Seven Questions: Tamara Shoemaker

Anyone who reads my blog is aware of Tamara Shoemaker, YA author and editor extraordinaire. This woman never slows down, and her tenth full-length novel just came out, the final installment in her Heart of a Dragon series, Unleash the Inferno.

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In Unleash the Inferno, you’ll finally get the rousing conclusion to the epic story of Kinna, Ayden, Cedric, their dragons, and of course, the villain, Sebastian. One of my favorite aspects of this book was the backstory and development of Sebastian the evil king, turning him into a grayer antagonist than you might find in a lot of YA Fantasy.

Since Tamara has answered my seven questions so many times, I focused this interview less on her latest book itself and more on questions other writers might have about how this powerhouse keeps cranking out multiple books in a calendar year while the rest of us flounder along hoping to produce one, if any.

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  • Tamara, this is book ten, eleven if you count your children’s picture book. What have you learned between book one and book ten that you would share with a novice novel writer?

This is cliché, I fully admit, but I also hold the view that there is a reason things become cliché: because they work, they connect. So, this is what I’ve learned: Never give up. I mean, NEVER give up. Not when you come down off the high of publishing your first book, not when you get your first poor review, not when you get your first rejection to a query, nor when an agent says your writing isn’t quite what they’re looking for and better luck next time, nor when a harsh critique comes in from a trusted friend, nor when the pure agony of marketing overwhelms you, nor when you’re tired, nor when you’re sick, nor when you’ve hit a plothole that could swallow a skyscraper.

The discouragements that litter the road of a writer are many and varied and often hard, and it is a career that is certainly not for the faint of heart. But I think almost any obstacle can be gotten over with steady diligence and an attitude of “Never Say Die.”

That’s been my motto since I began.

  • How have you changed as a writer over the years? Is your focus different? Has it gotten easier? Harder?

Some things have gotten easier, some harder. 🙂 When I began writing, I didn’t expect to stick with it. I wrote my first book on a bit of a dare from my husband (he dared me to write a book, so I said I would, and I did). I half-heartedly tried to submit it in a few places, but then I put it away and didn’t pursue it again for several years. In 2012, I heard of a small press that was looking for manuscripts, so I thought—why not? I got my manuscript out, dusted it off, and sent it in. When the company offered to publish it, my dreams and goals increased exponentially in a matter of seconds. I saw myself—a world-famous authoress topping every chart from the New York Times Bestsellers to USA Today’s—gaining international acclaim, and of course, while signing off on movie rights at every Hollywood studio, jotting book after book in my cabin in the woods where I would never, no never, attempt this mysterious thing called “marketing.”

Obviously, the real story is VASTLY different from what I had anticipated, but in some ways, that eases the road for me. Expectations are less when you are less known. My focus shifted from writing for readers to writing for myself—what did I want to see in a story? The independent publishing market swept in and gave me more freedom to do what I wished. I jumped genres from mystery to fantasy, and that’s where I am today. Every step I take presents its own set of challenges, but every step is also rewarding in its own way, because it’s all a part of living my dream. I haven’t topped any lists yet, and Hollywood steadfastly ignores me, but I am writing, I am creating, I am weaving my worlds, and that is important to me.

  • What inspires you when you’re feeling creatively dry?

So many things! My children. My surroundings. Nature. A book I’ve just read. A movie. A conversation with a friend. Music. Dreams. Sometimes I feel like I’ve come to the end of a road (that creative dryness you mentioned), and I realize it’s just a turning, a curve in the road, and something will spark a new thought that I want to explore to its farthest end.

  • You are also a freelance editor. What do you feel is different about editing someone else’s work and editing your own?

I think there’s such a thing as being “too close” to a story. When I write my own work, I am so wrapped up in the “nth details,” as I call them, of the world I create, that many times I can’t see the larger picture to know what is missing, or what should be tweaked. I rely heavily on beta readers when it comes to finding those things, but MOST of all, I rely on my editor to see those things (who, I may also add, is a worker of all things miraculous when it comes to literature of any kind).

So, in my work as an editor, I try to be that for other people. Authors get too close to their work; it’s a by-product of the profession, and that’s why it’s essential to get a good editor to help you see the larger picture. When I edit for other authors, I am able to grasp the bigger picture more easily than I can in my own books, because I’m coming at it from the outside of the work, and not inside it.

  • I’ve often noted that you seem like a very diligent writer who stays incredibly focused. I also know you go through phases of the typical writerly despair and uncertainty. How do you get through that and stay on track?

Hearkening back to my answer to question #1: Never give up, never say die. Sometimes, it’s like pulling teeth to make myself sit down and write. Sometimes the words don’t come, and the words I force to come are pure and absolute drivel that have no business anywhere NEAR what one would call a quality book.

I guess I look at it like the difference between a river and a pond. Scum collects on a still pond, because it has no movement. But in a river, the water is constantly flowing; there’s no chance for scum to form on the water’s surface, because it doesn’t stay still. When I’m writing, even if it’s drivel, even if the words are just awful with no quality whatsoever, the creative process isn’t stagnant. It’s still there, and eventually the quality floats on down the river to me, even if it takes a bit.

  • What is the hardest thing about the entire book process for you?

The middle phase: developmental edits. I love the first part: creation. I get to write whatever under the heavens I want to write, because it’s my story, and I can make it happen exactly as I want it to happen. I also love the final part: the line edits. That’s the spit and shine on the hard work I’ve put in. It’s where I see the story start to look like an actual book I’d want to read in a bookstore. It brings so much satisfaction. But that developmental phase in the middle is a bugger. It’s where I see every last flaw in the story, usually huge ones, and I have to go untangle them and rewrite them and rearrange things and cut whole sections and add whole sections and tear the entire story apart so I can put it back together again in a coherent manner. It’s awful. But I couldn’t complete a book without it. 🙂

  • Tell us a bit about your next projects.

I’m currently in process of finishing up a co-write with my beloved editor and friend, Emily June Street, (WHO?) set in an 18th century parallel world featuring music as magic and with steampunk touches. We’ve already co-written another book, set in an 19th century parallel world to the post-Civil War American South, featuring elemental magic and plantations, and we plan to pitch these books to agents at a conference in New York City in August. Meanwhile, I have begun sketching out the plans for a new YA Fantasy that includes between-world travel, fairy tale settings, and of course, my favorite, political intrigue. I’m hoping to begin the actual writing of that in June. I’m also busy picking up freelance editing contracts where I can in all my… you know… spare time. 😉

You all can learn more about Tamara and her writing and editing activities at tamarashoemaker.org

Read Unleash the Inferno!

After the Battle at ClarenVale, Kinna Andrachen unites those who spurn King Sebastian’s tyrannical reign, mustering a rag-tag army of soldiers and creatures to face Sebastian’s far larger Lismarian army. Victory is elusive and allies are scarce, but Kinna’s tenacious spirit cannot succumb to injustice. Her fiery heart must learn to lead

At last mastering control of the four Touches of the powerful Amulet, Ayden finds himself at the center of an epic struggle to destroy the corruption that has tainted the throne of Lismaria for centuries. As time runs out, his options for survival fade, surrendering him to a dark destiny.

Tied to a fate he does not want, Cedric Andrachen resists his inheritance, fleeing the lust for power it sparks in him. As war looms, Cedric faces his choices: will he turn his back on his throne and his kingdom? Or will he enter the struggle against tyranny, bringing the freedom his people have so long sought?

Sebastian sits, at last, on the Lismarian throne, stolen from him twenty years prior. But now the Rebellion, led against him by his niece and nephew, threatens his security from across the Channel, and the Amulet’s promise of power tempts him into even darker shadows. Ghosts of the past brutalize Sebastian’s present until the lines of reality blur with nightmare.

Flames of war ignite between nations. Peril threatens the Andrachen line.

Who will survive the inferno?

The Infernal Clock

My flash fiction buddies have been up to their old shenanigans, and after a random episode of tweeting brilliance, David Shakes came up with another cool flash fiction book concept, The Infernal Clock, a horror story for each hour of the day.

My hour, assigned late in the game, was 2 a.m. I have played around with horror as an exercise over the years, but I admit, I find it one of the hardest genres as a writer. My story, Karen’s Babies, was one of many stories I have written in my life to which I didn’t want to attach my name. But, I took a deep breath and did it anyway, as an exercise in detaching from my creations. Just because I wrote something dark and twisted, it doesn’t mean I am dark and twisted.

Right?

I had the privilege of working with David Shakes and Steph Ellis, the curators of this volume, to produce the final product in e-book and print form. The incomparable Tamara Rogers made the cover.

get e-book here

get print book here

INfernal Clock Kindle Cover

 

 

Goals : April : 2017

It’s time to review and post goals for another month. I was smart last month and kept my goals simple:

  1. FINISH  Mage & Source  revision. CHECK–I did this and sent to Tamara Shoemaker for line edits. That’s a relief.
  2. START musical magic co-write. CHECK–this is going very well. Tamara and I have nearly created a very rough draft for the entire book. We estimate 2-4 more chapters, plus an epilogue.
  3. READ through newly revised River Running and send to beta readers. CHECK–this one is off with a beta reader right now.

I’m going to keep it simple for April, too:

  1. LIGHT & SHADOW (ToB&L 5) revision and rewriting.
  2. FINISH draft of musical magic co-write.
  3. ODDS & ENDS (this includes working on some editing and formatting projects for others, mainly).

Deleted Scene : More Hinge Backstory

This little snippet was originally in The Gantean, a piece of information about the magic of the Gantean Hinge. Ultimately, I found a way to “show” rather than “tell” this information, but, like a lot of writing about magic systems, I had to write out the theory of it before I could even attempt to integrate it more naturally into the story.

Leila was the narrator telling this info, though it could have been the Cedna, too:

“Because of this Hinge, all other magic was possible, for in its opening, the Ancestors had made the Layers permeable, so that we could walk from one to the next. The Gantean People were the Guardians of this Hinge, and it was our sacred duty to protect it, to keep it hidden, safe, and open. Not just for ourselves, but for the whole world, for all the nations who used magic. The Hinge, high on the ice plateaus of Gante, was the source of all magic.

Every Gantean knew about the Hinge. Such knowledge made us Iksraqtaq. It was a secret funneled into us, never spoken, but lived and felt and inhaled from our very first breath. If we were a stern and somber people, it was because of this great responsibility we guarded. We kept the Hinge open by feeding it the dead, their flesh and spirit and blood, to appease its endless hunger.”

Seven Questions : Taryn Noelle Kloeden

I am happy to welcome Taryn Noelle Kloeden to my blog in honor of her debut novel, Hex Breaker, which is the first book in a series.

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Taryn is a lover of nature and all things furry and feathered. As a graduate student in Anthrozoology with an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Biology, she is dedicating her life to understanding and protecting animals, both human and nonhuman. This zeal for the outdoors combined with a lifelong love affair with fantasy and horror stories led her to create a YA dark fantasy series, The Fenearen Chronicles. Taryn lives in Richmond, Virginia with her Prima donna cat, Stella, and personal piano player/boyfriend, Lorenzo.

And now, Taryn answers the Seven Questions:

1) Pitch your book in three sentences.

What would you do if your best friend was cursed to a terrible fate for all eternity—and it was your fault? In a world where humans can take wolf form, political smokescreens hide dark intentions, and a culture faces extinction, one young woman must learn to embrace a power she does not understand. She’ll brave hell to save her pack, but will it be enough?

2) What inspired you to first decide, “I’m going to write a novel”?

I grew up splitting my time between Narnia, Middle Earth, Hogwarts and Pyrdain. When in our reality, I often found myself playing outside, making up worlds of my own. I always knew I wanted to share these worlds with others, and writing a novel seemed like the best way to do that. But I really became serious about writing and publishing as a young adult when I joined a local writers’ group and saw that it was possible to write today, rather than someday.

3) What draws you to the fantasy genre as a writer and a reader?

The earliest books I remember staying up all night to read were fantasy stories. The stories that come to me and keep me writing are also almost always fantasy. There’s something so sumptuous about creating a whole new world, or re-imagning this one in a way that hasn’t been done. While I do enjoy other genres, nothing gives me the chills or thrills like fantasy does. I do also think it’s important to note that, in my opinion at least, world-building and wonder aren’t enough for a great fantasy. To me, those create a breathtaking background upon which writers can really explore the intricacies of relationships, characters, and plots.

4) What’s a favorite book of yours, and why?

There are so many, but I’ll touch on a longtime favorite. The Call of the Wild has been one of my favorite books since the first time I read it in third grade. It’s one of those books where I find something new to appreciate every time I re-read it. I love that it’s told from a dog’s perspective, and the visceral, immediate ways that London describes Buck’s experiences. It’s a heartbreaking tale and yet so freeing.

5) What was one of the challenges you faced in producing Hex Breaker, and how did you overcome it?

How much time do you have? But really, I have been working on this book on and off for a decade, so there have been so many different challenges. I think the main one, though, was determining the best way to tell this story. It’s truly an epic. While it does revolve around a central character and her quest, there are so many different characters and intersecting plots that I really struggled with how to create a coherent, exciting narrative. With the help of friends, hours of plotting and sketching, and of course the aid of an amazing editor (Tamara Shoemaker), I think I figured out how to do it, and do it well. It’s a multi-POV story, but not omniscient, so by choosing which characters had the most to gain/lose in a given scene and showing it from their perspective, I think we came up with something really compelling.

6) What other art forms inspire your writing, and how? (for example, music, film, dance, paintings, theater)

I love to listen to music, both while I write and especially while I imagine/plot. I have whole playlists devoted to projects or characters, and now can’t hear certain songs without being reminded of various characters. For example, “I Know the Reason” by Carbon Leaf (my favorite band) came on while writing my answer to this question, and I immediately pictured Kellan from Hex Breaker. On top of that, I’m blessed to have a musician for a boyfriend who has composed songs specifically about my characters to help me write—the Ballad of Channon Lyallt is definitely my favorite.

I also love to draw. I don’t do it particularly well, but I have books and books full of character and scene sketches. I find that it helps me focus and can break writer’s block. I also love to act, having been involved with community theater for about fifteen years. Acting stretches a lot of the same muscles as writing, and I think my acting training really helps me inhabit the characters I write.

7) What is next for you as a writer?

I’m graduating with my Master’s in May and will have a few months before I go on to my doctorate in the fall. I hope to spend the summer re-writing Twice Blessed, the sequel to Hex Breaker. I will also be working on the third installment in the Fenearen Chronicles. Once those books and my academic work are well underway, my next major project is actually a standalone science fiction novel. So, a lot! I’m just hoping it doesn’t take me another ten years to get it all out there.

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Hex Breaker is out and available now. Get it exclusively on Amazon here.

Forced to decide between her happiness and her pack’s safety, Rayna Myana chooses to protect those she loves. But when shattered promises and dark magic collide, no one is safe…

For six hundred years, Fenear, a land where humans can take wolf form, has warred with Maenor, its neighboring kingdom ruled by a ruthless dynasty. The possibility of peace emerges when the Maenoren Overlord, Rhael, enters negotiations with Fenearen leaders Bayne and Silver, but their niece, Rayna, is skeptical. Yet, when Rhael proposes to her to strengthen the alliance, she agrees for the sake of her country, despite her family’s objections and a blossoming romance with her best friend. Suspicion of treachery changes Rayna’s decision, but before she can annul the agreement, powerful forces subdue her with a sinister hex. Separated from her pack with Fenear and everyone she loves in danger, Rayna must escape and travel to a distant realm to break the hex. Only then can she save her best friend and her homeland.

Lines blur between heroism and recklessness, dreams and reality, even life and death, and Rayna risks losing herself along the way.

Learn more about Taryn and her projects:

www.tnkloeden.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/tnkloeden

Twitter: www.twitter.com/tnkloeden

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/tnkloeden

Instagram: www.instagram.com/tnkloeden

 

Deleted Scene: Laith describes a mage’s view of pregnancy

This little scene is mainly interesting for a mage’s perspective on the magical theory of pregnancy in the Lethemian world. It turns out that neither this particular pregnancy, nor the magical facts about it presented here, remain valid. It was a wrong turning in magical theory and in story that I eventually had to cut.

The mage Laith Amar is the narrator for this scene:

As I descended into aethertrance, I swept my magestone over my hand on Lujayn’s abdomen. And there it was: a pinprick of mauve light in the center of Lujayn’s vibrant crimson plexus. A female spark, no more than a few days old. I bent to look closer. Damnation. The little fleck of life was barely attached in the network of Lujayn’s aetherlight, hanging by a single thread. I’d never seen an embryo so close to being unmoored. I’d heard many theories about why some pregnancies worked better than others—the mage I’d trained with at the Conservatoire said the ones that were not securely woven into the mother were unwanted by her. I didn’t believe that—I’d seen enough of the unwanted fetuses of whores—they often asked me to remove them—to know that whether a child was wanted has little to do with whether it was fixed well in the Aethers.

My own theory was that it had to do with the characteristics of the aetherlight of the parents. Most Conservatoire-trained mages paid no attention to the subtleties of aetherlight colors, how they melded or did not. Most mages did not have clear enough aethersight to see such nuances. When I examined a pregnant woman, I could easily see that the color of the child’s aetherlight was connected those of the parents, to varying degrees. But sometimes the parental aetherlights did not want to blend, and when that happened, the resultant embryo looked like this little one inside Lujayn Arania.

Experience told me not to bother with a repair—the little speck would never hold. But since it was my own brother’s child, I had to try. I pulled threads from my own aetherlight to stitch the little mauve speck into the crimson network more securely. Flashing the requisite sigils, I did the best I could, but even so, I worried.

As I came up out of the trance, I met Lujayn’s wide eyes. “Did you see?” she asked. “Will I have a baby?” her voice still held that cool and rather insouciant tone.

“Yes,” I said. “I saw the light within you. I made a working to fix it better. But Lujayn—” she glowered at me as if she didn’t like my casual use of her first name—“you must be very careful. I have done what I could, but the aetherlight was very fragile. I’d recommend bedrest for the next sidereal, at least.”

“Bedrest!” she cried, clearly annoyed. “But Jaasir and I are headed to Lysandra in three days!”

Deleted Scene: Palace and Pillar Description

Last week’s deleted scene was very long, this one is just a couple of paragraphs. Fun fact: the material described here for the Black Star Pillar is based on a two different minerals  I saw at the American Museum of Natural History: stibnite and a meteorite.

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This scene is actually from Book 4, Mage & Source, and so I will refrain from telling who the narrator is. Suffice it to say, the narrator was greatly affected by the Fall of Magic in Lethemia, and is examining the Palace’s crystal pillars hoping for a sign of magic’s return:

I tackled the easiest of my questions about the pillars’ aetherlight first, heading out of the Palace into the rarely-used walled ornamental gardens that separated the Galatien grounds from the public street. Each pillar served as a point in the hexagon-shaped grounds as well as a point in the Palace’s six-pronged star.

From the gardens, I could examine the outer surface of the Moonstone Pillar, the same surface anyone could see from the street. I dashed past yew hedges and silver lamb’s ears interspersed with dead tulips—before the Fall, magical spellwork had kept white tulips ever in bloom in this garden, but no longer.

The Moonstone Pillar soared upwards, sheer and imposing. At their bases, the pillars were probably more than fifty spans in girth, though they all narrowed as they rose. The white stone was cool to my touch. I stared into it deeply, but I gleaned no sign of the aetherlight that had glowed within its walls so clearly inside the garden. I frowned and hastily traversed the boxwood maze to have a look at the Black Star Pillar. Throughout all this, I had yet to examine it closely.

Of all the pillars, the Black Star was the strangest—every mage had always agreed on that fact. While the other pillars resembled the gemstones after which they were called, the Black Star Pillar was composed of a substance unlike any other. The closest comparison was found in star-rocks, bits of material not of this earth but fallen from the heavens, and thus had the pillar received its name. But even star-rocks were not really like the material that comprised the Black Star Pillar. It was fully opaque, and yet blacker in it’s inside layers than it’s silvery outside layers.

Jagged silver lines made a crackled pattern all over the pillar’s outer surface, but I saw no illumination of the telltale lights within. Had the Black Star Pillar not been ignited by binding-magixe? Or like the lights captured in the Moonstone Pillar, were they occluded from this angle?

I sighed turned away from the Pillar. So many questions, so few answers. I was a blind man tripping through unfamiliar terrain.