Writer Wednesday: Catching Up With Tamara Shoemaker

Welcome to Writer Wednesday! I love Wednesdays, for they let me connect great authors with fantastic readers. Matches made in heaven, I tell you.

Today we welcome my dear friend and YA fantasy writer Tamara Shoemaker back to the hot seat – but we’ve served up different questions, since we’ve been blessed to have her on Writer Wednesday before.

So read on to find out more about Tamara’s writing process and her latest release, Unleash The Inferno, Book 3 in the Heart of a Dragon trilogy.


What’s it feel like to have finished TWO young adult fantasy trilogies (Guardian of the Vale and Heart of a Dragon) in short order?

I know in the grand scheme of things, publishing two completed trilogies between 2014 and 2017 feels like a short time, particularly when those trilogies are fantasy trilogies… but I can’t believe it’s only been three years. I feel like I’ve been working on those for years, and when at last I crawl back into bed, take out my teeth and lay my bifocals and cane beside the bed, I look back over the eons and eons of time that I worked on those trilogies, and I drift off into an exhausted sleep. 😉

How do you write so fast?

I don’t feel like I do. The fact that I get books done at all is pure, unadulterated, sheer stubbornness. All my spare time is spent in front of my laptop in various stages of writing, editing, planning, outlining, or marketing. Like any job, I love parts of it and hate parts of it, but apparently the enjoyment outweighs any dislike, because I keep doing it. 😉

Do you ever confuse characters in your head?

The names, I do, and it drives me insane. Particularly when I’m switching from one book to another, I’ll use the names interchangeably. Kinna has appeared in my Guardian of the Vale trilogy, and Alayne in my Heart of a Dragon trilogy. Ayden and Daymon also switched places.

That said, I don’t think I’ve ever confused the actual characters. Each of them has such a vivid connection with parts of the world in which I’ve placed them that switching someone else out for that character calls my attention immediately. They’re all so different and unique. But name-switching? Happens all the time.

Do you plot your stories out completely from start to finish or let characters surprise you along the way?

My style has morphed over the years. I used to be such a pantser. I hated the detail-work of planning out the whole book. I looked forward to writing each day to see what my characters would do next.

Once I began to realize the importance of story structure, though, I had to give up my tenacity to pantsing only. I had to have a solid foundation, a riveting conflict, a great story arc. When I pantsed my books, I had a vague sense of how to set that up, but once I started outlining, those things became much more intentional, honed, and focused. I believe I’ve become a better writer as a result of the switch (not that I don’t make room for some pantsing; my characters still sometimes refuse to adhere to my outline).

What if people haven’t read any of your earlier stories? Will this third one make sense?

It would be a lot like coming into the room where your spouse has just put in Return of the King, and the story picks up right after the battle at Helms Deep. You’d get a sense of the hobbits, Shelob, the orcs, Mt. Doom, Sauron, Minis Tirith, and Aragorn the King, but you’d have a hard time making sense of why everyone was where they were.

That’s not to say that the epic battles and some of the cinematic panorama wouldn’t be amazing and great to watch. I’ve included both of those in this book, so hopefully that will bring enjoyment to anyone who picks up the book, but quite honestly, these characters have grown a lifetime in the first two books. It would be much better to read book one and two first. It’s well-worth it; the trilogy has such a satisfying ending! 🙂

What’s next for you?

My plans (whether or not I end up fulfilling those plans or not is another question) are to finish some editing projects for clients, and then begin a brand new YA Fantasy novel that has been simmering in my head for several months. I’d love to get that written this summer. I’ve just completed two co-writes with my friend and editor, Emily June Street: River Running and The Eighth Octave. We’re hoping to take both of those through the traditional publishing route. In August, I’m attending a writers’ pitch conference, and then have plans for several more books/editing projects. I suppose I have no plans to quit anytime soon. 🙂


A Bit About 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?

Find Unleash The Inferno here: http://amzn.to/2nqHy6G


TypewriterA Bit About Tamara:

Tamara Shoemaker authored the Amazon best-selling Shadows in the Nursery Christian mystery series and Soul Survivor, a stand-alone Christian mystery. Her fantasy books include the Heart of a Dragon trilogy: Kindle the Flame, Embrace the Fire, and Unleash the Inferno, as well her Guardian of the Vale 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.

Want to connect further with Tamara? Follow her on social media:

Twitter | Website | Facebook | Instagram


Woot! Thanks, Tamara, for hanging with us today! Always a pleasure, friend. 

Photo Journey: The University of Virginia’s Rotunda (pt 2 of a series)

Taking a much-needed break from editing The Demon Duke to bring you an image-heavy post about the stunning interior of the University of Virginia’s Rotunda.

This is the second in a series photo-documenting my visit to UVA on a delightful but cold February day, 2017. I hope you enjoy!

Have you been there? Share your experiences in the comments!

The basement entrance (from the south looking north). Perhaps not the most glamorous place to start, but it’s where I’ve always gone in, and it seems fitting to begin at the bottom, as the building only gets more glorious as you go up. Plus that bell is cool.
The basement room on the right (east) houses a display about the Rotunda, giving you information on its uses and adventures over the years.

Continue reading Photo Journey: The University of Virginia’s Rotunda (pt 2 of a series)

Photo Journey: A Walk Around UVA’s Academical Village (pt 1 of a series)

On a sunny but brisk day in February, 2017, I headed to Charlottesville, Virginia, to tour the newly renovated (and utterly gorgeous) University of Virginia Rotunda. I’ve loved UVA since my grad school days there and spent a pleasant few hours of snapping photos of places near and dear to my heart.

Two of the novels in my Magic of Love seriesA Man of Character and A Scandalous Matter, are set in C’ville (as the locals call it), and university spots feature prominently in the action. Just for the fun of it, I’ve included quotes from my books relating to certain pictures. Enjoy!

Because of the large number of photos, I’m breaking this up into a series of blog posts, so do come back for interior views of the Rotunda, the UVa Chapel, and Alderman library.


Newcomb Hall – location of The Pav dining services, where my grad school friends and I spent more than a pretty penny on food to fuel our long study sessions.
Monroe Hall – I never went in this building, though it’s directly across from Alderman Library. But it’s a great example of the architecture.
Another shot showcasing the architecture. Columns abound. As do old, old trees.

Those instantly recognizable serpentine walls that enclose the delightful gardens along the back of the Academical Village.
One of the many gardens.

From A Man of Character: “They lapsed into easy conversation, talking about favorite places in Charlottesville. He was fond of Jefferson’s gardens on the UVa grounds; she confessed she enjoyed sitting on the downtown pedestrian mall to people-watch when she got a chance.”

A view of the UVA Lawn looking south (away from the Rotunda). I walked through here nearly every day while in grad school. At the far end is Old Cabell Hall, where I had many of my classes.
A close-up of the student rooms along the Lawn. I never could decide if I’d want to live in one: on the one hand, they were quite prestigious, and you lived right on that marvelous Lawn. On the other, because they are so old, they do not have central heat (hence the firewood outside the doors, to fuel the fireplaces within). Or a bathroom – you have to walk to communal ones behind the row of rooms. I never had the choice, though; they’re reserved for senior undergrads. 

From A Scandalous Matter: “She strolled along the colonnades, passing numerous doors. Once, a young woman exited one, giving Amara a glimpse of a bed inside. Students lived here?”

Another shot looking south, this time showing the western side of the Lawn.

Now looking north – there’s the Rotunda! It was almost strange to see it so open-looking after it’d been under renovation wraps for several years.

 

A 360 degree view of The Lawn.
http://360.io/w35QFM

 

Just another beautiful day on UVA Grounds. I had fun imagining the couple strolling there might be Matthew and Amara from A Scandalous Matter. “Amara ambled around the wide green expanse, not wanting to leave. The solid, white columns, the long black window shutters, the whole atmosphere of this central area reminded her enough of her century that homesickness unfurled through her.”
And then it was on to the Rotunda itself…here’s the view of the South Side.

From A Man of Character: “Reaching the south side Rotunda steps, Ben stopped for a moment to look down the expanse of the Lawn. “Isn’t it breathtaking?” he said. Cat nodded. It truly was a gorgeous sight, one she’d taken for granted, having lived in Charlottesville for so long.”

Stay tuned for the next exciting episode: The Rotunda! 

Elvis, Graceland, and a Numbers Obsession – a Throwback Story

My favorite numbers are 37 and 17 (in that order). I have no idea why; they just always have been, and they regularly pop up in my life.

Two examples:

Me in 1995, standing at the entrance to Graceland’s driveway.

In the spring of 1995, in celebration of college graduation, my U of Iowa roomies and I embarked on a crazy day trip to Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland – a whirlwind 28 hour experience I’ll never forget.

The first thing I noticed upon arrival? The address: 3717 Elvis Presley Boulevard.

I shrieked like a madwoman.

Later I learned that was merely the tourist area’s address; Graceland’s actual house number is 3764. Still, it was a sign.

That fall, I moved to Charlottesville, Virginia, to pursue doctoral studies in medieval history at UVA.

To escape the stresses of academic life, I taught myself HTML (it was pretty new then) and created a website, Elvis Lives In Evil Levis, dedicated to my obsession of the time: Mr. Presley. (The link takes you to a version archived by the Internet Archive Wayback Machine – for which I’m grateful, since the original, though tidier looking, is long gone. Click on the “My Trip” link at the bottom to read all about my Graceland adventures.)

That website introduced me to my husband.

He found it, emailed me, we started chatting all things Elvis, then discovered we were both grad students at the same university. (Given my site had fans all over the world contacting me, I consider this a miracle.) We met up. We kept meeting up.

Charlottesville, Virginia – July 1999. We look pretty happy, despite the 100+ degree heat!

Elvis brought us together.

Twenty years later, we’re still going strong. Which brings me to my second example:

For Christmas 1996, my mom gave me a numerology book, her way of gently teasing me about my weird numbers thing.

Well, imagine ALL of our surprise when I calculated the numbers for my then-friend/soon-to-be-boyfriend/now-husband’s name: his first name added up to 17, and his whole name to 37. I kid you not.

I knew right then he was the one.


Why the heck do I post about this today? Because it’s March 7th, 2017 – or, in shortened American style, 3/7/17. My two favorite numbers, side by side. It will never happen again in my life time!

I feel as if I ought to play the lottery. Or that Colin Morgan should show up for a visit.


What are your favorite numbers? Why?

Writer Wednesday: Meet Teresa LaBella!

Welcome to Writer Wednesday, that one marvelous day of the week on which you get to indulge in mini-interviews with authors and learn about them and their latest work.

Today I’m happy to bring you Teresa LaBella, author of contemporary romance and the New Life In Love trilogy. Teresa resides in my home state of Iowa, so a special shout-out from one former midwesterner to another!

Grab your favorite libation and settle in for this short but delightful interview with Teresa as she talks writing and her latest book, Belonging.


What inspires you to write?

Reading well-crafted stories written by other authors inspires me to keep writing. I’m always amazed at the power of the written word to open our imagination, take us to places we may never have been or will be, and care so deeply about the fictional characters that their story stays with us until and after we turn the last page. I write with the goal of taking my readers to that place of wonderment with the characters I imagine.

Name one interesting thing you learned in researching/writing your last book: 

There’s a scene in Belonging where Marisa watches her husband Alistair dress in his formal Clan McKenzie kilt. I researched the historical significance of the tartan and function of each kilt accessory – the sporran pouch, the flashes that hold up the kilt hose, and the sheathed sgian dubh once used for cutting food as well as self-defense. Then I asked my husband to put on his kilt for me as Alistair did for Marisa for a wee bit of authentic show and tell research!

What’s your favorite romance novel of all time, and why?

I just finished reading my favorite romance novel of all time and what could be the best book I’ll ever read. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover literally changed my formerly biased attitude toward women and men suffering the physical, emotional and psychological pain inflicted by domestic abuse. This first-person account of an intimate taboo is powerful storytelling at its best about a loving relationship at its worst.


A Bit About Belonging

When Marisa’s certain path to her future ends, the struggle to recover from heartbreak begins.

The daughter of Darien McKenna admires and adores her Michelin star chef father. Lessons learned at his side earn her acceptance into a prestigious school of culinary arts and an apprenticeship at the upscale mid-town Manhattan kitchen Chef Darien once commanded. Pressure to succeed in a high-stress career crushes her confidence. Devastating loss shatters her world.

Marisa’s search to find a new path leads to the land of the McKenna Clan and the arms of a heart-stopping handsome, yet lonely man. Alistair McKenzie traded his barrister career and life in Glasgow to preserve family history and honor on a farm in the Scottish Highlands. He’s tired of wearing his kilt to weddings and lifting a glass to another happy bride and groom. He yearns for everlasting love with the lass who will be his wife. Smoldering attraction and ignited passion bring them together.

Have Marisa and Alistair found forever love in their desired place of “Belonging?”


A Bit About Teresa:

Teresa LaBella published her first contemporary romance novel, Reservations, in 2013. The story continued in Heartland published in 2015 and concludes with Belonging, the final novel in the New Life in Love trilogy, published in October 2016. A freelance writer and consultant, the Iowa native resides in her hometown with her husband John and three rescued Husky kids.

Want to connect further with Teresa? Find her here:

Website | Facebook | Twitter


Thanks so much for joining us, Teresa! It was a pleasure having you here.