Goals : September 2017

Whew! What a whirlwind of a month August was. I experienced a highlight of my writing life when I went to NYC to meet my co-writer Tamara Shoemaker for the first but not last time, and we pitched our two co-written books to agents (with a cheering amount of interest!). The pitching was nerve-wracking, the conference was good, but the best thing was getting to meet Tamara face to face and enjoy four days in her company. It was a creative supercharge, and Tamara and I, after living like the (g)literati for four days, taking in Broadway shows and sipping prosecco at rooftop lounges, came home to a mad revision cycle on our books which have kept us occupied for hours a day since.

Needless to say, such excitement has befouled my August goals.

  1. FINISH LIGHT AND SHADOW REVISION- Nope, not even close. After the conference I had to shift my entire focus and all my time onto the books we needed to review for submission to our interested agents.
  2. FINISH MIDNIGHT OIL REVIEW/REVISION- Nope, see note to goal #1
  3. ATTEND WRITER’S DIGEST CONFERENCE AND PITCH THE EIGHTH OCTAVE!! CHECK! It was a blast and very successful, too.
  4. VARIOUS EDITING AND FORMATTING PROJECTS. CHECKI did keep on top of these. My favorite thing is formatting on an airplane. It’s  good activity to throw on the headphones and pass the time.

 

In September I shall:

  1. FINISH River Running AND The Eighth Octave REVISIONS and submit to requesting agents- This is sure to occupy most of my writing time.
  2. CONTINUE LIGHT & SHADOW rewrite/revision- I probably won’t finish, but I want to at least make some progress.
  3. And that’s it! Back to just a few goals so I don’t keep missing my CHECKS.

 

 

 

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Fan Art Friday: Week Five

This week, in anticipation of meeting the woman herself at the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC, I made fan art for Tamara Shoemaker’s Guardian of the Vale YA fantasy series.

I happened to have made the box set cover for this series already, and so I took the look I developed for the box set cover–a spired, futuristic cityscape and lush skyline lights–and translated it into covers for the three books.

This series involves elemental magic, so each cover has an elemental theme, too:

Mark of Four’s is water:

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Shadows of Uprising’s is air:

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And Guardian of the Vale‘s is fire:

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Enjoy!

(All images remixed under CC 2.0)

 

Goals: August 2017

Oops. I really didn’t stick to my goals in July, but I didn’t just drop the ball, I simply shifted my focus.

My July Goals were:

  1. PUBLISH MAGE & SOURCE This I did accomplish, so CHECK for me. Did you buy it yet?
  2. WRITE Daughter of Fortune ending. Nope. I received my developmental edit of Light & Shadow back from Tamara Shoemaker and got overly excited about doing rewrites for that, so Light & Shadow became my ToB&L focus for the month.
  3. WRITE something else-I read over a WIP tentatively called Midnight Oil and realized Book One in the series was more or less a complete draft, and I have been slowly picking through it trying to address some of the more glaring issues in the story.
  4. CONTINUE to Promote Mage & Source pre-order. CHECK. I did several interviews this month, which I think should count as promotion. I just don’t like promotion.

 

AUGUST GOALS:

  1. FINISH LIGHT AND SHADOW REVISION- This is sure to occupy most of my writing time.
  2. FINISH MIDNIGHT OIL REVIEW/REVISION- I have about 25% of the book remaining, so this is do-able.
  3. ATTEND WRITER’S DIGEST CONFERENCE AND PITCH THE EIGHTH OCTAVE!! I head to NYC on Aug 16 to attend the conference, meet Tamara my co-writer, and pitch our book!
  4. VARIOUS EDITING AND FORMATTING PROJECTSI’m reading Tamara’s latest project right now, working on a close edit of a biography, and formatting a non-fiction psychology text for a small press.

Fan Art Friday

This week I’ve spent some time making use of my new Photoshop subscription, experimenting with images to make faux/alternate book covers for some of my friends’ books. It’s been so fun I’ve decided to try to do it as a feature for the next few weeks.

So, welcome to FAN ART FRIDAY!

First off, we have the image that began it all, for Allison K. García’s Vivir El Dream.  This idea for this image came into my head on Wednesday while I was walking to meet my carpool, and I couldn’t get it out until I made it!

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Then I made a set of three covers for Tamara Shoemaker’s Heart of a Dragon series. A lot of YA-fantasy books have two sets of covers, one set a big, bold, colorful free-for-all that is eye-catching and directed towards the younger readers, and another that is discreet and elegant, for the grown-ups who still love to read YA-fantasy (guilty here). These are my take on the “grown-ups-can-read-these-at-the-airport” version of Tamara’s titles.

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I hope you enjoyed this episode of FAN ART FRIDAY. I’ve already started two covers for next week.

Image credits:

“Take me to the zombies” CC 2.0 by Esparta Palma
“The Hungry Mexican Restaurant on Bolton Street” CC 2.0 by William Murphy
“Carina Nebula” public domain
“American Flag background” public domain
“Nightfall of London” CC 2.0 by H. Michael Miley
“Fire (III)” CC 2.0 by H.P. Brinkman
“Fire! Fire!” CC 2.0 by Michael Mol

Dragon pendant image by freeimages.com/profile/ladraco

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.

Tama Author Pic Print

  • 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?

December Goals

Though my goal list appeared short for November, it was actually a really tough and time-consuming list, since I meant to write an entire book (with Tamara Shoemaker) in one month, not to mention continue writing a different book on my own. I stayed very busy. I’m planning to take on a lot for December, too.

In November my goals were:

  1. Continue ToB&L Book 5 revision. CHECK I didn’t get quite as far as I’d hoped, but I did make some good progress.
  2. NANOWRIMO CHECK Tamara and I completed our novel, River Running, in plenty of time. It’s around 90,000 words, and right now we are reading it for the first time, making small revisions as we go.
  3. OtherCHECK My main “other” this month was doing a final line and copy edit on Mark A. King‘s Metropolitan Dreams. I finished the edit yesterday, and this book is really turning into a polished gem! Keep your eyes peeled for it when it participates in the Kindle Scout Program…soon.

 

My December Goals are:

  1. FINISH ToB&L Book 5 revision.
  2. LIGHT Mage & Source revision. Last month I had a first reader take a look at Mage and Source. Now I’ll apply her feedback and revise, with the hope of sending it to editors Beth and Tamara in Jan 2017.
  3. BRAINSTORMING: Tamara and I have another co-write idea that we need to brainstorm. I’m really excited about this one. It involves music and magic and an 18th Century setting of court intrigues.
  4. Other. This seems like a good goal category to keep. I’m sure I’ll have more other to report at the end of the month.

Seven Questions : October 2016 : Tamara Shoemaker

Author extraordinaire Tamara Shoemaker reappears for her fourth round of Seven Questions. The woman can’t help it; she just keeps cranking out books! This month she is releasing both Guardian of the Vale, the third and final installment in her YA urban fantasy series, and the complete Guardian of the Vale Trilogy Box Set, in which you can get all three books in the series in one convenient and discounted file, starting today.

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1) Tamara, this is your ninth book. Wow! How has your book-writing process changed between Book 1 and Book 9?

I don’t recognize the author I was when I wrote Broken Crowns. I mean, I see shades of her in who I am now (I still sit down to write every day, I still set word count goals), but I’m much more disciplined about my story structure now. With my first book, I made up the story each day as I typed. Now, I write an entire history of my characters before I ever even start page one, chapter one. I’ll create timelines, backstory, personality profiles, outlines, find inspiration pics, all sorts of things I never did for the first book. It might help that I now write fantasy, which is all about world-building and setting. Broken Crowns was a mystery, and while setting up your world in a mystery is still important, it doesn’t hold the same weight that it does in fantasy.

2) Which phase of the book process do you enjoy most and why?

I’m pretty sure this makes me an odd bird among writers, as quite a few of my fellow authors have told me they enjoy the first-draft process the most–but I love the edits, particularly the line edits. First-drafting, while giving me a bit of freedom to just write without worrying about finesse or polish, sometimes chafes, because I dislike putting anything on paper that doesn’t immediately bowl me over. I realize in order to craft a book, that annoyingly poor first draft has to come out, so I do it. But I love the line edits–the final stage before publication, because that’s when I’m dusting off all the rough edges of my work and watching it transform into a true work of art. It’s lovely.

3) Novels are a tough form, time-consuming and sometimes underappreciated in the world. What keeps you so motivated?

I realized a long time ago that if my motivation relied on reader appreciation, I would have quit after the first book hit the market. Some will love you, some will hate you, most won’t even give your book a chance. I can’t focus on that, or I will get discouraged. For me, it’s all about the work itself. I am a book lover, have been all my life. I love everything about a book, from the smell of dusty old volumes to the crinkly, crunchy sound of the pages as they turn (Kindle, you will never own me!). The stories I fall in love with, I read over and over and over again. They become real to me, holding honored places on my bookshelves. I’m serious. I have a “favorite” shelf, and a “lesser” shelf, and a “I-don’t-like-these-as-much-so -let’s-put-them-in-the-corner” shelf. If authors have impacted and inhabited my life through their works of art, I want to do the same for others. So my motivation is to make my stories real, to me if to no one else. The satisfaction I gain from pouring all of myself into a project like this is beyond measure.

4) Do your book ideas arrive in your head in a particular way? As images, as opening scenes or sentences, as characters, as conflicts? Tell us a little about idea generation, brainstorming, and how you come up with a story? Once you have an idea, what are the next steps?

They come in all shapes and sizes and by any means: ridiculous questions my kids ask, an anecdote where something happens by accident, a dream that vividly sticks in my mind–anything that makes me ask: What if? Once I have that what if question, I write down the seed of the story, and then I spend days staring at the wall, thinking, occasionally jotting something down. The story builds on itself. Once I have the premise I want to write about, I have to build the world around it. What’s the setting? This earth? Another earth? What time period? Modern style? Medieval style? Victorian style? Ancient style? What government ruled during that time? Dictatorship? Monarchy? President? Pantheon? Who are the characters? What are their backgrounds? How are they affected by their culture? What’s the central conflict and how is everything in this world shaped by it? Once I have a good grasp on ALL these things, and not until that happens, THEN I start writing.

5) You have been forcibly recruited as an experimental space traveller (sorry). You are allowed to bring only what you can carry in a small backpack. What do you pack?

(Forcibly being the key word.) Space! Ack! Fie, fie!

Okay, fine. I would need tether ropes, first and foremost, because obviously, I can’t be trusted not to float off into nothingness forever and ever and ever and ever…

Whose bright idea was space again?

And then, several tanks of oxygen, again, because while I’m floating off forever and ever and ever and ever, I’ll need something to breathe… *can’t breathe, must breathe… air… help…

You say I can’t fit oxygen tanks into a backpack. Erg.

I’d like to take a few books to pass the time while I’m floating into nothingness until my eventual smothering, starving, helpless death…

Maybe I need to move on to the next question…

6) It turns out that your experimental space ship has malfunctioned, and instead of traveling through space, you’re traveling through time. What era/year will be your desired destination? And why?

Oh, thank goodness. Time travel is much more palatable.

I’ve always said I was born in the wrong era, as history has always fascinated me. I have a particular penchant for the 1850’s through the 1880’s. I’d love to go (and quite often do in the pages of historical novels and Civil War accounts). As my husband reminds me when I wish aloud for such things, air-conditioning and indoor plumbing weren’t really a thing, at least not in most households (indoor plumbing), and death by measles, typhoid, and the common cold was a thing. So… there’s that.

But I’d still love to go, because I’m a legit nerd-in-training, or so I’ve been told.

7) Tell us a bit about your next book (or books, since it’s you)

Hahaha! Thou makest me laugh out loud.

I am soooooo excited for November to hit, because that means it’s National Novel Writing Month, and I am planning to write TWO novels during it. First, I’m co-writing a novel with the fabulous Emily June Street (I suspect you know something of her), where we will explore a fantasy world set similarly to the deep south during the Reconstruction period, and where we weave a romance reminiscent of Jane Eyre and her brooding and passionate Mr. Rochester. I can’t WAIT for this!

My second novel will explore the theme of using music as magic. This story has been teasing my brain for many months–perhaps because music is important in my life, magical in its own way. It touches the very roots of who I am, and I’m really excited to dig in and tease out the ways it could be shown in this world I’m about to create. Here’s the logline I created for it: “When Alex Cale, a prodigy whose musical magic shapes the world, discovers the deterioration of his symphonies, he suspects sabotage by Edon White, the Conservatoire’s new Director. As the world begins to crumble beneath this incurable discordance, only Lyric, a mysterious eighteen-year-old girl with hidden talents, can help Alex restore harmony and magic.”

 Can’t wait to get started!

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About Guardian of the Vale:

Clayborne Training Institute, a school for teen Elementals, has fallen beneath a sweeping nationwide coup led by the Elemental Alliance, a party of power-hungry sectarians. Having narrowly escaped the fight for the school, Alayne Worth, Quadriweave and possessor of the Vale, flees Clayborne with twenty-three desperate students seeking the headquarters of the Last Order, the underground organization planning to wrest control from the Alliance. Danger shadows her steps as the struggle for the Vale and its power stalks ever closer to home. Conflicts, perils, enemies, and rebellions push Alayne toward a cataclysmic battle that threatens to rend CommonEarth at the seams, and the Vale is the linchpin that decides the victory or the defeat. When those closest to Alayne threaten her possession of the Vale, will she and the world in which she lives survive the fallout?

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About Tamara:

Tamara Shoemaker authored the Amazon best-selling Shadows in the Nursery Christian mystery series and Soul Survivor, another Christian mystery. Her fantasy books include the beginning two installments of the Heart of a Dragon trilogy: Kindle the Flame and Embrace the Fire, as well as her first completed trilogy: Mark of Four, Shadows of Uprising, and Guardian of the Vale. In her spare time, she freelances as an editor for other works of fiction, chases three children hither and yon, and tries hard to ignore the brownie mixes that inevitably show up in her cabinets.

Follow her on social media:
Twitter: @TamaraShoemaker
Website: http://www.tamarashoemaker.org
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tshoebooks