Today’s Featured Author – Kat Doughty

Today, I welcome Kat Doughty to my blog. Her latest book, The First Singers, is scheduled to come out this month.

Interview

Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Kat. I live in Virginia and I have five kids. My eldest is six years old, which means that I spend more time than I should in imaginary worlds that do not contain diapers, potty training or Mickey Mouse. It’s about the only way to keep whatever remains of my sanity.

How do you conceive your plot ideas?

I have a horrible imagination. Most of my ideas start with a “What if” phrase and the rest is basically a logical continuation of whatever concept I was able to come up with. The basis for the Asin from The First Singers came from the never ending warfare on ants that are summers around here crossed with a Native American legend. Not that they ended up having much in common with either.

Please tell us about your current release.

The First Singers is my second book and was published by J Ellington Ashton Press. It’s a dystopian trilogy, because if you are going to get a dystopian novel out, it better be a part of a trilogy. It centers on Teena, a girl who lives in a former military base in San Jose, California. We wake up with her in the morning on her eighteenth birthday, which also happens to be the day she is very likely to die on.

Which of your characters is your favorite?

When I write I like to write a random side character that I consider awesome, even though they only have a cameo in the story at best. For The First Singers, it’s Ace, some ten year old girl who is a complete tomboy and always does what she wants to do.

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

Yes, there are will be two more books. Book two is essentially ready for the publishing process to start and I just finished the first draft of book three. It’s hard to talk about them without giving away much from book one, but Teena will continue her battle against the Asin while figuring out life outside of the sheltered base and who she really is.

Did the story turn out the way you planned from the beginning? If not, what change happened that you didn’t expect?

No, I actually had a completely different ending in mind, but my beta readers hated it. So I went with an alternate, more conventional ending. Which they are going to hate as well, just not as much as what I had originally planned. I am not much of a “and they lived happily ever after” kind of writer.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

I find that a lot of the writers are avid readers and so am I, which means that the list of my all time favorite books is long. One of the books that had a lasting effect on me was Nation by Terry Pratchett. It’s not one of his popular works, but there are elements to it that resonated with me the way few books do. He was a brilliant writer and I am still not entirely over the fact that there are no more books coming.

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

English is my second language, I have a strong accent and I am pretty sure people who know me in real life don’t quite understand how someone completely incapable of putting a sentence together can write books.

Book Blurb

the first singersIn the far future, Teena is ready to celebrate her eighteenth birthday by running for her life. Up to this day she lived in a former military base in the middle of an old, desolated city, Today will decide if she will join the fabled Survivor Island or if she will be killed by her former friends.

About the Author

Kat is a writer, photographer, and a mom to four active boys and a little girl, which is why she needs a fantasy world or two to escape to on a regular basis. When she’s not busy writing or trying to keep her children alive, she is probably hiding in the pantry.

You can find out more about Kat on her website.

You can purchase The First Singers on Amazon.

Do you need an epilogue?

Last week, I wrote about the prologue (a section of prose that sets the scene for the rest of your novel). Today, I wanted to discuss the epilogue.

An epilogue is a section at the end of the book that wraps up the story.

This is not to say you can’t just end your book with the final chapter. However, sometimes, and I often see this in romance novels, the epilogue shows a snippet of what happened to the characters at a later point in their lives, whether it is several months, a year or perhaps even a number of years later.

Epilogues are NOT final chapters. They are meant to cap off the story, giving it the final piece of finality. Here are some reasons for an epilogue.

  • Provide closure – this is where you can add some details that might have diluted the climax if they had been included in the body of the novel. This might be especially true if a major character dies or when the fate of the characters is not clearly depicted.
  • Gives us the happily ever after – This is where you find out what happened to the main characters sometime down the road. This is where you might read of the wedding or the birth of a baby in a romance novel. Or you find out what happened to Harry Potter and his friends nineteen years down the road.
  • Set up a sequel – If your story is over, but you can’t just let go of these characters, perhaps you will write another book. You can close the first book out in the final chapter and then use the epilogue to pique reader’s interest in the next episode.

Should you write an epilogue? Only you, the author, can decide that. But generally, the answer is no book needs an epilogue. If it is crucial to the story, it is in the actual story.

Now just because you have a prologue (or don’t have a prologue), you don’t have to have an epilogue. As I mentioned last week, every book in my trilogy has a prologue but only the last one has an epilogue. It lets the readers know what happened to the main characters. And actually, I get a lot of fans writing me wanting to know more about what happens after the epilogue. (Hmmm…perhaps I will write a sequel trilogy.)

Just as with the prologue, seriously consider whether an epilogue will help or hinder your story. What is it that will make the readers (and you) feel the story is complete?

#NewRelease – AN INVINCIBLE SUMMER by Betta Ferrendelli

An Incredible Summer, the latest book from Betta Ferrendelli, was released in September. If you are a fan of courtroom dramas (think John Grisham), then this book might be for you.

Interview

What or who inspired you to start writing?

In 1993, I watched the movie Fried Green Tomatoes on video one snowy evening. There was a line in the movie, “That fall, Ruth lost her appetite,” and I knew what was going to happen next. I watched that movie at least another dozen times after that initial viewing and it is still my favorite movie today. I was already working professionally as a journalist, but after watching that movie, I knew what I really wanted to do was be an author. Now that has happened, I am working on the “best-selling” part.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?

I wrote a poem about the rain standing at my mother’s bedroom. I was in the seventh grade. I read that poem during an English class in high school and the teacher said to me that it was too good and I couldn’t have written it. I have been writing ever since.

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

I have written five books. Four are published on Amazon. There is a little bit of me and some of my experiences in life in each one of them. In An Invincible Summer, there is a scene with Tia Ranch, Jaime’s paralegal, and she is riding home on the bus after work. She is thinking about her husband, a dentist, and how she caught him cheating with one of his dental assistants. She went to his office on a hunch and found them both by a dental chair. Tia and her boys went to a hotel and stayed for the night and her husband stood outside the door, saying he was sorry and pleading with her to him let him in. Tia never does let him in. That was my mother and father many, many years ago.

What is the best and worst advice you have received regarding writing or publishing?

Write about what you know came from another writer. Bad advice—since we all truly, truly know so little about so many things. I like to say write about what you’re interested in. Anything that piques your interest, you’re going to want to learn more.

How do you conceive your plot ideas?

A lot of my ideas have come as a result of being a newspaper reporter, which has allowed me a comfortable access that most people would not have in places such as police evidence rooms, morgues, etc. Being a reporter has also allowed me to interview and write about other writers and get tips and ideas from them about writing. I have met and interviewed Mary Higgins Clark, Clive Cussler, Diane Mott Davidson, J.A. Jance, Debbie Macomber, Susan Wiggs, to name a few. Each has offered me valuable advice, which I have tried to apply over the years.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

I do both. If it is a difficult chapter, when I stop writing for the day, I will take the time to outline the chapter. When I am ready to start writing again, I find the words do come a little easier. More often than not, I just keep writing. This is when Stephen King’s advice from his book On Writing Well, becomes so important. In the book he says to “just write,” and everything else will fall into place. It is so much easier to edit when you have something already down on paper. So I write, even if I am not happy with what I writing, I just keep writing. I can always revise and edit later, which I always do.

Please tell us about your current release.

An Invincible Summer published on Amazon Sept. 29, 2015. One review from Readers’ Favorite sums the book up best: “An Invincible Summer is a wonderful mix of emotions, crucial decisions, courtroom scenes, romance and compassion.”

It is the story of Jaime Monroe, a young prosecutor who has a bright future with the Denver District Attorney’s office. Jaime, however, is tormented by demons from her past. But when she learns that Leigh Roberts, a local reporter for a Denver daily newspaper, intends to have her mentally challenged young adult daughter, Ashleigh, forcibly sterilized, something within Jaime stirs. Whether it is anger, pity, or simply the need to do what’s right, Jaime decides to turn her back on her promising career with the DA’s office to represent Ashleigh. With the odds stacked against them, Jaime and Ashleigh take their case to the courts in a battle that will ultimately resolve one woman’s past and one woman’s future.

How did you come up with the title?

That was probably the hardest thing about writing this book, ha-ha! It was a process, as I changed the title regularly because I couldn’t settle on anything I liked. The title ultimately came from the quote by Camus: “In the midst of winter, I found within me an invincible summer.” I use that quote in the last few lines of the book when my main character, Jaime Monroe, remembers having a poster with that saying on it. It is then that she realizes given everything she has been through in her life, that within her, there has always been an invincible summer.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

In addition to knowing a family intimately who had a child with special needs, I interview professionals in the field, as well as other parents who had children with special needs and attorneys who helped me research the threshold hearing that takes place between the mother Leigh Roberts and her daughter, Ashleigh in An Invincible Summer. I extensively researched state laws (Colorado specifically) on sterilization requirements. This goes back to writing about what you’re interested in. I learned a great deal while researching and writing this story because I had a genuine interest in the topic.

Did you base any of your characters on real people?

I didn’t base them on anyone I knew, but a compilation of people I knew or have known over the years. The mother in my story, Leigh Roberts, is based loosely on a friend of mine, a mother who had a severally mentally handicapped daughter, who also had a severe/rare form of epilepsy. My friend wanted to have her daughter sterilized to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. She gave me the idea for the book, not primarily about the issue of sterilization, but for all the things she had done to make her daughter’s life as livable, happy and progressive as she possibly could given her limitations, for there were many. Nearly everything Leigh Roberts did for her daughter in An Invincible Summer, my friend had done for her own daughter.

Is there a specific place in the house you like to write?

Unless I am writing in a newsroom, the only other place I write is at home. I like to follow the sun. In the mornings, I am in my office. In the afternoons, I write at my kitchen table with the sunlight streaming in, which is my favorite place to write.

Do you have a favorite book?

Not a favorite book, but a favorite paragraph or two from the last part of A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean. I love the line that he is “haunted by waters.” It is, however, the few lines before that when he is talking about being an old man and fishing in the half-light of a Montana afternoon and he says, “the people I have loved most in my life are gone from me now, but I still find myself reaching out to them.” For anyone who has ever loved and lost someone, you know exactly what he means.

Book Blurb

AnInvincibleSummer_CoverHiRezIn this gripping legal drama, rising prosecutor Jaime Munroe resigns her post to represent Ashleigh Roberts, a mentally challenged young woman whose mother and legal guardian is seeking to have forcibly sterilized. Jaime is a promising young lawyer with the Denver District Attorney’s Office. She makes her name by successfully prosecuting the case of a teen-aged girl with a severe mental disability who had been raped and murdered. Although she comes across as strong and confident, the girl’s case opens old wounds for Jamie, who is struggling with tragic events from her past.

Leigh Roberts, a reporter for a Denver daily newspaper, covers the trial, and this case also hits close to home. She is the mother and legal guardian of Ashleigh, who has a mild mental disability. Ashleigh is a cheerful young woman about to become truly independent. After living for years in a group home, she will soon be on her own in a living arrangement with minimal adult oversight. She will also quit work at a sheltered workshop to begin a job in a food court, where she will have daily interaction with society’s mainstream. With these dramatic life changes, Leigh fears that Ashleigh will be an easy target to deceive. Only wanting to do right by her daughter, she seeks the court’s approval to have Ashleigh forcibly sterilized.

The case tugs at Jamie and affects her personal life. She even oversteps ethical boundaries by befriending Leigh. Jamie also becomes close to her client Ashleigh, and the young woman’s cause soon becomes her own. The lines continued to blur as the lawyer looks not only to help the young woman but seemingly wants to clear her own conscience over a childhood death she could have prevented. Undaunted by the overwhelming odds against Ashleigh winning, Jaime leads the charge and takes the case to court in a battle that ultimately resolves one woman’s past and another’s future.  Readers will be swept up by arguments on both sides in An Invincible Summer and will keep guessing the outcome until the last page.

About the Author 

Betta headshot_DeCroce PhotographyBetta Ferrendelli is the award-winning author of the Samantha Church Mystery Series featuring reporter Samantha Church. Many of Church’s adventures come from Ferrendelli’s own experience since 1989 as a prize-winning journalist for newspapers in Denver, Seattle and Albuquerque.

You can find more about Betta on her website or follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

You can purchase An Invincible Summer on Amazon.

$500 is a realistic food budget for a family of four

Recently, I read a post on the Yahoo Food about what it is like to feed a family for less than $20 a day. The woman in the story had three kids and fed them using $500 in food stamps each month.

Now while I know that there are many families who struggle to put food on the table, and that kids and adults are going to bed hungry each night, I am at a loss on how this woman says it is such a struggle on $500 a month. (Of course, I have no clue what food prices are where she lives.)

On average, my family of four spends about $550 a month with about $40-$50 of that being soda. (Yes, my husband is sorely addicted to soda, and if it was up to me, we would spend way less on this. The kids and I only have one soda per day.)

IMG_3986

My pantry

Now on our $500 food budget, none of us are going hungry. The pantry is always stocked. And I am making breakfast, lunch and dinner for the kids and I daily. My husband eats out his lunches but pays with that from his business account. Just think of how much he could save if I made his lunch for him.

But the woman in the story’s three kids ate both breakfast and lunch at school though they didn’t seem to like the food the school provided. If she is receiving food stamps, I am sure her kids qualify for free (or reduced) meals at the school.

My own kids rarely eat from the school cafeteria. Jase might eat there 3-4 times a month with the cost of $2.05 each time. I am lucky if Lexie eats there once a month. I typically send her to school with a packed lunch, but since she doesn’t eat bread, there are no sandwiches. Her lunch consists usually fruit which in the winter is quite expensive. I bought five mangos for the week, costing $3.40. That with some pretzels, cookies, yogurt and blackberries (on sale for $1.87) will make up her lunch each day.

IMG_3984

My fridge and freezer

Now I know if I shopped better – looked for sales, comparison priced or used more coupons – I could save even more money and survive on a lower budget. But I don’t choose to spend my time doing that and don’t expect the single mom in the story had that time either. I do know that we could eat healthier if we tried as we do buy quite a bit of chips and ice cream. It is those purchases that I know we could cut out if we had to. But as it is we have those treats and are not going hungry.

The woman and kids in the story obviously never eat out while I admit we end up spending money to eat out when we could be eating at home. But even if we ate at home for those meals, I think we could do it with only spending $500 on food per month. And I am not the only one. Many of those commenting on the post claimed the same thing. They too thought she should be able to eat well on $500 a month.

 

 

Today’s Featured Author – Ciara Gold

Please welcome author Ciara Gold to my blog.  Her book, The Rose Hunter, came out last month.

Interview

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

I bring a lot of myself into my books. I think the more experiences you have as a person, the more you can bring to your creativity. I teach art in addition to writing and I tell this to my students all the time. How can they not bring their experiences and feelings to the canvas? As for me, I’ve been blessed with a rich upbringing (and I’m not talking money rich but experience rich). I took ballet, tap, piano, voice and art lessons in my youth. I was a girl scout for over twelve years and a candy striper for three. In Eliza’s Copper Penny, in one scene, I have her cleaning a lantern with newspaper. Back when I went to camp, we had to maintain the kerosene lanterns by cleaning the soot off the glass globe and trimming the wick. I think it’s the little things like these that paint a scene more vividly.

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

When I work on a project, I usually have three others in the works. I multi-task a lot. At present, I have two historical westerns, one paranormal fantasy and a Christmas story in the works. Of the four, I’ll probably finish the historical western first as I have more done on it.

Do you outline your books or just start writing?

Just start writing. I get bored easily and if I outlined, I’d know the ending before I’ve written the book. There’s no fun in that. I pride myself on plots that don’t follow the norm so I tend to write myself into corners a lot and then figure out how to get my characters out of the situation. Oh yeah, I write romance so there’s always an HEA, but other than that, I try real hard to give the reader something fresh and new with each story.

Please tell us about your current release.

I would love to. The Rose Hunter is the second book in a series of books I plan to write. In the first book, The Keeper of Moon Haven, I created an alternative realm for the fae to safely reside, but whenever there’s a blue moon in October, this alternative realm is accessible to humans for one month’s time. In The Rose Hunter, my heroine, an elfin witch, is sent on a mission to recover a stolen artifact. She will have to journey to the human realm to find it and of course must rely on help from a human hero.

What inspired you to write this book?

I truly don’t know. Since I write from the hip, I basically just started writing. With the first book, once I figured out I wanted something centered around the blue moon, the idea for the faery realm came to mind. I then became very excited to have a series of books that would all be different and yet connected by this idea. For the most part, a blue moon in October occurs every nineteen years. Not always, but more often than not so all the books would give me an opportunity to investigate other time periods and part of the fun of writing historical is the research involved.

What kind of research did you do for this book?

I bought several books on the Templar Knights and did quite a bit of research on possible locations for the story. The Castle Hamingjur is a fictional castle set close to the Mendip Hills and Glastonbury as there is so much magical history associated with this area.

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

The Rose Hunter is the second book in a series of unlimited books I’m hoping to write. I have started work on a third and fourth book. The third will be set in 1213 AD and 1251 AD and will basically be Lyerra’s parent’s story. I’ve only written a chapter so I can’t tell you too much more. The fourth I started combines a historical western with the faery realm and involves a leprechaun who has spent the better part of his youth in the human realm. He longs to return but the fates have placed him in America, a long way off from Hamingjur and the portal home.

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

What a fun question. I love all my characters, but I think the one that resonates with me most is Eliza from Eliza’s Copper Penny. I loosely based her character off my grandmother who died a month short of her 101st birthday. She taught school in rural Texas in a one-room building.

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

We just bought property in the country that came with a cabin shell that we finished out to make an office and small kitchen. It’s my “she-shed” and I love it. Right now, that’s the best place to write. It’s quiet, secluded and has a warm, inviting feel.

Do you have an all time favorite book?

I actually have two. The first is Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss because it was the very first romance I read and it was the book that turned me on to reading. Prior I hated reading but I think it was because of my eyes. Reading gave me headaches and I never found a genre I enjoyed enough to put up with the discomfort. I know. Strange that an author would dislike reading, eh? I was nineteen when I actually fell in love with romance and at the time, I would read at least 4 books a week. My second all time favorite is Coulter’s Wife by Joan Johnston. Historical westerns are my comfort read when I need a pick-me-up.

Book Blurb

TheRoseHunter-200x300Lucian Willshire is plagued by thoughts of a fey world and the disappearance of his aunt some nineteen years past, but when his friend drags him back to Hamingjur Castle, he stumbles into Alfheim Haven once more where mystical beings become more than a distant memory.

Lyerra Ahdia is baffled by the sudden emotional changes she’s experiencing until she discovers she’s the only witch to suffer “the change” since her mother stole the Rose, a special talisman with the power to perpetuate life among those in her coven. Tasked with finding and bringing the Rose home, she begs Lucian’s help in navigating the human realm. Against his better judgement, he agrees.

Though neither set out to find anything except the Rose, fate has other plans. Will love be more elusive than hunting the Rose?

About the Author

Ciara Gold didn’t realize she was a writer until about ten years ago even though the signs had been in place since fourth grade. Luckily for readers, her muse took a skillet to her head and made her realize her true calling. She’s been delighting fans with her romantic journeys into the past and the future. Texas born and bred, she makes her home with a loving husband and Newt, the cat.

You can find out more about Ciara on her blog or her website. You can also follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

You can purchase The Rose Hunter on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or the Kobo store.

 

 

 

 

Tips for writing a prologue (if you even need one)

Where to begin your novel is always a daunting decision. You want to begin with an interesting scene to draw in your reader and set the stage for your story. But sometimes your reader might benefit from more information before they are introduced into the world you have created or so that they may understand the importance of what is happening. This is where a prologue can come into play. But do you really need one? And if you do, how do you decide what to include in the prologue?

Before we begin, lets us start with the basics. What is a prologue?

A prologue is an opening to a story that establishes the setting and gives background details.

Various purposes of the prologue

  • Give background information. For example, in a sci-fi book, it may be useful to introduce the alien world in a prologue so that the reader is not confused when they enter a completely foreign world in the first chapter.
  • Grabs the reader’s attention with a scene from the story. I can think of numerous movies that do this. They start with an exciting scene and then pause to go back and fill in everything that led up to that scene.
  • Describe a scene from the past that is important to the story, such as the death of the main character’s mother, which is motivation for the action in the novel.
  • Give information from a different point of view. If the story is written in first person and the prologue in third, the prologue could give information that the main character would have no way of knowing.
  • It expresses a different point in time. The prologue could be the main character when he or she is older and reflecting back on another event, which begins in Chapter 1. (Think of the opening scenes in the movie Titanic.)

So with all these good reasons for writing a prologue, what is the downside? Well, often prologues are boring. If too much history is put into the prologue, it can turn off readers. And many readers say they skip the prologues so if you include an essential part of the story here, your reader may not get it. But the main reason not to include a prologue is that they are often unnecessary. Many of the purposes of the prologue can be accomplished in the actual novel.

So before writing a prologue, ask yourself, will this fit in Chapter 1? Is this essential to the plot? If the answer is no, skip it.

Now, I wrote prologues for each book in my trilogy. The prologue in Summoned is used to introduce the dragons which don’t appear again until the very end of that book. It also hints to the prophecy (essential to the story) that the dragons know about but the humans don’t. (You can read the prologue and first chapter, here.)

In Quietus, the prologue is part of the journal of the last Elemental (a race of people who controlled the elements) and expands on the prophecy. And since I had done prologues for both Book 1 and 2, I did one for Book 3. The prologue in Destiny doesn’t focus on Lina, the Elemental mentioned in the prophecy, but on how those who control magic set the prophecy in motion.

I think in each case, the prologues add to the story. It contains details that would be hard to add to the story in another way (though if forced to I could have found a way to do it.) If a reader skips the prologues in my trilogy they will not be lost but it does add something to the story.

And so, if you too decide to add a prologue to your novel, here are some things to consider.

  • Keep it short. You don’t want the prologue to drag on for half the book.
  • Keep it interesting. This is the first thing the reader will read so you want to hook them with this passage.
  • Think of the prologue as a separate entity from the novel. Just because the prologue has a hook doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have one in your first chapter.
  • Limit background information. I have read prologues that are dull and boring histories which I ended up skimming. You can weave background information into your novel so don’t dump it all here.

Overall the prologue, when done correctly, can enhance your story and further your plot. But when done incorrectly, it can put your readers off so consider carefully before you include a prologue.