Monday Musings is pleased to host CJ Matthew today, as she talks about her Dolphin Shores Shifters and the recent release of Book 4, Lethal Tide.
Welcome, CJ. Lovely to spend time with you. Please introduce yourself.
CJ Matthew grew up in an Air Force family traveling and living all over the US and around the world. It proved to be the perfect experience for gathering ideas and material for future books. And for meeting real life heroes and heroines in uniforms and flight-suits. She spent her high school and university years living in California, which inspired her love of marine life, and the Pacific Ocean.
Her paranormal romantic suspense series titled Dolphin Shore Shifters features a pod of dolphins living in the Santa Barbara, channel off the coast of California, capable of shifting to human form. While posing as real humans, the dolphins work through their oceanic conservation corporation, Save Blue Water, to protect their oceans at any cost.
CJ’s next series, The Paladin Group, launched with Deadly Reboot. The books are romantic suspense, set in a small southern town, and they star wounded air force veterans, men and women warriors turned civilian lawyers and investigators determined to continue their rescue work.
A member of Romance Writers of America (RWA), Georgia Romance Writers (GRW), and Kiss of Death, CJ lives and writes near a lake in the woods northeast of Atlanta. When she isn’t writing or reading romances, CJ spends time with her two grown children, their spouses, a brilliant grandson and a feisty cat named Max.
Schedule permitting, CJ loves to travel, to discover new favorite places as well as meeting new friends in both the US and around the world.
Max flatly refuses to travel.
Poor Max, he doesn’t know what he’s missing. What do you enjoy doing, CJ, when you’re not writing?
I love spending weekends with my family. During the week, in the evenings, I read. A lot. Sometimes I binge watch TV programs. My cabin in the woods doesn’t get broadcast television so I subscribe to streaming. Travel is also a favorite but since I started writing full time, I’m only traveling to RWA Conferences, nearby writing events, and writing retreats with my critique partner. I hope to get back to expanded vacation travel in 2017.
Lucky you. I wish there were RWA conferences, or writing events of any sort, close to me. What is your favorite season? Why?
While I enjoy the changes each of the four seasons brings, my favorite time of year is Fall. Which can show up abnormally late here in my adopted state of Georgia! When the heat of summer finally gives way to cooler temperatures and the leaves change color, I’m outdoors, energized, and happy. Plus looking forward to lots of extra family time during my favorite holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day.
I also enjoy the cooler temps of Fall, and then the warmer temps of Spring. Do you listen to music while you write? If so, are your song choices different with each book?
I like very soft background music, usually classical, while I write. Pandora’s Baroque Radio is my first choice. I don’t have a “book sound track.” In my leisure time, I love listening to music with lyrics and even sing along. But while writing, the lyrics distract me.
I love to sing too! My motto is: just because I can’t sing, doesn’t mean I won’t sing. Although, I do try not to subject too many people to my off-keys. Okay, back on topic. Do you prefer digital, print, or both? Why?
Personally, I still prefer printed books: the smell, the texture, the weight, and the comfort of holding a hardback or paperback in my hands while reading. Several years ago my daughter gifted me with a simple Kindle and as I learned to appreciate it, digital has become a close second. It had 3G and a keyboard so I could search, buy a book, and be reading again in moments. Also thumb-operated page turners on either side, plus the capability of organizing my authors and books. That first Kindle recently died and my Kindle has touch screen which is fighting me.
Let’s move on to some questions about your writing. Is it difficult or easy for you to come up with titles and character names?
For me, the character names aren’t difficult. I’ve created name spread sheets for each book in each series so any name I think of, I double check it against names already used.
Now book titles are a lot more difficult for me. Since I love to write series, I want a series name and then individual book names that will continue on. With the paranormal Dolphin Shore Shifters, the word Tide fit nicely. But honestly, it took lots of trial and error for me to get there.
For the romantic suspense series, The Paladin Group, I had a character, Hale, offer the word Reboot and I liked the idea so adopted it.
For my contemporary military romance quintet beginning October of 2016, each title will contain an Air Force officer’s rank. Book 1 is A Major Seduction.
Sounds like a good process. Do you have a reoccurring theme to your books?
In the Shore Shifters series the underlying theme is ocean conservation and ocean mammal protection. I can present these ideas in a humorous and soft sell way by showing the dolphin’s reaction to other sentient sea mammals in captivity, and their everyday solutions to conservation and reducing their environmental footprints while in human form.
According to my editor, Dori Harrell, I have a bit of a romance theme I wasn’t aware of. My heroes fall first and then pursue the heroines.
When you finish writing a book, how long before you begin writing the next one?
When I finish a book, it goes to my editor. Next day, I start to update the multiple spreadsheets for the series and the series bible. Next, I start on the outline for the next book and research. Then I work on the GMC forms and personality sheets. During this time, I find and print photos to match my characters and start on the book board. As soon as the outline and all the research is done, I start writing.
Wow, I need some of that organization and drive. My ideas tend to percolate far too long. Do you set word count per day goals?
I do. 2,000 new words per day for five days a week. But these goals are just for my benefit, and are flexible. As I mentioned earlier, I schedule myself to write Monday – Friday, but I often continue into the weekend. So I can take a weekday off if something comes up. Also, I aim to achieve the word count in addition to editing the last days work. That eliminates one entire editing pass for me (on a 92,000 word story) after the manuscript is completed.
2000 words! Good for you. I edit the previous days’ work, too, but so far I haven’t set goals. Note to self: rethink setting goals. Describe a typical writing day. Do you prefer morning, afternoon, or late night writing?
I’ve always been a morning person and I’m a morning writer. I usually get up around 5 a.m. and, big mug of coffee in hand, I sit at my desk or in the living room in the recliner, my laptop in my lap. First, I quickly check email and social media. Then, after editing what I wrote the day before, I start into a new chapter. At mid-day, I take a lunch/social media break, often texting my critique partner, and usually I finish writing sometime after 3. Except if I’m really chugging along, I have written past 5 o’clock. I try to limit writing days to Monday through Friday, but when I get into a book, I often keep going into Saturday and Sunday.
I certainly envy your drive and commitment. And your ability to get up at 5 a.m.!! What inspired you to write about these particular characters?
When I decided to write romance stories about shape shifters, creating Dolphin shifters was an easy choice. Dolphins are sexy, strong, highly intelligent, social, helpful team players, and they seem to like rescuing humans despite how badly we often treat them. Dolphins in human form offers me the opportunity for humor, hot romance, danger, and to slip in a thought or two about what we do to muck-up the oceans and torture Dolphins held captive.
Very creative! Are any of your characters loosely based on people you know in real life?
Almost never. I do, however, like using friend and family names for my characters, (as well as the running joke of male constellation names) but the human traits and failings of the characters I write about are all fiction.
What about your settings? Are they fictional or based on real places?
In all my books, across the different series, it’s a combination of both. The Dolphin Shore Shifters swim in the Santa Barbara channel and Save Blue Water, or SBW, their headquarters and their nearby company condos are in fictional locations in downtown Santa Barbara. They eat in a combination of real and made-up restaurants. On the road, the secretive field ops team enjoys a corporate discount at Hampton Inns but they often stay at private houses offered by SBW supporters.
When I write about the SBW Exchange Team breaking into a huge sea park in Orlando to exchange out the captive dolphins, I don’t use the real name. But I sincerely hope my readers know which park I’m referring to!
Tell us about Lethal Tide.
The Santa Barbara Channel holds a closely guarded secret…
Dolphin shifter Conley Nash began his second three-year mission armed with a kick-ass agenda and an attitude to match. Since their team leader was killed, the men in SBW field ops have lost their nerve. Determined to restore the hard line, Conley can’t wait to show them how it’s done, facing down a greedy oil company in Long Beach. Until Conley meets his new partner…and finds his powers of persuasion need work.
First-time shifter Betty Brett can’t believe she finally made it into the male-centric field ops team. Since the first female agent was murdered, before Betty goes solo, she’ll spend four months teamed with an experienced operative. But did it have to be Conley? No matter how temptingly handsome he is, Betty refuses to take grief from a trigger-happy male and certainly not one whose knuckles drag the ground.
When the oil company resorts to violence protecting its illegal fracking operation, Conley finds himself out-gunned. Either he and Betty compromise, fast, or they’ll be dead before they can unravel the perplexing feelings they have for each other.
Good stuff. We’d love to read an excerpt.
~Conley and Betty first meeting.
After finishing the busy work of ordering and doctoring their coffee, Conley sat across from Betty as the silence grew more and more strained. Finally Betty proved she had better manners by starting the conversation with a mundane question.
“This is your second mission?”
She stared at him for a several long moments. “Your turn.”
“This is your first?” he asked.
“Checkmate,” he announced.
“Not at all.” She curled one lip but her voice remained soft, warm.
“Let’s see,” she said, easing back in her chair and crossing one long sleek leg over the other. “Your full name is Conley Nash. You escaped the curse of the constellation names, but even so, your first time here some of the guys started calling you Con. To put a stop to that, you insisted on everyone calling you Nash. It appears this time around, Conley will stick.”
He struggled to keep the surprise from showing on his face.
She sipped coffee. “You’re proud of your three years of field ops experience and of serving with Orion. I imagine the gossip about him irritates you. As does having to report to someone so different—like Rye. Your marksman scores rival Orion’s, and you still hold the unofficial but enviable record for bringing bad guys to justice.” She appeared to study him.
“In terms of widespread sexual conquests, your reputation, while astounding, can’t threaten a man like, say, Pavo. The female consensus agrees you’re an extremely talented, adventurous lover, and everyone is delighted you’re back on shore.”
“Is that supposed to make me blush?”
“I sincerely hope not. Considering our natures in the channel.”
He cocked his head. Noticed her light-blue eyes sparkled when she teased. “How did you find out all this stuff about me? Pod gossip?”
“Nope. Just excel at research, plus I use my eyes, ears, and brain to study people. Figure them out.”
“Really? Extra ears?” All the shifters came on land with terrific hearing and sharp eyesight, superior to humans, but sometimes there was more. He was hoping she’d tell him she shifted with rare acute hearing or above shifter-average eyesight.
“No,” she admitted in a lower voice. “I didn’t get the eagle eyes or the super hearing. How ’bout you?”
“Nope, me either.” He directed a friendly headshake in her direction to soften the next question, a biggie. “What weapons did you train with?”
He held his breath.
She looked grim. “A wide variety of firearms. I chose a Browning Hi Power to carry. And an iPad.”
Shit. “Outstanding,” he said through gritted teeth. “That way you can challenge the guys shooting at us to a game of Frontline Commando?”
“I’m accurate with the Browning. But if we use the brains we were given, there won’t be any bad guys shooting at us.”
“There’s a head-in-the-sand attitude if I ever heard one.” He uncurled his white-knuckled fingers from around the coffee mug. “I don’t give a shit about your scores on the target range. I have no use for a partner who is essentially unarmed. If you’re not willing to back me up, if you intend to carry a stupid iPad in place of a gun, then you damn well should have told Rye. Let him assign me a real partner.”
She sat ramrod straight. “I can back you up as well as any male in field ops. Besides, I have no intention of us getting into a firefight. We’re smarter than that.”
“It all sounds good until the bullets start to fly.”
“Our SBW assignments are to contact the whistle-blower, interview principals if possible. Otherwise we observe, take photographic evidence, and turn all our findings over to the authorities. They are the ones to confront the bad guys and make arrests. I don’t have any use for a partner who pulls his gun and starts blasting away without thinking. A cowboy.”
“Your scenario sounds perfect. But we’re dealing with criminals. Hard-core thugs and crime bosses. Things are never as neat and tidy as you’d like to think. Some waste dumper starts shooting at me, I’m defending myself.”
“You’re an idiot.”
“You’re a certifiable candy-ass.”
Love the chemistry. What can we expect from you next? Are you working on anything new?
Lethal Tide, Dolphin Shore Shifter Book 4 was released on March 30th, 2016. I’m currently writing Toxic Tide, Dolphin Shore Shifter Book 5, due to be released the end of June, 2016. After that manuscript goes to editor Dori, I’ll return to fictional Peachwood, Georgia for Book 2 of The Paladin Group series. The Paladin Group consists of former AF Pararescuemen and wounded AF veterans, many rescued by PJs. All former warriors turned lawyers and investigators determined to continue rescue work. Think Scandal meets the A-Team, but no one is sleeping with the President. On my birthday, October 2016, I hope to release the first book I ever wrote: A Major Seduction.
That’d be the perfect birthday gift. I hope it works out for you. In the meantime, where can we find you and your books on the internet? Please share your links with us.
Find CJ at:
“Follow CJ” at: Amazon author page
The Dolphin Shore Shifters
Blood Tide, Dolphin Shore Shifters Book 1
Risky Tide, Dolphin Shore Shifters Book 2
Dangerous Tide, Dolphin Shore Shifters Book 3
Lethal Tide, Dolphin Shore Shifters Book 4:
Toxic Tide, Dolphin Shore Shifters Book 5: Summer 2016
Reminder: All of CJ Matthew’s books stand alone, they don’t need to be read in any order, and there are no cliffhangers.
Thank you for being here today, CJ. Best of luck with Lethal Tide and all your future writing endeavors.