March 2018 : Goals

Ugh, February. It’s such a short, difficult month. I’m glad to see it go, but sad that I did not perform very well on my goals. The good news is I got a puppy, which always makes everything better.

Shadow the border collie mix is a loyal, curious, utterly devoted little sweetheart. He is currently sitting in my lap as I write this blog post. He has good balance and a particular ability to insert himself into laps unexpectedly.


Last month I over ambitiously thought I could do all this despite the distraction of that adorable puppy face:

  • DAUGHTER of FORTUNE REWRITE- HALF-CHECK? I got about halfway through this revision. I’ll plod on through it next month.
  • FORMATTING PROJECT- QUARTER-CHECK? It’s coming in slowly, in bits and pieces. It will also roll over into next month.
  • ALASKA ESSAYS-CHECK! The draft is now out for review with the principle players. The deadline for final revisions is March 20th, which means the project really should be drawing to a close by the end of March!
  • LIGHT AND SHADOW TWEAKS-HALF-CHECK: I got about halfway through this one, too.

I DID do a revision with Tamara on one of our Eden Reign projects (The Eighth Octave) and we prepped for publication for River Running. If you’d like to read more about that, head over to Eden Reign’s March goals blog.

Next month I’ll be playing catch up on everything that I did not finish this month.

March Goals:



Eden Reign’s River Running comes out March 6th. You can still pre-order!

RRfinalMASTER11.23.18 ebook




The Top Ten Books I read in 2017

I went into 2017 aiming to read diverse fiction books and non-fiction. I definitely read diverse books, though I failed to read many from earlier eras.

I also set out with the idea that I was going to use my reading as an escape. I’d been feeling pretty down at the end of 2016 after Election Day. My therapy for my disappointment was reading whatever I wanted during 2017.

Looking back over the books that really left an impression on me in 2017, it turns out most of them weren’t escape reads, though I did read quite a few I would consider as such.

As ever, my reading list is comprised of books I read in 2017, not necessarily books published in 2017. See my entire 2017 reading challenge here.

My stats:

Total books read: 103

Total pages: 36,334

Books by men: 36

Books by women: 63

Anthologies or co-authored works: 4

Fiction: 78

Non-fiction: 23

Poetry: 2

Indie-pubbed: 10

Books by minorities or people of color: 21

Books from 21st Century: 92

Books from 20th Century: 9

Books from other centuries: 2

My Top Ten, in no particular order:

1) The Moral Arc by Michael Shermer (2014): At its heart this is a hopeful book, and I read it at a time when I needed hope. I appreciated Shermer’s ambitious attempt to offer a philosophy of morality based in science and reason, although I do think at times he neglected to account for the darker angels of our nature in favor of focusing on the better ones.

2) Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (2011, 2014): In a year when “science” faced political and popular opposition, Sapiens stood out as a proudly scientific book full of interesting information about the history of Homo sapiens. I appreciated the information, but not always the tone of this book, which sometimes slipped into somewhat dismissive or over-generalized musings. That said, the profound and thought-provoking examination of the human species was worth the irritation. I also read the next book by this author, Homo Deus, in which he tries to predict the future of humanity, but I think he was at his best when firmly grounded in evidence, without so much speculation.

3) Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016): One reason I love fiction is how a story unfolds on so many levels. This book is a beautiful example of layers—layers of time and history and memory and experience and how they come together to create a character’s story. This was one of those precious books in which the total effect was more than the sum of its parts. I don’t rank this list, but if I did, Homegoing would be in the spot of #1 for my 2017 reads.

4) The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben: After the self-important voices of The Moral Arc and Sapiens, The Hidden Life of Trees offered a delightful alternative in my non-fiction science reading. This was a book of passion, written by a forester with a profound relationship with his trees. I found myself utterly caught up in his joy and excitement as I read about the fascinating lives of trees. A breath of fresh air!

5) Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson (2014): This book came highly recommended, but I was a little worried about reading it. I was already feeling a little bruised and battered by trying to talk about racism in America with what I’ll call racism “deniers.” I feared reading this book would only make me sadder. However, Just Mercy armed me with more concrete information, which is always helpful. I read this back-to-back with Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning. The two books taken together provided me with a deeper understanding of America’s enduring shame.

6) Missoula by Jon Krakauer (2105): I’ll read anything by Jon Krakauer. I appreciate his accessible approach and his genuine curiosity as he examines diverse topics. In the case of Missoula, I did fear the heavy subject matter (rape) was likely to depress me again in a social climate exploding with the misogyny that led to 2017’s #metoo scandals. But Krakauer did a fine job with this book, using a specific case of one city to show problems in how we attempt to deal with rape in our culture. I was a little startled that he his posited himself as unaware of the magnitude of this problem, but if one thing has come out of 2017’s turmoil, I’d hope it’s that no one is left unaware that one in four women experience sexual assault in their lifetime.

7) The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman (2015): This was a fun read that blended the best of fantasy and Regency romance. I picked it up on a lark at the library because I liked the cover, and it turned out to be one of those books I simply couldn’t put down, right on through the next book in the series and a related novella. I look forward to the third installment.

8) An Ember in the Ashes/A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir (2016, 2017): This is the unfinished fantasy series keeping me on tenterhooks, supplanting Games of Thrones and The Name of the Wind as the top “next installment” that I will devour in one night when it finally is released. Ember in the Ashes has it all: an exciting story, deep world-building, juicy intrigues, epic familial drama, diverse and dimensional characters, and a slow-burning romance with a love triangle. The only trouble is the release date for Book Three keeps getting moved further out…Sabaa, please. Stop listening to all that music and get that book written!

9) His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet (2015): This was another serendipitous find at the library, a random book I picked out for no particular reason except that I felt like reading a historical novel with a touch of mystery. I found a well-written mind-bender of a story that held me captive from start to finish. Thought-provoking, chilling, and intense, it transported me back in time in the same way Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood did, years ago.

10) We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2017): Ta-Nehisi Coates does not write to make you feel comfortable or hopeful, nor to provide solutions. But he’s a thoughtful writer, concerned with exposing the interior of his mind in the most precise way he can. I appreciate his embrace of the essay form and his painstaking explication of his thought process and his experience, and how the personal relates to the political in understanding racism in America. Reading Ta-Nehisi Coates asks you to listen in the deep way that only reading can train you to do.

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).

Goals : March : 2017

February seemed to pass too quickly! Even so, it is a great relief to have the days growing longer and to see the sun a little in the morning and the evening.

Though I worked and worked, I didn’t quite manage all my goals this past month, due in part to work and to transportation difficulties caused by landslides. Both of these sucked up some of my writing mornings. I had to let my last two goals go by the wayside entirely just to make any progress on my first two.

February goals:

  1. FINISH ToB&L Book 6 revision. CHECK, although the end is still one big snarl.
  2. REVISE Mage & Source based on new reader feedback. HALF-CHECK. I worked and worked on this and got about two-thirds through. I ended up doing more rewriting than expected.
  3. START musical magic co-write. NOPE
  4. READ through newly revised River Running and send to beta readers. NOPE

March Goals:

I’ll be keeping it simple in March as last month I obviously planned for more than I could manage.

  1. FINISH  Mage & Source  revision.
  2. START musical magic co-write.
  3. READ through newly revised River Running and send to beta readers.




January 2017 Goals

I ushered out 2017 with a big, long migraine headache yesterday, during which I accomplished very little. I meant to make some progress on one of my December goals and that did not happen. I can’t say I’m sad to see 2016 go–towards the end there it felt like a real slog. There have been many external world issues that have intruded on my writing mind this year, especially this winter, mostly in the form of mental depression, although the noisy construction project next door hasn’t helped, either. Thank goodness for noise-canceling headphones and music or I’d get nothing done.

I don’t generally like to post my yearly goals, since it feels like too long a time frame for realistic projection of my capabilities, so I will stick with my monthly goals.

Last month I planned to:

  1. FINISH ToB&L Book 5 LIGHT & SHADOW revision. NOPE! I made good progress but I still have several chapter to go to have a finished draft. This one will have to roll over to next month. The good news is that I have have a solid outline for the remaining chapters, finally.
  2. LIGHT Mage & Source revision. CHECK! It’s ready for my next set of readers and I’m sending it off to them today.
  3. BRAINSTORMING: CHECK! Tamara and I spent several days and nights brainstorming our next co-write. I’m very excited about this one. It involves music and magic in an old world/eastern Europe setting.
  4. Other. CHECK! I completed some formatting odd jobs and finished a beta read for Nancy Chenier’s YA fantasy Dragon Sprite.


Goals for January 2017:

  1. FINISH ToB&L Book 5 revision–this time for real!
  2. REVISE River Running with Tamara based on beta reader feedback. We have a master document all set up with the revisions we need to make.
  3. START musical magic co-write: This is a tentative goal, as both Tamar and I want to finish our goals #1 for this month before we begin this project.
  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.

November Goals

As I sit down to write my November Goals, I am struck by how very dark it is outside. We’ve had rain for almost a week here in Northern California, a feat that hasn’t occured in years, and I find the dark, wet mornings are perfect for writing. They make me feel quite inspired. I wish this weather could go on for longer! Alas, both the darkness and the wetness will go, as we change our clocks next weekend and the weather pattern is already shifting.

My October Goals were:

  1.  ToB&L Book 5 revision. CHECK.I finished this much faster than the actual draft-writing.
  2. Begin ToB&L Book 5 revision. I’m in the thick if this right now. CHECK.
  3. Other CHECK. I worked on plenty of “other” last month. First, I formatted a box set for Margaret Locke. Second, I did a global read through on Beth Deitchman’s latest fantasy novel. Third, I finished line edits on Mark A. King’s Metropolitan Dreams. And fourth, I began a global read through of Tamara Shoemaker’s final Heart of A Dragon book, Unleash the Inferno!

My November goals are:

  1. Continue ToB&L Book 5 revision.
  2. NANOWRIMO I’m participating as one half of a co-writing team (with Tamara Shoemaker) in National Novel Writing Month. We are writing a fantasy romance book set in a Reconstruction Era-ish setting with a magic system that involves the elements and … indigo. My goal is to add words every day, with a target of about 1500 or more per day.
  3. 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.


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!


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?

print author

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