The Cedna: Emily June Street

Tamara Shoemaker interviewed me about my new release, The Cedna. Here’s her interview blog of several tough questions!

Tamara Shoemaker, Freelance Editor/Author

I have the pleasure of hosting fantasy author extraordinaire, Emily June Street, on my website today, where she discusses her latest novel, The Cedna, with me–its magic system, which of her characters she relates to most, and why she’s put out with me for making her answer the last question. 😉

Come read what she has to say, and then do yourself a favor and look up her books on Amazon. Besides The Cedna, she also has The Ganteanfor sale, and other works such as The Velocipede Races. I highly recommend all of them; Emily is one of the best there is. Follow her on her website or connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.

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1.) In three sentences, tell me what The Cedna is about.

The Cedna is the second book in an epic fantasy series that explores intersections of women, fantasy, and magic.

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Happy Bookday to The Cedna

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Today is the day! The Cedna is officially “out”! You can now get your hands on Tales of Blood & Light Book Two.

Get your ebook or print version here.

Tell a friend or give a copy as a gift, or you can always show support by leaving a review or rating on Amazon or Goodreads.

Thanks to everyone who has supported so far. I hope you enjoy this wintery read of dark magic!

My Ten Best Reads of 2015

Every year I make a goal on Goodreads to read one hundred books. My book selection process is pretty loose—a lot of serendipity is involved. I tend to read books that fall into my lap or that I can get for free at the library, although this year I was actively trying to read more non-fiction.

Here are a few stats from my reading year:

I read 110 books that I reported on Goodreads: 79 were fiction, 3 were volumes of poetry, and 28 were non-fiction. I guess it is hard to change a reader’s stripes. Even so, 28 non-fiction books was an increase from the year before.

I tend to favor books by women, although I don’t actively seek out books by author gender. I read 59 books by women, 42 by men, and 9 that were anthologies or co-written with both genders represented.

After reviewing my stats I decided that next year my main goal will still be to read more non-fiction. I also want to whittle away on my Goodreads “to-read” list, so I’ll actively seek out books from that.

Here’s a link to my 2015 reading challenge.

Here is my list of my ten best reads of 2015 in no particular order. They weren’t necessarily published in 2015, I just happened to find and read them this year.

1) Wild Seed, by Octavia Butler

This was my first Octavia Butler book but it won’t be my last. I loved the vast scope of the historical story and the abstract mythos of masculinity and femininity that was carefully woven through the plot and characters. A work of an intelligent and broad imagination.

2) All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

Any best books list of 2014 was probably topped by this book; I was just a bit late to the party to read it. Carefully crafted and well-edited, this story was spare and perfect; reading doesn’t get much better than this. I especially enjoyed the empathetic writing and the historical scope of the novel.

3) Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein

Another historical novel for my list—I fear I am biased towards historical fiction. This book took an underexplored topic—female pilots and spies in WWII—and blasted it open with a rip-roaring plot and layered characters I couldn’t help but love.

4) Dust and Light, by Carol Berg

If only I could write such perfect, packed sentences as Carol Berg. She takes fantasy writing to new levels of intricacy and craft. I love the slow build of her plots, the deep development of her characters, and the final, perfect weaving of all her disparate story threads into satisfying conclusions. More people should read and know her work.

5) The Underground Girls of Kabul, by Jenny Nordberg

This non-fiction book explored the fascinating topic of young girls born into families without sons in Afghanistan. Apparently sons are so prized there that it is considered a great shame to have only daughters, so much so that families are willing to disguise one of their daughters as a boy until she reaches puberty, to gain the status and privilege that having a son bestows. This was a well-written and sensitive exploration of the lives of these girls, showing the conflict between an old misogyny and an emerging possibility of equality.

6) A Path Appears, by Nichloas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

This inspiring read followed up Kristof and WuDunn’s book, Half the Sky, in which the situation of women and girls the world over was put beneath a magnifying glass. A Path Appears is a hopeful book, a book that looks towards the future with a big social conscience. Its goal is to get more people involved in philanthropy by presenting case studies of the results and positive rewards of charitable giving. For a layperson utterly uninvolved in the world of non-profits and charity, it was interesting and eye-opening, and I think this book represents an important first step towards creating a better world.

7) The Bronze Horseman, by Paullina Simons

This historical novel was pure reading pleasure—an addictive story that I could not put down. Romantic and epic, it tells the story of a love affair between Tatiana and Alexander, denizens of Leningrad during the siege of 1941-1944.

8) Ash and Silver, by Carol Berg

Carol Berg was the only author to double-dip in my list—and it’s because she is that good. The two books on the list are a duet covering one story that details the life of Lucien de Remini, a thwarted sorcerer who is wanted by his government for crimes he did not commit. What I love so much about Carol Berg is that she’ll take on a big, psychological theme, in this case, identity and memory, and weave it into an amazing, action-packed plot that perfectly expresses her theme. Highly recommended for fans of character-driven fantasy that defies formulas.

9) Redeployment, by Phil Klay

These short stories were tight, impactful, and of the moment. I particularly liked that they gave a soldier’s eye view of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, complete with all the complexities and dangers they face. Told in spare, controlled writing that left an impression long after reading.

10) Middle Passage, by Charles Johnson

This is probably the strangest book on my list—I’m not sure I’ve ever read a book quite like it. One part historical novel, one part allegory, one part satire, one part spec fiction—this is the work of a complicated imagination chewing on difficult questions. It’s not a read for people who cling to convention in their fiction, but if you like novels of ideas that force you ponder big issues via subtle story telling, this might a read for you. Complicated and engaging on many levels at once, this small book left a large thought-crater in my mind.

I’m looking forward to more reading in 2016. What books are you planning to read?

Seven Questions : Tamara Shoemaker : Mark of Four

I’m very fortunate to have not one but two editions of “Seven Questions” for the final month of the year. Today I’m featuring YA author Tamara Shoemaker, whose latest book, Mark of Four, is the first in a trilogy set in a post-apocalyptic fantasy world with a magic system based on the four classical elements: air, earth, fire, and water.

Tamara and I recently had the pleasure of writing a historical short story together, which will appear in the next Flashdogs Anthology, coming in February 2016. I also have to brag that I drew the “Mark of Four” glyph that is featured in this book. You’ll have to buy the book to see the glyph though!

Read on for her answers to my seven questions.

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  • Define Mark of Four’s central plot conflict in three sentences or less.

In a post-apocalyptic world where Elemental abilities can save or squander all human life, a teenage girl with unique skills seeks to protect her family, her friends, and the source of Elemental power from an escaped criminal and his followers. (How’s ONE sentence?) 😉

 

  • What appeals to you about writing YA fantasy?

I’m in love with the vivid, raw emotions that are usually quite prevalent in them. There’s a simplicity to the character development—a teen’s first steps into the wider world. There’s usually very little qualification to the emotions; when the character feels joy, it’s overwhelming. When he or she panics, it’s straight-up, all-out, sky-falling terror. When he or she falls in love, there’s very little baggage to sort through. I guess this could be said about any YA genre, not just fantasy, but what’s a book without a little magic? Perhaps the magic holds me just as much as the honest emotions.

 

  • How did your writing change from first draft to last draft on this one?

The entire story has turned inside-out, and then outside back in again. Reading over the book now, I can see a seed of the original idea I started with, but the final draft pulled it together so much more tightly than what it had originally been. The first draft was a mess. The story was shaky and out-of-order, with Alayne rambling off on some unneeded journey over here, and random unnecessary characters appearing over there. After the story went through what seemed liked thousands of edits, and after my editor took it in hand, the final version ended up with a solid structure. The first chapter lays out the conflict nicely, and the story builds on itself from there.

Not only did the story structure improve–this book had been in existence about two years prior to its publication. During those two years of edits, I was constantly writing other material. I wrote the two sequels to this book, as well as the first two books in another trilogy. My writing style has changed and deepened and improved over those two years, so comparing the first draft to the final draft, adverbs disappeared, stage-management lessened, the characters acted differently because they were written less haphazardly, there were fewer speech tags, etc.—the little details that you don’t notice unless you’ve been an author or an editor, but the important ones that make the story better as a whole.

 

  • How many editing passes do you normally do on a draft, and can you describe your editing process a bit?

I like to say I edit until I get the story right. Whether that’s two times or two hundred times, it depends. Mark of Four was closer to two-hundred times. It morphed so much over the two years that it sat on my hard drive that it never got past the “final editing pass” until recently, and then only after I found an editor.

Even though I can’t nail down a number for editing passes, I generally finish a first draft, and then let it sit for a month without touching it so it can steep in my mind. When the month is done, I’ll dust it off and then go through and brutally mark every single thing in the margins that I don’t like about the story, from overused adjectives to a major plot holes. When that’s done, I’ll go through and eradicate whatever problem I had marked in the margins. When that step is done, I send it off to my editor for her first global edit, and then it’s a matter of back-and-forth passes of the manuscript, several times, until we’re down to the fine-tuning (sentence structure, comma misplacement, etc.). When that’s done, the manuscript goes to the beta readers, who usually catch a few more mistakes, and then it’s off to the publisher’s while I do two more final, final read-throughs, looking for anything I missed.

Even after all that, I generally find at least one mistake after the book is out in print, which, of course, is mostly to keep me humble. 😉

 

  • Do you consciously approach literary themes in your writing or just allow them to emerge as they will?

I have never sat down and thought, I’m going to write a book about social injustice. Or revenge. Or hypocrisy or anything like that. Although inevitably, those themes will present themselves in my writing. As with most stories, I always have a protagonist and an antagonist, and as those two meet and the story fleshes itself out, usually a theme rises out of that, and I run with it.

But I don’t think I’ve ever decided before I begin writing what my theme will be. It comes as I get to know the characters and how they relate to the world around them.

 

  • Where do you get your world-building ideas and inspirations?

I’ve always had an extremely vivid imagination, so a lot of it comes from the what-if questions I ask myself at night as I’m falling asleep. What if I didn’t have to get up in the morning, and I could put physical power behind my thoughts to make things happen? What if the world I’m living in is actually a dream, and I think I’m living in a dream, but I’m actually living somewhere else instead? What if the universe were contained within someone else’s world, and we’re just a speck in that world?

Some of these ideas have been used before (Horton Hears a Who?), and some haven’t. Some ideas, I’ll partially borrow from themes I’ve read in other YA fantasy works and give them a twist in my own books. Some will be mostly original with me.

The teacher in the Biblical Ecclesiastes said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” I think that can apply to literature. If there’s an idea, most likely someone has thought of it, but you can always put your own spin on it.

 

  • What is your secret super-power?

I can make a mean recipe of cookies. The earth may be dismantled, and the mountains split and slide into the foaming ocean, but if I have an oven, butter, flour, sugar, and of course, chocolate, I can whip up some yummy goodies for anyone to sit back and watch the apocalypse.

What do I wish was my secret super-power? I wish I could clone myself. Just think of all the books I could churn out if there were twenty of me, and there’d still be one or two of me left over to keep the house clean, the laundry done, and the dishes washed. 🙂

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Learn more about Tamara, her excellent freelance editing offerings, and her books on her website:

www.tamarashoemaker.org 

 

 

 

The Cedna available for Pre-Order

Pre-order The Cedna here!

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If you haven’t yet heard, Tales of Blood & Light, Book Two, THE CEDNA, is up on Amazon and ready for pre-orders. It’ll be delivered on 12-27-2015.

I have the print proof in hand as I write, and it is looking fantastic. If you love physical books and wish to pre-order a signed and doodled flesh and bones (er, paper and ink, I mean) copy direct from me, just let me know! The cost is $9.99. For Marin/California people, I should be able to have the books to you in time for Christmas gifts.

And here’s a top secret fact: for the next five days, THE GANTEAN, Tales of Blood & Light, Book One ebook is available for a free download at Amazon. FREE!

I’m off to work on revisions to BOOK 3! I’m stuck at home with a bad head cold that’s preventing me from lying down, so I may as well be upright and editing.