Monday, September 28, 2015

Monday Blog: A Tale of Two Books

I feel like a distracted mother, not able to give her babies all the love and attention they deserve. It is enough, for me, that MERCY'S GIFT is here, and what an incredible journey it has been to get to this day.

As I mentioned back in July, upon the release of book one, MERCY'S PRINCE, I wrote the original version of this story more than 25 years ago. It was the second novel I'd tried to write, and although it was a little better than the first one, it was definitely NOT publishable. Even after several rewrites, it just didn't work, because I was forcing a plot upon cardboard characters.

It took the life-changing event of my father's final illness to "get it right" and only because I wasn't thinking "publication" but merely a writing exercise for myself to distract me from the agony of watching my Dad slip away, piece by piece, over the space of eleven months. I learned about grief; I learned about channeling that powerful emotion into words and images.

I wasn't even thinking "more than one book"--I was just literally letting my characters tell me a story. It soon become obvious that this WAS more than one book, so I rearranged a few things and found a good place to end Book One and eventually found a stopping place for Book Two as well.

Half-heartedly trying to please my beloved critique group, who urged me to find an agent, I sent out queries even while paying a content editor for Book One, which I now called Mercy's Prince. In the back of my mind, however, I was going to pay talented cover designer Perry Elisabeth the end of August 2015 to design a cover for Mercy's Prince and self-publish the book sometime in September. Meanwhile, I had planned to finish the rough draft of Book Three the second week of June while I tagged along to one of hubby's conventions. Three whole days of glorious writing, writing, writing! I was SO looking forward to it! Then I could send Book Three to my content editor while I finished Book Four the rest of the summer and hopefully make a dent on Book Five.

There's a Yiddish proverb that says, "Man plans, God laughs." I honestly don't think God was laughing at me, but my plans were suddenly and unexpectedly blown to bits, accompanied by excruciating pain. My non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, which had been in remission for ten years, decided to return with a vengeance.

During that awful several weeks of waiting on insurance to approve tests and pain meds(!), looking for a surgeon willing to risk a biopsy of ever-growing lymph nodes wrapped around my abdominal aorta, and expecting the worst (because the pain was SO bad--I kept having to take more and more opiates to keep it barely under control), I decided to find another cover designer and release Mercy's Prince, since it only needed formatting. If the worst was true, I didn't have long to live, so I wanted this book as my "good-bye" to friends and family. That was a dark, scary time that thankfully just feels like a faded nightmare now.
Cover by Colleen Clarke
The lymphoma was "only" stage 3, and chemotherapy FINALLY began the middle of July with almost instant results. I hope to hear that precious word, "REMISSION" sometime in November. Meanwhile, I struggle to work on Books Three, Four and Five with chemo brain, with little success. So, even though I've managed to release Books One and Two, and I'm very happy with the way they turned out, the others will not be finished as quickly, because I do NOT want to release them until they're ready.

So, with a lot of fervent hope, I'm tentatively planning (Lord willing) to release Book Three, Mercy's Children, in the spring of 2016, Book Four, Mercy's King, in the fall of 2016, and Book Five, Mercy's Joy, in early 2017.

The series title is He Who Finds Mercy, but right now it feels more like SHE who finds mercy, because I'm still here, and the story is still in my head and my heart, if not yet on paper.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fall Into Reading with Clean Indie Reads

Fall Into Reading Banner Happy fall! Can you believe it's fall already? I know I can't. This summer seems to have gone by very quickly. As we batten the hatches and prepare for winter, are you ready to snuggle in front of a nice warm fire with a good book? Maybe you have the nice warm fire, but not necessarily the perfect book. I have just the thing for you! A bunch of authors and I collaborated in putting together a "Fall Into Reading" sale. The first page on the website has all the books on sale categorized by genre. Some are free, and others are discounted. If you want to find other clean books that aren't necessarily on sale, check out the second page. I hope you have an awesome fall!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Cover Reveal for MERCY'S GIFT

Cover reveal for MERCY'S GIFT, Book Two in the fantasy series He Who Finds Mercy:

Peace is fragile. Gifts have limits.

While Prince Valerian adjusts to marriage as well as his new title, conspiracy brews in the south among disgruntled lords who wish to separate from the north. The situation is made even more volatile by a charismatic rebel leader whose guerilla tactics are swift and brutal.

The clandestine efforts of a witch hired by one of the lords render Valerian's gift of Sight ineffective, and Merry's Healing efforts are sorely tested.

It has become dangerous for a northerner living in the south, and if the gifted young royals fail to stop the growing rebellion, evil will reign in Levathia.

The story begins in Book One, MERCY'S PRINCE:

A heart of peace in a time of war

As second son of the King of Levathia, seventeen-year-old Valerian desires the quiet life of a scholarly monk. But when he fails to save his older brother in battle, Valerian must instead become crown prince.

While a traitorous knight schemes against him, Valerian meets Mercy, a pacifist Healer with whom he can speak mind-to-mind like the great dragons. Their bond emboldens Valerian to seek out the legendary dragons and ask for their help against the monsters who killed his brother.

Can Valerian survive the traitor’s assassins long enough to find the dragons? And if he does, can he convince them to lay aside their hatred of humans and help him save the land from destruction?

Praise for MERCY'S PRINCE: 

"Easily one of the best indie books I've ever read." Story Sanctuary

"A truly believable fantasy world saturated with suspense." Marcha's Two-Cents Worth

"The action is heart-stopping, the love is pure, and the emotions are real." Amazon reader

"A lovely, spiritual tale with all the adventure, mystery and romance a reader could want. Oh. And dragons!" Amazon reader

MERCY'S PRINCE will be FREE on Amazon September 17-19, and MERCY'S GIFT will be released September 25.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday Author Spotlight: Shari L. Tapscott

Today I'm privileged to interview Shari L. Tapscott about her wonderful Eldentimber fantasy series, the newest of which, ANWEN OF PRIMEWOOD, is available for pre-order at Amazon!

1. I'm so impressed with the detailed fantasy world you've developed for your series. Did you begin with this world in mind, or did it gradually take shape as you wrote the first story?

SHARI: My goodness, thank you! Pippa of Lauramore was a last minute Camp NaNoWriMo project. About a week before July, I decided I was going to participate. It was my second NaNo, and the first one was a mess. I made my word count, but that manuscript is such a nightmare, I still haven't tackled it.

This time I decided I needed a plan. I hunted down a bunch of character and setting questionnaires online. Iced coffee in hand, I sat down and filled them out. It was fun—it reminded me of taking the teen quizzes in fashion magazines (I used to love those!). They were also helpful. They prompted me to think of environment and economy. They answered questions I hadn't even thought to ask. Before I started writing, I had a pretty solid idea of what my world looked like.
2. I love the character of Pippa. She's so strong and spunky, and yet has a sense of honor that breaks your heart, because she's willing to put aside her heart's desires for the sake of her kingdom. Was she the inspiration for this series? How did you actually begin?

SHARI: Ah, Pippa. She was such a fun character to write. She's beautiful and charming, but because she's the kingdom's darling, she grew up a little wild. She absolutely inspired the book. Another princess may have sat back and hoped a handsome victor would take the win away from Lionel—but not Pippa. She was bound and determined to find her own champion. One of the things I loved about writing her was her heart. It isn't obvious in the beginning of the book, but she is a fiercely loyal, caring character.

3. Your setting details are deliciously realistic. Did you have certain actual places in mind while writing?

SHARI: Absolutely! We visit Colorado's San Juan National Forest at least once a summer, and that's where a lot of my ideas for Lauramore came from. It rains a lot, so everything is always bright and green, and there are some spectacular waterfalls in the area. It's not unusual to see flocks of sheep grazing on the rocky hillsides. It's just an amazing part of Colorado.

The lower areas of Lauramore, below the terraces, were inspired by the National Forest area above Vega State Park, also in Colorado. Some of the trails go through some pretty dark, thick areas. I'm pretty sure we're going to run into a grim boar one of these days.

4. The medieval tournament to win the hand of a noble lady, since it's based on historical fact, is one story that never grows old with me. But you've managed to make it more exciting and much more dangerous. You must have done a lot of research for at least part of it, though, right?

SHARI: This is a hard question to answer. When I was young, I was obsessed with the medieval time period. However, I definitely romanticized it. In my mind, everything was perfect—princesses wore beautiful dresses, the men were chivalrous and handsome, and unicorns could and should grace every fountain.

Obviously, when I got older, I learned that the times were very difficult and that things weren't nearly as lovely as I had imagined…and there were no unicorns (that was probably the hardest blow).

However, I remained interested. So while I never specifically sat down to do research for Pippa, by that point, I had thoroughly immersed myself in medieval books, fairy tales, movies, and even video games. Though I can't specifically say where my knowledge of the marriage tournament came from, I was familiar with the basic concept when I came up with the idea. And after that, I just wrote a story that made me happy (and that my five-year-old self would be proud of).

5. I'm anxious to read your newest book in this series. Are there any more in the works?

SHARI: Yes! Originally, I had planned to write four books, but now it's looking like I will be adding a fifth. My sister contacted me a few weeks ago and begged me to add just one more. She had the greatest idea…so my quartet is now a quintet!

The second book in the series, Anwen of Primewood, will release on September 17th. Seirsha of Errinton, the third book, is complete and about to go through editing. It will release in January 2016. I don't have dates set for the next three, but the fourth book is outlined, and I'm chomping at the bit to get started. I'm hoping to hold off until November's NaNoWriMo, but I'm not sure I'll be able to wait that long!

To read Pippa of Lauramore (which you MUST read--I gave it 5 stars), go here.

To read the 15,000 word prequel, Grace of Vernow (which you also MUST read--I gave it 5 stars), go here
To learn more about Shari, check out her Amazon author page

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Friday Author Spotlight (on Thursday): Tamara Grantham

This week I get to interview Tamara Grantham to help spotlight her new fantasy release, DREAMTHIEF.

1. What inspired you to write this story? Did you begin with Olive?

Tamara: Dreamthief started out as a question asked by my brother-in-law. He worked as a military policeman at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma. Apparently, he’d pulled over quite a few people who were a little off. They also happened to display fairies and unicorns on their car’s bumpers. “Are people who read fantasy books and collect fairy stuff a little weird?” he had asked.

Hmm… Were they? And if they were, then why? These questions evolved into my book’s premise. What if they’ve really been to fairy world and can’t remember it? And what if their lost memories are causing their societal abnormalities and mental disorders? And if so, who would treat them? A half-elf who can remember both earth and fairy world?

2. Since Olive is a therapist, did you do any research to make her believable?

Tamara: I’m lucky that my husband attended medical school and learned a few things about mental disorders, so I frequently picked his brain. I also suffered with depression while I was pregnant with my last two babies, so I guess you could say I did some, “in the field” research. It also helps to have quirky friends and family members, but hey—don’t we all?

3. I'm intrigued with your fairy world Faythander. I noticed there are dragons and other dangers there. What is the scariest thing about this realm?

Tamara: In book one, the goblins are the scariest. They’re more like zombies than traditional goblins, and their skin excretions are poisonous. I suppose I like a good scare now and then, so I had fun writing about the bad guys.

4. I love the trading cards you had designed for your giveaways. How did that come about?

Tamara: My friend and fellow author Kelly Risser did character spotlights to introduce her Never Forgotten series, and she suggested I do something similar. At the time, I had five weeks before my book’s release, and oddly enough, five major races in Faythander, so it made sense that I would connect the two. Marya Heiman with Strong Image Editing designed the cards, and I think she did a fabulous job. I recommend her to everyone.
5. When did you first begin to write for publication?

Tamara: After I wrote my first book, it became obvious that if I ever wanted anyone to read what I’d written, I would have to publish.

6. How do you manage to keep writing with five children?

Tamara: Ha! If I had a nickel for every time I get asked that one… You know, I’m not really sure. I just do it. I honestly think it helps to have kids around. They make me take breaks, give my mind a minute to rest, and then I’m ready to get back to writing again.

7. Name one fun fact about Dreamthief you'd like to share with readers.

Tamara: Okay, this one may sound odd, but I’m a member of the Mormon church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), but I’m not from Utah and I never went to BYU, which is usually how one can tell if you’re Mormon. I still wanted my readers to know that I was Mormon, so I put a few hints in Dreamthief. Two hints, actually, Nehor and Pahoran, which are names of people from the Book of Mormon. And now you know my secret!

8. Name one fun fact about Tamara Grantham. :) 

Tamara: I can’t spell the word rhythm to save my life. Thanks goodness for spell check!

9. Is fantasy your favorite genre to read and write?

Tamara: Absolutely, although I’ll read anything if I feel like it’s well written.

10. What is your next writing project?

Tamara: I’ve just finished Dreamthief’s sequel, called Spellweaver, which will release tentatively in January, and now I’m outlining book 3.

I want to give a special thanks to Katy Jones. What an inspiration! Whenever I feel low, I think about Katy and what she endures, and it gives me the courage to keep going. Thank you for your strength, Katy!

Aw, thanks, Tamara! I've really enjoyed meeting you through the Clean Indie Reads group and can't wait to read DREAMTHIEF! 

Get your copy of DREAMTHIEF at Amazon today!

Check out Tamara's blog, Tamara Dares to Write!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Release Day! Tamara Grantham's DREAMTHIEF

By Tamara Grantham
Olive Kennedy, Fairy World MD. (Book 1)
This is a Crimson Tree Publishing Title
Release Date: September 1st, 2015
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Tour Dates: September 1st - 12th
Visiting Faythander is a nasty business. Forget the fairies and unicorns, most people come back with lost memories and mental problems. Olive Kennedy knows. She's the therapist who treats patients suffering from Faythander's side effects. Despite her empty bank account, she takes pride in her job as Houston's only Fairy World medical doctor. She's never failed to cure a client—until now. 
Traveling back to Faythander wasn't on Olive's to-do list. But she has no choice. The fate of both Earth and Fairy depends on her ability to stop an ancient being called the Dreamthief. To complicate matters, she may be losing her heart to someone who can't love her in return. Saving the world, she can handle. Falling in love—not so much. 
As if battling the forces of evil wasn't difficult enough…

Tamara Grantham was born and raised in Southeast Texas. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in English from Lamar University. After marrying her husband David, she followed him through his training to become a burn surgeon. Tamara and David have five active, sweet, and almost always well-mannered children, ages zero to ten years. Their two pets, June and Chester help to keep the house lively (in addition to the children.)
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