Category Archives: Writing


In the last episode, I talked about the benefits of signing with a publisher. This week, I detail why I like to publish my own novels. Enjoy! ~ Suzanne

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The Benefits of Publishers •Diary of a Mid-List Author

Should you sign with a publisher or self-publish? In this episode, I’ll talk about the benefits of signing a contract with a reputable publisher. ~ Suzanne




Diary of a Mid-List Author • What Genre Should You Write?

In Episode Two, I talk about genres, which ones are most popular, and mention some good resources for independent authors.


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Diary of a Mid-List Author • Episode One

Over the years, people have come to me for advice about becoming an author. I don’t consider myself a guru or an expert, but I’ve amassed a great many opinions over the last twenty years and I don’t mind sharing!

Diary of a Mid-List Author will focus on topics about the business of writing, based on my own personal experiences. Not everything I’ve tried has been a success, naturally, but I’ve learned a great deal from my failures.

I’m hoping to engage not just writers, but anyone who is interested in taking on a new endeavor. Have a look at my premiere episode, which is short and sweet. My goal is to post a new episode every Friday, so I hope you stay tuned. ~ Suzanne

The Star-Crossed Seamstress • #1 Bestseller

I’m very happy to announce that The Star-Crossed Seamstress has reached bestseller status on Amazon. IScreen Shot 2019-02-15 at 8.26.43 AMt is #1 in Teen & Young Adult Historical Romance and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

During the editing process, my editor suggested I remove the opening scene, to start with Skylar’s arrival in England. I pay her for her sage advice, so I complied. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean the scene can’t see the light of day! In the movies, certain scenes end up on the digital version of the cutting-room floor and are perhaps included on a DVD as a bonus for viewers. Consider the following deleted scene as a bonus, and have a very happy Friday!  ~ Suzanne


Deleted Opening Scene from The Star-Crossed Seamstress:

Skylar eased out of the cramped Second Class cabin she shared with another passenger, made her way down the deserted, narrow corridor and ascended a flight of carpeted stairs. As she stepped onto the open deck at last, she filled her lungs with fresh air, heavy with moisture and smelling of salt. The chilly Atlantic Ocean wind whipped her face and threatened to unmoor her brunette hair from its pins, but she merely wrapped the knit scarf around her neck more securely and tightened the paisley woolen shawl around her shoulders.

An abrupt rolling motion sent her lurching across the deck, but fortunately the sturdy railing prevented her from falling overboard. After nearly two weeks aboard the steamship, she’d thought she had gained her sea legs, but the ocean was uniformly unpredictable. Nevertheless, she took a firm grip of the railing and made her way toward the stern. Nothing would deter her from staring down her future, no matter how much uncertainty lay ahead.

When she reached the bow, however, a low bank of fog obscured her view. It seemed her destination would remain hidden a while longer. She was startled by a long, low horn coming from the steamer’s helm. Moments later, she was joined by one of the ship’s officers, dressed in a natty blue uniform. “Good morning, Miss Lake.”

“Hello, Mr. Chapman.” Skylar smiled. “I didn’t hear your footsteps just now.”

“It’s difficult to hear anything else when the foghorn blows.” The man’s green eyes twinkled underneath his cap. “’Tis a bit early to be getting your exercise, isn’t it?”

“I was hoping to catch a glimpse of land, actually.”

“The fog will burn off by mid-morning and we’ll be off the coast of Ireland by then. The Emerald Isle is not a sight you’ll ever forget, but then you’re bound for England, are you not?”

“Yes, and I’m eager to arrive.” She turned away from the railing. “I suppose I’ve no choice but to be patient.”

“Just so.” The officer escorted her back into the deckhouse. “Will this be your first visit to England?”

“Not exactly. I was born there but left with my parents when I was a very small child.” Her shoulders moved up and down in a slight shrug. “I don’t remember it at all.”

“You’ll get acclimated soon enough, to be sure.” He peered at her. “You’ve family meeting you dockside, do you not? Liverpool’s not the sort of city a young lady can move about unaccompanied.”

“Mama sent her sister a letter with my travel plans, so my Uncle Amos is sure to be there.” Skylar paused. “Thank you for looking after me so faithfully during this voyage, sir. It’s somewhat daunting to be traveling alone.”

“’Tis no trouble at all, miss. In fact, you remind me a trifle of my granddaughter.”

“I appreciate your kindness.” She thought longingly of a cup of tea. “Is the Saloon open for breakfast this early?”

“The staff is only just beginning to set up, but it shouldn’t be too much longer before they are ready for passengers.” He gestured down the empty corridor. “Why don’t you wait in the library?”

“That’s an excellent idea.”

They parted ways and Skylar ducked into the well-stocked library to pass the time before the ship’s staff could furnish her with her morning beverage. She scanned the shelves, wishing she could find an inspiring book about a newly impoverished young woman fleeing America to escape the stigma of a family disgrace. After finding nothing of the sort, of course, she settled on Louise May Alcott’s Little Women. As she skimmed its pages, however, she realized that she’d devoted her time on the east-bound voyage almost exclusively to American authors—likely due to an increasing sense of homesickness for the country in which she’d been raised.

With a sigh, she put back the volume she’d chosen and picked out Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice instead. From now on, she must make a conscious decision to select British authors over American ones. It certainly did no good to pine for America any longer, since she could never go back.



Where’s the Spice? Romance Novels with a Wholesome Flair

Note: This blog post is one I wrote exactly four years ago, prompted by a reviewer who complained about the lack of “heat” in my work. I thought it was worth a quick update and a re-run…

“Show me the money!” screams Cuba Gooding, Jr. in the film Jerry Maguire.  In porn parlance, it’s called “the money shot.” Yes, romance novels are often associated with sex—an image promoted by torrid covers of shirtless men clutching panting heroines in the throes of passion.

Is there anything wrong with that? No, of course not. It’s all good fun; escapism had for less than the price of a movie ticket. I used to gobble up bodice-rippers when I was a hormonal teen. White lines would appear on the spine of the paperbacks where the particularly juicy scenes could be found. Sometimes, with historical romances, I would actually learn something other than intimate details of procreation.

In this topsy-turvy world, writing romance novels without “money shots” has actually become controversial.  Unless the book specifies it’s Amish or Christian, some people expect a little friction between the sheets.  Even if the story is categorized as Young Adult, readers often look for the spice…and get annoyed when it fails to materialize.

In traditional Regency romance (romance set during the British Regency from 1811-1820), no explicit sex occurs. The last few years have seen the rise of a more modern Regency romance; romances of a non-traditional sensual variety (ie: more “marketable”).

So why on Earth would an author swim against the tide of filthy lucre (money) and write what might be termed “clean” or “sweet” romance…especially considering reader expectations?  Call me crazy, but personally I think readers should have choices. I don’t think novels and stories without explicit sex scenes need be antiseptic or anemic.  In my romances, for example, my characters have physical feelings and thoughts. For me, the money shot is the kiss!  I also tend to put  exciting adventure in my stories…fisticuffs, sword fights, and escapes from death.

If you’re looking for a good time that doesn’t involve *ahem* “biology,” check out Flinch Free Fiction. The blog features “flinch-free” fiction in a variety of genres. (Psst: several of the CIR authors are having an upcoming Valentine’s Day promo, February 11 – 14, 2018).  Clean Reads (slogan All Story. No Guilt) is also a publisher I’ve working with in the past, which specializes in sweet romance and fiction in various genres.

I guess you could say “clean” fiction is now edgy.  And I guess I can call myself a maverick.

~ Suzanne

Historical Research • Grace Unmasked

Krakatoa_east_of_javaWhen I was writing Grace Unmasked, I did some research on what historical events had taken place in 1883. I was hoping to incorporate something of interest, of course, to add to the historical ambiance. The eruption of the volcano on Krakatoa caught my eye, and triggered a childhood memory. My parents had taken the family to see a disaster movie entitled Krakatoa, East of Java, and I’d been riveted. The plot of the movie didn’t stand out to me as much as the special effects at the end, when the filmmakers sought to portray the explosive eruption and the resulting tsunami. I found a copy of the movie and watched it again. Considering what was available in terms of special effects in 1969, I was still impressed.

I did a little more research on the eruption itself, purchasing a used copy of Simkin and51lwTNmqYPL._SX381_BO1,204,203,200_ Fiske’s Krakatau 1883. In it, there are many fascinating eyewitness accounts of the event, and facts about the aftereffects. For example, the violent eruption destroyed most of the island of Krakatau. The explosion could be heard over 1/13th of the earth’s surface. The resulting ash cast the Sunda Strait (which connects the Java Sea to the Indian Ocean) into darkness for almost 24 hours, and giant waves over 40 meters (appx. 131 feet) above sea level destroyed everything in their path. In addition, over 36,000 people were killed. The volcanic dust veil created spectacular atmospheric effects over a vast distance and lowered global temperatures as much as 1/2 degree Celsius in the following year. In fact, temperatures didn’t return to normal until five years later.

Sunda_strait_map_v3News of the disaster traveled quickly because of the telegraph system, and papers around the world carried the story the day after the massive eruption had occurred.

Now, Grace Unmasked is set in England, which is nowhere near Krakatau. So how did this event find its way–albeit indirectly–into the narrative? You’ll have to read the book to find out.

~ Suzanne


On the heels of an unjust accusation, Grace flees from her country village to the anonymity of London. Although she intends to seek sanctuary with her cousin Joe Fiddick, she discovers he’s also suffered a setback and needs more help than she can offer. Desperate, she solicits assistance from Joe’s friend–the notorious rake, Lord Henley. Will the price of the handsome baron’s help be more than she’s willing to pay?

Grace Unmasked is available for the Kindle HEREScreen Shot 2016-01-09 at 12.22.20 PM


Eating Elephants and Writing Grace Unmasked

“When eating an elephant take one bite at a time.”

– U.S. Army General Creighton W. Abrams, Jr.

sgrmannequin6x9How do you write a sequel to a popular book that’s sure to please everyone? You can’t, of course. When I planned the sequel to my bestselling book The Mannequin, however, I re-read the reviews to get an idea what readers enjoyed most. Ultimately, I concluded that lightning rarely strikes twice in the same place. I didn’t want to tell the same story a slightly different way, so I vowed to begin fresh. Easier said than done!

Pygmalion by Jean-Baptiste Regnault, 1786

You see, when I wrote The Mannequin, I didn’t start out to write a novel based on Cendrillon (Cinderella), La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast), or Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden. As the story unfolded, however, I wove in some familiar elements, hoping to strike an emotional chord. In the development of Grace Unmasked, however, I wanted to draw on other inspiration. I chose the mythological figure of Pygmalion, a sculptor who falls in love with his creation. Many 20th Century plays, musicals, and movies have been written about Pygmalion, most notably George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, the musical My Fair Lady, and even Gigi.

Actress Mary Anderson as Galatea (1883)

Since Grace Unmasked is set in 1883, I had to find a version of Pygmalion written early enough to warrant a mention in the narrative. I chose Pygmalion and Galatea, a play written by W.S. Gilbert. (Download a .pdf copy from Boise State University website HERE). The three-act blank verse production opened at the Haymarket Theatre in December, 1871, was quite popular, and sparked many imitations. Although Grace Unmasked is not a retelling of the myth, I touch upon a similar theme.

One other interesting aspect of Grace Unmasked is its length. I’d wanted it to be longer than The Mannequin (over 64,000 words), but I hadn’t planned for it to exceed 96,000 words!  As Abe Lincoln said, when asked how long a man’s legs should be, “Long enough to reach the ground.” I wrote until the story was done…for the most part. That is to say, there are a few characters who might warrant a third book in the series. 😀

~ Suzanne


Blurb: On the heels of an unjust accusation, Grace flees from her country village to the anonymity of London. Although she intends to seek sanctuary with her cousin Joe Fiddick, she discovers he’s also suffered a setback and needs more help than she can offer. Desperate, she solicits assistance from Joe’s friend–the notorious rake, Lord Henley. Will the price of the handsome baron’s help be more than she’s willing to pay?

Grace Unmasked is available for pre-order at a special price HERE. Release date Tuesday, May 31, 2016.