Shadows of Angels

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I am happy and honored to be a part of the Laura Rollins blog tour for her debut novel Shadows of Angels.

Here is her Bio:

Laura Rollins is an avid dessert creator, fiction writer, and probably Lucille Ball’s biggest fan ever.

She homeschools her four young children and finds the kitchen a perfect place to teach them math – 1/2 cup plus 1/2 cup equals a full cup – science – add the lemon juice to the sugar because the acid is necessary for the sugar to melt – and, of course, manners – please don’t grab the beater from your brother, I’ll get you a spoon of cookie dough instead. While Laura enjoys all forms of cooking, baking, and any other culinary expression known to man, her heart always leads her back to deserts, treats and the sweet things on the table.

***

I met Laura through a local writers chapter. We became fast friends who were currently writing in the same genre. I’d just started dabbling in the young adult dark fantasy genre and so had she. I’d put my YA novel Vagabond on hold, while my other two books (women’s fiction) were published within three months of each other. We’d swapped first drafts of our fantasies. I felt bad to present her with such a mess of a work in progress as she had given me a polished, clean novel, which later became Shadows of Angels.

We would call each other and talk for hours about our novels. We’d exchanged edits back and forth, then back again. Every writer should—and needs—to have such a friend and critique partner. I love her descriptive, lyrical writing. I love her broad imagination. But mostly, I just love her as a person. In all honesty, by reading her bio, you’d never guess that such imagination and dark creatures could emerge from her brain. It’s surprising, if you know her, and that is another reason of what makes it so great.

Shadows of Angels is a dark fantasy with multiple points of view. Rollins tests her characters, both physically and mentally. Romance is not a main part of the story, although, there are traces and I am excited to see where she will be taking that element into her next novels in the series. Her many intriguing characters come alive on the page and dwell in a fabulous world.

So, please check out her new Young Adult novel Shadows of Angels. You won’t be disappointed.

Shadows of Angels Cover

Here is the blurb:
After the forest dwellers destroy her home and kill her father, Aerbrin sets off on a journey to find the truth about her people, her kingdom, and the mysterious Zaad stone that contains a power she never imagined. Magic and mystery join forces in this intriguing fantasy world. Full of shifting alliances and twists you won’t see coming, it’s a can’t-miss read.

Here is the excerpt:

Stay calm. Her father’s words echoed in her head. When you find yourself in danger, above all, stay calm. 

Aerbrin took a deep, steady breath and leaned down, reaching for her bow. One of the Forest Dwellers charged. It collided with her and knocked her to the floor. Raising a knotted fist, he bashed her head.

Sparks exploded across her vision. She tried to raise an arm, tried to call out. Her body wouldn’t respond. The Forest Dweller grunted again. The creature above her raised its fist again. She looked up. This was the end, she knew. When these monsters attacked, they killed everything. Animals, plants, and particularly humans. No one survived.

Closing her eyes, Aerbrin forced her body to relax. This time, there was no pain.

And Here are the purchase links:

Amazon

Barnes and Noble

Happy reading!

  • Tara

 

 

50,000 words of leftover casserole

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^^This is why I only wrote one blog post in November.^^

NaNoWriMo was hard this year. There were a few days, lumped together, that I didn’t write anything. Playing catch-up really killed the creative juices.

During the last two days of the month, I had to write 10,000 words to reach my goal. To me, that’s five chapters. Five! Those last words I wrote are comparable to mashing all of the Thanksgiving leftovers into one big glob of chunky casserole.

Early on, I’d prepared a nice, detailed grocery list, recipes, and outline for my Thanksgiving feast of words. See my outline HERE. I prepared for my meal all month and lovingly sprinkled words here and there like seasoned salt and pumpkin pie spice. They were glorious and touched on all of my senses. “Writing is the best thing ever!” I thought over and over, when I was naive and visions of delicious words consumed my thoughts.

The deadline drew closer and I still flitted around the kitchen with a smile, writing words that were beautiful to behold.

But soon it got sweaty in the kitchen. I couldn’t cook up the words as quickly as I had. The flavors began to muddle together. But I kept at it. I cinched my apron tight and pulled up my sleeves. I was determined to create something edible. The timer dinged just after I put on the last of the edible embellishments.

Edible is relative. Everyone has different tastes. I shrugged my aching shoulders and sampled my feast of words.

It stinks. The turkey is dry. The mashed potatoes are blobs of goo. My delicious novel is finished, yes, but it is dripping with plot holes, spelling mistakes, and red ink. Even the crust of the pumpkin pie is burnt!

It stinks BIG time.

But unlike a ruined feast, I can go back and fix things. I can take out and add and make it delicious. I can deconstruct the stinky casserole! The words are at least there. The concept, outline, and rough draft are there. I can clear the air and put gravy on the dry turkey. Pumpkin pie is better loaded up with whip cream and without the crust anyway, right?

After NaNoWriMo last year, I wrote a post on how to edit your novel. It is called “Whip it into shape.”  Here is the link.

I can fix this feast of a novel because I am determined to make it delicious!

Happy writing (and editing)

  • Tara

Thankful

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I sketched this up real quick on a poster board and am excited to see what my family writes on it tomorrow! Happiness is moving every single piece of furniture in your house to accommodate a large family 🙂

I like to write a quick Thankful post each year and I will continue to do so. Here is mine from last year. November is always a very busy month as I join NaNoWriMo and try to write a book in a month. Only a few days left! Eeep! November seems to be the month that I pull out all of my interests and struggle to make something from them. — I work more at the garden center arranging plants and flowers for Holiday preparation, I usually have an art show of some sort, I start working on Christmas songs with my guitar students, and I break out my measly cooking talents and try to mash a Thanksgiving meal together.— All while writing a book in a month.

I am thankful for my seeds of talents, wherever they are in the developmental stage. We’ve all got them. Some of our seeds are buried deep, some have grown and are beginning to bud, and some have fully blossomed. I’ve decided that talents first start as interests. Like, I have no interest in math or sports, therefore I am brain dead when it comes to math terms and incredibly uncoordinated with team sports. I have many interests and struggle and strive to turn them into talents. Planting the seeds, if you will.

I am convinced more and more that when someone has a great talent, they have sacrificed other talents to develop that one. I am also convinced that we can all be great, it’s just a matter of the focus and energy we put into it. To illustrate my point, here are a few examples:

Music – ah, music. I love music. I play guitar, piano, and a bit of violin. I listen to it all day long when I write. It touches my soul unlike anything else. There have been times I’ve listened to a song or paid attention to the lyrics and thought that I should have been a professional musician or songwriter. Ha! Like it’s some easy thing! I’ve found some seeds of interest scattered within myself and I strive to turn music into a talent by teaching what I’ve learned and by practicing a lot. If you’ve read my book Broken Smiles, you will see that the main character is basically living my dream.

Interior design – So, I’ve decorated things on a very large scale, so large in fact, that Disney came in and shot part of a T.V. series in my creation. I’ve decorated for countless parties with thousands of people, and smaller intimate parties in my home. I think sometimes that I should have been a professional interior decorator. Ha! Again, like it’s some easy thing. I’ve got the seeds planted and sometimes nurture that interest, but I wouldn’t say it’s a talent yet. Joanna Gaines from the TV series Fixer Upper is basically living my dream.

Art – This is a talent that always punches me in the gut and makes me feel guilty. Besides writing, nothing I create makes me happier than painting. I walk into museums and tears come to my eyes. I should have been a professional artist. I went to school for it, for heaven’s sake! I have had seeds planted for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I nurture the seeds and little buds or blossoms grow, but then something else captures my attention and my love for painting withers for a season.

But I never fully nurtured all those seeds of shoulda, woulda, coulda, and I’m okay with that. And I’m okay that someone else has developed those talents. In fact, I cheer them on and am truly happy when success comes back to them. Right now I am mainly nurturing one talent, and that is my writing. I don’t know what will ever come from it. I can hope and prepare and practice, and when the stars align, I pray to bless people’s lives with it, even if it is only one person – me.

Last week I watched an interview with the Piano Guys that was geared toward youth. I sat next to my children, their friends, and other youth in my neighborhood.

One of my favorite things I took away from the interview was:

“You don’t have to be a professional to bless those around you. You can do it in small ways. Pray for opportunities to use those talents that God has given you.”

Whether you have made a difference in hundreds, thousands, or even one person, the blessings come from when you’ve acknowledged your seeds of talent and nurtured them to bless others. It’s sharing those talents, no matter what stage they are in, that can bring you joy and give you self-confidence to continue on through the arduous task of practicing and learning to improve.

Another favorite from the interview was when one of the youth asked what to do when you struggle at not feeling good enough and are frustrated with trying to develop your talents.

Their answer, “Change it up. Try a different instrument, play different songs, then combine them all. There is meaning in all the small things we do. Small things beget great things.”

Yes, small things beget great things. Seeds turn into plants, that turn into blossoms, that others can enjoy.

After the interview the youth surrounding me said jealously, “I wish I could play like that. I wish I could make a difference. I wish, I wish, I wish.”

I wanted to shake them and say, “YOU CAN!”

It just takes nurturing the seed, whether it be one or several, that are already planted inside of you and to show your Thankfulness by developing those talents.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

  • Tara

 

Happy Halloween!

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

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Please enjoy some of the monstrous illustrations from my brother Todd Powelson.

You can find more of his amazing artwork on ARTDUH.COM or ToddPowelson.com

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Have a safe and spooky Halloween!

  • Tara 🙂

A party that was out of this WORLD!

A few weeks ago I attended a writers retreat with dozens of fabulous, talented women. I asked the organizer what I could do to help. She twiddled her thumbs, trying to think of something, because she’s very organized and had everything under control.

“Decorate and come up with a theme,” she said.

Interesting, because the cabin is set in a stunning backdrop and needs no added decor.

But I knew the theme I wanted the moment she asked for one.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you might know that I love to travel and collect globes.

One of my favorite quotes is from one of my favorite authors.

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“Not all those who

Wander

are lost.” 

-Tolkien

So that was my theme.

Authors travel. We travel in time machines, through  worm holes, throughout history, even to unchartered fantastical worlds. Our writing takes us to places where no others venture to go. But are we wandering . . . lost? Are we a crazy lot of people with our heads in the clouds?

No!

In my humble opinion, we are the ones who keep the world sane. We restore balance to a world that sometimes seems hopeless. Man, I love to read. Books have changed my life many, many times. But I love to write more. I hope to write something someday that changes someone for the better. Authors write to educate, entertain, or uplift. I hope to do all three at some point in my life.

I write because so many times I don’t know what to say. I write to sort out political injustices or religious grievances. I write to explore relationships and to kill off the villains in my personal life.

I write so that I can travel to all the places I wish to go, both in reality and in imagination.

I came up with an activity idea for the writers retreat. I bought a world map and attached it to a large piece of cardboard, then hung it on the wall with a bunch of push pins. I made a sign that said,

“Where in the World does your writing take you?”

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I loved to see where everyone traveled to when they write. If it was fantasy, I had them pin where they were basing the culture or landscape off of in our world.

It sparked many conversations between these authors that in many cases, didn’t know one another. “Oh! I wonder who else is writing a novel set in Hawaii.” “Look, someone is writing a novel set in Nepal. I’ve always wanted to go there!” “I wonder why that pin is in the middle of the ocean. Maybe it’s set on a boat or the city Atlantis. I’m going to go ask around and find out.” Conversations like those made me smile.

Here are a few other things I did for the writers retreat. These could also be altered for a birthday party or a farewell party for someone moving away.

I made about thirty of these wooden plaques. Yes, I love writers that much!

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It was a lot of work, but I wanted them to have something to take home. I collect maps and atlases, so I cut a bunch of maps down to size, sent them to the printer, and had them print the Tolkien quote on top. I shredded the paper edges, mod-podged them on pre-cut wood, then stained everything. If you want more information on how to make these, you can ask in the comment section. But it was very much like my process of my tree painting, shown here.

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I also love plants and brought a whole bunch of orchids and hydrangeas with me. These were for give-a-ways and drawings. I lined the pots with plastic to collect water, wrapped the pots and liners in map fabric, then tied with a piece of twine. My favorite part was that I printed a whole bunch of inspiring quotes on scraps of atlas, stuck them on skewers, and put them in the plants. All of them related to the theme and were easy to find because Pinterest is my favorite site ever! Here is my quote board on Pinterest.

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I also made atlas wreaths.

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And atlas banners.

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Here we are staying up past 2:00 am playing games. So much fun!

But the most important part was the treat table. I mean, writers need fuel. Right?

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My treat contribution were those atlas pages, which I shaped into cones, and then filled with candy. So easy and transportable to all those nooks and crannies that we authors like to find and write in!

Well, there you have it. Now you know how writers party.

  • Tara 🙂

Plotting for NaNoWriMo

I wrote a post last year about how to edit your NaNoWriMo. For those of you who don’t know what that is, here is the official link to the competition. Basically, it’s writing a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. Sound crazy? Yes, yes it is. And so, so much fun! I’ve done it three times. Once I reached 50,000 words and the other two times I got somewhere near 35,000 words. I think the reason why I didn’t finish the other two times was because I hadn’t prepared and plotted properly.

I’m fixin’ to change that. Hopefully this helps you. I’ve plotted novels so many ways and this by far is the best. I mean the very BEST plotting I have ever done. I’ve gone through a lot of trial and error, started and finished four books, and started and NOT finished about twelve. I’ve always either gotten sick of the story or have no clue what happens after the honeymoon stage of a new book idea wears thin.

So what’s my secret to writing 12,000 words in one day, plotting the whole novel the next day, and currently being halfway through my manuscript after only three weeks?

Caffeine. Just kidding, I’m trying so hard to kick that habit to the curb.

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The secret is marrying the writing program Scrivener and the book Save the Cat by Blake Snyder!

If you are unaware of the program and the book and you are wanting to plot a novel, buy them now. I mean now! Scrivener was like $40 and so awesome! There is a learning curve, so learn the program before NaNoWriMo starts. Also, read Save the Cat before NaNoWriMo. I know it is a formula for screenwriting, but it works for novels just as well.  It will help your brain think in story structure before you even begin writing. So, before I show you my plotting technique, I’m assuming that you at least know the basics of both Scrivener and Save the Cat. I will try to be as simple as possible.

First: I thought of the word count I wanted to end at. 80,000 words for a young adult novel sounds about right for a starting point. I divided that into 40 chapters. 2,000 words per chapter, give or take. Along the left side of Scrivener in the binder section where it says draft, I named my book. Then I clicked on the green circle with the + sign 40 times and added in my chapters below.

Second: I started placing the Save the Cat plot structure at my chapters. I divided it into four parts first, even though there are fifteen major plot points. Chapter one – opening scene. Chapter ten – catalyst. Chapter twenty – midpoint. Chapter thirty – Dark night of the soul. Chapter forty – final image. These are all reference to Save the Cat. I started plotting big picture. What is my catalyst? What even is a catalyst? I put Blake Snyders definition in the white synopsis section on the right side and my story catalyst in the yellow note section. If you don’t see these sections in Scrivener, then press the i (inspector) in the blue circle in the top right corner and they will pop up. (See my bottom right photo below) Leave the inspector open as you write and plot. I did the same in chapter 20 – midpoint, 30 – dark night, and 40 – final image.

This four part story structure reminded me of J. Scott Savages class at Storymakers. He is a fantastic presenter and has many great writing tips on his blog. I’m highlighting him because he is my boy’s favorite author and he has another book releasing in a couple weeks. Anyway, you can check him out HERE.

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Third: I filled in the rest of the plot points. (See above left photo) After a bit of shuffling around, this is where my other fifteen plot points landed. Yours might not fall where mine did. No worries, this is how stories vary. I don’t want yours exactly like mine. 🙂

Chapter One – opening scene

Chapter Two – theme stated

Chapter Five – set up

Chapter Ten – catalyst

Chapter Twelve – debate

Chapter Thirteen – break into two

Chapter Fifteen – B story

Chapter Seventeen – fun and games

Chapter Twenty – mid-point

Chapter Twenty three – bad guys close in

Chapter Twenty seven – all is lost

Chapter Thirty – dark night of the soul

Chapter Thirty two – break into three

Chapter Thirty five – finale begins (gathering team, execute plan, high tower surprise, dig down deep, execute new plan)

Chapter Forty – final image

The thing I love about having this always visible in the left hand side is because I know what is coming and where my story should be heading. Before, when I wrote in word, I’d have different documents, plot books, and sketchbooks that I’d have to reference to on a constant basis to remind me where my story was headed. Now it’s always there. Pressing me forward, encouraging me. I take writing sessions in clumps and tell myself “just write to the B story or the debate, come on, that’s only 3,000 words away” or something like that. Or I look at the word count per chapter (at the bottom of middle screen) and encourage myself “only 400 words left to write in the chapter. You can do it!” It’s all a mind game, you know.

Forth: Because I love the readers of my blog, I have taken the time and highlighted the key elements for every plot point. I have put these under the white lined synopsis section on the right hand side of my Scrivener program. I still think you should read the whole book though.

  * Chapter One – opening scene – Very first impression. Sets the tone, mood, and type of story. Shows the starting point of the hero. Must Hook the reader. The opening and final image should be opposites. Because of some of these things, more often than not, a prologue doesn’t work. Here is a post I wrote about that.

     * Chapter Two – theme stated – Pose a question or make a statement (usually not by the main character) What is the story about?? State it loud and clear and follow through the goal with action. Is your hero’s goal clearly stated? A hero never asks questions. Is your hero active or passive? Do things happen too easy for your hero?

     * Chapter Five – set up – Plant every character tic that needs to be addressed later.
Show how and why the character needs to change to win. Show what the hero is lacking. The calm before the storm.

     * Chapter Ten – catalyst – Life changing events. It’s the opposite of good news. First moment when something BIG happens.

     * Chapter Twelve – debate – The last chance for the hero to say “this is crazy.” Should I go? Do I dare? Moment of truth. Make a firm decision and off they go.

     * Chapter Thirteen – break into two – Moment when we leave the old world. Hero must make the decision himself. The act of stepping from act one into act two must be definite. (Blake Snyder uses the three part story structure, which is great too.)

     * Chapter Fifteen – B story – The love story portion. The story that carries the theme of the book. B-story is a breather. Can introduce a brand new bunch of characters.

     * Chapter Seventeen – fun and games – The promise of the premise. It’s the core and essence of the book cover. What about this book is cool? Heart of the book. We take a break from the stakes and see what the idea is all about. Lighter in tones than other sections.

     * Chapter Twenty – mid-point – It’s either an up (where hero seemingly peaks) or down (false collapse.) Stakes are raised at midpoint. Fun and games are over—back to the story. False victory or false defeat. Nothing is as good as it seems.

     * Chapter Twenty three – bad guys close in – Mid-point bad guys are defeated. Bad guys decide to regroup and send heavy artillery. Internal dissent, doubt, and jealousy begin to disintegrate the hero’s team. Forces against the hero tighten their grip. Headed for a huge fall.

     * Chapter Twenty seven – all is lost – Opposite of the midpoint. False defeat—all hope is lost. All aspects of the hero’s life are in shambles. No hope. “Whiff of death”—
if it isn’t an actual death, hint at something else; dead goldfish, plant, etc. Old world, old thinking, and old character dies. Maybe attempt of suicide—that’s how low the character feels.

     * Chapter Thirty – dark night of the soul – Darkness right before dawn.
The hero reaches way down and pulls out the last, best idea that will save himself and everyone around him. But at that moment the idea is no where in sight.
“Oh Lord, why hast thou forsaken me?” attitude. Hopeless, clueless, drunk, and stupid.
We admit our humility and humanity. We must be beaten and know it to get the lesson.

     * Chapter Thirty two – break into three – Tadaa—realize the solution. The characters in the B story and conversations discussing theme in the B story, and thanks to the hero’s last best effort to discover a solution to beat the bad guys who’ve been closing in and winning A story, the answer is found! A and B story intertwine. An idea to solve the problem has emerged.

     * Chapter Thirty five – finale begins – (gathering team, execute plan, high tower surprise, dig down deep, execute new plan) ACT 3 begins—Wrap everything up over the next few chapters. The lessons are learned and applied. The character tics are mastered.
Turning over old world and a creation of a new one—all thanks to the hero, who leads the way based on what he has experienced in the upside-down world of Act Two.

Dispatching of all the bad guys in order:
Lieutenants and henchman first, then the boss.
The chief source of the problem must be dispatched completely for the new world order to exist. New society is born.

     * Chapter Forty – final image – Opposite of the opening image. It is your proof that change has occurred and that it’s real. The End 🙂

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(example of my Break Into Three in chapter 32)

Fifth: I begin to fill in the story. Based off the turning points above, I’ll write my theme, or mid-point, or dark night of the soul, or final image scenes. This has helped me tremendously to see where my own personal story is going. I don’t outline scene or spaces between the beats or turning points. I’ve got to have some freedom and creativity! And it’s nice to have it all plotted out so that when I wake up in the middle of the night, dreaming about a scene that isn’t where I currently am writing, I jump up and write a quick scene in a future chapter.

Sixth: Now when I have a quick idea or gem of dialogue come to me (usually in the shower or in the middle of the night!) I put them in the yellow note section on the left hand bar or on the bulletin board which is another very cool thing about Scrivener.

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* I highly, highly recommend plotting before you start Nanowrimo or begin a new novel. This system alone has made writing easier and faster for me.

Now, let me say something about writing in such a formulaic way. If everyone did it, books would get boring. This is what I found works best for me after reading endless plot books, sitting through many conferences, and after a lot of trial and error. However, many people are considered pantsers and I have also written books that way. The wonderful thing about writing, is the variety. It’s the creative process. To me, I thought plotting in such a way would kill the creative process. But the more I write and want to do this professionally, the more I realized that I needed a system and schedule.

This blog post took forever to research and write and I hope it was helpful. Regardless, it’ll be good for me to have as a reference. I just wanted to share because I think this would be a great way to plot a NaNoWriMo and it gives you a month and a half to plan and plot before the craziness begins.

Was this helpful? Do you use another method to plot your novel, or are you a pantser? I’d love to hear about it! Thanks!

Good luck and happy writing! You can check out more of my writing tips HERE:

Tara