Writer’s Ink: Emily June Street

ejsheadnew1If you follow me–at all–you’ll know Emily June Street and I have not only an intense and amazing working relationship, but a close friendship as well. You may or may not be aware, but we’ve never met in person. She lives on the West Coast, I live on the East Coast, and 2,800+ miles separate us. However, we will fix this little detail when we attend the Writer’s Digest Conference together in New York City in August 2017. Can you imagine how excited I am?!

Emily June Street is the author of six novels: The Gantean, The Cedna, Sterling, Mage and Source, Secret Room, and The Velocipede Races. She has degrees in psychology and library science, but she divides her time between teaching Pilates and exploring alternate worlds in writing. She founded Luminous Creatures Press with Beth Deitchman in 2013.

Look for the next installment in the Tales of Blood & Light series, Light and Shadow, in 2018!
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Thanks for stopping by my website, Emily! Now let’s dive into some questions:

TS: Mage and Source is book four in your Tales of Blood & Light series, but for those who may not have read the foregoing books, could you give us a three sentence summary of the novel?

EJS: Magic is dead. The only hope for restoring it lies in the hands of a talented ex-mage and an enemy spy thrown together by fate and unexpected love. But an eastern foe seeks to destroy them both before they can uncover the true path back to magic..

old-books-1534109TS: I’ve only written, at the longest, trilogy arcs–three books that had to make sense from page one of the first book to the last page of the third book. Tales of Blood & Light is projected to be a whopping seven-book series. For lack of better wording, how in the world did you do it–keep everything organized, not drop plot threads, and maintain a solid story structure (one George R.R. Martin could certainly learn from you!)?
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EJS: Well, Tales of Blood and Light began as one book, The Gantean, no plans for any others in a series. Then I decided I needed a Book Two to tell the “villain’s” point of view from The Gantean, so I wrote The Cedna. Then I realized I needed to resolve the cataclysmic disaster that ends The Cedna’s story, and so I planned a book three, which was going to be Tianiq, Leila’s missing daughter’s story. Then I wrote a “companion book” called Night Queen, which was sort of a prequel to the planned trilogy set in the Lethemia world. Then I decided I didn’t like book three, Tianiq’s book, and wanted to revise entirely. Fortunately this was early on, well before I ever put out The Gantean, so I was able to revise all three books to adjust for this.
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But then I decided to write Sterling’s story, which came out very easily, and felt like a natural next step after the Cedna’s book. Only after writing Sterling did I decide to sit down and formally examine what I was trying to do with this series. That was when I finally realized I was telling a story about the fall and return of magic in this world, an apocalypse and a restoration. I was able to tease out from the exiting stories that I’d set up these seven stones (the Ophirae) that were vital to the return of magic, and thus, I could have seven books, each essentially describing a romantic relationship and the re-awakening of one of the seven stones needed to restore magic to this world. So, that’s when I finally realized I needed seven books. I tore apart everything and rewrote parts of all the books, dismantled the book Night Queen and turned it into Mage and Source, and now here I am with a completely pantsed seven-book series in the works!

So the answer lurking within all those words is…there was no planning, and what someone should learn from my experience is: this is not the best approach to writing a seven-book series!

Fortunately, I have a pretty good memory, which helps me keep track of the logistics of the story arc—that and a whole bunch of slips of paper and several maps. I also try to 1) trust in my subconscious to unearth the threads of the story that need to be unearthed; 2) keep track of essential facts with lots of folders and post-its (I like to have important information and details on paper rather than on the computer, as I like spreading out my papers on the floor and getting a big overall picture every now and again); and 3) endless reworking and rewriting.

In retrospect, this is a very labor-intensive way to write books, definitely not for people who don’t like the slog of rewrites and massive amounts of editing. Be a planner if you want a streamlined process! I’ve gone the planned route for other books, and it is much easier and it involves a lot less rewriting. That said, I do enjoy the endless managed chaos of my Tales of Blood & Light process. There’s something deeply satisfying about pantsing a story. It feels organic and sometimes you surprise yourself with connections and storylines you’d never have planned.

.TS: Laith fascinates me in this book. His chemistry with Elena is undeniable. Tell me, did you use a blueprint for either character (Laith or Elena)–someone in “our world” who was your inspiration for creating either of them in Lethemia’s world? If so, who? What were the standout characteristics that you tried to translate over? If not, what famous person or character in this world might be most like Laith and/or Elena, and in what ways?
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talking-1430913EJS: I rarely model my characters after real people, honestly. I suppose my characters are creations “borged” from a multitude of people I’ve known, some I might not even remember, and also from parts of myself that don’t see the light of day. Laith does share some character features with my husband, Brady, namely being obsessed with his own interests and being fairly impervious to the negative opinions of others. Brady also tends to do what Brady wants, just like Laith. My husband, however, is a quiet man, and Laith is a huge talker. I have reams and reams of cut pages of Laith, just telling his stories. For a while he really wanted his own book all to himself, but he just rambled on and on.
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I had no particular model for Elena, although no doubt her perfectionistic tendencies and her favoring of reason over emotion come straight from me. I certainly haven’t used any famous person’s personality to shape either character; again, that’s just not my style.

I have done the Myers-Briggs Personality test for most of my characters. Laith is an ENTP and Elena is an ISTJ—very opposite types, but united by that thinking element. (Note: I am an INTJ, and I think my strongest domain is that T, that “thinking” quality. I find it very hard to write “F”s, or feeling types, because my brain just doesn’t work that way. I think so far only Sterling and Erich have been “feeling” types, and often I really had to pause and think to myself…what would someone entirely led by their feelings do in this situation? In some ways I think “F”s are easier for people to relate to, because that “T” quality can be very idiosyncratic, following a logic that isn’t always readily apparent, whereas everyone understands the basic human emotions and can relate to them immediately.

Appearance-wise Laith might look like a cross between Aiden Turner and Riz Ahmed, but taller than either of them, and Elena might look like Li Bingbing.

TS: You’ve told me that, according to many of your test readers, Costas Galatien, King of Lethemia, is not one of your more popular characters. Having read the books, though, I really dig the guy. He’s certainly a layered character with lots of depth. Where and how was he born in your mind? What went into his development? How did you pull off his tortured, wise, just, angsty, disciplined, and–dare I say it–dreamy layers? Asking for a friend. 😉
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king-1417290EJS: Costas (an ESTJ) is a favorite character of mine, too, but not for the reasons you may think. What I love about him is how we see him through the eyes of every one of my narrators, but never through his own eyes. As a king, he’s a man defined by his people and his mystique, and each character really does see him differently—most of them manage to see his complexities, too, but different complexities, with various beliefs about what is likable in him and what is not.
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I think some readers disliked how he treated Leila in The Gantean. They felt he wasn’t enough of a hero, that he was self-centered, a bit of a jerk. That is probably because they were sympathizing with Leila, the narrator, and at some points in the book, Leila and Costas were in direct conflict to one another in their actions (if not their in their emotions).
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Costas is complicated partly because his position is a complex one. He’s the King, but he is also a person with strong inner boundaries about privacy. He has his own desires that have nothing to do with his obligations as King, but he very strongly feels the duty of rule (even if he is sometimes unaware of its privilege). Sometimes he’s faced with difficult choices because of this—his personal desires (e.g., having Leila as his lover) are often in direct opposition to what is expected of him as King (e.g., marrying Stesichore Ricknagel and reuniting the Ten Houses). Costas picked duty over love at first, failing to understand the significance of the aetherlumo bind he shared with Leila. Unlike Laith, with his magical lore, Costas did not immediately comprehend that the aetherlumo is a BIND, meaning it not only joins him irrevocably with Leila, but it is forged by forces more powerful than human needs and desires. I think part of Costas’s character development is coming to understand that he cannot control everything, that there are forces to which even King Costas is subject. He is a controlling man, and he’s going to have to learn what he can and should control, and what he cannot and should not.

Costas is forever a work in progress, as you know. Each book shows a different side of him. In Mage and Source, we see a friend and subject’s view of him through Laith’s eyes. We also see an enemy’s view of him, as Elena has been sent to assassinate him at the behest of her Emperor. But Elena quickly complicates things, since her animosity isn’t based in her own emotions, only on her loyalty to her nation. Later in the series we’ll have a narrator who holds great personal animosity towards Costas. That’s been a tricky storyline to negotiate!

TS: I love the colors so prevalent in this series. Was there any order in your plans as you assigned a particular color of magestone with a particular mage? How did you plan who got what stone? Is the aetherlight–the colorful strands that appear INSIDE the stones–in any way connected to the owners, and if so, how did you decide on those colors? Are they representative at all of personality or background?
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EJS: I really love that you seem to think I planned anything about these books. Sadly, no, my strategy has been entirely “on the fly.” If I had planned, I would have planned better and followed some kind of recognizable color theory. But no, it’s all completely idiosyncratic. In this world, people have auras of aetherlight, and (in my mind, at least) the color of their aura does say something about their personality. But it’s one hundred percent based on my own personal feelings about colors and personality, not any existing color theory.
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So Leila’s colors are watery and cool, and her personality is cool and unemotional, but resilient and adaptable, like water.

The Cedna’s color was black, since she was embodying the absence and darkness of the world. Her elemental themes were fire and ash, so her color was the char that was left after the fire.

Sterling’s color was sunshine yellow, since her basic temperament is optimistic and bright, despite her sufferings. Her elemental theme was air, and I see the air around her being shot through with sunlight.

Laith is opal, shiny and shimmering, full of hidden colors. His elemental theme was aether, the stuff of magic, so I wanted his aetherlight to reflect the power and complexity of magic. He is also cool, like Leila. He explained in The Gantean that cool aetherlight people are draw to warm aetherlight people, and vice versa. Elena’s elemental theme is earth, so her aetherlight is green and rich and warm, like healthy leaves.

color-1186259I have tried to reflect the aetherlight colors of my narrators on the covers of the books. The elemental themes of the narrators are indicated on the back covers, in the taglines: flow like water; fall like ash; rise on air; bright as aether, strong as earth.

As far as the colors of the Ophirae magestones and whether they match those of the couples who ignite them, unfortunately, not really. It’s been more about which stone was available given the storyline, and given the fact that these plotlines are completely pantsed, there isn’t a lot of wiggle room for applying any logical color theory after the fact. I have to work with what I’ve already set up and written into “the canon.” For the Ophirae colors, I literally just picked colors I liked way back when and those are the colors, end of story. No planning at all.

TS: Stepping outside the series: do you have other books you’re working on, or is Tales of Blood and Light your sole focus for now? If so, can we get a peek at what we can expect to hit the shelves at some future point?
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EJS: Well, Tales of Blood and Light still has three books to go. All are at least partially drafted. I’m working hard on Book Five, Light and Shadow, right now, with a massive rewrite/revision inspired by a certain brilliant editor.
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TS: Who is this nefarious creature!?
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I have also co-written two all new fantasy books with a certain fellow author who greatly resembles my brilliant editor, as you might know.

TS: Apparently, there are doppelgangers.

charleston-mansion-1204334These books are: River Running (elemental magic and romance in quasi-American South Reconstruction Era) and The Eighth Octave (music, magic, and mystery in a fairytale 18th-century world). We’ll be pitching these books to agents at an upcoming conference in New York City. *gulp*

I’m working on a new fantasy series with a first book tentatively titled “Midnight Oil,” too. Similar to Tales of Blood & Light, it involves culture clashes, empire, and magic, but the world and the magic system are quite different.

TS: Time for some fun! Quick Answers (don’t think longer than a second for these):
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Song of Ice and Fire or Lord of the Rings? EJS: Apples and oranges. I pick fruit salad.
Piano or Cello? EJS: That’s just mean and wrong. Why, Tamara, why?
TS: Because… Westley
Phantom of the Opera or Les Mis? EJS: Finally, one I can answer! Phantom of the Opera.
Coffee or Hot Chocolate? EJS: Thank goodness for some easy ones. Coffee.
Yoga or Pilates? EJS: Pilates 4 evah
Editing or Writing? EJS: Both, always.
Spring or Fall? EJS: Spring.
Archery or Sword Play? EJS: Archery.
Dragons or Phoenixes? EJS: Phoenixes.
Legolas or Robin Hood? EJS: Legolas.
Co-Writing or Writing Alone? 😉 EJS: Piano or cello?
Facebook or Twitter? EJS: Facebook, mostly, but sometimes it annoys me.
London or Paris? EJS: Cello?
Travel choices: Europe or the Caribbean? EJS: Piano?
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And finally…
Heart of a Dragon or Guardian of the Vale? 😉 EJS: Heart of a Dragon!
HOAD Box Set
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Justification for any of the above? 😉 EJS: Emily does what Emily wants.
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Thanks, Emily! Check out Mage and Source, available now on Amazon!
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Mage and Source Cover

The next world arrives in a shattering fall.

The Cedna is dead, and magic is broken. Laith Amar, a famous mage, must learn to live without his skill as all of Lethemia reels from the Fall. Fighting despair and skeptical colleagues, Laith seeks any solution that can return his talents.

From hidden sources, hope emerges.

Angered by losing the war against Lethemia, the Eastern Emperor dispatches Elena Rith, a trained potion-mistress, to assassinate the Lethemian King Costas Galatien and to learn what she can of the West’s fallen magic. Alone in a foreign country, Elena battles new hazards and old fears as an Eastern hunter tracks her.

A new alchemy ignites an old power.

After fate throws them together, Laith and Elena discover an intriguing method to revive magic that depends on them both. But when Elena’s foe finds her, can Laith save her from a past of pain and violation?

Only love can resurrect Laith’s faith and Elena’s hope, but darkness surrounds them as their enemies close in.

Magic’s restoration hangs in the balance.

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Embrace the Fire is Liiiiiiiivve!

I had no clue when I started Embrace the Fire that I would want to throw in my writerly towel before it was finished. Of all my books, this story was the most complicated, hard-to-craft, frustrating, eye-bleeding, hair-tearing piece of fiction I have ever created, and that’s saying something.

Because of that, I think it’s also the best book I’ve written yet. Complicated and action-filled, the plot, characters, structure, and themes of the book are something I’m quite proud of. I hope you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I do (the reading is a completely different story from the writing of the book).

Enjoy fantasy? Give this book a read-through. Don’t necessarily enjoy fantasy but do enjoy stories of relationship, struggle, overcoming, romance, adventure, and action? Buy this book and another one to give to a friend. Want to see something cool? Check out the book trailer for Kindle the Flame… and then buy Embrace the Fire. 😉

And if you think about it, please post a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads when you finish! It can be as simple as “I liked this book,” but even that one review will make a huge difference in the career of this author. Thanks in advance!

Be sure and watch social media later this month. Emily June Street and I will be hosting a flash fiction contest and book giveaway to celebrate our June new releases. Even if you’re not a writer, this is still a fun contest you won’t want to miss!

Purchase Link

TamaraShoemaker-300dpi-3125x4167(1)

Wanted by King Sebastian, Kinna, the long-hidden daughter of the assassinated King Liam, flees for her life, determined to seek out her twin brother and free him from Sebastian’s dungeons. Meanwhile, the King holds Kinna’s adopted father as collateral to ensure she keeps her betrothal to a man she does not love.

Once cursed by King Sebastian to turn everything he touched to ash, Ayden suffers from new, searing pain that heats his flesh in a different way. Searching for answers, he digs into the histories of West Ashwynd’s Clans, and his discoveries lead him to the Amulet he’d thought had rid him of his curse. When he finds a rare Mirage Dragon, hope for vengeance upon Sebastian fills him again.

Captured and stripped of his power as Dragon-Master, Cedric resists using his Dragon-speak to advance Sebastian’s political aims. When he escapes the King’s clutches, he resolves to find his twin sister, Kinna. But the enemy has a long reach, and Cedric’s chains are unrelenting.

Ice and agony torment Sebastian, King of West Ashwynd. His fury rages unabated as he prepares for war. When treachery leeches into his ranks, he turns against everyone he trusts. Sebastian believes he cannot be outwitted, but…

Kingdoms rise and fall; wars transform nations—Who can survive the fires of Dragons?

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For release day, a peek at the prologue:

Dark of Dusk and Magic

Time lost its steady cadence in the caverns where the woman crouched next to a guttering candle. The art of the heavens remained unseen here; she could not trace the tracks of time across the sky. The only marking of a day’s passage was the time it took for the daily candle to burn into nothingness, extinguishing at last with a silent puff of smoke, plunging her into deep blackness.

And then she would sleep. When she woke, another candle would rest in the holder, another day would pass in the weak flicker of warmth. The tallow pooled around the candle’s flame that cast shadows upon the cave walls where moisture dripped and moss crept. A quill shivered in her fingers, scratching across the creased parchment on the cavern floor.

Hash marks covered the wall, one mark for every lifeless candle, a representation of the elusive time. Somewhere, out there, a king sought her son, who, with others, had fled The Crossings, West Ashwynd’s capital city, after the Tournament. Death awaited him if he were caught, but a life on the run presented its own cage.

The woman raised a hand to her mouth, blowing a warm breath over her chilled skin, and returned to her script. The words, she thought, might never escape the cave, but the relief from their release kept her cold fingers at their task.

Dearest son,

I hear the Dragons in my dreams, but even waking brings no end to their fury. It troubles me greatly.

I hope you are well, and that you continue in the path set before you. My captors have yet to free me or to deliver messages; however, they allow me to scribble my thoughts onto parchment. I hope, someday, that you may receive this.

The Amulet calls to me, even from its hiding place. At times, the urge to take it and use it overwhelms me, and it is then that I am glad for the safeguards I’ve placed around it. It is powerful, son, and evil at times, drawing upon the darkness of the Seer Fey who chose power over peace. The Amulet, carrying traces of the Fey who have left the path of the just, draws all darkness into itself.

It is well that Sebastian no longer possesses it. The Amulet would ignite like dry grass beneath such a volatile temperament as his.

No longer is the Amulet the pure gift of the Stars. No longer is its power clean and self-contained. Both it and our peace were shattered when the Seer Fey divided.

The Amulet was meant for good, and some goodness remains within, but deep blackness tarnishes its power now. It has separated our people, my son, creating a rift that will never be healed. Those Fey who remain loyal to the tenets of our agreement with Aarkan are far fewer than those who deny them.

The opposition refuse to listen to me; they vastly outnumber the ones who remain faithful to the Bond of Blood and Fire. They did not listen to me when I told them my discovery—that the Amulet does not break curses, only redirects them. Instead, they enclosed me in their prison, and I am a captive of their greed. Guilt pierces me, my son. As you know, I gave the Amulet to one in order to break his curse, but instead, I have unknowingly only redirected it.

The greed of the Seer Fey Council holds sway at present, and I fear, the end of peace.

Stay strong, my son. May we never stumble from the course the Stars have set before us.

She set the quill on the stone floor and rubbed her aching knuckles. The tallow dipped lower in the holder, hardly illuminating the parchment, though the glow of her pink hair shivered in the flickering light.

She picked up the quill once more and signed her name with a flourish.

Lovingly,

Helga

The Cedna: Emily June Street

I have the pleasure of hosting fantasy author extraordinaire, Emily June Street, on my website today, where she discusses her latest novel, The Cedna, with me–its magic system, which of her characters she relates to most, and why she’s put out with me for making her answer the last question. 😉

Come read what she has to say, and then do yourself a favor and look up her books on Amazon. Besides The Cedna, she also has The Gantean for sale, and other works such as The Velocipede Races. I highly recommend all of them; Emily is one of the best there is. Follow her on her website or connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.

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1.) In three sentences, tell me what The Cedna is about.

The Cedna is the second book in an epic fantasy series that explores intersections of women, fantasy, and magic. In a world governed by the magical powers of blood and light, a rebellious woman selected to serve as a sacrifice desperately seeks a different solution to save her waning culture. When she travels south to save herself and her people, ethnic prejudices, old animosities, and a handsome stranger quickly overturn her plans, leading her on a world-shattering adventure of love, heartbreak, and war.

g-vs-e-2-16004072.) Every good story has a protagonist and an antagonist. Tell me about the character, the Cedna. What characteristics of each of these does she carry in her? How does she reconcile the two? 

A big part of the exploration I am doing in my series, Tales of Blood & Light, is about perspectives. Each book is told from the perspective of a different character, and my hope is that each book acts as a puzzle piece to fit into a larger whole that tells a broad and deep story. So each volume in the series lets the reader take another step back and get a wider view on the world and the story.

The Cedna was one of the antagonistic characters from the first book, The Gantean, though she was kept a bit in the background, in the wings, waiting for her entrance. We knew she had abandoned her people in a time of need, and we knew she had done some terrible deeds that affected the first book’s narrator, Leila.

Book Two is the Cedna’s bold entrance, where we finally see what her motivations have been for everything she has done. She becomes the protagonist of her own story, and it’s left for the reader to decide whether she is good, evil, or simply human.

I haven’t written typical protagonists and antagonists in these books, for a few reasons. First, so much of how people frame conflicts has to do with perspective, so this series, as an exercise in perspective, has a lot of “grey area,” rather than the clearer “black and white” of a standard story conflict. There is a lot of fluidity in my characters in terms of whether they are serving as protagonists or antagonists, depending on which character is the current narrator.

The other aspect of the books that makes discussing protagonists versus antagonists tricky is that in both The Gantean and The Cedna (and in subsequent books) I’d say one of the central conflicts is an internal one: the characters versus themselves. That isn’t to say that there is no external plot conflict—there is, but each character has a war going on within herself where she’s playing both protagonist and antagonist, and I think this is true of the Cedna more than any of the other narrators I’ve written for this series.

The Cedna is the figurehead of a desperate culture whose leaders will kill her to protect their livelihood. She has been told for her whole life that this sacrifice is natural and that she should be accepting of—or even honored by—her role. In direct conflict to that we have her very natural feeling that she would prefer to live, and live on her own terms. This conflict within her gives rise to a whole bunch of choices that spiral out into other conflicts—setting her at odds sometimes with her own people and sometimes with the southern culture her Gantean people hate.

I don’t want to discuss how the Cedna reconciles these internal conflicts, because that’s really the crux of the book and the conclusion of her story. I guess you’ll have to read it to find out!

3.) Was this book harder to write than the Gantean, or easier? Why?

In terms of time, it was easier. The Gantean took me decades to write, partly because I started it when I was really young, and then I had to rewrite it over and over again as I became a more skillful writer. The Cedna only took me years, maybe five or six. With The Cedna, I had a better idea of where the story was headed, although there were a couple of big issues I had to figure out—one example is that for the timeline to work and to have the Cedna’s story dovetail with the story of The Gantean, I needed a large chunk of time to pass without having a lot of action occur, so I had to hide her out somewhere for a decade or so. That was a tricky decision and a tricky portion of the book to write.

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4.) Your magic system is so elaborate in this book so that I was gaping in awe at parts. How did you conceive of the system? What went into its development?

The magic system developed very organically out of my imagination. I knew I wanted it to be partly emotion-based—the “matter” of the magic was what I might call psychic energy or the energy of emotion. That energy is also connected to the earth—crystals, to be specific—and relies on those crystals to be focused and channeled.

I wanted to have magic be a predictable force that was the same across cultures, but I wanted the two cultures (Gantean and Lethemian) to approach its use and maintenance differently. The Ganteans use the life energy in blood to maintain magic, whereas the Lethemians use the life energy from reproduction (sex) to maintain it. So the Ganteans’ relationship to magic is one of pain and darkness; the Lethemians’ is one of pleasure and light. How they relate to this power tells us a lot about their cultures.

Conceiving of the system took years but had no particular plan. I talked about it a lot with my husband while we walked our dogs. We often talked about altered mind states and how reality is perceived differently when your senses are altered by ecstatic experiences or psychedelic drugs. I wanted the magic in these books to be like that, an altered state in which practitioners can perceive and affect parts of reality their regular senses can’t normally observe.

The magic system is really one of the centerpieces of the whole series, I think, and if you can stick with all seven books, you’ll probably see the magic system getting more and more involved in the plot. Everything in these books gets developed very slowly over the course of seven books; they are definitely written for patient readers. That was a conscious choice on my part, even though I recognize that most people these days prefer fast, straight-forward reads. I let myself write the books I wanted to write with the Lethemia series, and one of the things I like best about them is how they really are like a jigsaw puzzle, and no single book in the series can tell the whole story. I figure if a reader is too impatient to enjoy a slower process of discovery, so be it; there are plenty of other faster-paced books for them to read!

ship-log-book-15639515.) What’s your favorite name of a place or a character that you made up for the story? How did you arrive at these names? Did you just open a dictionary and close your eyes and point, or was there a method? (Hint: my favorite is The Hinge; what an awesome place/entity name!)

I loosely organized the naming conventions of the cultures involved in the story by existing nationalities and then made certain kinds of tweaks. The Gantean names are based on Inuit languages, though I added a few additional syllables that I liked so I could use certain names I came up with that I wanted to use (Mikien, Ikselian). Careful readers may notice that Gantean women’s names often end in –ian, and the men’s names often end in “-ien, –at, or –uq.”

The Lethemian names are split into three regions: the northern region of the country uses slightly Gaelic-tinged names (Malvyna, Culan); the central regions use Greek names (Costas, Mydon, Stesichore); and the southern regions use Arabic names (Laith, Jaasir) There is some overlap and crossover, since Lethemia is one country and one culture. I tried to make the naming conventions a bit organic all around, so the place names are a mix of names taken from ancient Greece (Amphicylix, Hemicylix) and names that are more conventional or descriptive (Queenstown or Orioneport).

The eastern culture that emerges in this book, the Vhimsantese Empire, is sort of a mash-up of Ancient Rome and the Russian Empire. So they have Russian or Roman-sounding names, like Vilanov or Proseri.

I have to acknowledge that when I first conceived of this world, I was twelve years old and really unorganized and uninformed about stuff like naming conventions or geography. So some of the most flowery and extravagant names are holdovers from that era of the story’s existence (Vhimsantese, Lysandra, Ricknagel). Those came straight out of my imagination or from bizarre and random sources I was into when I was twelve. I could have changed them but I guess I wanted to honor my twelve-year-old self and keep a few of them in there to add a touch of random, childish spice.

The Hinge is a one-off name that I have to admit is an unkilled darling. I probably should have given it a more Gantean-sounding name, but I just couldn’t because I like the idea of a place that is the Hinge or the crux of all magic in the world. The world hinges on the Hinge.

6.) How many books do you plan to write in this series? Must we be content with only The Cedna and The Gantean, or do you have more of this world to unravel and feed to our grasping fingers?

There will be seven books. Book Three, Sterling, is drafted, and I hope to release it in 2016. The next four books are all also drafted but they are rather a mess. I expect to take a while to untangle those knots. So yes, there is a lot more of this world yet to be revealed. So far, we’ve only had Gantean narrators. The next three narrators are Lethemian, or at least they grew up in Lethemia. We’ve also thus far only heard from women. There will be some male points of view in later books.

TGCOVER7.) Of the two girls, Leila from The Gantean and the Cedna from The Cedna, which one do you connect with more? Why? Do you think one or the other appeals more to specific audiences? Why or why not?

That’s a really tough question. I think if you asked other people, they’d say I’m more like the Cedna—headstrong and apt to make my own independent choices, however deviant they may be. I like to go my own way, and I tend to do it without much remorse.

That said, Leila’s inspiring element was water; the Cedna’s is fire. I actually feel that if I had to pick an element for myself it would be air. (An air character is coming, and she is probably my true secret Mary Sue in this series.) So Leila’s approach to life is to “flow like water.” The Cedna’s approach is more destructive. Fire eats what it touches, and whatever choice she makes, it seems to end up being ruinous.

I hope both Leila and the Cedna are complex characters, nuanced enough that readers can relate to both of them, or at least understand why they make the choices they make, even if the readers themselves might make different choices in the given circumstances.

Leila is softer, more adaptable, and perhaps more typically feminine than the Cedna. The Cedna is angry, impulsive, and strident—characteristics that our culture has a hard time with in a woman. This was one reason I started out with Leila’s book, even though chronologically the Cedna’s story comes first. I think Leila is a more immediately likeable character to a wider range of people. But what do I know, really?

holding-on-15224858.) You obviously are an extremely skilled fantasy writer. Just for kicks, what would TC look like on the extreme opposite end of the scale… as a romantic comedy? Let’s have it–a five sentence synopsis of a romantic-comedied The Cedna. 😉 (I’m really excited to see your answer to this one.) 😉

Oh dear. Oh dear. This is just the worst. I can’t believe you are making me do this, Tamara. I’ve never been able to write comedy. And I struggle with romance, too. I have about six half-written romance manuscripts, and all of them “turn dark” at some point. I have to hide them deep in the bowels of my laptop.

But here goes:

The leader of a harsh, northern culture escapes a dire fate and stumbles—quite literally—into the arms of an unrepentant rake while she poses as a southern housemaid. Unused to southern customs, the Cedna cannot help but draw notice as she flagrantly fails at her housemaid duties. Some women just aren’t made for keeping house.

Lord Onatos Amar is not amused as his newest housemaid bungles her duties and his palatial Alcazar begins to crumble around him.

Soon the Cedna’s secrets are revealed, and Onatos must decide between saving his troublesome housemaid and sending her back to her fate in the cold north.

The Cedna available on Amazon:

CednaMaster2EBP

Every Cedna is born to die, paying the balance that keeps magic alive.

This Cedna desires a different path, free from the pain that comes with the sacred duty.

As Gante faces destruction at the hands of Lethemian raiders, she fights against her fate as a ritual sacrifice.

Though dangers loom on every side, the Cedna travels south in a desperate diplomatic bid to protect the island.

Ethnic prejudices, old animosities, and a handsome stranger who pulls on her with a magical bond quickly overturn her plans, leading the Cedna on a world-shattering adventure of love, heartbreak, and war.

Every choice is final.

Mark of Four available NOW for pre-order!

You know what’s fantastic?

Logging onto Amazon and doing a search to find that my brand new book, Mark of Four, is available for pre-order right now!

Granted, you might not find that small piece of information as terribly exciting as I do, but perhaps you might be interested enough to click this LINK, which will take you to Amazon’s site, and you might even find your finger hovering over the “pre-order” button.

I won’t talk you out of it. 😉

At least come see what all my dancing and squealing is about. 🙂

TamaraShoemaker-300dpi-3125x4167

SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD ALAYNE WORTH is an Elemental Water-Wielder. All she wants is to master her talent and live a normal life, but the sudden escape of a feared criminal leaves her family reeling and threatens to keep her from achieving her dreams, especially when the criminal’s reach pushes too close to home.

Secret pasts, strange powers, and tense relationships weave a tangled net around her. As she leaves home to cultivate her skills at an Elemental training center, she clashes with a disturbing reality: both good and evil forces covet Alayne’s unusual gifts, and each side is willing to do almost anything to obtain them.

As Alayne confronts the battle for the power she possesses, she must discover the truth of who she is.

Air-Earth-Water-Fire

Four Elements

Four Powers

Four Paths

MARK OF FOUR

 

MARK OF FOUR Cover Reveal! Squeeeeee!!!!!

I was entrenched in the life of a mystery writer when the seed of an idea for a young adult fantasy speared me with all its scintillating glitteriness, and I couldn’t help myself. I leaped from the safe platform of the genre with which I was familiar and landed in the murky waters of a genre in which I had no clue what I was doing.

At the time, there was no way of knowing the journey the book would take. When I finished it, I was vaguely dissatisfied. I’d poured my soul into that book–my love of the YA fantasy genre is deep and real, and I felt that the book fell a little short of what I wanted it to be. However, I couldn’t put my finger on it, so I sent it off to my publisher, who agreed that there was some work that needed to be done, so I took it back for another round.

That was only the beginning. I went through round after round after round of editing, throwing in fixes for what I felt was a shaky story structure. The story improved, but it was never strong.

I finally polished enough to try for a larger traditional publisher. So I put the manuscript aside, and drafted query letters. Synopses. Outlines. Bios. Whatever agents wanted, I wrote. I sent queries and sent queries and sent queries. 175 queries and nearly nine months later, I had gotten one request for a partial paper manuscript, and when I went to the post office to mail it, my post-office-demolition-expert children distracted me so greatly, I mailed an empty envelope to the agent.

Obviously, they didn’t request a full manuscript after that ordeal.

I attended a Writer’s Digest conference in New York City last fall where I had the chance to pitch my book to as many agents as I could within an hours’ time. Querying had been spectacularly unsuccessful–I couldn’t imagine that the conference would garner anything more, but I was willing to try. I went, met seven agents, and got six requests for partials of my manuscript.

I was so excited! I came home and immediately sent it off. From those six, I heard back from three, two with detailed explanations of how they loved the story, but felt that they had accepted something similar to it recently, and one that wanted the full manuscript.

I sent the entire manuscript to the agent and settled in to wait. While I waited, I wrote another book, Kindle the Flame (released in June of this last year), and in the months that passed as the agent considered my manuscript (it usually takes about six months), I experienced a massive transition in my worldview regarding publishing.

It used to be that traditional publishing was the only mark of a credible author; self-publishing platforms had at one time only been a place for people to publish things that would otherwise have been skipped over by the larger traditional publishers.

But the market has turned on its head in the last few years. Self-publishing (while still including those who write a story and toss it up for sale without proofreading or editing) now includes names from NYTimes bestselling authors as well. Self-publishing has morphed into a respectable publishing option.

As all the facts, figures, and fancies flooded my head during that six month time period as I waited for the agent to respond to my manuscript, I decided that I didn’t want to go the traditional route. Not with this book.

So, at long, long last, I decided to put the book out under my own name. I sent the book to a fabulous editor, who figured out the intrinsic weaknesses that I never could shake, helped me peel my story apart and put it back together again in a much stronger fashion, and am now finishing up the final edits on it.

MARK OF FOUR releases on NOVEMBER 30, 2015!!! Three months from now! I sincerely hope you’ll take a chance on this book. It’s the first in a trilogy (that’s already written), and will resonate with people of all ages, I think, even if it is geared for the young adult market.

Now I’ve got to show you the brand spankin’ new cover for it! I am beyond excited about it. It’s beautiful, and I absolutely love it. Below that, I’ll post a description of the book so you can start getting as excited as I am.

Hahaha! Or a fraction of how excited I am. 😉

TamaraShoemaker-300dpi-3125x4167(1)MArkofFourback6Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 2.57.20 PM

SEVENTEEN-YEAR-OLD ALAYNE WORTH is an Elemental Water-Wielder. All she wants is to master her talent and live a normal life, but the sudden escape of a feared criminal leaves her family reeling and threatens to keep her from achieving her dreams, especially when the criminal’s reach pushes too close to home.

Secret pasts, strange powers, and tense relationships weave a tangled net around her. As she leaves home to cultivate her skills at an Elemental training center, she clashes with a disturbing reality: both good and evil forces covet Alayne’s unusual gifts, and each side is willing to do almost anything to obtain them. As Alayne confronts the battle for the power she possesses, she must discover the truth of who she is.

Air-Earth-Water-Fire

Four Elements  Four Powers  Four Paths

MARK OF FOUR