Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Art Did Imitate Life for Author Robin Devereaux-Nelson

Today I welcome fellow Michigan author Robin Devereaux-Nelson to my blog.  Listening to her talk about her life, her process and her life lessons is quite fascinating. Welcome, Robin. Please tell us a little about yourself.

I grew up in an interesting time–the 1960s–with totally apolitical parents who sheltered my sister and I from everything that was going on around us, Vietnam, racism, Cuba. I didn’t learn about any of these things until I was in high school, and didn’t understand much about them until I was an adult. As a result, I grew up in a pastoral setting wearing rose-colored glasses. The world, when I got out into it, came as a big, and sometimes not so pleasant surprise. Conversely, I was extremely fortunate that our family had an extensive library in our farm home – a real library. My maternal grandfather, the son of immigrant Germans, came from a somewhat wealthy, well-educated family. When he bought the farm in Linwood in the 1940s and moved from urban Detroit, it was important to him that culture didn’t go by the wayside. The ten by twelve room, which was lined with shelving he built with his own hands, was filled with all manner of books, fiction and nonfiction, detective novels, westerns, sex manuals, how-to books, Shakespeare – all was fair game. Reading was how I came to know the world. Writers were who I admired. Did I read things at a young age I probably shouldn’t have? I admit, I did. However, early on I was interested in words and how they fit together. I started drafting stories when I was three years old. Since I couldn’t write them down yet, my father set me up with his huge reel-to-reel tape recorder and I spoke my first stories. I’ve been writing ever since. 

I am a writer, multi-medium artist, musician and film maker. I’ve been a working writer/artist, by which I mean art/writing is what I do for a living, for approximately five years now. It is challenging and wonderful. It is frustrating and fulfilling. It’s scary. More than anything, it is worth it because I finally feel like I am living as who I was supposed to be all along. 

Talk about the books you’ve written. What was the first seed of an idea you had for your books? How did each develop?

I have a few projects under my belt. My first novel, In Violet’s Wake, was a Nano novel (written during National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo- in 2010.) I’d just left an administrative job with the intent to write full time. At that time I was a short story writer and had never attempted a novel. I didn’t think I could do it, really, and discovered that NaNoWriMo is the perfect arena for new writers to challenge themselves. There are no traditional “prizes” – the prize is that at the end of the month, you have completed a significant piece of work. NaNoWriMo is the gift you, as a writer, give to yourself.

In Violet’s Wake is a comedy/on-the-road/buddy novel about five men who have all been married to the same woman for a short time. The charming, quirky Violet crashes through her neuroses and the lives of these men, who have all loved her, been hurt by her and have contributed to her therapy bills. They get together and form an odd sort of support group, and when they find out that Violet has her eye on husband number six, her old high school flame, they set out to find him before she can to warn the poor sucker. The book started as a joke. I was with a group of women having drinks. We were talking about a woman we knew mutually who’d been through several husbands and was working on her next “project”. At one point I remarked, “Wouldn’t it be funny if all the guys she’s been with formed a support group?” Well, the remark turned into an idea that wouldn’t leave me alone and In Violet’s Wake was born. 

I am shopping both my second and third novels. Number two, titled You Can Only See Clearly From Here is also a Nano novel (2012), and the third, A Man A Woman A Garden A Snake was written during 2013/14. 

You Can Only See Clearly From Here is the story of two sisters, Elena and Roz, who grew up in the shadow of their mother’s bi-polar disorder. Set in the present and the 1970s/80s when diagnoses and treatment of BPD was just coming to the fore, the story follows Roz, the oldest, who becomes the unwilling caretaker and Elena, who cloaks herself in denial and wants nothing more than for her family to be “normal”. Their mother, Lauren, an aspiring (and failing) professional photographer, walks a treacherous tightrope strung between normalcy and mania, intermittently accepting and refusing treatment. After Lauren dies, the walls Elena and Roz have built between themselves threaten to tear them apart. When Roz disappears, leaving everything behind, Elena must step up to the plate to find her sister, as well as face her own past and future. 

The third novel, A Man A Woman A Garden A Snake, is a dark comedy about four odd-balls who been thrown together by circumstance. Lana Lang is a 42-year-old mortician’s assistant with a half a foot who pretends to be a 1940s movie starlet. Beau Kowalski is a homeless young woman who is pretending to be a man. The two meet when Lana is brutally mugged after winning the lottery. Add to the mix Walter “The Seal” Seaton an ex-boxer with a secret, and Miriam Bashir, a Lebanese immigrant who blames Lana’s family for her husband’s suicide. All loners who are sheltering secrets and nursing their respective wounds, the four players struggle separately and together, the specters of Fear and Love doing battle within each of them to a final, surprising conclusion. 

I am so pleased that NaNoWriMo was so successful for you. I am currently working on the WIP I wrote during NaNoWriMo 2014. How has writing these books changed you?

I would have to say that the biggest change in me as a writer happened after completing the first book, even before I submitted it anywhere. At that time, finishing In Violet’s Wake was my greatest accomplishment as a writer. I’ve always been awesome at starting stories, but had a problem finishing them. In fact, I probably have five or six novels and as many as fifty short stories (and screenplays and poems) lying around that I’ve begun and never finished. Maybe it’s the same for all writers? I don’t know about that. 

Prior to entering NaNoWriMo in 2010, I also signed up for Jeff VandeZande’s fiction writing class at Delta College. My goal there was to have deadlines that forced me to finish the short stories that were assigned. That was also my goal with NaNoWriMo. I needed an arena that pushed me to finish the story, and it worked. When I wrote that last page of In Violet’s Wake, I cried. I got up and did a little happy dance. I was just so thrilled that I had finished the book – that phase, in any case. Editing is another animal altogether. 

Writing these books has been invaluable to me in that I have, over the course of working on them, been able to come to be and do what I’ve always dreamed of. While I am not making a ton of money, that is not what is important to me. The part that’s important is being a storyteller. Maybe that part of me is branded in my Native American DNA. I have come into myself and am more comfortable with who I have become than I ever have been. I am able to look anyone in the eye and say “I am a writer” with absolutely no qualms. In fact, I say it with pride. 

One other way this writing has changed me – I have learned how to be still and listen to what’s inside me, really listen. That’s where the characters come from, and that’s what really drives my stories. All my focus used to be on what was outside me. I would worry, if I write that, what will people think of me? You have to forget all that and go within. Let the stories and characters go where they are going to go. It’s a journey. It’s exciting, fun. I just had to learn how to relax into it and trust that process. It’s made me a better writer. 

I agree wholeheartedly with you about what an exciting journey writing is. How would you describe your writing process?

Most all my story ideas evolve from a “what if” question or from an idea I have in my head about a particular character. I guess it usually starts with the character. Lana Lang, for instance. I knew she was an amputee right off the bat, and that she’d lost half a foot in a lawnmower accident as a young child. I knew she was a product of a wealthy family from whom she was estranged – and that as a coping mechanism she used fantasy (movies from the 1940s) and alcohol. So, what if she wins the lottery? What if a street kid with a secret and no winter coat witnesses her winning and decides to mug her? 

The step after what if for me is always what happens next? What happens next always propels me forward. It is the question I ask myself and then type madly until I get stuck, at which point I ask myself again, so, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? This has rarely failed me. I have to say I don’t much believe in “writer’s block”. You have to be committed to going forward in your writing. What happens next is a good way to keep going forward. When I worked in the business field, I spent a lot of time as a project developer. Part of developing projects is brainstorming – that is what the question what happens next? is. It is a way of brainstorming. Sometimes I have one idea about what happens next and sometimes multiple ideas could take me in several different directions. I keep a notebook for each project and write those ideas down, as well as things like family tree sketches for my main characters, timelines, maps of towns or places that exist only in my imagination. I write down directions the plot could take and what might happen if the story heads in a particular direction, ways my characters might change, things they might discover about other characters or themselves. In other words, what if? 

I usually write fairly quickly, kamakazi style, if you will. I don’t like to over-think it. I let the characters take over and take me where they want to go. Then, when the story or novel is finished, I take the advice of my imaginary mentor (imaginary only because I imagine he is my mentor) Stephen “Big Steve” King: I put the damn thing away for a few weeks (or months) and forget about it (mostly). Then I can come back and read it with fresh eyes and start the editing/rewriting process. I am pretty brutal, so it’s important to turn that editor off when I am writing. It was a very hard thing to learn to do. Writing is hard work, but it is also instinct. You have to trust your heart and guts and brain and just let them go and do what they do. The Editor can step in later and clean things up. That’s her job. But while the actual writing is happening, there is no space for that opinionated bitch in the room. 

Kamakazi is the perfect term for how I write, too. What do you keep in mind as you write?

Let the characters do and say what they are going to do and say and go where they are going to go. Also, there’s that show don’t tell thing. When I look back at my earlier writing I can see that I really hurried through stories telling -  and sometimes I still do that when I am writing hot and I need to get down the what happens next and next and next before I lose it. I am a very fast writer. I usually find quite a few places during the editing/rewriting process where I need to slow down, show the reader the slant of sun on the leaves, define a character more with a gesture or what the person is wearing, doing, saying, ground a reader in the location using more detailed descriptions. 

Also, while I don’t outline (that freezes the characters up and doesn’t allow them to do what they need and want to do), I usually know pretty much where and how a given story is going to end, so I keep that in the back of my mind as I am writing as well. Sometimes, though, even I get surprised. And that thrills me because it is just magical. If I’m surprised, there’s a good chance the reader is going to be as well. 

What kind of response do you get when you tell people you are an author?

It’s mixed. Some people are very excited to meet someone who identifies herself as a writer. Some people are skeptical. Some people look at you as if you have just said you are Napoleon (and have delusions of grandeur.) Most folks seem genuinely interested, though, and ask about what I’ve written or I am currently writing. The thing about telling people you are a writer is that you have to believe it, in your heart of hearts you have to believe it. That took me many years to do as well, to really believe that I am a writer. When I first started saying it, I felt like a poser, a fake – even after I’d won the Fabri Literary Prize for In Violet’s Wake and got the publishing deal. I had to learn to believe in myself as a writer and an artist, to believe that I am a creative being and that creating is what I was doing for a living. 

Tell us about the funniest/craziest/most interesting thing that has happened to you as a writer. 

This really cracked me up. I have a friend who is an actor. He was working on a production in Grand Rapids shortly after In Violet’s Wake came out. He called me one evening from a nightclub and said “You are never going to believe who I am with!” I figured he was with some really famous actor or something. Not the case. At the nightclub he’d run into these three guys. They were all wearing matching tee shirts and emblazoned on the chest of each was a large “X” and a number. That’s right: X1, X2, X3. They’d all been married to the same woman and had become friends – just like my guys in In Violet’s Wake! They met once a month and went out together in their respective tee shirts. I wanted to talk them into book touring with me, but it just wasn’t to be. Art imitating life? This stuff happens. My friend made three book sales for me that night. True story. 

What is the best piece of advice about writing that you ever got or read?

I can’t say, read, hear this enough: if you want to be a writer you have to read a lot and write a lot. I’ve been reading since I was four, taken a myriad of literature classes, and I still don’t consider myself well-read. Read all kinds of things. Pay attention to how writers make their stories unfold. Practice writing. Practice a lot. 

One of the things that irks me the most is when I tell someone that I’ve been published and they tell me I’m lucky. While I admit that to a small degree luck has something to do with it, mostly it is due to hard work. Writers who are published work their butts off. It’s not just the writing, it’s editing, submissions, promoting your work. It’s labor intensive with little payback most of the time. You really have to love what you are doing. You have to decide if it is worth it to be in it for the long-haul. 

One other thing: have fun. If you’re not enjoying the process, is doing it really worth it? I think that’s true of any career. For me, writing is akin to creating magic- places, people, history. I mean, how great is that?

What are you working on now?

I’m currently in the editing/rewriting process of You Can Only See Clearly From Here. I will be making my first foray into the independent publishing arena with this novel, both in print and e-book. I am hoping it will be out in late spring 2015. 

What a fabulous interview, Robin. It’s been such fun hearing about your journey. I wish you all best.

Find Robin at:

Buy Robin’s books at:

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Who Can Resist Romance, Murder and a Haunted Castle?

Author Kathleen Shaputis has channeled her dreams of living in a fairy tale to creating characters of her own. Today my fellow Crimson Romance author joins me to talk about her writing. Welcome, Kathleen. Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been writing stories and plays since childhood. I wanted to be Briar Rose from Sleeping Beauty, and live in a forest taken care of by three fairies so I could write all day. Well, life and my mother had other plans. Eventually I did get my forest, two acres in the Pacific Northwest and various contracts to write books, these treasures surrounded by a day job, adult children and grandchildren.  
Your first book, Grandma Online, was non-fiction. What most inspired you about writing this book? A person or people? A place? Something else?
My passion is romantic comedies, yet I continually heard how non-fiction is easier to sell. “You should write non-fiction.” I balked against this suggestion for years until one day I woke up realizing I’m a computer tech and a grandmother. Most of my day is spent answering questions about software, hardware or how my grandson was doing. What if I wrote a book for grandmothers about the Internet? I nearly threw up within seconds of the thought as the force of energy overwhelmed me. I bought a book by Eva Shaw, How to Write a Non-Fiction Book and learned to create a book proposal.  

How did you celebrate the publication of your first book?
I sold the pitch for Grandma Online at a writers’ conference to a publisher over a glass of wine during the networking session. Later I dashed up to my hotel room to shout out the incredible good news and no one was home. Not family or best friend. This was long before social media, so I sat alone with my Diet Coke watching Runaway Bride on pay per view.  
You must have been ready to explode with excitement! How would you describe your writing process? Do you outline? Let the muse lead you? Or something else?
I write as a pantser, I guess, someone who jumps into a blank page by the seat of his pants and hangs on as the storyline develops. I recently read a blog by Diana Gabaldon describing the style as non-linear, writing where the wind and characters take you.
I need to read that blog—I am such a pantser. But describing myself as a non-linear writer seems to lend my process such a sophisticated air. How do your characters influence your writing? Do you have disagreements with them?
The wee buggers have a mind of their own, they do. There I was, writing about a castle in Scotland with a nasty villain attacking my sweet protagonist, Celtic music playing on the stereo and a supporting character from an earlier published book, Gillian Nation, demands a role in this one. Not only did he want a part, he brought friends! The Diva Squad made themselves known and became an essential part in solving the murder. 
I know what you mean. My characters have taken off in directions I hadn’t even thought of before they decided to take over the writing. Has writing changed how you read books now?
Definitely – beginning with the first line of Chapter One. What is the hook that must have grabbed an agent or publisher’s attention? Is it action or dialogue? What drives me crazy is a book starting out in a passive voice, so imagine my surprise, irritation, angst when one of the later Harry Potter books began “It was …” Seriously? Do we not make fun of Hemingway’s “It was a dark and stormy night”? Yet JK Rowling gets to … hmm, (settling my feathers) Ms. Rowling can do just about anything she’d like to do.   
What are you currently working on?
The sequel to Her Ghost Wears Kilts as all the characters decided they were not done having fun together. Tentatively titled Frolic and Foibles this is a rough draft of the back cover text: 
“Twas just weeks before Christmas and all through the haunted castle,” Rogue mumbled hanging the last ornament, her drafty palatial bed and breakfast was ready. Instead of focusing on the group of writers coming for a week-long retreat with a best-selling novelist, her thoughts strayed to the local luscious Brugh MaKenzie from town. Maybe she should order more mistletoe.
Twelve writers checked in for their expensive event, but only ten checked out. 
Romance and murder tangle in this sequel to Her Ghost Wears Kilts. Rogue’s cavalry of ragtag sleuths include her Aunt Baillie, the resident ghost Lord Kai and Gillian Nation in tow with the Diva Squad who flaunt sequins and glitter wherever they go.

Thanks so much for visiting with me today, Kathleen. I wish you all best with your writing. Check out Kathleen’s books at her Amazon Author Page

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Susanne Matthews Believes That It's Never Too Late to Follow Your Dream

“Works well with others” is a perfect description for author Susanne Matthews. Not only does she publish under her own name, she is half of a dynamic duo that publishes as Misty Matthews. Welcome, Susanne. Please tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Susanne Matthews, and I’m a Canadian, living in Eastern Ontario, close to the borders of Quebec and New York.  I spent more than 30 years as an educator, primarily teaching high school English. I’ve been married over 43 years and my husband and I have 3 children and 5 grandchildren.  I write romance novels in several genres including, paranormal romance suspense, historical romance, romance suspense, contemporary romance, and Christian romance suspense. I have nine books of my own published and my first Christian romance suspense will be released in May. 
I also co-write contemporary novels under the name of Misty Matthews with Misty Cail, an author from Newfoundland. Currently we have two books available, a novella and Coming Home, Book One of our Taking a Chance on Love Series. Book Two will be released in the spring of 2015.

How would you describe your writing process? Do you outline? Let the muse lead you? Or something else?
For my own books, I’m a pantser from start to finish. I get a vague idea, and believe me, sometimes that idea’s nothing more than a character name or a title. Then, I sit at the computer and start to write. I build the story as it comes to me, research every detail as I go along, and edit and rewrite along the way. My first effort may amount to about 2500 words. The next day, I’ll go back to those first words and add to them.
When I co-write Misty sends me her version of the plot and I go through it and embellish it as I do my own work. I’ll rewrite and edit a chapter at least twice before sending it back to her. She’ll read it, approve or disapprove a change, and then we’ll go on from there. 
I’m a pantser, too. And it is usually my characters who take me by the hand and lead me through my WIP. How do your characters influence your writing? Do you have disagreements with them?
In my own writing, the stories are all character driven. I may have an idea for taking the story one
way, and nine out of ten times, the characters will pull me in a different direction. For example, in the book I’m currently writing, I had one hero/heroine meeting in mind when I started writing and ended up with something entirely different after I got to know the characters.
Misty’s characters drive the story, but from the back seat. She’s a plotter, with the story firmly fixed in her mind when she starts to write. She sends me a chapter with the plot and the events mapped out, and I enhance the experiences, but the characters don’t move outside the plot line she creates. If I really want to take them someplace else, I’ll discuss it with her. My brain storms may not always mesh with what she has in store next. 
When you get the edits back from your editor, how do you work through that process?
Again, the process is different depending on whether it’s my own work or a collaborative effort with Misty. If it’s my work, like the most recent edits for my latest book, a historical romance entitled, The Price of Honor, I do a quick read through of any comment boxes I’ll see so I can get an idea as to what they’d like changed, embellished or eliminated. There were a lot of things to verify in that book outside my editor’s scope, but I had been thorough, so I could answer any questions she had. My story is set in France, aboard a sailing ship, and in New France in 1668. It required a lot of research
for historic accuracy. Plus, this is an era with few books written about it, so I was sort of breaking new ground. As a French-Canadian, I’m proud of my heritage. While the book itself is a work of fiction, my ancestor came to Canada in that time period. He was a soldier and chose to remain after the regiment was disbanded. I don’t know a lot about him beyond his name, and no doubt he wasn’t an aristocrat, but filling in the gaps is what a writer’s imagination is for.  In the novel, I used French vocabulary and spellings as well as Mohawk words, and I was lucky enough to have those provided by an elder from the nearby reserve. The editing process is simple. After I read the comments, I went back to chapter one and got to work.
With Misty Matthews’ books, it’s a little different. Content edits are handled by Misty, and then sent to me. I go through the book from the beginning and take care of line edits and add to the content edits as I did before. Since we’re both Canadian, sometimes, expressions and spelling trip us up, but we fix what we’re told to fix and go from there.

You and Misty have worked this out well. Besides Misty, do you work with a conference partner, writer’s group or other organization? Where do you get support?
Misty and I live almost 1500 miles apart, so getting together hasn’t happened yet, and may not happen for some time. We use the internet to move our chapters from the one to the other, and chat in a closed group with four others who help us through the rough spots or if we have a plot problem we can’t fix alone. Sometimes, when one of us is feeling down, it’s nice to know there’s someone out there to cheer you on. I belong to a couple of other writing groups and share my work with them regularly. 
How do you balance writing, marketing, promoting, bookkeeping, family and work?
I’m retired. I live with my husband. I have my own home office and computer. My time is my own. That being said, I sometimes get called for Grandma Duty if one of the kids is sick, but I have no obligations outside the home. Misty holds down two jobs and takes care of a husband and son who plays hockey. If you’ve got a kid in winter sports, you know how costly and time-consuming that can be. Honestly, she amazes me, because I just don’t know how she does it. My biggest challenge is marketing and promotion. I’ve never been one to blow my own horn, so doing that side of the job is brutal. I’m learning my way around social media, but it takes a lot of time and effort. It’s definitely an area I need to improve. 
What is the biggest chance you’ve taken as a writer? How did that work out?
I made a bad choice in opting to sell my work to an unscrupulous publisher who did not pay the royalties due her authors and who closed the door on the publishing house when the authors threatened legal action. Luckily she returned the basic rights to the authors including me, but that left me with three books of my own, previously published, without a home and one Misty Matthews’ book in the same situation. I opted to edit and republish my books under the same title, but with new covers. We sold the Misty Matthews book to a different publisher who gave us a multi-book contract. So far things are good, but we’ll have to see how well the books sell. 
Wow, that must have been a difficult predicament to work through. I’m glad it all worked out. Is there anything else you would like readers to know about you?
I’m always amazed when I finish a book, whether it’s one of my own or one of my Misty Matthews ones.  It stuns me to know what I can create in my imagination can entertain people. I can’t explain the thrill I get when people tell me, either in person or through online comments and reviews, how much they enjoyed my work. I feel like I’m still contributing to the world, something I didn’t think I’d be doing after I retired from teaching. It also helps me understand that I can still help others, learn, and teach if you will. Misty is learning from me just as I continue to learn from her.  She’s keeping me young, grounded in the twenty-first century, and her support and desire to keep working with me have gone a long way toward giving me a renewed sense of self. I’ve learned that it’s never too late to follow your dreams. 

About Coming Home:
Home is where the heart is.
Motorcycle riding, attorney Alana Stewart is a far cry from the shy, teenager who left Chance determined never to look back. Family obligations force her to return to the town that only holds bad memories for her. A stop at her former sanctuary brings an unexpected surprise...the new manager just might be what she needs to get her through the holidays. When sexy, leather-clad Alana walks into the bookstore, Connor Tate, has a feeling he may be in for the ride of his life. Despite the fact that their lives are headed in different directions, they are drawn to one another. Connor is determined to prove to Alana that Chance isn’t the place she remembers, but will his efforts fail when she discovers he hasn’t told her the whole truth about himself? Can they trust each other enough to take a chance on love?

Purchase Coming Home from:

Meet Alana in this excerpt from Coming Home:
Alana answered the call thinking Mark had forgotten something. “Don’t worry about anything. I’m heading back now. I’ll be there as soon as I can. Do you think you can handle things until then?”
“Hello to you too.”
Closing her eyes, she smothered a groan. Should have checked the screen. Why have caller ID if I don’t use it. The voice belonged to her best friend and former boyfriend, Chris.
“And where is it you’re headed back to, smart lady?”
“Texas. I’m coming back to Austin. Mark is an incompetent ass, and he’s going to screw up everything. I should never have left him alone to do this in the first place. I don’t know what made me think he could manage anything as complicated as filing papers on his own.”
Chris’s laughter filled her ears, and she relaxed. “From what you’ve told me about him, I can see him doing that, but you aren’t coming back here until your vacation is over.”
“Oh yes I am. I’m not going to let him mess everything up. I’ve worked too hard to see it all go down the toilet.”
“Where are you now?”
“Standing on the side of the road just outside Chance because that bungling dork called me ten times in three days since he’s a useless tool unable to do his job.” She paced up and down the soft shoulder, trying to contain her annoyance at both men. The last thing she needed was to have this conversation with Chris now. What she wanted was to get back to Texas and her job, but before she could do that, she had to contact her mother. Could things get any worse? A pickup with the bed full of teenage boys drove by and wolf-whistles filled the air. Seriously?
“Listen, Alana. I know how you feel about this trip, and Mark’s incessant calling isn’t making it any easier. He’s providing a distraction and a damn good one since you seem ready to throw in the towel. Stuff it. It’s time to put on your big girl panties. Forget Mark. Get on that sweet new ride of yours and go home. For the past ten years, your family has spent Christmas in Austin. Now it’s your turn to go home. Call your secretary. Wonder Woman can babysit Kid Jerk for a few days. If you can’t stay the whole time, fine, but don’t chicken out now.”
“No buts,” he interrupted. “If I find you back in Austin before New Year’s, I’ll personally drag you and your cute, little ass back to your mother’s house. You work way too hard and your family misses you.”
Chris was right, and she hated it. He’d keep his word too, and that was a scene she’d rather not picture. The sight of her tough, tattooed friend would give her mother apoplexy.
“Fine. But if I lose my job because of this, you will be supporting me, and I have developed expensive tastes.”
He chuckled. “Don’t I know it. Love you babe and have fun. Call me when things live down to your lowest expectations, and you need a laugh.”
“I will.” Hanging up, she smiled. She owed a lot to Chris. Thanks to him, she’d gotten through difficult times and become the woman she was today. Too bad she hadn’t taken him up on his offer to come with her. Seeing the looks on the faces of all the prim and proper people of Chance might have made coming home worthwhile, but she knew this was a trip she had to make alone, even if she was procrastinating, kicking and screaming all the way.

About the Author: Misty Matthews
Misty Matthews is a newly formed writing partnership between Susanne Matthews and Misty Cail. These authors have never met and the book was created by grace and virtue of email and Internet chats. It's a true Twenty-first century miracle.
Misty and Susanne met in an online Facebook chat group back in December, 2012 and have become fast friends and partners. Misty, the plot genius, had the idea for the book, but found it hard to do the research and polishing necessary for the story. Susanne loved the premise of the story and offered to handle that aspect of it in partnership with her. The name seemed a natural choice. The rest as they say is history.
Follow Misty Matthews on 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

For Illustrator Jamie Rizzo, Inspriation Can Strike at Any Moment

Last month I was in my home town, Rochester, NY, for a couple of book signings. While at the Hilton Apple Fest, I met Jamie Rizzo, an illustrator, who was at the table next to me. We had a delightful chat, and I invited her to be my guest on Meyette’s Musings. I am so excited to have my first illustrator on my blog. Welcome, Jamie. For starters, describe your journey to becoming an illustrator.
Where to start? It has been a crazy journey to be sure. It started when I was very young, standing at a tall wooden easel in my grandmother’s art studio. Brush in hand, she would try to teach me how to paint with oil colors. Sometimes she would take over when it got too hard, but we always did it together. I learned how to make clouds and trees and sunsets and even a horse or two (they are really hard to draw). 

In grade school, art class was always my favorite class. Being a shy, introverted kid, diving headfirst into a drawing was a way of escape for me. It let me relieve stress and forget about the daily grind of middle school and high school. 

In college I had an especially hard senior year. My style is very heavily influenced by the Japanese anime style of art and a lot of my pieces reflected that and a heavy use of color. I found it hard to conform to my painting class professor’s idea of what was right and what was not. I spent many hours on paintings that brought me no joy. With each stroke there was a heavy sigh. Not my best work, for my portfolio or my soul, but I got through it and passed the class. Funny enough, another art professor told me that my style was very different to not give up on it. To this day I am still not sure what my “style” is, but I know I will figure it out someday. 

Here we are in the present day; I've got a few conventions and shows under my belt and let me say, wow, I am so not a salesperson! For someone who is shy and doesn't talk very much it is very hard to entice people to glance through my binder of prints to find something they might want to purchase. Thankfully I have wonderful family members that always have a few business cards in hand. Even at the drive thru window at McDonalds, you can find my mother tossing cards to customers when they seem interested in something I've done! 

Right now I am in collaboration with Josie Waverly, a well-known local country singer, creating a series of children's books called Josie the Singing Butterfly. I went into our first meeting having no clue what to expect. We hit it off from the start talking about art and children's stories and even ghost hunting! She liked my drawings of the mini faeries with the chubby cheeks so much that the style became the look of Josie herself! What a ride it has been. From July 2014 to now, I am learning how to be a business partner and how to actually sell my artwork. Hopefully I am not the only one who has trouble figuring out how to price their works. 

It was great to spend the day next to you and Josie at the Hilton Apple Fest. And I wrangle with the same issues as you do as far as marketing goes. Do you write your own stories and then illustrate them?
I currently have two books self-published. They are not super professional, but it is a good way to start. The first book is called Kaleidoscope.  It is full of poetry I've written over the years along with a selection of artwork. At one point I thought I should put the best writings together in a book and pair them with some of my best works. I have to say, it was hard to bare my soul to the public, but now I am happy to share it. I had one of my neighbors tell me that one of the poems really touched her heart. Her son recently passed tragically and she turned to art to ease the pain. To think something I wrote could touch someone like that is just mind blowing! 

My second book is a short story called BonBon's First Adventure. It is about an old woman who lives alone and desperately wants someone to be her friend. Something magical happens and BonBon the candy cane faerie is born! BonBon was originally a drawing I did just for fun when the idea popped into my head. It is a cute, light hearted story for the holiday season! I am selling them on my website currently. I also have another addition to BonBon's adventures started that should hopefully be done for the next holiday season! Stay tuned for that!

Both of your books sound enchanting.  Where do you find inspiration for your illustrations/artwork? 
My inspiration comes at the oddest times. Lately I like to walk along the nature trails at the local park. Far away from the buzzing noise of traffic and kids on the playground I crunch through fallen leaves. I find the peace of nature to be a comfort to me when things get hard. The trees rustle and sway, but never do they break no matter how hard the wind blows. Yes, I'd have to say that nature is my greatest inspiration. When I draw my faeries or other creatures they are usually based on natural elements. 

Charlotte Beach
Inspiration also comes from random encounters. I once passed an old bench in the middle of a town I drive through often. For some reason it sparked words in my mind and a poem was born! I also found myself wandering through a cemetery twice this past month. I found it calming and peaceful which also inspired another writing that I will publish soon. Another time I was working the first window at McDonalds when I looked out to see a single maple near the road. It had always been there and I passed it so many times without so much as a glance, but that day I felt a connection and started to write in the middle of a busy lunch rush!

Another place of inspiration is world issues I feel strongly about. Since I have a quiet voice I let my art or writings do the talking for me. I am very into environmental issues and a few of my pieces reflect on how we treat the world and the animals and people we share it with. 

What wonderful sources of inspiration. What is your favorite medium to work in? 
I like pastels. You can get REALLY messy and blend the colors easily with your fingers. Colored pencil is a backup when I can't make that big of a mess. When I can afford my own studio I will get back to oil paintings. 

Often when I see a piece of art, I wonder how many attempts went into the planning. How many sketches do you make before you are satisfied? 
That depends on the day. Some days I can do one, maybe two sketches and bingo the drawing is perfect. Other days I erase and redraw with such force I sometimes just give up and put it away until I get the urge to draw again. 

Take us through the process of creating an illustration from your first conception to the final product. 
Wild Child
First I get an inspiration. A tiny spark ignites in my brain and I have to write it out or draw it before it bursts! I do a few doodles to get the juices flowing then I dive head first into the main attraction. Sometimes I have to google pictures to get the proportions right, especially if I am drawing a human figure or if I get stuck. From there the sketches are either scanned and colored digitally or transferred to canvas or gone over with colored pencil. There is the rare occasion where I finish the pencil sketch then put it away for months before I finish the piece. I either lose interest or become frustrated with it. After that the piece is either tucked into my portfolio for a later date or framed and sold to the customer it was drawn for. Right now a lot of my work is done for self-gratification. There will come a time when they will get their place at a gallery. All in good time.

Who is your favorite artist? Illustrator? 
That would be MorMor, Edna Christina Rothrum, my grandmother on my mom’s side. When she was young she taught herself how to paint and entered a contest. She would have won, but the paper was not the right paper for the entry. Being poor she had no choice but to forfeit. [She went] from humble beginnings to huge painting sales in her front yard. Each house in the family has to have at least one Edna Rothrum painting. She exclusively used oil paints to create her stunning pieces. She was a master that is for sure and I think about her all the time. She passed away in 2004 and not a day goes by where I don’t feel a tug of sadness that she can't be here in body during this exciting time of my art career. I know that she is watching from above and can only imagine how proud she is. My mom is a crafty wizard who used to do great portrait works, too! It runs in the Rothrum genes, that’s for sure!

What a delight to have you as my guest today, Jamie. I wish you the best of luck with all of your art in the future. Thanks for being my guest today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Local Legends Provide Inspiration for Rebecca Patrick-Howard's Mysteries

Rebecca Patrick-Howard loves ghostly mysteries just like I do. How exciting to have her on my blog today. Rebecca, talk about the books you’ve written. What was the first seed of an idea you had for your book? How did it develop?
I’ve been published for around 13 years but it’s only been recently that I’ve seen success with my books. I began by collecting local ghost stories, legends, and folk tales from people in my community. I created a Facebook page in which folks could send me stories but, for the most part, I just got out in the community and started interviewing people. My paranormal mystery series, Taryn’s Camera, is about a woman who sees the past through her camera. She uses this to solve old murder mysteries. I use this series to combine my love of urban exploring, old houses, photography, and ghosts. The first book in the series is WINDWOOD FARM. That idea came from an exploration of an old stone farmhouse I did with my husband. The house was empty and had been neglected over the years. The downstairs was completely devoid of furnishings. When we wandered up the stairs, however, we discovered a bedroom full of belongings. It appeared that someone had simply gotten out of bed one day and walked away. That scene gnawed at me for years so I finally created a story around it.

That would intrigue me, too! I love that you visit sites that you use for your stories. What is your research process like? Do you enjoy it?
I love researching. I do a lot of hands-on researching. For GRIFFITH TAVERN I did a lot of researching on old stagecoach inns and even visited a local one. For my Haunted Estill County series I meet people in restaurants, coffeeshops, their houses, etc. to get their stories.

There is some romance in your mysteries. How do you handle spicy sex scenes and relatives? Are your family and friends supportive or do they choose not to read your books because of its sensual nature?
I am also a professional ghostwriter by trade. I have ghostwritten an erotica novel. I don’t think I could let my mother read it but my husband certainly supported me on THAT endeavor! I am a little old-fashioned with sex scenes in my own writing. I’m not a prude at all, but since I don’t write romance I try to stick with scenes that are a little chaste. It’s very difficult to continuously come up with different ways of saying someone puts tab A into slot B.

I completely understand that! What kind of response do you get when you tell people you are an author?
I mostly either get people thinking I do it as a hobby (it’s a real career for me and has been for many years) or I get people who tell me THEY could write a book if they wanted to but just haven’t had the time. Because I work from home I often encounter those who can’t believe I actually work and think I just kind of dabble with writing on the side.

I think many of us get the same reaction. I used to say I was retired, but I no longer do. I say I’ve changed careers. Do you work with a conference partner, writer’s group or other organization? Where do you get support?

I belong to a small, and exclusive, writing group. I was “voted” in. They are all fabulous people and excellent writers. We’re not all fiction writers and I think that’s helpful, too. We all come at writing from different directions.

It’s great to have that support. What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on the third book in my Taryn’s Camera series. It’s called DARK HOLLOW ROAD, which is the name of an actual road here in my county. I loved it and jumped on it before my husband used it for himself. (He is a writer as well.)

I love that title! For your non-fiction book, what most inspired you about writing this book? A person or people? A place? Something else?
My nonfiction book, COPING WITH GRIEF: THE ANTI-GUIDE TO INFANT LOSS was written about dealing with the death of my youngest son, Toby. He died from SIDS in 2010. Although it started out as a memoir, I ended up interviewing many infant loss parents and including their stories as well.

I’m so sorry for your loss. You’re very courageous to share your grief to help others. What is the biggest chance you’ve taken as a writer? How did that work out?
Although most of my currently released books are paranormal, I didn’t start out writing about ghosts at all. I’ve always written straight fiction. A few years ago, I was working on a novel called FURNANCE MOUNTAIN. It’s set during the Depression and is about a little boy who writes President Roosevelt and invites him to visit his small, railroad town in Eastern Kentucky. While doing research on the time period and town that I was basing my fictional town on, I began uncovering some local ghost stories. I set them aside thinking they were interesting, and pretty soon I had dozens of them. I will eventually get back to FURNACE MOUNTAIN but, in the meantime, the ghost world has taken over a little bit!

I am in the middle of Griffith’s Tavern, and I love your premise of Taryn seeing the past through her camera. And I love a good ghost story! Thanks for visiting with me today. Wishing you all best, Rebecca.

Buy Rebecca's books at: