Author Beth Cato on Writing Her First Sex Scene

Author Beth Cato and I have been friends since before either of us had a book set free upon the world. I first fell in love with her Clockwork Dagger series, but I’m now obsessed with Breath of Fire, especially book two, Call of Fire, which just came out yesterday. If you like brave women in a steampunk world, check out all her books.

Aware that writing sex is one of my favorite things to do (and arguably one of my biggest literary strengths), when Beth had to write her first sex scene in Call of Fire, she texted me to tell me all about it. I figured I’d embarrass her further by making her write a blog post about the experience …

Writing My First Sex Scene
by Beth Cato

When my heroine Ingrid Carmichael decided she needed to get it on in my next book, I debated her. “What about tearing apart another building? Or slapping down another misogynistic jerk? I can write those things. Those are destructive fun.”

Ingrid was not to be swayed. My book needed a sex scene. Oh boy.

I have nothing against sex scenes. Goodness knows, I snuck into my mom’s romance book stash often enough in my teens to find out what was really hidden beneath kilts. I just don’t usually write the kinds of stories and books that escalate romance to that level. But Ingrid is a demanding lady. From the start of my first book, Breath of Earth, it’s clear that she’s twenty-five, a woman of color, and enraged at how society constrains and judges her. When she meets bookishly handsome Cy Jennings, she is awed at how he treats her with genuine respect. Talk about a major turn-on!

By the time the second book, Call of Fire, starts, they’ve endured hell together and fallen in love. Some seriously bad people are after Ingrid. Capture or death may come at any time. Ingrid wants to live life to the fullest in the time she has left–and that includes sex.

I skimmed over my bookshelves and examined other writers’ sex scenes on a technical level. Seriously, do this. There’s a science to this stuff, and I don’t just mean the biological aspects. I mean the flow. Rhythm means everything. Romance writers get sneered at a lot, but here’s a fact: sex scenes take some serious skill, and a lot of writers (me included) find them to be very intimidating. It’s an intimate act for the characters, and for the author, too.

My characters already had the chemistry, so really, it came down to finding the right pace to move things along through their nervous chatter and the physical seduction. My editor offered some additional comments to help me smooth out the flow, too.

In the scene, Cy lets Ingrid take charge; I let Ingrid take charge, too. She’s a woman who knows what she wants. I’m not going to get in her way, even if I’d rather write about knocking down buildings instead of stripping off clothes.


Excerpt from Call of Fire:

Ingrid dried herself and tucked the towel around her body as she stepped to the door. “Are you still out there?”

“Yes.” His voice was a low rumble right on the other side. “Did you get out of the tub already?”

“Can you help me?”

Hesitant pressure on the door handle made it twitch, but it didn’t open. “What do you need?”

She leaned on the handle and took a deep breath to steel her resolve. “You.” She opened the door a crack.

“Me, Ingrid?” He peered through the opening.

“You. I’m wondering if you can distract me in a pleasant way for a while.”

Through the gap, she saw Cy blink rapidly, his throat bobbing as he swallowed. “Oh.”

At that encouragement, she pushed the door open. Cy stepped back. He wore an expression of calm rapture as he took in the full sight of her in a mere towel.

Ingrid looked down at herself and wondered what he really saw in her, what he’d seen from the first time they met on the Cordilleran Auxiliary steps. She adjusted the towel over the generous curve of her breasts. Naughty pulp novels made seduction look so easy. A kiss here, a moan there, and next thing the couple knew, suspenders and stays were undone and passion occurred in sly euphemisms.

Truth was, her anxious heart thrummed like a Porterman engine at full power. She was desperately, horribly afraid that he still might balk and refuse her in a gentlemanly way, and leave her ashamed to face him for the rest of forever. Or even worse, that something might happen in the building across the way while they dared to take this respite. That’s how their luck had worked over the past week, like a leprechaun’s curse.

“You mentioned that you’ve thought about this,” Ingrid said. “I hope that it wasn’t just in terms of honor, but about especially pleasant things.” She shakily giggled. “Good grief, I can barely talk.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t speak, then.”

With a single long stride, Cy cupped her jaw and brought her lips to his. His touch sent a spiral of heat straight through her core. The rough skin of his thumb stroked her cheek as he tucked a stray tendril of hair behind her ear. She pulled back enough to gaze into his eyes, her breath rapid.

“I’d like to think I know what I’m doing here, but I’m relying on a score of purple novels that no proper lady should’ve ever read and my own rather active imagination.”


Read all about Ingrid and the delicious Cy (I really have a thing for Cy) in Beth’s newest novel, Call of Fire, now available everywhere!

About the book:

When an earthquake devastates San Francisco in an alternate 1906, the influx of geomantic energy nearly consumes Ingrid Carmichael. Bruised but alive, the young geomancer flees the city with her friends, Cy, Lee, and Fenris. She is desperate to escape Ambassador Blum, the cunning and dangerous bureaucrat who wants to use Ingrid’s formidable powers to help the Unified Pacific—the confederation of the United States and Japan—achieve world domination. To stop them, Ingrid must learn more about the god-like magic she inherited from her estranged father—the man who set off the quake that obliterated San Francisco.

When Lee and Fenris are kidnapped in Portland, Ingrid and Cy are forced to ally themselves with another Ambassador from the Unified Pacific: the powerful and mysterious Theodore Roosevelt. But even his influence may not be enough to save them when they reach Seattle, where the magnificent peak of Mount Rainier looms. Discovering more about herself and her abilities, Ingrid is all too aware that she may prove to be the fuse to light the long-dormant volcano . . . and a war that will sweep the world.

BUY CALL OF FIRE HERE.

Breath of Earth author Beth Cato talks historic San Fran earthquakes and … foxes?

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Author Beth Cato creates steampunk worlds of mystery and excitement, starting with her Clockwork Dagger series and now with her new book, Breath of Earth, released yesterday.

Beth has created SUCH an amazingly beautiful (and terrifying) world of earthquakes and magic in Breath of Earth. Her heroine, Ingrid, is strong and vivacious with the occasional weaknesses and romantic reveries of all young women. Cy is a delicious, Southern dreamboat as her brave sidekick. The action never stops, nor does the mystery. This book is a real thriller for fans of steampunk, adventure, tough chicks, and gorgeous writing.

Let’s sit down for a quick chat with Beth and see what she has to say about her newest steampunk duology …

Earthquakes are magical (and deadly) in Breath of Earth. What’s your personal experience with them, and why did you choose to focus on earthquakes in this book?

I’m a native Californian, so I have plenty of personal experience with earthquakes. The first and most devastating one occurred when I was three years old, in the bathtub, with the epicenter of the 6.2 quake only about 40 miles away. It pretty much obliterated the nearby city of Coalinga. My mom and grandparents used to live there, so we drove to see the devastation. Buildings had their walls sheared off and resembled dollhouses. From then on, I was fascinated by earthquakes.

A few years ago, I mulled over ideas for a new steampunk series. I realized that no one had explored the 1906 San Francisco earthquake from that angle, so I resolved to take on the challenge!

beth-headshotOver the past few years, you’ve acquired award nominations and many accolades for your Clockwork Dagger series. What has been the most surprising thing about having a dream come true?

That strangers have read my works. I’m like, “Whoa, someone other than my mom and my husband has read this?” I don’t know how long it takes to work past that stage of disbelief, but I have been a published novelist for almost two years at this point and I am still baffled by it all.

I love that Breath of Earth is a bit sexier than your previous series. What made you decide to heat things up in your newest opus?

I wanted to write about a strong woman who was very different than Octavia in my Clockwork Dagger books. Octavia is very frank about the human body because of her experience doctoring, but she is also quite proper, too. I wanted to set Ingrid apart and make her a distinct person. Along those lines, she’s a very passionate person in most every way. She has a knack for surprising me even though I’m a heavy duty outliner!

What is your favorite thing you’ve EVER written?

I have a story called “The Souls of Horses” that is set against a more steampunk American Civil War. It had the most “almosts” of any of my stories at all the major magazines. It broke my heart. I loved this story, and it was rejected at about a dozen places until it was finally accepted for Clockwork Phoenix 5. The story is the only one of my works to be called out in a starred review on Publisher’s Weekly, and even Ellen Datlow recommended it on Twitter. Vindication! Here’s hoping it can get some nice attention in the upcoming award season.

Fantasy movie cast: Who’s playing brave, snarky Ingrid and sexy, sexy Cy?

I haven’t seen a good actress to play Ingrid! For that, I blame Hollywood and its lack of diversity. For Cy, I could envision a younger Viggo Mortenson. I should also add that his appearance was inspired by Daniel on Stargate (movie and series) who was a teenage crush of mine.

"Ms. Cato, I answer your call."

“Ms. Cato, I answer your call.”

What’s it really like being a published writer? Give us the honest truth, good and bad.

It’s exciting, humbling, and depressing all at once. I have actual FANS, and not just the kind attached to my ceiling. My publisher is fantastic and my publicist is magical. On the flip side: I have had signing events where all of one person shows up. I still get tons of rejections on my stories and poems. Writing and editing and waiting for feedback is the same as ever: utterly terrifying. My cat pees on the carpet.

Is Breath of Earth a duology? Trilogy? Do you know exactly where the series is headed and where it will end up? No spoilers haha …

It is a two book deal, but I think I’ll need three books to wrap up the arc. That means Breath of Earth needs to sell well so I can write another book! The second book is written and I’m awaiting edits; I have ideas about the major events for book three and where I want action to take place, but I am still reading through a lot of research material. As for an evil hint: foxes are excellent predators.

fox

“I … GOTCHA!”

If you could hand Breath of Earth to anyone, alive or dead, and have them read it, who would it be?

Well, when it comes to selling books and expanding readership, there is really only one person who wields that god-like power: Oprah. So yep. I’m going with Oprah.


I gave Breath of Earth five big, shining stars on Goodreads, so pick up your copy today by heading HERE. Learn more about Beth (and get some amazing recipes) by visiting her website, http://www.bethcato.com/.

Picture association with Clockwork Crown author Beth Cato

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Today … that’s right, TODAY … the much-anticipated sequel to Beth Cato’s Clockwork Dagger is available for purchase all the world over. Because I’m, like, important and stuff, I already read the sequel, Clockwork Crown, months ago, and I’m not exaggerating when I say you should buy your copy now.

Just for fun, I decided to pick Beth’s brain in the weirdest way possible: PICTURE ASSOCIATION! I sent her pictures; she sent me the first thing that popped into her head. Most of the images relate to Clockwork Crown, so enjoy this little visual tease and join the Cato Club today!

Tobias Sheck / Flickr

Tobias Sheck / Flickr

“What a moody, grim scene. It makes me think of the city of Mercia within my world of The Clockwork Dagger. It’s a massive sprawl of skyscrapers and factories, and no plants survive there. People suffer all kinds of respiratory illnesses and cancers. I could see this being a rare stand of woods downwind.”
Gremlin

Inti / Flickr

“AHHH. Scary 1980s gremlin! I never liked those movies when I was a kid. They were too creepy. I did want to channel some of those monstrous elements in my version of gremlins, though. My books show them as beings both cute and hideous. Plus, my gremlins can get wet AND be fed after midnight. Preferably, some cheese.”

Herbs

Sonny Abesamis / Flickr

“Herbs remind me of my heroine, Octavia. She needs particular blessed herbs to be able to call on magic to heal her patients. Gardening and herbs are her happiness.”

Kiss

The Prophet / Flickr

“Everything about this pictures screams TENSION. It’s ragged breaths and sweat and need. This is what I hope I’m evoking with Octavia and Alonzo. It’s a steampunk society and the gender dynamics are very Edwardian. I don’t depict any sex or raunchiness–heck, I’ve had reports from multiple 11-year-olds who loved The Clockwork Dagger–but the passion is there. The need is there. They may not be able to act on it, but when they eventually do? Oh yeah. Fireworks.”
Steampunk

Davide D’Amico / Flickr

“Gadgetry! This is one of the funnest things about writing steampunk. It’s an age of invention and whimsy. A lot of the action in my first book takes place on an airship. It’s not a fancy vessel but there’s still an air of sophistication about it.”
Tree

subflux / Flickr

“This pictures smells. Do you smell it, too? There’s the rankness of rotting leaves and drenched bark. Octavia worships a world tree known as the Lady. The Tree is the source of Octavia’s magic, her peace, her hope. You don’t often see a positive lead character of faith in fantasy novels, but Octavia definitely bucks that trend.”
White-Dress

Vanessa Porter / Flickr

“Octavia wears an enchanted white dress and apron that stay clean no matter the muck or blood. The magic absorbs the filth and uses it like energy. I really like the simplicity of the gown in this picture. It’s closer to my vision of her dress than the one on the first book cover; they needed to make the steampunk genre stronger as a selling point, and a World War I-style nurse outfit wouldn’t have evoked that. It all makes sense.”
Sad-Skeleton

University of Liverpool / Flickr

“Ah, bodies and bones. This actually puts me in mind of a certain character in Clockwork Crown that I can’t even mention because it’s such a big spoiler. Read the book and I bet you’ll think of the same person when you look at this image again!”
Just-for-Fun
“This cat makes me think of gremlins again–my gremlins! My main gremlin is Leaf, and he’s based a lot on my cat Palom. The frenzied antics, the mews, the demand for attention … those were all signature Palom. He succumbed to cancer a few years ago, and I pay tribute to him in the acknowledgments for Clockwork Crown. Here’s for you, furball!”
To buy your copy of Clockwork Crown, head to Amazon immediately. You’re gonna love it!

STEAMPUNK REVIEW: The Clockwork Dagger by Beth Cato

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Thanks to Urban Dictionary, I can better explain steampunk. (Ah-hem.) Steampunk literature “is a subgenre of speculative fiction, usually set in an anachronistic Victorian or quasi-Victorian alternate history setting. It could be described by the slogan, ‘What the past would look like if the future had happened sooner.’”

AH! See, I get it now! I didn’t get it until I got the chance to read my very first steampunk novel, The Clockwork Dagger by Arizona author Beth Cato. There was some further confusion when I realized a “clockwork dagger” is not actually a shiny knife covered in Rolexes. Nay, a clockwork dagger is one of the queen’s spies and assassins. But I’m really getting ahead of myself.

Octavia Leander was orphaned as a child but brought up under the tutelage of Miss Percival, who taught Octavia to be a medician, otherwise known as a “healer.” Octavia showed extreme promise. That’s because she’s a super-duper medician, devoted to the Lady: a higher power personified by a mysterious, lost Tree.

BethCato-steampunk-headshot300x450When Octavia comes of age, she is sent on a journey. She will take an airship and become the medician of a small town far away from Miss Percival and Octavia’s upbringing. Octavia is excited at the chance to save people and travel. Her excitement is heightened as she boards her airship and meets hottie-hot steward Alonzo Garrett (who has a secret). Octavia is also tailed by the overly friendly Mrs. Stout (who has some big secrets of her own).

Octavia’s trip is interrupted first by a swarm of mechanical gremlins, one of whom she befriends and names “Leaf.” (I love Leaf!) Then, Octavia’s life is threatened. It would appear someone wants her dead. Her brush with death brings her ever closer to the charming Alonzo. (Yum.) Together, they must figure out why someone would want to kill Octavia. Does it have to do with the rebels who fight against the Queen? Is a clockwork dagger perhaps aboard the ship?

Cato knows how to write, and hey, that’s saying something in a literary world oversaturated with young adult melodrama. She has created a well-rounded, detailed world. I’m especially fond of Octavia’s medician powers, as well as Octavia’s faithful, unquestioning devotion to the Lady. Oh, and Octavia’s outfit! She wears this all-white dress that soaks in stains. (I need one.)

The Clockwork Dagger is action-packed from page one, and the conflict moves along swimmingly and with ease. In fact, even the reader is conflicted. For one, who are we to trust: the rebels or the Queen’s men? Is the Lady as all-powerful and loving as Octavia might think? When is Octavia going to KISS ALONZO? See? Conflict.

This is a book about serious problems, but Cato doesn’t take herself too seriously. There are moments of laughter and romance. There’s nothing depressing about Clockwork Dagger. In fact, I left this book hungry for more. Thankfully, there’s a sequel already in the works. I highly suggest this thrilling debut—my first foray into steampunk—and a welcome addition to an ever-expanding, interesting genre.

For more about Beth, visit http://bethcato.com or just head over to Amazon and pre-order your copy of The Clockwork Dagger now.

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!