Today’s Featured Author – Melanie Moreland

Today I welcome author Melanie Moreland to my blog. Her latest book, Over the Fence, came out at the end of July.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Canada—Ontario. I grew up in Manitoba which is in the middle of the prairies—very flat. I find Ontario rather hilly, and my ears pop all the time which makes my husband laugh and call me “flatlander.” I work at the local University handling all the ticketing for their sports teams. I love to cook and bake. I read constantly when not writing—I tend to have 3 or 4 books on the go all the time, and I often sit up all night reading when a book captures my attention. I am definitely a night owl.

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

I work part-time, in a very flexible schedule. Parts of the year it is only two days a week, while other parts can be six of seven days. I tend to write almost every morning after I get up. Often my characters are waiting as soon as I open my eyes, so I get my coffee, sit down and let them talk. I keep a notebook with me and scribble during the day if they start “talking” to me at work. I have been known (often) to go to bed, and get up at 2am and write all night when something hits me—especially if a scene I’ve been struggling with suddenly becomes clear.

How do you conceive your plot ideas?

Plot bunnies hit me everywhere. Over the Fence happened because of a conversation I had with my neighbor—over the fence. I started thinking what if I hadn’t met that person and they were only a voice…and the whole story unfolded. My next book was inspired by something I saw on the internet. The one after hit me when I saw a woman at the bus stop late one snowy evening. It’s like a small nugget in my brain, and they grow. Some get discarded, but if they won’t go away and keep poking at me, I know I have to write them.

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

I think we all use our own experiences within our work—draw from our own emotions. My last book, Over the Fence, was extremely personal for me. I used many of my own painful childhood memories in the story to create Kourtney’s past and the way she dealt with the world. It many way it was cathartic, although while writing it, I admit, my emotions ran very high at times. I think using our own experiences can help make the characters more real to our readers, and help bring them to life.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I tend to simply start writing. I have tried to outline, but it never follows what I put down. I usually know the start, some key points, and the end. I don’t write in sequence very often. As something hits me, I write it out and go back or forward as the case may be.

Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

I have two books on the go right now. One is a light romance—zero angst, just a sweet story. The other is far darker, involving a man cut off emotionally from the world and how a tiny change—a reminder of his past—teaches him to live again.

Please tell us about your current release.

Over the Fence is a story of two neighbors that start an unconventional relationship with each other. They become friends, sharing conversations, meals, and computer help – all with the barrier of the fence between them. They are both hiding from the world in their own way, and this is their story about learning to trust and love.

What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?

When Kourtney shared her childhood was a hard thing to write since so much of it were my own memories. Reliving some of that pain was difficult. Kourtney has been taught to see herself in a certain light—a very negative one. There is a chapter in the book where Nathan tells her—shows her—what he sees that is very emotional and pivotal to their moving forward.

If you could jump in to any book, and live in that world, which would it be?

I always think I would love to jump into the era of hooped skirts, courting, balls and horse and carriages. Where men kissed your hand and something as innocuous as a kiss was scandalous between unmarried couples. Where your passion was hidden and only shown behind closed doors. But then I think of corsets, having no free will, or running water, and decide no. I’ll stay here. LOL.

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

I have a spot in the family room I like to write in. I have a little table to hold my coffee (a must have) my laptop and a notebook close by. I curl into the corner with the laptop, and in the winter the fireplace is on, a blanket is close and I just write. On occasion I sit at the desk in the den and look out the window and write, but I prefer my corner.

Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

Coffee. Always coffee. I am addicted to it. Maybe a peanut butter granola bar, but I tend to sip and not eat while writing.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

Well I hate to tell secrets, but I will. I am really Batman.

batman

Book Blurb

Over the fenceTwo neighbors—strangers—with one thing in common—they share a fence. But is that the only thing they share? Nathan Fraser lives a solitary life, never letting anyone get too close. It’s safer that way. Kourtney Whyte hides from the world and behind her work, too afraid to really live her life to the fullest. Rejection is what she knows best. But one night, the sound of her soft voice and the tantalizing aroma of her evening meal, prove too enticing for Nathan to ignore. So begins their unconventional relationship—talking, learning, texting, and gradually opening up to one another, all over the fence. That is, until the day Nathan braves the high fence to protect Kourtney from her past, and changes everything forever. Can they move forward together, without the buffer of the fence? Or will their pasts prove to be too much of a barrier?

About the Author

Melanie Moreland lives a happy and content life in a quiet area of Ontario with her beloved husband of twenty-six-plus years. Nothing means more to her than her friends and family, and she cherishes every moment spent with them. Known as the quiet one with the big laugh, Melanie works at a local university and for its football team. Her job, while demanding, is rewarding as she cheers on her team to victory. While seriously addicted to coffee, and highly challenged with all things computer-related and technical, she relishes baking, cooking, and trying new recipes for people to sample. She loves to throw dinner parties, and also enjoys travelling, here and abroad, but finds coming home is always the best part of any trip. Melanie delights in a good romance story with some bumps along the way, but is a true believer in happily ever after. When her head isn’t buried in a book, it is bent over a keyboard, furiously typing away as her characters dictate their creative storylines to her, often with a large glass of wine keeping her company.

You can follow Melanie on Twitter or keep up with her on Goodreads.

You can buy Over the Fence on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

 

 

Following a Story Arc

When you write a novel or even a short story, your storyline will follow an arc. Knowing and understating the nature of this arc can help you ensure that your story stays on course or let you know if the story is getting away from you.

A story arc covers the beginning, middle and end of your story. Characters also have arcs – typically covering internal growth or change. If your story is about just one main character, then your story arc and your character arc could be the same. But if you have a large cast of characters, each character will have their own arc. Some may be ending their own arc while others are just beginning. Your story arc will tie or weave these arcs together.

Subplots of your story will also follow this same basic arc.

arcStory Arc components

Beginning/Establish Routine – This is where the reader is introduced to the characters, and we get a taste of what happens in their everyday life.

Example – Think of Cinderella sweeping the ashes or Harry Potter living with the Dursley’s.

Trigger/Inciting Incident – Something beyond the protagonist’s control triggers the spark of the story causing the protagonist to act.

Example – For Cinderella, it is the appearance of the fairy godmother. For Harry, it is the appearance of a mysterious letter which leads to him finding out he is a wizard.

Rising Action/Conflict – The trigger results in a quest which often has obstacles, complications, conflict and trouble for the protagonist.

Example – Cinderella must endure the antics of her stepmother and stepsisters after her happy time at the ball. Harry stumbles through learning to be a wizard while finding clues about what the Dark Lord wants.

Crisis/Critical Choice – Along the way, there should be incidents of crisis followed by brief breaks. Often the protagonist must make a crucial decision. This is where we find out what type of person the character truly is. At the critical choice, the protagonist must decide to take a particular path.

Example – Cinderella decides to fight her Stepmother for her right to try on the glass slipper. Harry decides to stop Professor Quirrell from stealing the stone.

Climax – This is the highest point of tension in your story and comes from whatever choice your protagonist made during the critical choice. It doesn’t have to be a huge battle between good and evil. It can be something as simple as an important decision being made.

Example – For Cinderella, it is the point where she attempts to escape her locked bedroom as her stepsisters try on the glass slipper. In Harry’s instance, it is his battle with Professor Quirrell.

Falling Action – This is where the consequences of the critical choice and climax play out. It should show the changed status of your characters – especially the protagonist. The changes must make sense with how the story unfolds. The outcome should be probable as nothing should happen for no reason.

Example – Cinderella meets up with her prince and gets married. And for Harry, it is his time in the hospital where Professor Dumbledore divulges the meanings behind the recent events.

Resolution – This is where the story wraps up. Your characters return to their lives but now are perhaps wiser or changed.

Example – We see Cinderella and her prince driving off in the carriage, presumably to live happily ever after. Harry gets back on the train to return to the Dursley’s but this time knowing that he will return to Hogwarts for another year of school.

If you search the Internet, you can find more complex diagrams of the story arc. Some use different terms or add more steps, but these are the basics of a story arc. Knowing these steps of the arc can help you in planning your story or at least making sure you stay on track.

Recipe of the Month: Truffle Brownie Cups

IMG_0222I needed something to take to a potluck recently and decided on these delectable brownie cups. They may be small but they are very rich and chocolaty. This recipe came out of Pampered Chef’s Season’s Best Recipe Collection from the Fall of 2007.

Ingredients

Nonstick cooking spray with flour

1 2/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate morsels, divided

2 T butter (not margarine)

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg

2/3 cup all purpose flour

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

Optional – garnishes such as cherries, toasted sliced almonds, whipped cream, orange zest or sprinkles

Directions

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray well of mini-muffin pan with nonstick cooking spray with flour. (If you don’t have this spray, recipe suggests you brush wells with melted butter and then sprinkle with unsweetened cocoa.)

Pampered Chef’s mini tart shaper

Place 2/3 cup of chocolate morsels and butter in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave for 40-60 seconds or until smooth, stirring after each 20-second interval. Add egg and sugar to bowl and mix well. Add flour and mix just until flour is incorporated. Batter will be very stiff. Divide batter evenly among wells, filling each about 2/3 full. Using mini-tart shaper, gently tap batter to create level tops. Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges set. (Do not overbake.)

While brownies cups are baking, pour cream in microwave-safe dish. Microwave for 1 minute and then add 1 cup chocolate morsels. Whisk until smooth. Place bowl into freezer 10-12 minutes or until mixutr is cool and starting to thicken, stirring after each 5-minute interval. Spoon ganache into resealable plastic bag.

Cool brownie cups in pan for 2 minutes. Press tops of brownies with mini-tart shaper to make indentions. Cool in pan 3 minutes. Carefully remove brownies from pan. Trim corner of bag to allow ganache to flow through. Pipe ganache evenly into brownie cups. Garnish as desired.

Yield: 24 servings

Looking for other sweet treats? Check out past recipes of the month – Melt-in-your-mouth Cookies, Kentucky Butter Cake and Texas Gold Bars.

 

Cruise recap – Dolphins, horseback riding and more

The sand, the waves, the cheery people…it was all good. Yes, we finally went on that Caribbean cruise that I have been blogging about since March. And by all of us, I mean my family of four, my parents and my brother. We all had a good time.

Everything went pretty well except for one day, which I will get to in a moment, and of course the end when we came home to a 95 degree house (our air conditioner broke while we were away).

IMG_0249So let’s see…the cruise ship – The Carnival Magic – was excellent. I thought the pool seemed kind of small for that size ship (holds up to 6000 passengers and crew members), but it had a water park with two awesome slides, a 9-hole miniature golf course, a sky/rope course, a basketball court and at least six hot tubs.

IMG_0232The kids loved our room. We had a balcony and a connecting door to my parents’ room. Lexie enjoyed sleeping on the top bunk. And I never heard any whining about “getting dressed” for dinner. (No shorts or flip flops allowed in the dining room.) There were a few complaints about having their picture taken on the Elegant nights, but that was easily solved by bribing them with a trip to the onboard candy store.

DSCN0268Of our three stops – I can’t say which was the best. Even Jase said he couldn’t decide and loved all of them. If you asked Lexie her favorite part of the cruise, she would probably say getting chocolate fro-yo from the 24-hour ice cream and frozen yogurt place on the ship.

twister boatIn Cozumel, we took the twister boat out to a private island. The twister boat does 360 degree turns, and you get a “Mexican shower” when the ocean spray hits you. The ride was wilder on the way back as we sat up front and were facing each other.

DSCN0215My parents joined us on the island but took the much slower catamaran. The food was good on the island, and the kids liked playing in the sand and ocean. There was a trampoline in the water. Lexie went out there with her dad and uncle, but Jase thought it was too far from the shore.

CDK_9039 CDK_9137 CDK_9302 CDK_9322Our next stop was Grand Cayman. The ship was late getting in and due to some misinformation, instead of the 7 of us going on our dolphin excursion together, we got separated. My parents and brother made it to the 10 am trip but my husband, kids and I didn’t get off the ship until 10:40 and had to join the 11 am excursion. We went to the turtle farm briefly and then over to swim with the dolphins.

The kids did better than I thought they would. My husband helped Lexie, and I helped Jase. They got pushed on a boogie board and pulled across the water by a dolphin and then got to “dance” and kiss the dolphin though Jase opted out of the kissing. We got some really good (and expensive) pictures.

tia72tia6_#1 The next day, the kids and I went horseback riding in Jamaica with my parents. My husband and brother went zip lining and on a Jamaican bobsled. Their trip took all day while ours was only during the morning. This was my kids first time riding anything besides a pony. They did great. It was an hour-long ride through the Jamaican country-side, and we ended it with a brief ride/swim in the ocean.

DSCN0269Of course, I think Jase’s favorite thing was seeing the kittens at the place.

Overall it was a great cruise minus that one hiccup in Grand Cayman (and coming home to no AC). Everyone had a great time, and the kids are already talking about doing it again.

Today’s Featured Author – Andy Peloquin

Today I welcome Andy Peloquin to my blog. He is on a blog tour promoting his new release The Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyer.

Interview

Do you write full-time? If so, what is your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?

I wish I could write fiction for a living! That’s the plan, but as of right now, I have a day job. Oddly enough, it also involves writing, though much more on the marketing/blogging side of things.

My schedule is pretty well-organized:

7 AM to 12 Noon — Day Job

Noon to 1 PM — Work on whatever project I’m immersed in.

1 to 2 PM — Gym time

2 to 4 PM — Lunch, cleanup, chores, etc.

4 to 5 PM — Preparing for the next day’s work

5 to 6:30 PM — More work on whatever project

6:30 on — Time with family/kids/relaxing

I manage to make time to write because I have a VERY understanding family. They make it easy (most of the time) to fit it in!

How much of yourself, your personality or your experiences, is in your books?

It’s funny, but I’ve never consciously tried to put myself into my characters. The main character from my first novel had a few of my traits (wise-cracking, irreverent, authority issues, etc.), but it was not a conscious thing.

I think all authors unconsciously add a bit of themselves into each book. After all, you’re the only one you truly understand, so you know how you think and feel. Every character we write has a small shard of ourselves in them, and that’s what makes them realistic characters.

What fuels you as an author to continue to write?

I am a VERY creative person. I have so many ideas and thoughts whirling around inside my head. Sadly, until I discovered writing, I had no way to let it out. I’m not artistic at all, and I can’t do any of the other tasks we associate with creativity.

But now that I have discovered writing, it’s hard to “turn off the tap” of creativity. If I’m not writing, I’m usually thinking about plot lines, creating new stories, or fine-tuning whatever project I’m working on next. I can’t turn off the creativity–and I don’t want to!

Please tell us about your current release.

The Last Bucelarii is a new dark fantasy/grimdark/Gothic series about a half-demon assassin. He has no memories of his early life, so he feels out of place, like an outcast from society. He uses his work to cover up his lack of belonging and his emptiness, but eventually he has to come to terms with it.

At the same time, he’s dealing with literal “voices in his head”. The psychological concept of a “split identity” or “dark passenger” in his mind is very real to him.

Basically, he’s a mixture of schizophrenic with sociopath, but his flaws and faults make him someone we can all relate to. It’s a dark, twisted tale, and one that I LOVED writing!

What inspired you to write this book?

For me, the most terrifying things in life are NOT monsters. Werewolves, vampires, Kaiju, horror novels, and all that stuff don’t really affect me. Instead, the things that really terrify me are the things HUMANS are capable of.

This story is exactly that–a look at what people will do to achieve what they want.

If this book is part of a series, what is the next book? Any details you can share?

I don’t want to spoil too much of the book, but I will share this: the Hunter loses the thing that makes him immortal/hard to kill. He literally has to face his own mortality, and it gives him a unique outlook on life and being human. He also has to make some tough decisions about what he’s willing to do in order to find answers about his past.

What was the most difficult thing/scene to write in this story?

The scene I found hardest to write was the raw, emotional scenes near the end of the second act. Some things (no spoilers!) happen to propel the Hunter to go on an all-out rampage against the villains, and there are a few scenes there where s**t gets very real for him. He realizes just how much it hurts to lose the things that he holds most dear.

If you could be one of the characters from any of your books, who would it be and why?

I would definitely be the Hunter. He is one bad-ass character. It would be amazing to feel that rush of being more than human, even with all its downsides.

Is there a specific place in the house (or out of the house) that you like to write?

I’m a bit OCD when it comes to my writing. I do my best work when sitting at my desk. I can’t really write if my computer is on my lap, so it’s hard to write on a couch. That being said, the day I buy a Barcalounger/La-Z-Boy is the day that I start learning how to write on my lap.

Do you have a specific snack that you have with you when you write?

I’ve gone through some interesting stages.

At one point, I wrote best with a cup of black or green tea. It has evolved to include:

  • A White Russian (cocktail)
  • Chocolate milk
  • Cold chocolate

I like to have something sweet (such as a PBJ sandwich or a cookie) before I sit down to write. It helps to sort of set the “starting point” for my creative time.

Tell us a random fact about you that we never would have guessed.

I was born in Japan, my nationality is Canadian, my mother is French, my father is American, and I am currently residing in Mexico.

Book Blurb

Bucelarii - CopyThe Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyer

The Hunter of Voramis is the perfect assassin: ruthless, unrelenting, immortal. Yet he is haunted by lost memories, bonded to a cursed dagger that feeds him power yet denies him peace of mind. Within him rages an unquenchable need for blood and death.

When he accepts a contract to avenge the stolen innocence of a girl, the Hunter becomes the prey. The death of a seemingly random target sends him hurtling toward destruction, yet could his path also lead to the truth of his buried past?

About the Author

AndyAndy Peloquin–a third culture kid to the core–has loved to read since before he could remember. Sherlock Holmes, the Phantom of the Opera, and Father Brown are just a few of the books that ensnared his imagination as a child.

When he discovered science fiction and fantasy through the pages of writers like Edgar Rice Burroughs, J.R.R Tolkien, and Orson Scott Card, he was immediately hooked and hasn’t looked back since.

Andy’s first attempt at writing produced In the Days: A Tale of the Forgotten Continent. He has learned from the mistakes he made and used the experience to produce Blade of the Destroyer, a book of which he is very proud.

Reading—and now writing—is his favorite escape, and it provides him an outlet for his innate creativity. He is an artist; words are his palette.

His website is a second home for him, a place where he can post his thoughts and feelings–along with reviews of books he finds laying around the internet.

You can follow Andy on Twitter and Facebook.

You can purchase The Last Bucelarii (Book 1): Blade of the Destroyer on Amazon

 

Dealing with homonyms

The English language is filled with homonyms – words that are pronounced the same way but spelled differently and mean different things.

Often writers use an incorrect word, and not all grammar checking programs or even proofreader catch all the mistakes.

Here are some examples using the correct word and then followed by the often misused word and the definitions of the two.

Harold’s face twitched with a nervous tic.

tic – a periodic spasm

tick – a small bloodsucking arachnid or perhaps the sharp, recurring click (as of a clock)

The wording piqued my interest.

Pique – aroused or excited

Peaked – to be at the maximum (interest has peaked, and will probably soon decline)

Two vases of flowers stood on either side of the altar.

Altar -the structure in a place of worship

Alter – to change something

She wore a two carat diamond.

Carat – unite of weight for jewels

Caret – a small wedged-shaped mark (^) used by editors to indicate where text should be inserted

She grabbed a box of stationery.

Stationery – writing materials

Stationary – not moving

Donna always sticks to her principles.

Principle – code of conduct

Principal – (noun) the leader of a school or main sum of money owed on a loan  OR (adjective) describes something that is prominent or important (our principal concern)

His office was little more than a cubicle.

Cubicle – a small partitioned space

Cubical – shaped like a cube with six equal square sides

My husband believed in giving his staff free rein.

Rein – to guide (or in this case to give complete freedom)

Reign – to rule as a sovereign power

Rain – water falling to earth or a continuous descent or inflicting of anything (a rain of blows)

The car has dual air bags.

Dual – two

Duel – a contest between two people

The new curtains complemented the room nicely.

Complemented – went well with, enhanced

Complimented – to give a praise

Registration fees may be waived for low income families.

Waived – voluntarily forgo something

Waved – flapping up and down

The police arrived at the grisly scene.

Grisly – gruesome, ghastly

Grizzly – having hair that is gray

She felt as if she had been put through the wringer.

Wringer- a devise for wringing something out, squeezing it dry

Ringer – a person or thing that makes a ringing noise

His lawsuit claimed there had been a breach of contract.

Breach – violation

Breech – bottom or back end of something (a breech birth)

There are MANY other words that often get mixed up but I will leave those for another post.