Embracing Romance welcomes author, Cheryl Brooks. A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Cheryl Brooks is a former critical care nurse who resides in rural Indiana with her husband, two sons, two horses, four cats, and one dog. Her Cat Star Chronicles series was first published by Sourcebooks Casablanca in 2008, and includes Slave, Warrior, Rogue, Outcast, Fugitive, Hero, Virgin, Stud, Wildcat, and the current release, Rebel. Self-published works include Sex, Love, and a Purple Bikini, Midnight in Reno, and the Unlikely Lovers series: Unbridled, Uninhibited, Undeniable, and Unrivaled. She has also published If You Could Read My Mind writing as Samantha R. Michaels. As a member of The Sextet, she has written eight erotic novellas published by Siren/Bookstrand. Her other interests include cooking, gardening, singing, and guitar playing. Cheryl is a member of RWA and IRWA. You can visit her online at www.cherylbrooksonline.com or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
ER: Hello, Cheryl, welcome to Embracing Romance. To start us off, what two things would surprise your fans the most about you?
Thanks so much for having me here on Embracing Romance!
One of the more surprising things about me is the fact that I haven’t always dreamed of being a writer. My earliest dream was to breed and train horses. But to do that, I needed cash to get started, so I went to nursing school. I was in my early thirties before I got my own farm and bought some horses. Somewhere along the line, I started writing, more as a stress-relieving hobby than anything. The horse-breeding project has gradually gone by the wayside, and I quit my nursing job two years ago. I’m now a full-time writer, but like any kid with a guitar (I still play mine now and then) I wanted to be a rock star!
ER: Rebel is your twenty-seventh novel. (is that number correct?). That’s impressive, especially since you worked as a critical care nurse during much of your writing career. Are you a fast writer? How many books do you normally complete in a year?
I began writing in earnest about ten years ago, but I’d written three books even before that. I have now published sixteen full-length novels, eight novellas, and one short story. There are ten or twelve more books that haven’t been published. Therefore, I’m going to say three a year on average, but like I said, some are less than 40,000 words, and some are 100K or more. I wouldn’t say I’m a fast writer, but I can meet my deadlines without too much trouble.
ER: In Rebel, book ten of your Cat Star Chronicles series, your hero, Onca, is a refugee from the planet Zetith. Is it a difficult thing to create a new world?
Not at all! In fact, it’s one of the most fun things about the Cat Star series because I can let my imagination run wild. I sometimes have to do a little research on different types of terrain and climates, but inventing new species of plants and animals is a blast!
ER: It would seem that for the storylines of the chronicles, you would have to be a plotter. Are you? Can you share a little of your writing process?
I can’t really say I’m a plotter because I don’t make outlines before I start writing. I usually have a general idea of who I’m writing about and the basic storyline, but I tend to let the story take me where it needs to go. If it’s all written out ahead of time in a detailed synopsis, the fun of those “aha!” moments is lost. Like most pantsers, most of my plotting is done in my head. I’ve come up with some of my best ideas while behind the wheel of my car.
ER: You also write erotica, which has become quite popular in recent years. What drew you to the genre?
A bunch of my Indiana RWA chapter mates were hanging around chatting after the annual general meeting was adjourned early at the RWA national conference in Orlando a few years back. We later got together at Cat Cora’s restaurant near the hotel, and The Sextet was born over a pitcher of sangria. We decided we would write erotic novellas for themed anthologies. Siren liked the idea and published five anthologies, and I wrote three more novellas on my own. I’ll have to say, the ménage themes were a blast to write. In one story, you could have three (or even four!) distinctly different heroes, even one that’s a little goofy, which is the most fun kind of character to write. In any other book, that type of guy would be a secondary character, but in a ménage, even the funny one gets the girl!
ER: Some authors can’t begin a book until they have a title, others say the title comes to them at some point during the writing of the manuscript. Which is it for you?
That depends on the story. I rarely start with a title, and quite often the title I give a book isn’t the one that goes on the final cover. For example, I was calling the current release Rascal when I first started writing it. The powers that be wanted a more macho title, so it was changed first to Renegade, and later to Rebel.
ER: Do you write to music, background noise such as the TV, or do you need silence? If music, do you create a playlist for each book?
I’ve used music on occasion, but mostly, I don’t. Not that my house is ever truly silent. My “office” is a corner of my bedroom, and my son Sam’s bedroom is right next to mine. He’s in there a lot watching movies and playing video games, so I hear a lot of that sort of thing going on.
ER: Do you have any unique writing habits? If so, what?
I write at a desk, but I don’t sit facing straight ahead; I sit at an angle to the left. My laptop is on a piece of masonite that stretches from the desktop to a pullout shelf on the left side of the kneehole. My trusty copy of English Through the Ages is the perfect thickness to keep it level. Also, I don’t use the trackpad thingy on the computer. I use a wireless mouse. My mousepad, which was a gift from my son Mike, has the cover of Virgin (Cat Star #7) on it.
ER: What is your all-time favorite romance book? What did you love about it?
I’d have to say Rebecca, by Daphne Du Maurier. I love the setting and the storytelling, but I also loved the suspense aspect.
ER: You are obviously an animal lover, two horses, four cats and one crazy little dog. Tell us about your crazy little dog.
Peaches is lucky to be alive, actually. I found her running down the middle of a country road near my house when she was about six weeks old. I was on my way home from work and I stopped and opened my car door and pulled her in. She was wet, dirty, and covered with burrs. I took her home and cleaned her up and fed her. I had a pretty good idea where she belonged, which was confirmed by a neighbor a few days later. Some folks down the road had just about every sort of dog you can imagine hanging around their place, and Peaches was a member of their latest litter. My son Sam was afraid they would want her back, so I took her up to that house and asked if they were missing a puppy. The man said yes and offered me another one! I stuck with Peaches, though. A few months later, she quit eating and I took her to the vet. Turned out she had intussusception, which is a telescoping of part of the bowel. I knew from my pediatrics classes that sort of thing happened to human babies now and then, but I never knew it could happen to a dog. Two surgeries later, she finally recovered, and now she’s the happiest, healthiest, friendliest dog you’ll ever meet. Even if she is a little crazy!
ER: What’s next for Cheryl Brooks?
I’m working on an erotic contemporary series called Cowboy Heaven, which consists of two novels and one novella. It will be published sometime next year by Sourcebooks.
Blurb and excerpt from REBEL
Recently retired from the Zetithian Palace brothel, Onca rescues a homeless Zetithian woman and becomes enmeshed in her crusade to liberate her friends from slavery.
Orphaned at an early age, Kimcasha Shrovenach has lived by her wits, but she’s never encountered a man she can love until she meets Onca.
Other women paid for him,
Only she gets to keep him.
The city of Damenk never slept, but parts of it did get a little drowsy now and then. Onca strolled down a dimly lit street in just such a neighborhood, enjoying the peaceful stillness. Talwat was a residential district. No pheromones or subliminal advertising fogged the atmosphere here, and it was quiet after dark, especially in the hours just before dawn.
Although he’d taken this same route hundreds of times, this day was unique. His most recent client had seemed honored that she was his last before taking a much-needed rest. She had smiled, tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear, and told him to call on her if he ever needed help. Allowing her to feel special had cost him nothing, but really, it didn’t mean a damn thing—even her name escaped him now. That session simply marked the end of a long stretch before the time when there were no appointments, no ladies waiting for the use of his body, and certainly no need to sleep at the Palace. He was going home.
There were plenty of men who would have loved his job and would never have considered taking a vacation. Onca didn’t see it that way. No matter how pleasurable or lucrative it might be, it was still a job. He recalled hearing someone say that any occupation, no matter how much fun it was as a hobby, took on all the trappings and burdens of a job the moment money became involved.
That someone was right. Since his partners Jerden and Tarq had left the business, Onca had been trying to keep up with the demand, but he was finally forced to admit that even he couldn’t maintain the pace forever. He had fucked six—no, eight—women that day. Although none had complained that he’d rushed them, he knew he had. Still, he doubted they would have blamed him for hurrying had they understood the circumstances. Onca’s days began at ten and went until four the following morning, and he’d gone from doing one client every three hours to one every two—an hour with the lady followed by an hour to relax, plus an hour each for lunch and dinner.
It’s a wonder my dick still works.
He didn’t even have that excuse. One whiff of an aroused woman’s scent, and he was ready to go again—all set to dive cock-first into a hot, wet pussy. He could think about it now, but without the scent, his cock remained flaccid. He’d even gotten to where he could stifle an erection if he smelled feminine desire in public, which was a useful skill for a Zetithian man to possess. Particularly one who worked in an area where the street pheromones had every passing woman panting with need.
He planned to put that skill to good use over the next few weeks. From now on, he was simply another inhabitant of a large city—anonymous and invisible. He had even donned clothing prior to leaving the Palace, something he’d rarely bothered to do before. For that matter, he didn’t always go home. Roncas had long since given up trying to wake him after the last appointment, merely allowing him to sleep right where his client had left him. She would wake him in plenty of time to have breakfast and a shower before his first session of the day.
Poor Roncas. The tiny Zuteran woman would be left to deal with the calls from new customers, even though Onca had told her to stop making appointments two years ago, following his return from Jerden’s wedding on Terra Minor. Instead of posting an announcement, she had opted to stay on for a week or two before taking her own sabbatical—no doubt deriving some sort of fiendish delight in telling desperate women that the resident Zetithian stud had taken an indefinite leave of absence.
She certainly didn’t need the extra pay. Onca knew precisely how many credits she had stashed away, and her hefty parting bonus would allow her to live in style for the rest of her days. He could have lived like a prince himself, had he chosen to do so. However, he preferred a simpler lifestyle. Granted, he owned a house on Rhylos, which was pricey enough, but it was a modest dwelling in a neighborhood noted more for its peace and quiet than its ostentatious display of wealth.
Until the next moment, when the blessed silence was broken by running footsteps. The smack of two bodies colliding followed, accompanied by a masculine grunt and a decidedly feminine gasp.
“Let go of me, you creep!”
The man’s chuckle raised the hair at Onca’s nape. “Not likely, girly. You’re mine now.”
Onca sighed. A knight errant, he was not, although he was carrying a pulse pistol—something Jack had insisted upon if he persisted in pursuing what she considered to be a dangerous occupation for one of the galaxy’s few remaining Zetithians.
“You’ll end up dead,” Jack had warned. “Rutger Grekkor isn’t the only jealous man in the universe. You just watch yourself, bucko—especially when you’re out on the street. And in restaurants, make damned sure you’re sitting in the gunfighter’s seat.”
She’d had to explain what she meant by that, of course. Jack had made a study of old Earth’s culture, with the result that her conversation was peppered with figures of speech that no one else understood, and she took smug satisfaction in insulting miscreants with thousand-year-old expletives.
Unlike the words now issuing from the captive lady’s mouth. They were all explicit, succinct, contemporary terms—some of them having their origins on worlds far removed from Rhylos.
A highly diverse vocabulary for a lady.
Rounding the corner, he spotted the couple. A hulking Herpatronian with enough leather strapped to his simian body to satisfy the most perverse fetish held a struggling woman against the wall of a nearby dwelling.
At least, Onca assumed she was a woman. At the moment, all he could see of her was a mass of dark brown curls peeking out from beneath her captor’s arm. Then it struck him that if her size was any indication, this was a young girl rather than an adult. Suddenly, the fact that he was armed was immaterial. A child must be defended, if only with bare hands and fangs.
However, since he was armed, he drew his pistol, set it for a light stun, and fired a shot, pinging the man in the ass. With a howl, the beast abandoned his victim and took off running.
If Onca had expected the girl to fall at his feet in gratitude, he would have been sorely disappointed by her reaction, which was more akin to the ire of a hissing, spitting cat.
“You idiot!” she screeched. “What the hell did you do that for?”
Onca stared at her, not quite believing his pointed ears. “Let me get this straight. You wanted that big ape to rape you?”
Her scowl was enough to scare off more than a Herpatronian; therefore, he concluded that she must not have been trying to escape. A quick once-over revealed a small, thin girl clad in skimpy strips of ragged green satin—attire that might have been alluring on a more voluptuous form, yet only made her look like an underage streetwalker fallen on desperate times.
“No, I did not want that big ape to rape me,” she mocked. “I’m trying to find my friends.”
“Peculiar method,” he commented. “Unless, of course, he knows something you don’t.”
Her face seemed to crumble slightly. “I don’t know whether he does or not. I’m trying to find out what happened to them. Three of them just…disappeared.”
“Why didn’t you go to the police? I’m sure their methods would be more effective—and less dangerous.”
Bowing her head, she muttered something he couldn’t catch.
“What was that?”
Her head snapped up, and she glared at him. “I said they’d probably lock me up if I said anything.”
“You mean the police are in on this?”
“No, I mean…” With a wince, she sniffed in a breath, crossing her arms over her nonexistent bosom. “I’m the sort of person they don’t like running around loose.”
“Ah, I see.” A homeless waif—and probably an orphan—which was one of the few things Rhylos prided itself on not having in abundance. “I agree. You shouldn’t be running around loose. It’s much too dangerous, as you can see. There are schools and orphanages for kids like you.”
“I’m not a kid.” She practically spat the words at him. “I’m twenty-two years old and I’ve been on my own since I was ten. I can take care of myself, thank you very much.”
At least she had said thank you. Sort of. “Did you ever consider that the authorities might have picked up your friends? If they were living on the street and someone reported them…”
She shook her head. “I don’t think so. I’ve seen that happen before. It’s very official and well publicized. The cops like to advertise when they do something good—at least, something they think is good. This was different.” Her arms were still crossed over her chest, and she hugged herself, shuddering. “All three of them disappeared during the night without a trace.” She nodded in the direction her assailant had taken. “He was the first lead I had.”
Onca refused to apologize. “Don’t worry. I can report this little skirmish to the police myself. After all, I was a witness.”
Squaring her shoulders, she glared up at him, sweeping her curls behind her ears in an angry, infuriated gesture as she stomped her foot. “You will not.”
Onca’s jaw dropped. “Mother of the gods,” he whispered. “You’re Zetithian.”
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Trivia question: What city is Onca in? (Hint is in Cheryl’s excerpt) Enter your answer here