Monday, April 28, 2014

Susanne Matthews

Today we have an interview from romance writer Susanne Matthews. It's wonderful to have you stop by for a visit.  

Brief bio: where you live, any other writing, job related or education info.

Good day. I live in Cornwall, Ontario, Canada. I’m a retired educator. For most of my career, I taught high school English, but I’ve also taught French at both elementary and secondary levels. I finished my career working as a Special Education teacher helping hard to serve students. Prior to becoming a novelist, I wrote and edited curriculum for the Ontario Ministry of Education’s online courses.

SDG: What inspired you to write this book?
My husband is a huge trekker. He has a room full of Star Trek memorabilia—movies, magazines, posters, action figures, tree ornaments, etc. We went to see Chris Pine reprise the role of Captain Kirk in Star Trek a few years ago in costumes. When my husband turned 60, friends and family threw a surprise Star Trek themed birthday party and many of the guest came dressed as aliens and Star Trek personnel of all sizes and shapes. We had a great time. Attending a sci-fi convention is on my bucket list, so I decided to set a book exactly where I’d like to be—in Vegas at a sci-fi convention

SDG: I love that your book is set at a Star Trek Convention! What was your approach to writing it (did it just flow or did you use an outline or other preparatory method)?
I’m a pantser/reviser. I have a general idea of what I’d like to say in the story, the direction I want to take it, and how I’d like to set it up—nothing is written down. Then I start to write. When I finish a section, I go back and revise it. Sometimes, I’ll move sections around, add story or delete things to use later. I research as I go along—basically when the idea strikes—but I do thorough research for all of the information in my books.

SDG: How long did it take to write the complete novel from first draft to edited final?
It took me six weeks to complete the manuscript I submitted. Since I’m retired, writing is my current full-time job, so I devote at least 8 hours a day to it, although some of that time is reserved for blogging and promotion.

SDG: Are your family members supportive of your writing and what do they think about your writing career?  
Yes, my family is very supportive of my career. They’ve all read at least one of my books and are very proud of me. My husband carries around my business cards and hands them out to his clients all the time. The few sex scenes in one of my books surprised my father—he’s 86! 

SDG: Have you written any other novels?
I have written several romance novels in other subgenres. These include Fire Angel and In Plain Sight which are romance/suspense, and currently available.

I have also written a historical novel, The Captains’ Promise, and two contemporary Christmas stories, Holiday Magic and The Perfect Choice. Unfortunately, there books will no longer be available in May because, for health reason, that publisher will cease publication as of May 1, 2014. The books may be reissued in the future, but at this time, I have no definite plans to do so.

I also co-write under the name Misty Matthews. My writing partner lives in Newfoundland, Canada. We have a novella, Grand Slam, available. At the moment, our book, Coming Home, is also a victim of the publisher’s shut down. We aren’t working on anything new just yet and have not made a decision on how to proceed with our previously published novel.  

SDG: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for budding writers?
Keep at it. Don’t let a rejection stop you. Know your grammar, spelling, and punctuation rules, and sentence structure. Go through your manuscript several times before you submit it. Look for head hopping and plot holes. Last, and definitely most important, research your publisher thoroughly. A place to start is here:  Don’t be afraid to ask questions about the publisher. I wish I had. 

SDG: What are you working on now? Is it in the same genre?

Just For The Weekend is a contemporary romance. At the moment, I am working on the edits for a paranormal/romance/suspense due to be released July 14, 2014, called Echoes Of The Past, set in the present, but based on a Mohawk legend. The newest manuscript I’m currently writing is also romance/suspense.

SDG: Is writing, to you, a lonely occupation?

Not really. I have a huge online support group, and I can always find someone to chat, answer a question, commiserate over a disappointment, or offer advice. I have friends around the world at my fingertips, and consider myself blessed. As well, when you have people in your head waiting for you to get the words onto the computer screen, you don’t have time to be lonely.

SDG: We have a blurb and excerpt pasted below for our readers. Can you also provide your website and places where readers can purchase your book?

My books are available from Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, Barnes and Nobles and ARe.

You can find these links on my website.

Book Blurb for: JUST FOR THE WEEK-END.

Sometimes, you have to step out of the box.
Kindergarten teacher, Cleo James, needs a break. For the past three years, she’s put her life on hold to help her father deal with grief, but now she’s ready to move on. A weekend in Vegas at a sci-fi convention may be just the place to start. She’ll be costumed as an alien and no one will recognize her. What could go wrong? Things get complicated when she’s attracted to a conventioneer whom she believes is a gorgeous Chippendale dancer.  Can Cleo set her strict moral code aside and enjoy what promises to be a once upon a time weekend?
Multimillionaire real estate developer, Sam Mason has sworn off serious relationships. In Vegas to visit family and friends, he’s talked into attending a sci-fi convention for the night. Dressed as an alien, he’s confident he can elude the usual gold diggers looking to star in the role of Mrs. Sam Mason. When he spots a beautiful woman dressed as a green-skinned slave girl, he’s captivated by her and changes his plans to leave Vegas in the morning. The more time he spends with her, the more he realizes she’s unlike any woman he’s known. Fantastic sex and too much alcohol find him married to his alien siren, but before he can tell her the truth about himself and see if they can make their marriage work, the bride vanishes.  Finding her is going to be a challenge.

Excerpt from Just For The Weekend:

“Holy crap! You could have warned me.”
Mitch wore a long black wig, heavy brown makeup, and the facial ridges of a female Klingon warrior. Her body was shoved into a tight, black leather corset-styled top that accentuated her breasts and a long, leather skirt paired with heeled boots with silver toecaps. She had a knife of sorts shoved into her belt.
“Wow! You look fantastic. I could use one of the push-up bras from hell if I ever wanted to look sexy.”
“What are you talking about? You’re one of the sexiest woman I know, and you’re completely oblivious to it. Get your nose out of your father’s ancient history books and look at yourself in the light of the twenty-first century. I love you, girl, but sometimes you frustrate me.”
“Yeah, well, let’s agree to disagree on that. I don’t want to be noticed that way. There’s more to me than a set of boobs and long legs. I’m much happier out of the limelight. Now, are you going to tell me about your makeup?”
“It’s a mask. My friend Hailey works at Paramount and made it for me last year. It gets a little warm after a while, but it’s a lot easier than putting the makeup on each time.”
“I wish I had something like that. Where’s the rest of my costume? I’d better be wearing more than green body paint, blood red lipstick, and gold eye shadow.”
“It’s on your bed.”
Cleo stared at the scraps of fabric and jewelry on the spread.
“No way! There’s got to be more to it than that.”
The costume consisted of a burgundy silk bikini bra, a matching string bikini bottom with gold-colored sheer skirt panels front and rear, gold muscle bracelets shaped like snakes, and two-inch wide metallic fabric ankle shackles without the chain.
“You’ve got to be kidding. I’ll look like a semi-naked leprechaun. How does that fit into a sci-fi convention?”
“It happens to be one of the most popular women’s costumes. For the record, leprechauns wear green, and unless they’re some kind of mutants, they aren’t green. With my five-foot-four figure, the costume loses something, but on you, it’ll be awesome.” Mitch handed her a glass of wine. “Here, take a drink and relax. You showed just as much by the pool this afternoon.”
“Yeah, and whose idea was that? I don’t see why I couldn’t wear my black swimsuit this afternoon. You seem to forget about the moral turpitude clause in my contract. Lying around in the sun half-naked is pushing it. I certainly won’t be wearing that blue bikini to take the kiddies swimming at the local pool.”
“That clause is archaic, and you worry about it way too much—between your father’s ‘rules’ and the school board’s ‘thou shall not’s,’ you’re living in the past. Besides you needed a new swimsuit. Even my mother doesn’t wear a one-piece bathing suit like the one you had. I don’t even think my grandma would wear it. You chose the bikini—there was that gorgeous leopard one…”
“You mean the one cut down to my navel in front, and so high on the hips my ass hung out? No thanks. At least the bikini covered most of my boobs and butt.”
“Whatever.” Mitch rolled her eyes. “Let’s get you dressed. We need to be downstairs in twenty minutes.”
Mitch helped her put on what was surely the skimpiest alien costume in the universe. Cleo stood before the mirror staring at the creature looking back at her.
“I look like a mutant leprechaun belly dancer.” She took a sip of her wine. “It’s a damn good thing you didn’t show me this when you asked me to come. I’d have said no.”
 “For the record, you’re not a mutant leprechaun; you’re an Orion slave girl. Men are powerless before you. Too bad that cutie from the bar last night can’t see you. You’re worth a dozen of the brunette he was with. Come here so I can spray the glitter on you.”
Two glasses of wine in quick succession were easing her embarrassment, but as she allowed Mitch to spray the liquid shimmer on her hair and body, she couldn’t resist one final complaint.
“Well, I’d rather wear what you’re wearing. If the air-conditioning is turned up as high as it was this morning, I’ll be an Orion slave icicle!”
“Seriously, Cleo, relax. Don’t be a prude. No one’s going to recognize you. I know you’re not used to showing so much skin, but you look fantastic, and the men will be drooling all around you. Every woman in the room is going to envy you. You’ll be the most sought-after slave girl here. ”
“God, I hope not. That’s the last thing I want. I feel like a chunk of meat on display for a starving man. You’re the extrovert, the one who wants to be the center of attraction. I’m not. I think that’s why we’re friends—because we’re so different.” Horror filled her eyes as she thought of something else. “Crap, I hope no one takes my picture. The last thing I need is to have someone see us on the Internet and recognize me. I’ll wear this tonight because it’s too late to find anything else, but we’re going costume shopping tomorrow. I’m sure we can find something a little less revealing.”
“Whatever you say, but I don’t think anyone’s going to recognize you.”
Cleo turned around and stood in front of the mirror. Her mouth dropped open in shock. Good grief. It’s even worse than I imagined. Thanks to the glitter, her skin reflected the light and looked alive, shimmering as she moved. Her hair shone the same way, and she looked alluring and mysterious. Her large, hazel eyes seemed more golden than ever. Mitch was right about one thing: she didn’t look like a kindergarten teacher from Gordon’s Grove. She looked like a sexy, alien siren. Just the look I want around a bunch of half-drunk Neanderthals. She remembered how decent guys had turned into absolute jerks at university costume parties.
“If it makes you feel better, you can stand behind the table replenishing the books as I sign them and handing out the bookmarks and the other swag the publisher provided. Come on, let’s go.”
Cleo followed her best friend out of the room. She shook her head. Why do I let myself get talked into these things?
Cleo followed Mitch into the convention hall packed with hundreds of people in various alien costumes, and allowed some of the excitement in the air to calm her fears. She recognized outfits from various sci-fi movies and television shows. There were several Orion slave girls in a variety of shapes, shades, and sizes, and Cleo saw the not-so-friendly glares she got from them—especially when one of their male friends stared admiringly at her. She nodded in return and chuckled when one girl gave the guy she was with a jab in the ribs.
She tried to keep up with Mitch, who barreled across the room as if she were in a speed-walking race. Barefoot as she was, conscious of the icky, sticky carpet, Cleo moved slowly to avoid stomping boots and heels. She’d almost made it to the promised land of booth security when a giant, in snake-like makeup and the dark gray leather and chain mail associated with the Cardassians, grabbed her arm. He spun her around quickly.
“Hey, let go of my …” Her angry words died on her lips.
“What have we here?” He eyed her hungrily. “Are you lost, my pretty little slave girl?”
Familiar chocolate eyes pierced hers, and she couldn’t think straight. His whiskey-smooth voice caressed her; his touch ignited a fire along her spine. Realizing what he’d said, she searched for an answer.
“Lost? No, I got separated from my Klingon friend. She’s over there.”
She pointed to the publishers’ autograph area where Mitch stood.
“Then allow me to escort you safely to her.”
Holding her close to him, he ushered her across the congested convention floor. He bowed to Mitch and gave the Cardassian salute.
“I believe she’s yours, but I’m entitled to a reward for coming to her assistance.”
He smiled wickedly before pulling Cleo into his arms and capturing her mouth with his.
Cleo held herself rigid, but the kiss poured liquid fire through her. Of their own volition, her arms wrapped around his neck both to hold her upright and to encourage the incredible sensations to continue. His mouth devoured hers as if she was his last meal. She’d been kissed before, but never like this. When he slowly pulled away, she was breathless. She read desire in his eyes.
“Later, my Orion beauty.” He turned and walked away, disappearing into the crowd.
 “Who the hell is that?”
“I have no idea.” Cleo reached for Mitch’s blue-tinted Romulan ale and drained the glass.

Buy links:

Amazon         Barnes and Nobles       Kobo       ARe

SDG: Author social media sites:   

Blog: Living the Dream                                                      Twitter: @jandsmatt

Facebook                                        Goodreads                    Amazon Author

Monday, April 21, 2014

I am so happy to introduce a wonderfully talented author, Susan Hart Hellman, to my blog for a quick interview about writing and her mystery novel, Catch 'n Release: The Game.  Welcome, Susan! 

Brief bio: where you live, any other writing, job related or education info.

Hello, Sofia, glad to be here. I live in Southern California, and in addition to being a novelist, I’ve been a freelance magazine writer and newspaper journalist for many years. My work has appeared in The Writer Magazine;   Horizon Air in-flight magazine; Ojai Quarterly;   the Ventura County Star;   Recovery Living, and many other publications. I was Executive Editor of Your Wedding Day magazine, and have also been an advertising copywriter, college instructor, and writing workshop instructor, including those for seniors who wish to write magazine articles and their memoirs. 

I am working on the second in the Dr. Savanna Jamison series, Ring Master; a fantasy series; and a non-fiction book for writers.  The first in the Dr. Savanna series was Catch ’n Release: The Game.

My education includes a Master’s of Science degree in psychology, with an emphasis in behavioral psychology, and research with schizophrenia. After taking a break from educational studies, I’m planning on completing my Ph. D. in clinical psychology this year.

SDG: What inspired you to write this book?

Catch ’n Release: The Game (C ’n R), stems from several levels of inspiration. First, after leaving my second career in psychological testing, cognitive rehabilitation, and research (a 15-year break in my writing career), I decided I needed to return to my first love, writing.  However, I’d only written non-fiction for newspapers and in public relations and advertising, so joined the Ojai Writing Workshop to see if I could learn to write fiction too. 

That group, itself, was an inspiration, and I started writing C ’n R  just as a learning tool, a writing exercise, really. But the genre I chose, a psychological murder mystery, was inspired by my work and education in the field of psychology.  

SDG: What was your approach to writing it (did it just flow or did you use an outline or other preparatory method)?

Because Catch ’n Release originated as a writing exercise, I did not use an outline, but, rather, just started writing, trying to incorporate all the techniques I leaned in the Ojai Writers Workshop and at writers conferences.  But when it became obvious that that “exercise” was turning into a novel, I did prepare several outlines. I had come to appreciate the concept of outlining during my PhD program; it always helped with the required extensive papers, so figured outlining would help with novel writing too, and it did.

Now, however, I wouldn’t start a book, fiction or non-fiction, without an outline because having that structure is how I work best.  Of course, that outline may change a dozen times during the process. 

SDG: How long did it take to write the complete novel from first draft to edited final?

Because  C ’n R was never intended to be a novel, time was not a factor, and I worked on it for about five years.  I used the novel to learn how to write a novel, and gave that a couple of years, under the guidance of the Ojai Writers Workshop. I was in no hurry. Then, the revision process took another couple of years, because I revised the whole novel probably a dozen times, and some scenes and chapters more like several dozen times. Again, it was a learning process, with no thought of publication originally. I was just enjoying the challenge of learning writing technique, and enjoying the entire writing process. 

However, although I’m enjoying the process with the next in the Dr. Savanna Jamison series, Ring Master, this one is going much faster! I’m working on a new fantasy series too, and that is also coming together quickly.

SDG: Can you tell us a little about your book and if you have had book signings or readings?

This is my official synopsis: 

Catch ’n Release: The Game, is the first in a series of psychological murder mysteries, in which Dr. Savanna Jamison, Southern California behavioral neuropsychologist, defense witness, and unintentional underground sleuth, is called upon to help defend a strange looking, possibly brain-damaged man, killer of a girl in a sleazy bar, Happie’s.  The defense, spearheaded by Savanna’s friend, Deputy Public Defender Macy Washington, seems clear cut: killer grabs a knife off the bar; stabs and kills the girl; dozens of witnesses see it.  This killer is headed for death row. Case Closed.

But the case is far from closed.  Savanna dons her newest Armani miniskirt and sets out to work, only to find that most of the witnesses she needs to interview are clueless; the bartender at Happie’s appears to be leading a suspicious double life; and the evidence has gone missing. Also, the victim and her sorority sisters nationwide have been playing a complicated, dangerous little game, Catch ’n Release. And this is the good news!

Savanna unknowingly becomes caught up in the game, and receives several death threat notes delivered in a most unconventional way. And, she’s being stalked by a killer she previously helped convict, but who’s been released from his life sentence on a little-known technicality.

And, clear to everyone but her, Savanna’s new romantic relationship is falling apart. It appears that everyone is playing some version of one game or another, each with a common goal:  catch what you can, release what you don’t want, and never, ever be the one to get caught.

Yes, there have been several readings/signings, including at a wonderful book launch hosted by Ojai’s Feast Bistro restaurant, a location in C ’n R which Savanna and Macy visit to hold all of their important discussions concerning the murder case.  More reading are being set up in both Southern California and Oregon. Also, I did enter this novel into a Writers Digest completion, and didn’t win, but received a glowing review, including this statement:  

“This book is more than a book: It’s a well-conceived package that knows this book is not the end, but just a step in the path. . . .  The characters are engaging, the scenes are riveting, and I absolutely love seeing the way Savanna’s mind processes everything from the beginning of Catch ‘n Release to the excerpt of the next book. Great work.”~ Judge, Writer’s Digest 21st Annual Self-Published Book Awards.

SDG: Are your family members supportive of your writing and what do they think about your writing career?      Yes, very supportive.  My partner tries to make sure I have uninterrupted work time. My oldest daughter, Melissa Hart, is a freelance writer and author of several non-fiction books, so she, of course, is all in favor of what I do.  My other daughter, Jennifer Steinmann, does some very creative event planning, so she is certainly supportive of other’s creative endeavors.  My son, Mark, with Down Syndrome, is thrilled because I work at home and my flexible schedule allows me to “taxi” him to his dozens of Special Olympics activities, social engagements, and dates with his girlfriend.

SDG: Do you have any advice or words of wisdom for budding writers?

Definitely.  If you’re serious about your writing, take it seriously.  Treat your writing career the way you would treat your career if you worked in the corporate world. What would you do to better yourself in that situation?  Attend seminars, get your ideas and work critiqued, develop a team, join professional groups? Do that, and more, to improve yourself as a writer too.

SDG: What are you working on now? Is it in the same genre?
I’m always working on magazine articles, and now also working on some short fiction pieces, with the goal being to have them published in journals. My three large projects include Ring Master, another murder mystery, the sequel to Catch ’n Release: The Game. As I mentioned before, I’m also working on the first novel in a fantasy series, and a non-fiction technical book for writers, which is nearing completion.

SDG: What is the best time for you to write and does it ever interfere with your day job, if you have one? Also, how long on average do you write each day?
Fortunately for me, my “day job” is writing. I write magazine articles and am also spending a great deal of time right now ghost writing a memoir. 

I’m definitely a morning writer, because I’m a morning person.  I guess from spending a great deal of my early childhood on my great aunts and uncles’ farm, which had barely changed, technically, from its homesteaded status, I got in the habit of starting the day before the sun was up, and going to bed very early. This included arising at 4:30 am to help my great aunts milk the cows.  This has stuck with me, but it means writing at night is totally out for me.

My average day of writing or writing related activities is at least eight hours.  I can easily write for 14-16 hours a day for days at a time if I’m really dug into a novel. 

SDG: Is writing, to you, a lonely occupation?

Yes, and I love it!  Being a pretty serious loner, having the opportunity to sit alone in my office, writing for hour-upon-hour, suits my personality!   However, don’t get me wrong, I do love people, and try to go out for tea with other writers several times a week.   Also, there is a lot of socializing in the writing groups I attend (Ojai Writer’s Workshop, Ventura County Writers Club, formal writers conferences several times a year). And when I teach writing workshops, it’s great to chat with the attendees before and after class.

SDG: What is your website and where can readers purchase your book or books?
My books are available on, printed and -book versions, and the e-book through

SDG: Author social media sites:   Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, LinkedIn, and I’m starting a new blog soon.