Friday, July 31, 2015

Friday Author Spotlight: H. L. Burke

Today I am interviewing a fellow dragon lover and Clean Indie Reads member, H. L. Burke a.k.a. Heidi.
Q: I've read your delightful Thaddeus Whiskers and the Dragon and have several more of your books in my TBR pile. Which of the books you've published so far is YOUR favorite, and why?

HEIDI: Probably Beggar Magic. The world just has this atmosphere I want to dwell in and the characters are like my friends. It's a little slow moving as far as the plot in places, but I keep going back to it, just to be there. It's a coming of age story about friendship, with just a hint of romance.

Q: Is there any chance of a sequel with the wonderful characters in Thaddeus?

HEIDI: I don't have anything planned yet, but sometimes I want to visit with that kitten again. I'm curious to see how he handles “growing up” because he's basically trapped forever as a kitten. Will he eventually come to resent that and want a chance to move on? Also, a reader told me they'd be interested in a spin-off series about the incompetent but good-hearted Sir Alaric, so I think about that from time to time, trying to imagine him maybe rescuing a princess.

Q: As a military wife with two small children, how do you juggle writing so prolifically with the rest of your life? Any tips you'd like to share?

HEIDI: You can be surprised in what you can get done in 10 minutes, let alone a half hour. I started timing myself and writing in ten minute bursts. I can usually get 1000 words out in about an hour that way. It keeps me focused knowing that timer is going to go off and I only have to write until that timer goes off, then write down my word count. Then I do it again and see if I can beat my time. I also plan out what I'm going to write before I sit down. I think about what happens next and where the scene starts while I do the dishes or take a shower and then sit down and type it out.
Q: I'm asking as an Army brat: Where is your favorite place you've been stationed (so far) and are there any places you'd like to live or visit?

HEIDI: It's sort of a tie between Southern California and Japan. We've really only been to three different duty stations (we've been married a little under 9 years, so one every three years, roughly). Japan was cool but there was a certain amount of guilt/stress coming from my family for keeping my daughters away from the rest of the family. However, it would be great to go back there when the girls are a little older and would be able to remember the experience. Plus they have Cat Cafes.

Southern California was beautiful weather, all sorts of stuff to do, and close enough to home (which for me is Oregon) that Coryn (Claire wasn't born yet when we were stationed there) could visit grandma a couple times a year. We're actually headed back there next, and I'm looking forward to it. 

Q: What is your current writing project? 

HEIDI: I'm about to start the sequel to my Epic Fantasy Lands of Ash. While I write “clean” literature (no graphic or explicit content) this series is a little darker and deeper, meant for adults. A couple of my long time readers actually found it depressing, but it has drawn in some new readers that like the high stakes action and life or death situations involved. It isn't something I'd recommend to the kids reading Thaddeus Whiskers, though, not until they are a bit older.

Q: I know I told you there would only be 5 questions, but I'm DYING to know: How did you come up with your unique twitter handle?

HEIDI: I have always wanted to be a cat. I am also very fond of typing on and on and on. I'm talkative, but online I'm “typative” (prone to typing a lot) . . . I also call my girls my Big Kitten and Little Kitten, and I'm the Mama Cat, so Typative Mama Cat. It suits me.

ME: Well, that explains how you wrote Thaddeus so believably! Love the twitter handle. Thanks for stopping by, Heidi.

To learn more about H. L. Burke and her many books and short stories, visit her website, her blog, connect with @typativemamacat on twitter, on her facebook page, and her Amazon author page.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Friday Author Spotlight: Tamie Dearen

Today I get to interview the delightful Tamie Dearen, author of both YA fantasy ALORA: THE WANDER JEWEL, and clean romance.

Q: You've stated in other interviews that YA fantasy is your favorite genre to read. Did your initial idea for the Alora series begin with the characters or the setting?

TAMIE: When I started writing Alora, all I knew was that she was a fifteen-year-old living in Montana, who was born in another world and had special powers. And I knew that she would meet her soulmate, and their lives would depend on being together.

Q: Has the world-building for the land of Tenavae been a gradual evolution as the story has progressed, or did you have most of the details laid out before you actually began writing the first book?

TAMIE: The world-building definitely evolved as the story unfolded. I "discovered" Tenavae simultaneously with Alora.

Q: Your concept of "soul-mate" is unique, and I'm wondering if you made a conscious decision for Alora to be so young (15 instead of say, 18) in order to make the conflict arising from this unexpected magical relationship with Kaevin more complicated and stressful for their families?

TAMIE: Yes, I was purposeful in choosing Alora's age. I love the opportunity for Alora and her uncle to struggle with the new boundaries and relationships. Both of them have to grow and give a little to work things out. I also enjoy watching Uncle Charles acting as a father (without the help of his late wife). Like many fathers of teenaged girls, he's scared to death that he'll make the wrong decision, and he's not very good at expressing his sentiments when he feels threatened.

Q: Your writing style in ALORA: THE WANDER JEWEL is lyrical, and now that I know you've been composing music since age six, it makes sense! What kinds of music have you written? And which is your favorite instrument to play?

TAMIE: My main instrument is piano/keyboard, and I've written a number of piano compositions. But I've also written love songs, a few country songs, and quite a number of praise and worship songs.

Q: Although I wanted to focus more on Alora in this interview, I can't leave without bringing up your delightful romantic comedy series THE BEST GIRLS. I never liked romance until I read yours. How difficult is it to switch back and forth between writing contemporary romance and a fantasy world like Alora's? With your work schedule as a dentist, do you sometimes wish for longer periods of time to get "in the zone"?
TAMIE: The Best Girls Series is based on the personalities of my daughters and me. Since I know the characters so well, I found these books really easy to write. Many of the stories and conversations came out of real life events and dialogues. To make it even more fun, I wrote the books chapter by chapter and let my office staff read. So, we were constantly talking about Anne, Steven, Charlie, and Emily. Sometimes they would threaten me with bodily harm when I left them hanging.

The young adult fantasy books are much more complicated and challenging to write. Yet it's so exciting to create your own world and make your own rules. But I don't find it hard to switch back and forth. In fact, I wrote a romantic comedy, A ROSE IN BLOOM, posting each week on my blog as I wrote. Meanwhile, I was also writing the second book in the Alora series. (And the answer to your question about my work schedule is, "Yes, my job as a dentist interferes with my writing!")
I know you were hoping to have a cover preview of second book in the series, ALORA: THE PORTAL, which will be published in August, but thanks for sharing this excerpt from ALORA: THE WANDER JEWEL, the first book in the series. I am eagerly awaiting the release of book 2. Thanks, Tamie!

Alora fought the urge to beat on the tile wall. He’d disappeared again. Who was this boy she kept seeing? Why did he only appear when she was in the shower? He seemed so real, and she could have sworn he looked as confused as she felt. As if he was trying to figure out who she was, as well. Was he a figment of her imagination? His eyes were so unusual. They were green. Not an ordinary green, but a deep, intense jade, the color of her aunt’s emerald ring. He was really cute, although he wore his wavy brown hair a little long for her taste. Yet she could only see his head—never his clothes or the background. Today he’d tied his hair back in a ponytail. Surely the fact he’d changed his hair was significant. Wouldn’t a figment of her imagination have his hair the same every time?
She peeked around the shower curtain at the clock on the bathroom counter. It was five a.m. on a Saturday, and she had chores to do, feeding the horses and letting the chickens out. But it was winter, so she had plenty of time to spare before the rising sun tolled the beginning of her responsibilities. Living on a ranch in the backcountry of Montana meant cold winters, lots of work, and little time for leisure. It was the only life she’d ever known, and she usually enjoyed it, despite the heavy work involved.
But right now, she wanted another stab at seeing that boy. The image was always so fuzzy. If only he wouldn’t disappear when she opened her eyes. She couldn’t summon his visage at will. He didn’t come every time she closed her eyes in the shower; it seemed to happen when she was relaxing and letting the water beat down on her head and shoulders. Maybe, if she were soaking in the tub, she might see his image again.
She pushed the curtain back, put in the stopper, and turned the faucet on full blast. As an afterthought, she added bubble bath, filling the tub with fragrant suds. Soon the bath was full, with aromatic bubbles foaming on top. She eased into the soothing water, closing her eyes at the blissful caress of the heat on her tight muscles. And she waited. Anticipating. Would he come? She tried to stay alert, but the relaxing warmth seeped into her skin, lulling her to sleep.
She awoke with a start to a tub of cold water. Disappointment formed a knot in her stomach—he’d never appeared. She released some water down the drain and added hot water, swirling it around until the temperature was comfortable again. She had five more minutes before she had to abandon her bath to start her workday. She lay back down, sinking below the water with her eyes closed, swishing the fresh water over her skin to remove the bubble bath film, her face floating above the surface to breathe.
He appeared. She held her breath, clamping her eyes shut tight, trying to hold the image as long as possible. Though the apparition was still slightly blurry, she could see all of him, head to toe. She took advantage of her increased perception, thoroughly studying his image. She almost clapped her hands when her mental measurement estimated his height at over six feet. At five feet ten, she was taller than most boys her age. But she scolded herself for examining him as if he were a potential boyfriend. He wasn’t even real. His clothes were made of supple-looking brown leather. The attire was odd—held together with ties and toggles rather than buttons or zippers. The fit was close enough that his well-formed muscles were evident. She noted his long hair was tied back, as it had been earlier. She could only see the front of him as he stood frozen, stock-still, with his mouth agape, his jewel-green eyes wide and... moving. His eyes were moving, up and down, as if he were scanning her body as she had done. And it occurred to her if she could see all of him, he might be able to see all of her.
She gasped, opening her eyes to dispense with the specter. But his image remained, now sharp and clear. And he seemed to be standing in her bathroom. She cowered under the water, attempting to hide under the few remaining bubbles. His eyes dropped down to her navel, and as they widened, he whispered, “Wendelle?”
She screamed at the top of her lungs, lunging for her towel on the floor. Hastily covering herself and preparing to leap from the tub, she looked up, only to discover the vision was gone—if indeed it had been a vision.

To learn more about Tamie, check out her website, her facebook page, and follow her on twitter!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Friday New Book Spotlight: Mercy's Prince

Back in 1988 my son and I saw the fantasy movie "Willow" which entirely captivated our imaginations. There was one problem in the story, for me: in an effort to have a "strong" female character, Sorsha was a complicated mess. In one scene she'd kick the anti-hero in the face, and in the next she was kissing him. I wanted to tell a story with a strong female character who didn't feel the need to kick men in the face, especially when she might end up kissing him later....
I had just finished my first novel, which thankfully was never published, and in the glow of completing such a herculean task decided to write a totally different kind of novel (still a fantasy) with a strong female heroine who tames an anti-hero. I came up with some interesting characters and an interesting world with dragons, but I was forcing a plot on these characters instead of listening to them, and even after 3-4 rewrites the story just didn't work.

I laid it aside to work on short stories and magazines articles, but occasionally I would take out the story and try a new angle. I wanted to make it work SO BADLY, but it just wouldn't cooperate.

Then in early 2011 my father was diagnosed with lung cancer, and to distract myself while helping my mother care for him, I gave myself a writing assignment: What if I started with the opening scene and threw away the rest of the book? What would happen if I just let the characters tell me their story instead of forcing an improbable plot upon them?

Nearly 400,000 words later I have one edited and published book (Mercy's Prince), a second with the editor (Mercy's Gift), a third nearly finished (Mercy's Children), and parts of 4 (Mercy's King) & 5 (Mercy's Joy) written and/or outlined. What a difference it made when I listened to my characters! They not only revealed aspects of themselves I never noticed because I wasn't paying attention, they've sent the story into fascinating new places I never would have seen because I was playing chess with 2-D cutouts when I should have been riding alongside on my palfrey with the wind whipping through my hair, eagerly watching the action and listening to my characters' deepest thoughts.

It doesn't matter to me if this book ever becomes a bestseller; I know the market for Christian YA fantasy is not very large. I just want to have enough time to finish the whole story (which will take all five books).
Map of Levathia
 I found this doll on Amazon and made a "royal surcoat" for him, since that garment almost becomes a minor character in Mercy's Prince. It took me forever to embroider the dragon, since my Dad was dying at the time and I would sometimes only be able to make a few stitches at a time. My son teased me that the dragon looked like it was drinking "fire water." That's what happens when you don't know what you're doing and you don't have a pattern!
These are sewing projects from two summer sessions with my niece, Holly. We made dragons one year (and I still can't figure out how to attach wings; didn't have a pattern for him, either) and character dolls the next year. Time-consuming, but fun!