About Susanne Matthews

I'm a retired high school English teacher turned author. I'm Canadian. My husband and I have been married 48 years and have 3 children and 5 grandchildren, as well as 2 step-grandchildren.  I enjoy traveling, especially somewhere warm in winter.

Blending Truth and Reality With Fiction

When fiction authors set out to craft their books, they have many decisions to make. Character names and occupations must be considered. The era or period of the story has to be examined for relevance. Next, the genre of the tale, be it historical, romance, suspense, paranormal, or any combination has to be determined, and finally the the location must be chosen. Those aren’t the only options the author has to consider. There’s the audience, the level of heat, whether or not it’s part of a series, and many other factors most readers don’t realize are part of the earliest conception of a book. But, in my opinion, while each one of those issues is important, research is the most critical aspect of those first few pages. Unless you set a book on an undiscovered planet in a distant universe, sooner or later, you will have to deal with truth and reality.

In my latest novel, Listen to the Stones, I used the location as my primary focus. I visited the Standing Stones of Calanais on the Isle of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. The stones fascinated me. Looking at them and listening to the guide, my imagination soared. The marbling in the stones, the designs that looked like pictograms, and the positioning of the stones as if some were guarding a pathway while others seemed to be discussing things had all kinds of ideas floating through my head.

When we went to the souvenir shop, I purchased a book on the stones and their excavation. Within its pages were theories on the stones’ provenance. The fact that they predated Stonehenge and that there were many such circles in the Hebrides and the Orkneys, as well as in the UK fascinated me as much as it must have Diana Gabaldon who used a similar stone circle for Outlander books. Several Outlander books and items of television memorabilia were available in that souvenir shop. Whereas she saw the stone circles as a portal to the past, a doorway for time travel, I see them as a magical place. One of the theories about the stones was that they were the people living on the island who were turned to stone when they refused to accept Christianity … a little like Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt for looking back. That’s the idea I chose to explore. Then came the research to give credibility to my vision.

I spent countless hours examining every article I could find on the Standing Stones and everything relating to them. That’s where I came across information on magic, witchcraft, and Druidism, which led me to the dark side of Scottish history and Edinburgh. I discovered many things about the city. This is one of the sites I found particularly interesting. While I knew that witch persecutions had been plentiful, I had no idea that a city existed beneath the city that boasted Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile. Unfortunately, the tour we had booked in Edinburgh as part of our cruise was canceled due to bad weather, but if I ever get the chance to return, you can bet I’ll be checking this out. https://www.visitscotland.com/info/tours/underground-city-of-the-dead-8b8d6efc

Another site that intrigued me was https://www.teamthomastravels.com/post/visiting-the-world-s-most-haunted-cemetery-a-complete-guide-to-greyfriars-kirkyard-edinburgh This site is dedicated to Greyfriars Kirkyard, considered to be the most haunted cemetery in the world and the place where JK Rowling found the names for the characters in her Harry Potter novels. I recalled seeing a Disney movie called Greyfriars’ Bobby years ago, so I knew about the faithful little dog, but everything else was a surprise.

Deciding how to incorporate all of these fascinating facts into the story to make it part of a cohesive whole was challenging. Choosing to make my main character the pure soul hidden for eons to protect her from a greedy, power-hungry wizard who was nothing more than a spoiled child who became an entitled adult, I let her take a trip on her way home and visit some of the places I’d seen as well as find a few I hadn’t.

Last but not least, since my novel is a contemporary paranormal, I needed to create the myths involved. I combined many Irish, Scottish, and English folktales, myths, and legends I’d read to create a race of elemental giants, who could control the elements of air, fire, water, and earth. Once again, my research provided the basis for my myth. The mysterious skeleton found in Glastonbury, which some people believe to be the legendary King Arthur, gave me that little bit of reality I needed for my imaginary race. After all, every fantasy has to start somewhere. https://www.visiontimes.com/2021/10/14/mysterious-giant-of-glastonbury-abbey.html

And there you have it. How I blend fiction with truth and reality. If you would like a sample of the way I do this, Check out Book 1 of the Timeless Love series, Beneath the Ashes.

Wishing you all the best. If you would like to keep seeing my posts and follow my books, perhaps pick up a copy of Listen to the Stones when it’s released later this spring, consider following my blog. https://aroundthedream.blog/ or check out my website. https://mhsusannematthews.ca/

Saying Goodbye For the Last Time

My mother died peacefully at the age of 96 on February 5th. It wasn’t unexpected. In fact, we thought we would lose her before Christmas. Between the end of October and mid-December, she’d fought off a mild case of COVID and three bouts of pneumonia. The body can only take so much punishment.

Growing old is a privilege denied to many, but growing old is also difficult. After my father passed suddenly following a fall in 2019, my sister and I realized that Mom wasn’t coping well. She was acting strange, saying stuff that made no sense, and becoming paranoid. My sister, a nurse, suspected there was something more at play. She was right.

A visit to the Emergency Room revealed that Mom had a serious bladder infection. According to medical experts, “a UTI places stress on the body and any type of stress, physical or emotional, can cause an older adult to become confused. For those suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, a UTI can make dementia temporarily worse.” I wasn’t aware of the fact that infections in the elderly affected their minds. But, as the days passed, I realized that not only did my mother have a UTI, she was suffering from delusions and hallucinations that only got worse over time. Not only had I lost my father, I was losing my mother one day at a time.

After the UTI was treted, she seemed fine and went home, but it wasn’t long before we realized that while her body had healed, her mind hadn’t. Shs made up fantastic, completely fasle stories about the neighbors, even called 911 once, claiming the neighbor’s house was on fire and he’d locked the family inside–all in her mind. Then, she started to hear voices speaking to her on an imaginary line, music that nevert stopped, and noises that we could neither find nor resolve. Then, she started fearing for her life. My sister suspected the worse, and we were back in the ER. The UTI was back with a vengeance. Sadly, that was the beginning of the end.

Mom’s delusions grew worse, and she became violent, accusing people of trying to kill her, trying to assault her, trying to steal from her. We knew she couldn’t go home in that state, so we managed to find an emergency placement in a retirement home. Her mind continued its downward spiral. She wouldn’t leave the room, didn’t want to eat, and a gereatric psychiatrist was called in. Testing revealed that she was no longer compitent to take care of herself. Her delusional world had taken control of her reality.

Having had heart issues for years, because she wouldn’t walk or get out of the chair, her ankles ballooned and then she got fluid in her lungs and aroud her heart. Another trip to the ER and admission to deal with her physical symptoms. They started medication for the mental issues, but those meds were slow acting. When we visited each day, we never knew whether she would be angry, agitated, or calm. I went to see her one morning, and in her mind, my eldest son had died. I had a hard time telling her he was fine, but the delusion was strong. Even after they video chatted, she wasn’t convinced.

It was apparent that she needed more than a retirement home. On the day that COVID shut everything down, she was transferred to a nursing home in a small village 40 minutes away from where I live. At first, we could only visit using the phone while she sat behind glass. That Christas and Easter, we all visited from the park under her window.

As time passed, we were able to visit with her outside. Her mind didn’t improve, but while her delusions continued, they were passive–other than the fact that people had blown up her house because she’d informed on them to the police. One problem solved. If you believe your house is gone, you stop wanting to go home.

She gradually settled into the routine of the home, developing a fondness for BINGO and painting. We would visit twice a week, and once she could go out, she would go to my sister’s for Sunday dinner each week as well. That was the pattern we followed until this week. Some visits, she was good, her mind sharp, at others she was in la-la land, making up stoiries, usually involving self-delusions of grandeur. It was hard to watch her go farther and farther down the rabbit hole. I can’t count the number of times she had me dead or at death’s door.

This last year was the hardest. It seems each time we saw her, she was losing ground. Eating became difficult, chewing and swalloing too much effort, so she lost weight, which resulted in her getting more frail. She slept most of the time, even when we were there. Each time I went, I wondered how much longer she could endure the loss of dignity and vitality. In her right mind, she would never have wanted that.

On Friday when we went to the home, the writig was on the wall. Once more, she was deeply aslepp, but she wasn’t waking up this time. The doctor deemed her palliative and put the necessary orders in place for her comfort. The priest was called and she was givine the last rites. The bedside vigil began with everyone who coud come to see her doing so.

This time, when I I said goodbye, I knew she wouldn’t respond. I bent and kissed her warm cheek. She was in a better place, with my father. It was hard knowing that I wouldn’t see her again, but it was also a relief, knowing that her ordeal was over.

This is the way I want to reemeber her. Happy and smiling, thrilled with the publication of my first book, Mom was a lady in every sense of the word. Losing her and my father has left a void in my life, one I intend to fill with my writing. I always thought my imagination was something I’d inherited from my father, but I think some of it may have come from her. I intend to use snippets of some of her stories in the books I’ll write this year. What better tribute could I give her?

Don’t forget to check out the ABB’s book bundles including Unforgettable Guardians: Bodyguards and Defenders. We couldn’t let her read that one. LOL She’d have thehome crawling with vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, and whatever else I’d incorpoared in The Guardian. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0CRBJF1

Memories of better times bring comfort. Fortunately, I have many good memories of both of my parents. Goodbye, Mom. You will be missed.

When You Can’t Remember Names.

I spent more than thirty-five years of my life as a teacher. The first four years were in elementary school where I taught French. Each fall, I had to memorize the names of my students and do it quickly. Young children don’t respond well, to “Hey, you in the blue shirt, turn around.”

The next thirty-one years were spent teaching in a high school setting where we had semesters. So now, each September and each February, I had to memorize almost a hundred names within a week. While it was true there were always kids I knew from the previous year or semester, the fact was that there were generally more new kids than known ones. But it wasn’t only the kids’ names that I needed to remember; it was new custodial staff, new cafeteria workers, new educational assistants, new secretaries, and new teachers. Is it any wonder that I find it hard to recall names now?

This was me thirty years ago. I was 43. Most of my students were under 18. Today, I’m older, but some say I haven’t changed much. The hair may be a different color, the face a little more wrinkled and perhaps a little fuller, but the smile’s the same. Not too many of those thousands of students I taught can say the same. We’ve all aged, but I was an adult when they met me. They weren’t, so having a big, burly, bald-headed man come up to me and say, “Hi, Mrs. Matthews, remember me?” Are you kidding?

The truth is that my mind was a complete blank. I smiled and said, “You look familiar,” but in reality, I hadn’t a clue. Very graciously, he named himself, and the glimmer of familiarity danced around my mind. The truth is that the only kids I remember well were the angels and the helions. Sad, I know, because there were a lot of really nice kids in the middle, too.

But students aren’t the only ones whose names escape me. It also affects friends from my past, be it elementary, secondary, or university years. The boy I crushed on back then, the one with the shoulder-length blond hair, is now heavyset and bald. The football star is a stooped old man who walks with a cane, and the girl who spent hours sunbathing without any skin protection has a face that resembles wrinkled shoe leather.

But, of course, I exaggerate. Many people have aged well and have taken care of themselves. Those are usually easy to recognize, since like me, they haven’t changed all that much, but what happens when I know the person but can’t put a name to the face? I’m embarrassed to admit it. We’ve all been there, and we all have our coping mechanisms, but sadly they don’t always work. If I’m lucky, they’ll walk away, and I’ll be left struggling to recall who the hell they were without them knowing the truth, but sometimes I have to admit defeat and admit that I’ve forgotten their name.

But forgetting names isn’t only a thing of the past. Lately, it seems the moment I meet someone new, I forget the name they’ve given me. I’ve tried the psuch tricks like rpeating the name, using it in conversation, and associating it with time and place, but the truth is, it vanishes and the next time I see them, I ‘ll remeber them, but not their damn names.

So, like it or not, I have begun to say things like, “Hi, how are you? I’m so sorry, but my mind is like a sieve, and I simply can’t recall names these days.” Is it upsetting? A little, but it’s a whole lot easier than pretending I know the name and then using the wrong one. That is humiliating for both of us.

So, how about you? Do you remember names? Do you have a trick to share for doing so? If you do, please share. We can all use a little help remembering.

We’ll chat again next month and Happy Valentine’s Day!

New year, new books. Why not pick up the latest boxed set from the ABB?

It’s Official: Climate Change is Bad for Your Health.

What did Santa bring me this holiday season? A bright, shiny, new asthma attack. Did I want one? No, but sadly the ridiculously confusing weather this month couldn’t be denied.

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, rising temperatures caused by climate change lead to longer allergy seasons and worsen air quality. Long allergy seasons can cause more allergies and asthma attacks. Isn’t that wonderful? Just when I thought it was safe to go outside…

While my asthma was an issue when I was a child, long before the days of inhaled broncodialators and rescue inhalers, each year would see me hosptalized because I was having issues breathing or coughing up a lung. It seemed to improve as I got older, and thanks to the doctor and good medication, my asthma was controled. This year? NOT!.

Have a look at these images. I was putting up my Christmas decorations when what to my wandering eye should appear–Dandelions?

Since when do dandelions grow and bloom in Eastern Ontario in December? And all those downed leaves are just a breeding ground for molds and a trap for misguided pollen. With the unseasonably warm air and strong winds we’ve had, plants that should be dormant are growing again, making my life and that of fellow asthmatics and other allergy sufferers miserable.

The sad part is that, like every other attack I’ve ever had, it must run its course. I’ll take my antihistomines for the allergies, use my inhalers, and avoid overheated stores and other places that will squeeze the oxygen out of my lungs, making me doubleover coughing. I hate it. To make matters worse, if I do have a coughing jag in public, people look at me as if I’m some kind of parriah.Seven doses of vaccine here, as well as the flu shot, but unless I opt to have Asthmatic tattooed on my forehead, people will jump to the wrong conclusion. It’s human nature to anticipate he worse possible outcome.

While the pandemic made life difficult, wearing a mask probably stopped a lot of that crap from getting into my lungs, but putting one on during an attack will just make everything worse. Hopefully, Old Man Winter will get a move on and bury all that debris and pollen under the snow until spring. I’m equipped to deal with it then–now, not so much.

Looking for some great reading? Check out the latest sets from the ABB.