Searching for Balance: An Update

OvereatingI don’t know about you, but I tend to be all or nothing. It’s true in how I eat (either off sugar or face down in chocolate), how I read, how I work, and how I love. I’m a binge-everything. Which, uh, makes it very hard to find balance: I’m either going full throttle or at a stand-still (or creeping in reverse like a tortoise on retreat).

Coahuilan Box Turtle (Terrapene Coahuila) isolated on white background.

This fall, I’ve been stuck in turtle mode. Why? Some personal stuff, but also because last year was such a whirlwind of writing and editing and publishing and meeting new readers and attending fairs and making promo and just figuring out this whole “how to be an author thing.”

ASMPreOrderAdThanks to you all, I’ve already succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. I’m no NYT bestseller, but I’ve got regular sales and, more importantly, y’all seem to really like my books! I’m so touched and surprised and pleased and … and … terrified.

Private Or Public Directions On A Metal Signpost

Terrified? What? Yeah. I am. Because what if the next thing I write, people hate? What if I’m not “doing it right,” whether in terms of publishing frequency or keeping a street team or knowing where to be when or…? “Not doing it right” is the worst fear of a perfectionist. Because I guess it’s code for “failing.” And who likes failing?

So, yeah, stupid anxiety’s got me pulling my head into my shell.

familyselfieThe other hard reality I hit this summer was realizing I can’t put quite as many hours into my writing career as I feel I need to to “do it right”, because, well, I still have a darling husband and two wonderful kids and a messy house that need me. And friends and family to be with it and…and…

See? That balance thing again. Dang it.

portrait of young gymnasts training in the stadiumLast month, I fell off the beam. After manically doing flips and handsprings for over a year (figuratively – in real life, I hurt myself doing somersaults now!), I suddenly found myself face down on the mat.

And I haven’t wanted to get up. Just this week, I realized it’s because I’m scared if I do, I’ll return to trying to pull off a routine that surpasses my current level of talent and ability. That all-or-nothing thinking again. Oops.

Female legs jogging on a trailTime to stand up. Time to take those steps forward. One foot in front of the other – no fancy tricks required, just steady movement. I’ve got my NaNoWriMo project set (A Delicate Matter – Sophie’s story!), The Demon Duke to edit, and a whole bunch of other authorly things to catch up on.

Joy, sunlight, wheat.

Because screw you, anxiety! You won’t rob me of my joy anymore. I’m ready to get back to the happy and peppy and fun-loving Margaret I truly am, the one who’s so grateful for all the blessings she has – including the ability to be on this journey with y’all. Because sharing the love is what I was born to do, peeps.

Thank you, dear readers and writer friends and everybody who’s supported me and cheered me on this far. I’m gonna figure this balance thing out. Because I have a whole lot more stories to tell and I love writing them. I love sharing them. And I love you. With all my heart.

Book pages in the shape of a heart

It’s Good To Get Off The Interstate, In Life And In Writing…

MountainViewUsually, the monthly Virginia Romance Writers meetings take place in Richmond. To get there, I simply hop on interstates 81 and 64, and two hours later, I’ve arrived. It’s fast. It’s familiar. It’s not particularly relaxing.

This past weekend, the VRW meeting happened in Fredericksburg. Let me tell you, there is no direct interstate route between Harrisonburg and Fredericksburg. Oh, I could take interstates, but it’d actually tack time onto the trip. Instead, I dutifully followed Google and traversed the smaller highways, 33 and 20.

It was heavenly. It was stunning. It was an unexpectedly delightful experience, both coming and going. Continue reading It’s Good To Get Off The Interstate, In Life And In Writing…

Writing, Editing, Marketing, Family Life: It’s All a Matter of Time

Old pocket watch and books in Low-keyHa ha, see what I did there? A Matter of Time is the name my next book. Working it into the title of this blog post was a stroke of genius, or, more likely, a sign I need more sleep.

See, like many authors, I’m discovering there just isn’t enough time. For anything, it sometimes feels.

Writing isn’t even a full-time job for me – or it isn’t supposed to be. The Mom Hat still comes first, and since I have to drive kids to and from school, it chops up my day. Not to mention in the mornings and once they’re home, my silly kiddos actually want some of my attention. My darling husband, too.

But writing could be full-time, easily. It’s trying to be. So could editing, if I had the stamina for it. Don’t even get me started on marketing – that’s a job and a half, at least.

Stack of vintage books isolated on whiteOne day last week, I vented on Facebook about feeling as if I’m never doing anything right as I stumble along this book writing/editing/publishing/marketing path, and I got back wonderful responses. Truly wonderful. I keep returning to read the responses, but Grace Burrowes‘ advice has really stuck with me. It’s advice I’ve heard from many, many other authors, as well: the only job I really need to do is write the books, write the books, write the books.

I just wish I had time and energy enough to do what I want to do with writing (and editing and marketing and…). When I have time (evenings), I’m often out of energy. When I have energy (day), I’m lucky if I get a good four hours in. Because darn if my family doesn’t want to eat, so I have to grocery shop and cook. I have to occasionally do laundry and dishes, so that we’re not eating naked off our thighs or something. I sometimes decide to pick stuff up, so that we don’t end up on an episode of Hoarders.

I’m hopelessly behind in email (not in the least because I sign up for newsletters about writing, free video courses about writing, etc., etc, but can’t find the time to read/watch them). I do get caught up in social media, I admit; I want to respond to everything and everyone, but of course, that takes time. Time I willingly give. Plus, well, yeah, I get distracted by George Takei‘s posts and cute cat videos and pictures of friends’ kids, etc.

bookdanceTime management is not one of my strong suits and never has been, so I’m sure part of this–maybe even a lot of this–is me. I’m sure I could do better.

I’m just tipping my hat today to those authors out there who seem able to do it all: write quality books, and write them quickly, edit them quickly, publish them quickly, market them astutely, keep up with social media, etc. I admire you.

Someday, I hope to be you! In the meantime, can you share your secrets?

Meanwhile, it’s back to the Editing Cave. Time, energy, or not, A Matter of Time will make its way back to the editor September 28th. Wish me luck, will you?

Twofer … Friday? I’m doing double duty on two different blogs today – woo hoo!

A Man of Character Cover Margaret LockeWow. I am feeling the love today. I’m so thrilled that Annie of The Write Review and Cate of Romance Debuts wanted to interview me – and so surprised that both interviews hit the Internet today!

Find me (and my babbling here):

Romance Debuts – Keep your eye on this new blog; Cate is featuring debut novels from newbie authors (like me). Isn’t that a wonderful gift to the writing community?

The Write Review – Leave a comment on my interview and you could win a free copy of A Man of Character! Annie is such a delight, and I’m so privileged she profiled me on her site.


Thank you, Annie & Cate! 

All About YA Fantasy Author Tamara Shoemaker – and her latest release, Kindle The Flame!

Tamara ShoemakerWoo hoo! Recently I sat down with friend and oh-so-talented author Tamara Shoemaker and asked her all sorts of questions, because I’m nosy like that. Luckily for me, she put up with it and didn’t incinerate me, like the dragons in her latest book Kindle the Flame might be wont to do.

So sit back and get out that chocolate bar, because we’re all in for a treat.

What was the inspiration behind Kindle the Flame?

About a year ago, my then four-year-old son wanted to know where he went when he slept. I didn’t understand what he meant at first—“Uh, you stay in your bed, silly.” He was bowled over, shocked that his dreams were not reality (he may or may not have inherited a teensy amount of my own weird imagination). After that conversation, I couldn’t get the idea out of my head; it was a great jumping-off point for a novel. Of course, now that it’s all said and done, there’s absolutely nothing in my book about moving anywhere while dreaming—sleep-walking, world-travel, or otherwise. But it was the first spark that started me building my world.

Which magical beast from Kindle the Flame would you choose to be and why?

Looking at West Ashwynd’s roster of creatures, I think I’d really enjoy being a Pixie, which is why I spent so much of my time with them in the Pixie Glades. They seem like a fun group of creatures, and they can make magic with their words. What author doesn’t dream of doing that?

If you HAD to pick between Kindle the Flame’s Ayden and Cedric, who would you want and why?

Ayden
Ayden

Oh, that’s a tough one! When I write a character, I fall in love with every single one of them, whether good or bad, because I get to know them so intimately. I enter into their struggles so completely that it tears me apart when they blunder, and I dance around my kitchen when they succeed. Ayden and Cedric both come from very different backgrounds, but both hold such appeal for me, because they both are lonely, unloved, and uncared for. Over the course of the book, however, that changes. When I first meet them, I pity them, but then that pity slowly morphs to love. Since someone, who shall remain unnamed, is forcing me to choose one over the other *glares pointedly in Margaret’s direction*—I’d probably go for Ayden. His silver eyes get me every time. 😉

How long does it take you to write your fantasies?

I cranked out Kindle the Flame‘s first draft in under a month (a product of National Novel Writing Month—or NaNoWriMo), and put the spit and shine on it for the next five months. What’s that—six months all told? That’s not normal for me. I do write fast, but NaNoWriMo lit a serious fire under me. I’ve never seen smoke coming from my keyboard like that. 🙂 This is a longer book—112,000 words. My shorter 90,000 word fantasies take a little less time.

What’s your favorite kind of character to write? Male/Female? Hero/Anti-Hero? Villain/Lover?

Ooh, that’s a tough one. Male/Female: I think I enjoy female just a bit more. They’re so amazingly complex and confusing and they make absolutely no sense, so they can go off on rants, and no one is surprised. If I sound like I’m speaking from personal experience, well… maybe I am.

Hero/Anti-hero: I think I may like writing the anti-hero’s point of view just a teensy bit better. Evil characters often have so much more complexity than a simple wish to do well, to better the world. As noble as those things are, and as necessary as they are to any plotline, the angst and struggles of an anti-hero are often more intriguing to me. 🙂

Villain/Lover: Again, villain, mostly for the reasons I listed above for the anti-hero. Lovers have a fairly simple, straight-forward mind-pattern (mostly ushy-gushy, ooh-la-la train of thought). Oh, the possibilities of a villain—there’s a reason they are the way they are, and I love to explore that.

Tell us two things people don’t know about you that we wouldn’t expect.

Thing one: I’m extremely ticklish. Like the kind of ticklish that if you take a swipe at one of my feet, you’d better be prepared for a broken nose. I have NO control.

Thing two: I hate to answer my phone. Or anyone’s phone. I really, really, viscerally hate talking on the phone. I love to spend time with people, hang out, have fun, text, email, etc. In general, I have loads of friends, but if my friends know me well, they won’t call me. There are one or two rare exceptions to this, but in general, this is the case. If you ask me what my problem is… yeah, I have no idea. It is what it is.

(ML’s note: This is one of the reasons Tamara and I are soulmates. Of a sort. Phones suck.)

From Amazon.
From Amazon.

You are locked deep in a cave (but luckily have a sun lamp and self-generating chocolate) and may only have three books with you to read. Which would you choose and why?

First, thank you for allowing me the self-generating chocolate. It’s the important things in life… I’m assuming a Kindle is out of the question, because a.) that would be cheating, and b.) I have never learned to love e-readers. So moving on to my essential three books.

a.) The Bible. Because that’s the one book that has gotten me through everything and on which I base my entire belief system.

b.) Anne of Green Gables – because as I noted in a recent blog post, I am Anne. It is one of the few books that I can read… and read and read and read and read and never tire of. Although, I admit I’d struggle for a while choosing it over Pride and Prejudice and/or Jane Eyre. Still, I believe it would win out.

c.) Harry Potter (um, series? Does that break the three book rule)? – The bespectacled wizard was the first character to truly help me realize my love of fantastical magic. I owe a lot of my love of this genre to those amazing books.

If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: persistence is key. Plugging away, day after day, is what gets you through. It doesn’t sound fun, and sometimes it isn’t. I find that writing a novel is like journeying from one mountain to another. You start out on the peak of that first mountain. You’re excited; your idea is fresh and new, and you can’t wait to start laying those words on that paper (or that laptop). You look forward to completing the dream—a novel with your name on it! You take your first steps—the first chapter, or two, or three. The characters are new and fresh; the inciting incident is power packed and vivid. Loads of ideas roll through your head. You hit the first 12,000 words, and you’ve descended into the valley. Staleness sets in, and you lose the vision for your book. You follow a million rabbit trails, and your focus slides sideways. The only way you can finish that book is that consistent, persistent plugging away, climbing that second mountain, step by arduous step, 500 or 5,000 words every day, day by day, until at last, your book is finished. You’ve reached the second peak! The world lies at your feet, yours for the taking! Never give up, never.

What’s up next in your fantasy writing? Any hints on Kindle the Flame Part II? Or new books coming down the pike?

Yes, I’m currently working on the sequel to Kindle the Flame (with the idea of making a trilogy). Hints? Um, let’s see. Lots more Dragons. You get to know Chennuh and Ember pretty well in book one. There will be others in book two. Epic warfare. An evil king that only increases his horribleness. Love triangles, more than one! A huge twist ending (which I’m super excited about and have been planning for months).

Oh, and I have to tell you about a new release I have coming up in November! Mark of Four is an urban fantasy about people who can wield the four elements (earth, air, fire, and water), and most especially about an anomaly of a girl who can inexplicably wield all four elements, something no one else has ever been able to do. There’s a delicious villain in that one, as well. And here’s a secret. I really wish I could be that girl. Hmm, maybe that’s not so secret.


 

KTFCoverNow that we’ve sparked your interest in Kindle the Flame (hardy har har; yes, I love corny word play), here’s the blurb:

A girl who never fit in, a young man forced into an outcast’s life, a boy raised without a community, and a ruler who holds the key to their destinies…

Kinna has a Pixie she can’t train and a head full of doubts. Her worst fears come true when she fails the Tournament entrance test. She flees her Clan in disgrace, inexplicably drawn to a Mirage, a rare Dragon she has no business training.

Ayden is cursed—anyone he touches turns to ash before his eyes. He hides amongst the Dragon Clan with the only creatures he cannot hurt. When Kinna frees his favorite Dragon, his world turns upside down.

Cedric grows up in isolation, fostered by an outcast Centaur. When tragedy strikes, he ventures into a strange new world of Dragons, political intrigue, and magic.

Sebastian’s country hovers on the brink of war. Chased from his rightful throne, he schemes to retake his kingdom by any means possible, even if it threatens an ancient agreement that underpins the foundation of his realm.

Only by examining their pasts will these four find their futures. But will they survive the fires of discovery?


Tamara Shoemaker lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband, three children, a few jars of Nutella, and a never-ending carafe of coffee. She authored the Amazon best-selling Shadows in the Nursery Christian mystery series and Soul Survivor, another Christian mystery. Her fantasy books include the beginning of the Heart of a Dragon trilogy: Kindle the Flame, as well as the upcoming Guardian of the Vale trilogy.

Follow her on social media:

Twitter: @TamaraShoemaker
Website: www.tamarashoemaker.org
Facebook: www.facebook.com/tshoebooks


Thanks for joining me, Tamara!
Now hand over the rest of your chocolate, and nobody gets hurt…