Natural Attraction Audiobook

My first novel, Natural Attraction, is out on audiobook. Click here to see the link. Click here for the audiobook on Amazon’s site

According to Publishing Perspectives, 24% of people in the U.S. listened to an audiobook in the past year. Of these, 48% are under age 35 so this market is expected to remain strong. Roughly equal percent of men and women listen to audiobooks. Most people listen on their phones and believe it or not, the home is the most commonplace to listen followed by in the car and then on an airplane. If you want a fun, crazy book with science, romance, history, tonic, humor, and cute animals, this book is for you!DTwioP1WsAAevYt

The book link for the paperback is hard to find on Amazon, so here it is.

Natural Attraction book (paperback)

Natural Attraction Kindle

Natural Attraction audiobook (Audible)

Audiobook on Amazon

Thank you for your interest!

 

 

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Sarah Blaffer Hrdy Reassesses “Maternal Instincts”

There’s a new Shero of History posted this week.  Here it is.

Or if you prefer, read it here.

Before Sarah Blaffer Hrdy came along, maternal nature had been largely defined by highly romanticized Victorian notions, essentially, wishful thinking. Yet, through her research on other primates and cultures, Hrdy learned that polyandrous matings, abortion, infanticide, and abandoning of offspring occur across the natural world. Motherhood comes with a price and when females don’t have the resources or social support they need, they naturally put their own health and the health of the children they already have first. In a crunch they may retrench, or even bail out altogether.

 

Sarah Blaffer was born in Texas in 1946 to a wealthy family—one that wanted sons but got mostly daughters instead. As their third daughter, she found herself fortunate enough to be ignored and allowed to go to school and study what she found interesting. She graduated from Radcliffe in 1969 and got her PhD in anthropology from Harvard in 1975. At Harvard she met her husband, anthropologist Daniel Hrdy, a specialist in infectious diseases. They divided their time between Boston and India, where she studied langur monkeys and he rotaviruses. They were extraordinarily happy together. At 31 she became a mother, and twice took infant Katrinka with her to Rajasthan, but the rigors of fieldwork combined with a low point in Indo-American relations, led the Hrdys to abandon work there. “Inevitably motherhood entails compromises,” she said, “but you don’t have to give up everything.” She turned to writing and non-field research, and had two more children, who say that she was a fantastic mother. Her third book, The Woman Who Never Evolved came out in 1981. Mother Nature, was published in 1999. Other important works included Mothers and Others (2009). When asked to contribute an intellectual autobiography to the second volume on Leaders of Animal Behavior she titled it Myths, Monkeys, and Motherhood: A compromising life (2010). With each book, she found herself questioning and challenging traditional ideas of motherhood.

 

Her central message was how much social support mothers need. Costs of raising a human child to adulthood are tremendous, not only through calories—some 13 million—but children are also emotionally and financially demanding. Most women experience periods of ambivalence about motherhood. Unlike other apes where mothers exclusively rear offspring by themselves, Hrdy found ancestral humans, who reared even more costly infants after shorter intervals, ill-equipped to do so.

 

What Hrdy saw emerging from her studies was the importance of allomothers—fathers, grandmothers, aunts, other relatives, and trusted associates who help rear children. Because of this need to engage and ingratiate themselves with others, human children had to learn to integrate varied perspectives and in the process became more empathetic. In contrast to conventional narratives about the evolution of our species that feature cooperative hunting and inter-group warfare, Hrdy stressed the role of cooperative childcare.

 

An advocate of Attachment Theory, Hrdy also sought to revise and expand it to include the role of allomothers. Instead of debating mother-care versus other-care, she sought ways to improve daycare, as well as make it more affordable. Although, she never set out to be a revolutionary, her views challenged patriarchal family structures, and led social scientists and biologists alike to reexamine the way they think about both motherhood and the emotional needs of children.

 

Hrdy spent most of her career at the University of California Davis where she is currently an emeritus professor of anthropology who continues to publish research papers. Her most recent work concerns human cooperative breeding. She’s received the Staley Prize from the School of Advanced Research and has twice been awarded the Howell’s Prize for Outstanding Contribution to Biological Anthropology. For a complete list of her publications, go here.

 

These days she can be found on her 1,000 acre farm in California, growing walnuts and writing her next book, this one about the nurturing potentials of males.

Here is an interview with Hrdy:

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/primate-diaries/raising-darwins-consciousness-an-interview-with-sarah-blaffer-hrdy-on-mother-nature/

 

This is her web page:

http://www.citrona.com/hrdy/

SBHSophieBassouls24Sept2002 (1)
Her author photo for the French edition of Mother Nature by a wonderful photographer, Sophie Bassouls,

What ever happened to that actress and the prince?

 

Wildlife scene
Wolves and Deer: A Tale Based on Fact (No, this isn’t the cover.)

You’ve heard the news. Here’s the Royal announcement:

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A prince is engaged to an actress! Why would an American like me have any interest in such news at all? Actually, I do have interest and an announcement of my own.

I have interest because there was another time –200 years ago– when an actress took up with a prince who was third in line for the throne. Her name was Dora Jordan. She was Great Britain’s most famous comic, and I’ve written a novel about her. I just signed a contract for it with Rouge Phoenix Press. The e-book will be published in September, 2018 with paper backs available a little later.

Here’s the synopsis:

In 1832,Grace Clare works at the Royal Institution under the direction of the well-known chemist Michael Faraday. But science isn’t all she has on her mind. She learns that her birth mother was famous comic actress Dora Jordan. Grace is dangerously drawn into the tale of Dora’s mysterious, unjust death after her twenty-year relationship with the prince who now occupies the throne–a man who betrayed his life partner and mother of his children. As the only child free to do so, Grace travels to Paris for work and to view her mother’s lonely grave. Awash with the injustice of the cruel betrayal, will Grace be doomed to a tragic life of seeking revenge for her mother or like her mother will she be laughing in the end?

 

This novel is different from my others in that it’s written in third person –an appropriate point of view for the British Empire. The protagonist is more emotional and more vulnerable than my others. And, in keeping with the times–1832–the book is less absurd. The science is 100% realistic–based in 1832.

It’s filled with historical name dropping. Have you heard of any of these people?

Charles Babbage

Evariste Galios

Samuel Finley Breeze Morse

William IV and Queen Adelaide

Ching Shih

They’re all in Wolves and Deer: A Tale Based On Fact.

My previous novels had two-word titles. How did I get this long title for my third one? Here’s the story: Dora Jordan and Prince William lived on an estate in Bushy Park, famous for its fine deer. There was no retiring or resting for this actress. She worked to support the prince’s lavish tastes. She spent lots of her hard-earned cash fixing up the dilapidated estate, only to be tossed to the wolves and the house given to the Queen who replaced her. Dora’s not the only one thrown to the wolves in this novel. My heart bled all over the pages as I read about the betrayals suffered by the lower classes during this era. There were lots of “deer” and fewer but more powerful “wolves”.

How much of this book is based on fact? I did plenty of research on Dora’s life and times. I read letters she wrote (the best I could, her handwriting was difficult to decipher). I read plays she was in. Some such as Twelfth Night and As You Like It are old favorites. Others such as She Would and She Would Not are still published with the long S, (This was used at the beginning and middle of words but rarely at the end and can be found in typography before 1803.) Try reading that.

I became an amateur expert on Dora Jordan. I even found a sketch of her that her biographer had never seen. I have a Pinterest Board dedicated to herI’ve written about her before. I purchased old newspaper clippings about Dora and even have one of her theater handbooks. I discovered that she was prone to telling tall tales. She was skilled at her own PR. Her lover, the Prince, acted as her agent and manager. It was difficult to tell truth from the fiction surrounding her. I put all of my data together and came up with the best story I could. Due to gaps and inconsistencies in history, I was compelled to fill in the blanks. I made up my own theories about her, logical and in keeping with how theater folk were expected to act at the time. As they said in the 1800s, it’s “a tale based on fact”, but it is, indeed, a tall tale of my own–a logical one created from the information gathered, but still, a tale. And it goes against the historical record, which I considered highly fabricated.

I also did research on Michael Faraday that included reading his biography and some of his letters. He took a trip to Paris and that helped me create the Paris of 1832. So did a British guide to Paris dated 1831.

For William IV, I read his biography and that of Queen Adelaide. The Diaries of Charles Greville provided some upper crust gossip–describing William as “something of a blackguard and something more of a buffoon.” And forgive me, mathematicians Babbage and Galios, I researched you too,  and I’ve painted you as eccentric.

Wolves and Deer: A Tale Based on Fact is an 85,000-word historical novel that re-examines history and provides a happy ending along with tongue-in-cheek fun, early 19th century-science, and mild social commentary. I hope you’ll love it.

 

 

 

 

 

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What do you need to sell a novel?

I don’t usually write about “authoring” because there are many more well-known authors who do this. However, the other day I went to an author book fair and I was complimented on my table. I thought I’d share what I did to get the flattery.

Here’s a photo of the table complete with a reader:IMG_3976

You can see that I kept it simple. No banners or anything hard to carry.–just the books, business cards, and some giveaways. The purpose of the giveaways is to get my name out there, inspire people to buy the ebook,  and maybe bring people to this blog.

Here are the giveaways–one modern and one historical. Both were carried off with equal success.  The idea to put a Qr code on the modern giveaway–a science notepad, came from author Em Shotwell. You can get a Qr code generator and reader many different places.IMG_3940

One thing I learned is not to attract children. My books are adult only and we all know that human children are difficult to manage and need many alloparents to watch them. 

So, I didn’t have food or candy at my table, as I have in done in the past. I’ll never forget last year in Pella and those kids running all over a library with my GoldRush Gum giveaway while their mom ignored them. That being said, the fair last month was not well attended and I sold less than ten books. Since it cost $50 to register, there wasn’t much profit in the day. However, the best way to sell books is still word of mouth.

Along the lines of authoring, getting started isn’t cheap. You really have to have a patron or be rich yourself to be able to do it full-time. I am neither but still plug along. I have set up some marketing surveys designed as giveaways, If you are interested in what genres attract the most attention, take a look here and here.

I’m also interested these questions about content.

And for this survey, it’s interesting that so few people even care that a book is about equality. 

I have to admit, I write to a niche market when I write about female scientists but since the books are humor, there are readers out there ready to laugh. Now, on to the next one.

 

 

 

 

An Interview with The Hexagon of Alpha Chi Sigma

Alpha Chi Sigma is a professional society for chemists. One thing that I like about them is that they honor chemistry’s alchemical roots. They even have a cool coat of arms.

AlphaChiSigmaCoatOfArms

Do I consider myself part alchemist? Of course I do! Alchemists developed many of the “wet” chemistry techniques we use today including precipitation, sublimation, and distillation. Yes they added prayers and chants to their formulas but I’m sure many students today do likewise. Possible the chants might include curse words. The truth about chemistry is that it is a discipline that requires some seasoning, some experiences, some sort of unmeasurable history with the techniques. Chemistry honors the ancients. The more time you spend with it, the easier it becomes.

I was recently interviewed for the AXE magazine, The Hexagon. I appreciated the opportunity to share my experiences as a scientist and an author. In fact, I thank everyone who has read my writing, everyone who has encouraged me, and all who have left positive reviews.

Here’s a transcript:

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(1) Describe your projects. I have two novels published by small presses. Natural Attraction came out in 2015. It’s a comedy about Clementine, who longs to be a scientist in 1871. She drinks a tonic which helps her partially transform into a man and takes part in a prospecting expedition as a naturalist. Mixed In—a comic dystopia– just came out this month. It features Catrina, a chemist in the agricultural industry, who gets mixed up with a man on the wrong side of the law.

(2) Describe your motivations. Besides wanting to entertain people, I’m responding to a lack of interesting scientific characters in fiction. Must scientists always be anti-social side characters obsessed only with their work? Can’t the female scientist be adventurous, flawed, and get the guy now and then?

(3) Why do you think these topics are important? Science has enriched our lives and yet people have this fear of it and even a disregard of scientists, seeing them as walking brains and not as real people with normal wants and needs. I admit that my characters are quirky and maybe even nerdy at times but they have the same desires and the same problems at work as many people along with loads of passion and curiosity. They even have friends and care about humanity.

(4) What sort of distinctive twist do you bring to the discourse? I don’t shy away from having my protagonists deeply involved in plausible science. I also bring in social issues that scientists and women in particular face as they struggle to balance all of their desires. I must admit that the novels are also a little naughty. They’re not erotic but they are aimed at an adult audience. To add to the mix, I’ve made them comedies because science plus tragedy was done well-enough in 1816 with Frankenstein. Of course things go wrong in my novels but I’m hoping to demystify science, not make it dreadful.

(5) Any connections to your AXE experiences? In Natural Attraction Clementine gets her tonic from and later becomes close friends with chemist Theophrastus. Yes, there is a chemical basis for all that happens with that tonic but maybe a little romantic alchemy was involved as well.

(6) Other reflections on AXE to share. One of the first things I ever published was a monologue called I the Great Paracelsus based on the writings of Paracelsus. It was even performed at a conclave. I am a lot richer as a chemist due to my understanding of chemical history and I still have connections with Alpha Theta. My publishers are small and I’m not on the New York Times best seller list but if any brothers want more information on fiction writing or publishing I’d be happy to offer my advice. They can contact me at hausteinc@gmail.com or through my blog at catherinehaustein.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Women in Science: crafting an honest character

 

Not sharing information: a big scientific no-no.
Not sharing information: a big scientific no-no.

If you ask readers what they require from a fictional scientist they’ll say she should first of all be a problem solver, bursting with intelligence and curiosity. Beyond this, there aren’t many expectations. Of course, one-dimensional characters are no fun and when an author builds a whole new world, it’s nice if the people who live in it are believable. What does it take to craft a multidimensional, realistic female scientist?

I surveyed female scientists about their defining traits and two rose to the top: passion and curiosity. And the scientists had other suggestions. I’ve combined their responses into the following twelve tips to help authors create an authentic female scientist:

 

  1. Passion runs more deeply than just for science. Because of the high correlation between a scientific personality and curiosity and openness, it’s unlikely for a scientist to be buttoned up and cautious when it comes to romance, no matter what the stereotypes might be. Some readers may expect the scientist to not be sexy but it’s just not true! (Although she’ll be skeptical and won’t jeopardize her safety.)
  2. She’ll be multidimensional. The scientist will most likely be passionate about life in general so give her a side interest. Many scientists like the arts, enjoy working with their hands, and find similarities between the lab and the studio. Others enjoy sports and fitness. She likes to defy expectations.
  3. Readers these days are so over Frankenstein and Dr. Evil. They don’t anticipate their scientists to be driven into madness by their creations, nor do they relate to evil intentions. Scientists combine passion and compassion. They see science as being a not just fascinating but a benefit to society.  
  4. Balancing career and family is an important aspect of a female scientist’s life. Scientists would love to see more fictional characters who have kidsand to an extent, so would readers. Don’t be afraid to make her life way more complicated by adding family to the mix. Studies have shown that motherhood enhances problem solving ability.
  5. Readers are correct–problem solving is essential to scientists, but keep in mind that a scientist today will be highly specialized. She won’t know everything. She’s more likely to work as part of a team, too. The idea of one lonely genius working in solitude is outdated. In fact, working alone in lab is a violation of lab safety rules.
  6. She’s overcome a lot to get where she is. Prejudice, harassment, exclusion— these women are tenacious and they do overcome, often by cultivating a healthy sense of humor.
  7. Yes, she was a good student. Intelligence is a common trait among scientists. But it takes more than smarts to be a scientist. She probably had something driving her–the need to please a parent, to prove herself, or to overcome poverty or prejudice. Like many high achievers, reaching a goal brings pleasure, so much so that she could let relationships fall into disrepair if not careful.
  8. She might have her favorite jargon and readers expect it. Scientists have their words. It’s part of being in the club. But there’s an even better reason for science speak—it’s precise. Why say carbohydrate when you can say maltodextrin?
  9. MacGyver anyone? Yes, it’s true. Scientists fix things with duct tape and paper clips or a twist of copper wire. Scientists don’t mind improvising. And they like their scientific equipment.
  10. Power suit? It’s a lab coat. Studies have shown that those white coats make people perform better and make fewer errors.
  11. Under scrutiny. Peer review means that her work is critiqued by other scientists—a humbling experience and one that will keep her honest.
  12. Yes, she will be curious and find wonder in the natural world. Isaac Newton said that being a scientist is like picking up pebbles and shells on a beach beside the “vast ocean of truth.” Your scientist should be always questioning, always curious, with one foot in the future, her eyes on the stars or peeking through a microscope, and her passionate heart here on earth.

 

Yes, for the most part, reader expectations meet reality. However, realistic details can strengthen your story and gain female scientists as readers.

 

 

Catherine Haustein is the author of Natural Attraction, a Victorian Scifi Romance and Mixed In, a futuristic dystopia.

Ogle vs bogle

A new study confirms the obvious–men size women up by how they are built. Women even do it to each other. We’ve all caved in to this notion that a woman’s value is in her body. But read the article further. What kind of women embrace this objectification? Those with low self-worth. It’s a destructive pattern–look good or be worthless, get insecure about your worth as you age. You’re not going to win. As a young woman, my high school guidance councilor discouraged me from getting a degree in science. Women don’t have the brains for it, he said. I’m glad I didn’t listen. In science, your data is what people look at. In fact, scientists who look too slick bring out my suspicions. Yes, books are judged by their cover elsewhere. I’ve even heard people in business laugh about not hiring someone because of their shoes. This makes me happy to have gotten that chemistry degree. I know when my data is good and I can get good data even on a bad hair day. There’s something freeing about putting on those safety goggles and saying “Screw you world, for the next few hours, I’m not even trying to impress you with my looks. I’m going to boggle you with what I discover.”

The Unbearable Lightness of Romance

There’s plenty of lighthearted science in Natural Attraction. As I wrote it, I had a hard time deciding if it should become scifi or romance. Both include passion, mystery, discovery. I went with romance because the romance industry is a nice place. As Emma Teitel points out, in romance the female always wins. And the man always wins. What’s not to love?  Have you read about all the fighting over the scifi Hugo Awards? I’m glad to have made the decision to go with a happy genre where women support each other. Romance can be clever, fun, and funny. The first romance novel I ever read was The Changeling Bride by Lisa Cach. It was creative, informative, sexy, and it made me laugh–and think. Almost like the ideal partner. Almost like science itself. And as someone who was once part of a Shakespeare festival, I can tell you that those romantic happy endings are a lot more challenging than the sad ones.  As Malia Wollan points out, romance springs from “a desire to see goodness in the world.” Glad to be a part of the romance industry! There can’t be too much love in the world.

A poll about the 70s

I wanted to set Natural Attraction in 1871 because it was a time of great social change. Not only was slavery just abolished, evolution was shaking up world views. The discovery of sperm and egg cells was ushering in sexual equality. If I set a novel in the 1960s or 70s, what science comes to your mind?