC’s Sherlock, he has inspired countless fictional characters in my work, most notably in “Don’t Ball the Boss,” soon to be published by Stoneslide Corrective.

When he got his Emmy nomination.
When he got his Emmy nomination.
The TV show inspired me to write fan fiction, as well. I’ve written five pieces of Sherlock fan fiction and have been shocked by the overwhelming response.

I’ve had women and men send me emails requesting more, more! They shout to the rafters that I should be published immediately. My Twitter following has possibly doubled. In fact, I once found my name mentioned in a Twitter conversation involving no less than six Cumberbitches. When I chimed in, one of them tweeted, “It’s her! It’s HER!” as if I were a celebrity.

My stories get upwards of two hundred hits per day. As writers, we very rarely get such immediate praise and develop such a fast following. Benedict Cumberbatch has unknowingly made me famous.

But the actor is more than creative inspiration. This is going to sound sappy, but he’s a life inspiration, as well. He was almost killed after being kidnapped in South Africa, but due to this terrifying experience, he just says he learned “not to sweat the small stuff. And just enjoy the ride of being alive.”

Apparently, he’s impossible to interview, because he’s like a fish with a shiny object. He’s easily distracted, due to his overwhelming enthusiasm. According to GQ writer Stuart McGurk, “I feel, compared with Cumberbatch, like someone going through existence with the contrast dial turned down. To him, it seems, everything is neon bright. The barbs may sting more sharply, but his sun must shine that much brighter.”

Taking pictures with fans.
Taking pictures with fans.
Sherlock co-star Martin Freeman said, “He’s sweet and generous in an almost childlike way. I could take advantage of him playing cards.” Other male co-stars seem to have developed complete bromances with Benedict (Michael Fassbender and Zach Quinto, for example).

Cumberbatch admitted recently that he’s seeing a therapist to deal with his new fame, and he admitted this with no shame, saying mental health should be more openly discussed.

In everything he does, he seems exuberant, fun loving (see U2 photo bomb), and incredibly polite. He worships his fans, and he says “thank you” every five minutes, even in the middle of the Oscar’s red carpet. When I said earlier he looks like an alien, he might really be an alien, because no human being can possibly be so damn sweet!

This is what I mean when I say life inspiration.

The man’s behavior, even as he has become a superstar, is jaw dropping. He has yet to go the way of Bieber or Lohan—stars who got famous and lost their shit. Instead, Cumberbatch has become more gracious, and according to Steven Moffat, “better looking the more famous he gets.”

Today, I say thank you to someone I’ve never met and will probably never meet, because unknowingly (and over and over), he has inspired me, made me laugh, and made me want to be a better person. He has improved my career (something even I never saw coming). And it all started while watching PBS, when I thought, “Wow, that man has great hair.”

Bromance dancing with Fassbender.
Bromance dancing with Fassbender.