Today’s Featured Author: Tara K. Young

Today I am excited to feature an interview with author Tara K. Young.

About the Author

1.         What or who inspired you to start writing?

As a kid, I loved the way stories made me feel whether they were dispensed through books, movies, or video games. Then I got into the work of Christopher Pike as a teenager. The Last Vampire series and Road to Nowhere had a huge impact on my teenage mind and I began writing my own novels. They were pretty awful at first and most of them went unfinished but they fed my developing addiction to adventure stories.

2.         Have you started your next project? If so, can you share a little bit about your next book?

My next project (working title: Courted Sanctuary) will be released this fall. It’s a historical fantasy that takes place in 13th century Europe. It follows Luitgard and Sieglinde, the High Priestesses of an isolated tribe hiding in Germany. When Justin, a Dominican friar, shows up despite the protections that should have kept him away, it naturally creates a bit of chaos. As Justin and Luitgard come to realize they are both being manipulated, they embark on dangerous a journey to Rome for answers. They discover that they have a shared history that brought them together while Sieglinde learns that her home is not nearly as well protected as she had thought. I had the idea for this story around ten years ago, even before I started Gods’ Masks. I mulled over it for a long time to get it just right and I have to say that I’m rather pleased with the outcome. I can’t wait to read it again and I wrote it!

3.         What is the best and worst advice you ever received? (regarding writing or publishing)

Just get the words out and don’t think about them. Worrying about grammar or what other people will think on a first draft makes the writing stifled and bland. Grammar and worrying about an audience can come in editing later.

4.         What is the best thing about being a writer? The worst?

The best thing is being able to get all these ideas out of my head and share them with people. I love letting my imagination loose. The worst feeling comes from publishing. Publishing isn’t just sharing; it’s business. I dislike having to sell myself along with the books. It goes with the territory but it does not come naturally to me. I have to work at it much more than I do the actual writing.

 5.         How do you conceive your plot ideas?

I have very vivid and weird dreams. I grew up thinking everyone does but it’s actually quite rare. The novella The Monstrous Hunt is from a dream in which a man told me the story of the woman he loved. I took it, tweaked it, and altered the ending from how it ended in the dream.

6.         Do you outline your books or just start writing?

A little bit of both. Often, I will write a page or two based on single aspect from a dream. Trying to figure out what the story is about from that, I start outlining. I usually write a pretty loose outline at first and then polish it and rearrange it as I write more.My outlines are often boring before I start writing and my writing tends to be stifled when I stick too closely to the original outlines. My current process is messy but it seems to work.

7.     What book are you reading right now?

Soul Bonds by E.M. Sinclair. I’m only halfway but so far it is quite good. It follows a slave girl who finds herself in the lair of hatchling dragons and becomes bonded to one of them.

About her Book

1.         Please tell us about your current release.

Gods’ Masks is the first book of The Moirean Tapestry series. It is an introduction to the main characters who will appear throughout the rest of the series. You can read more about it on my website and download the epub for free there.

2.         What inspired you to write this book?

I’m trained as an archaeologist but studied world cultures for years even before that. I began to muse about how to fit them to the archaeology. I rearranged them and mashed unrelated ones together. While considering that all myths might have a grain of truth, I also wondered what the real story would be if all those myths were wrong. The mixture I came up with led to the invention of the Thinkers in Gods’ Masks.

3.         Which of your characters is your favorite? Do you dislike any of them?

At the moment, it’s Lapidus. He has turned into an explorer which makes him more interesting. I plan to spend most of 2013 working on the fourth book of the series which will be entirely devoted to him. It will be the first of the books that does not follow several main characters at once.

4.         If this book is part of a series, what is the next book? Any details you can share?

Book 4 will be based on the Siberian archaeology I have done. I haven’t decided exactly when the story will take place but possibly around six thousand years ago. It will begin with Lapidus coming across one of the hunter-gatherer cultures there. He will begin to recall the past and learn how to overcome the goddess that has been hunting him. There will also be the return of a character that was lost in the second book, The Whispering War.

Book Description:

When an ancient prophecy resurfaces and is misinterpreted, Altruvia, the heiress to a utopian society of a race of godlike beings, is ripped from her home. Along with her twin brother, they discover that the political intrigues of their time have roots in events dating back possibly as far as the creation of our own universe.

Author Bio:

Tara K.Young has written two short stories, one novella, and three full length novels. Almost all of her work includes archaeological references because she has spent the last decade as a computing archaeologist. She has assisted in the excavation or research of Neolithic and Bronze Age hunter-gatherers in Siberia, early farmers in Japan, vikings in England, and First Nations and fur traders in Canada. She currently resides in Alberta, Canada with her husband, daughter, and cats.

You can check out all of her books on her website.

Cats as characters in your novel

Recently, I wrote about dragons in my fantasy writing series. Today, I would like to address using cats as characters. Now, I chose cats because I am a cat-lover. But these same ideas could work just as well if you wanted to use dogs, horses or some other animal. And much of this can be used for other genres besides fantasy.

When developing cats as a character in your novel, one of the first things you must decide is will they be able to communicate or “speak” to other animals as the animals do in Rita Mae Brown’s Mrs. Murphy mysteries or are they going to be restricted to just cat-like behavior such as the cats Koko and Yum Yum from Lillian Jackson Braun’s Cat Who series.

In my novel, Summoned, one of my main characters, Tosh, is a small grey cat. Since this is a fantasy novel, I had the liberty to have the cats actually communicate telepathically with each other and the human characters. Cats with this ability are actually called STACS.  (Yes, that is just CATS spelled backwards. J)

However, telepathy is not the only method of communication used. A lot of what a cat says is through non-verbal behavior, which provides another outlet for telling the story.  I took many of the behaviors of my own cats and incorporated them into Tosh so that I had a good mix of cat-like behavior and intelligence that I would expect a cat to possess.  Here is an excerpt from Summoned:

A veil of clouds passed in front of the moon casting darkness over the street. Tosh paused a moment, allowing his eyes to adjust to the dim light. The air smelled of smoke and cooked meat mixed with the woodsy scent of the nearby forest. The STAC silently crept to the edge of the porch roof and gazed into the night. His eyes passed over the closed shops, their windows dark. No one was about at this late hour except Tosh and the boy.

He had heard the boy sneak out the door a few minutes earlier. Curiosity caused him to leave his warm spot by Lina to see where he was going. Now Tosh spotted the youth as he wandered down the cobblestone street making no effort to conceal his movements. Tosh leapt from the patio roof, his paws hitting the ground soundlessly. Following the boy, he crept down the street sticking to the shadows. Coy confidently strolled down the street, never looking back, never glancing at the buildings surrounding him. As he neared the corner, he suddenly vanished. Tosh blinked. His eyes searched the street, seeking him in the shadows but the boy was gone.

Of course working with animals you are restricted with what they are able to do physically. You have to work around the fact that they can’t open doors or pick up larger items. And if you are going to have them in a major role such as Tosh, you need to develop them just like you would any other character. This goes beyond their physical description. They need a history, their own quirks and problems. But by taking something I know well such as cats and incorporating a little fantasy in there, I was able to produce a very unique character.

Handling a Bad Book Review

Last week, I wrote about the importance of getting book reviews for your novel. One thing you have to be prepared for is the dreaded negative review. Every author at one time or another will get a less than stellar review. However, you get to choose how to handle it.

1.) You could ignore it and chalk it up to someone just not liking your novel because face it – not everyone likes the same things. Most readers understand that no book pleases everyone and that any book reviewed often enough will occasionally get a bad review. Actually, multiple glowing reviews often are dismissed by readers as reviews by family and friends. Negative reviews are taken more seriously because readers usually believe they represent an honest review from a disappointed reader.

2.)  Remember that a negative review may actually make your book sell. A negative review might pique the interest of someone. I know several romance writers who say that they sometimes see an increase in sales if someone complains about the graphic nature of their novel. While descriptive sex scenes may turn off one reader who swears it is porn, it may cause another reader to read it just to see if the reviewer is correct in their assessment.

3.) This one deals more with a professional book review rather than one that you got off of Amazon or Goodreads. You can turn the negative review into a positive because most reviewers will still list some good points. You can always use those positive words in part of your marketing. (The film industry does this quite a bit.)

The one thing I would caution is not to respond to the negative reviewer, unless they have stated something that is just not true and that untrue statement could hurt your book sales. An example would be for the reviewer to call your book erotica when it clearly is a wholesome Christian book with nothing more risqué than a simple kiss on the lips.

As tempting as it is to fire off a scathing rebuttal, your best bet if you want to respond at all is to say, “Thank you for taking the time to read and review my work.” And then move on. Your response – or better your lack of response – can certainly affect how well your book sells, perhaps better than a mediocre review. When you take the time to tell someone that their opinion is wrong, you risk not only the loss of that reader but the other readers who hear about your tirade. It also can affect future book sales because now you have a reviewer who may be just waiting for your next novel to bash you some more.

If there is anything you should take from a negative review is that your book provoked somebody enough to write about your book. Remember some of the greatest authors have had their works torn to shreds. So don’t fear the negative review. Either let it go or find a way to use it to your benefit because as they say any publicity is better than no publicity.

Healthy snacks and lunches for school? Not my kids…

School starts today for Jase. And with the beginning of every school year, I see articles online and in my newspaper (yes, I still get the local daily paper) about healthy snacks and lunches for kids. But I always look at the recipes or suggestions and think “my kid isn’t going to eat that!”

Lexie won’t eat sandwiches at all and Jase will only eat jelly spread on a single slice of bread. They don’t eat soup or bagels with cream cheese. No boiled eggs or raw veggies eaten here. Now Jase will eat bananas, apples or grapes sometimes, but he is unlikely to want to eat them every day. Lexie is my fruit eater – berries, mangos, apples, pretty much any fruit except kiwi, melons and pineapple. Neither one will eat applesauce.  Nuts, seeds and dried fruit are out for both of them so that excludes trail mix from their snacking. And you can skip trying to feed them cheese though both will eat yogurt – just not the kind out of a tube.

So the items they say to stay away from – processed foods such as goldfish and pretzels – are what my kids will eat and are the easy things to pack for a snack at school.  The school don’t allow snacks that need refrigeration or the use of utensils. Though Jase no longer needs a snack at school as he is entering the first grade, Lexie still has two more years (pre-K and kindergarten) of packing a snack.

Now Jase is my picky eater. He doesn’t eat a wide variety of things. Last year when he was in kindergarten, I tried sending him some hot lunches to school, but he complained they were not hot enough by lunch time (five hours after I put them in his Star Wars Thermos food jar). This left me with pretty much sending him the same things every day – a jelly sandwich, pretzels, yogurt, and low fat chocolate milk. Sometimes I would include apples or grapes or even a cookie as a special treat. About four to five times a month he would opt to eat the school lunch (pizza, spaghetti, tacos, hotdogs or at their weekly yogurt bar).

This is the first year that I will need to send a lunch with Lexie. And I am at a loss on what to send with her. She doesn’t eat the traditional lunch things such as soup or sandwiches.  And while she will eat fruit, I don’t know if just fruit and yogurt will be filling enough as a lunch.

I don’t consider either child’s lunch to be unhealthy. I guess if I wanted to I could send them with the healthy lunch items listed in these articles with the mentality that if they are hungry, they will eat it. However, my kids are stubborn. I can see them deciding not to eat anything if they didn’t like the choices. So rather than have them hungry at school, I stick with sending them food that I know they will eat. Yes, it may not be the healthiest items, but at least they won’t be distracted by hunger when they should be learning.