Well folks, 2016 is (finally) coming to a close. Every year around this time, I like to reflect back on the last twelve months and try to sum up the year in one word. For me, that word was transition. Between changing jobs, entering into the final portion of my Master’s program, readying my first book for publication, and preparing to move to a new city, a lot has changed this year. But I also like to look forward, and decide on a single word that represents my resolutions for the coming year. For 2017, that word is adventure. All too often, especially when things in the world and my personal life get stormy, I react by clinging to the familiar and the easy. That’s fine sometimes—everyone needs to recharge—but in 2017, I am determined to get out there and try new things more often. That’s why I made the list below of ideas that could fill every weekend in 2017!

Now, of course, I’m not going to have time (or cash) to go on all of these adventures in just one year, but I plan to check out as many as I can. So if like me you’re looking to shake up your routine in 2017, here’s a run-down on some weekend excursions. I’ve included ideas for every budget (including free!) as well as every comfort level (from the relaxing to the daring). Have you tried any of these? Have any ideas for adventurous weekends I didn’t put here? I’d love to hear about your own experiences and thoughts in the comments!

  1. Learn to scuba dive or go snorkeling($$$)– One of the pricier adventures on the list, this adventure could be the start of an exciting new hobby. Even if you don’t live near the ocean, you might be surprised about the local opportunities for diving when you research your local dive shop.

  2. Hike somewhere new (free-$)– Hiking is a perfect way to get some fresh air, take in amazing views, and get a new perspective on your area. I suggest trying a new trail, especially if you can find one with an extra special view or feature. One of my favorite hikes ever was Ice Glen in Great Barrington, MA. I lived in the area for years, but didn’t know it existed until I visited years later! So talk to your outdoorsy friends or do a little research—you never know what you might find.

  3. Volunteer at an animal shelter or other charity (free)– Want to combine adventure with doing some good? Look into local charities that need volunteers either on a regular basis or for special events. Animal shelters/rescues are my personal recommendation, but there are all types of ways to give back and have fun at the same time.

  4. Visit a roadside attraction ($)– Sure, they’re often cheesy and over-priced, but they can also be a ton of fun! If you’re a Virginian like me, I highly recommend Foamhenge (recently relocated to Fairfax, VA) or Dinosaurland. What they lack in historical accuracy, they more than make up with whimsical charm.

  5. Go on a ghost tour (or hunt!) ($)– These are offered in many cities/towns around Halloween, but some of the more “haunted” cities may have options available all year round. For the believers who want to go even deeper, try researching and connecting with the local paranormal research community to see if you can get involved with ghost hunting. I’ve done a bit of both, and just a tip: Savannah, GA is where I’ve had some of the spookiest encounters.

  6. Go kayaking ($-$$)– Or canoeing, rafting, whatever your preference. Kayaking is a great way to exercise and check out areas only accessible by water. Research options for special kayaking trips as well. Some of my favorites have included a bio-luminescence tour and a search for prothonatory warblers.

  7. Go birding (free-$$$)– Speaking of warblers, some of the craziest adventures I’ve gone on have been birding trips. Sound nerdy or old-fashioned? Maybe, but there’s nothing like the thrill of seeing a rare species, or even learning to identify what you see and hear. The best way to get started is to contact your local bird club, since it’s helpful to have an experienced birder on the trip to point out the best spots and help with identifications. If birds aren’t your thing, you can also try “herping” (i.e. looking for reptiles) or other naturalist excursions.

    pine warbler

  8. Go zip-lining ($)– Flying through the trees, speeding from platform to platform, the world nothing but a blur beneath your feet—does it get any better? Try out your own Tarzan scream for bonus points!

  9. Go monster hunting ($-$$$)– Okay, hear me out on this one. Skeptics and believers alike have searched for mythical beasts for centuries, sometimes with surprising results. Think you don’t have any creatures to search for in your area? You may be surprised with a little research. For my Virginians, check out Mr. L.B. Taylor’s book “Monsters of Virginia” for ideas. Just make sure to stay off private property (or get permission)!

  10. Go camping ($$)– There’s nothing like a tent, campfire, and s’mores to get you feeling like a kid again. Try combining a camping trip with some of the other ideas on this list to up your adventure factor.

  11. Visit an Escape Room ($$)- This is on the top of my list for the coming year! Who doesn’t want to connect with their inner Sherlock Holmes and sleuth their way out of a crazy situation? Attractions like this are popping up all over the country, but be sure to plan this adventure in advance as reservations are usually necessary.

  12. Try Geo-caching (free)- Here’s your chance to tap into your Indiana Jones fantasies and try some real-world “treasure hunting”. You can register with the official app to get started for free! I haven’t tried this one yet, so would love to hear about your experiences if you have.

  13. Plan/go on a scavenger hunt (free)– You can either get together with friends and create your own teams and challenges, or keep an eye out for scavenger hunt events in your area. I recently used the app traipse to go on a Harry Potter themed “Horcrux Hunt”, and had a blast (don’t worry—we found them all!).

  14. Visit a Historical Site (free-$)- No yawning allowed! History is filled with amazing stories, and it can be exciting to visit sites where such stories occurred. Again, research is your friend. My personal recommendation has to be Harper’s Ferry, the site of John Brown’s raid, but you can find fascinating bits of history just about anywhere you go.

  15. Go on a museum crawl (free-$$)– Have you ever watched the Travel Channel show Mysteries at the Museum? If you have, I don’t need to tell you how many different and unique museums there are out there, just waiting to be explored. Washington DC is obviously a great choice since the museums are mostly free and close-together, but you may have some amazing options much closer by.

  16. Go rock-climbing ($$)– Depending on your experience, you can either try an indoor wall or an outdoor climb. Either way, another fun way to combine exercise and adventure (lord knows my upper arms could use a little strength-training!).

  17. Visit a lake, river, or beach ($)– Another classic that can be especially adventurous when combined with other ideas.

  18. Experience a LARP or re-enactment ($-$$$)- LARP stands for Live Action Roleplay, events that let you unleash your inner warrior princess or wizard. Check out online groups or postings at your local comic book/game store for info. Not really the corset-wearing, staff-wielding type? Maybe a historical reenactment is more your scene!

  19. Go to a convention ($$)– Whatever it is that you love, whether it’s comic books, video games, rare coins, or films, there’s a convention (or ten!) out there for you. Keep an eye for ones coming nearby and remember to buy your tickets early, when they often have special pricing.

  20. Go horseback riding ($)- Whether you’re a novice or an experienced rider, there’s just something freeing about riding a horse. Beach rides, trail rides, or even simple lessons are a great way to spend some time with a four-legged companion.

  21. Learn archery ($-$$$)- Legolas, Hawkeye, Katniss… the list of awesome archers goes on. Granted it would take you more than a weekend to master this skill, but you can still learn the basics and see if this is a hobby you want to explore more.

    UNITED STATES - DECEMBER 01: "The Lord of the Rings: The fellowship of the ring" In United States In December, 2001-Orlando Bloom as Legolas. (Photo by 7831/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
    (Photo by 7831/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)
  22. Take a self-defense course ($$$)– Part adventurous, part empowering, learn to protect yourself by participating in a self-defense workshop or longer course. While I hope you never have to use these skills, it never hurts to know what to do in a bad situation.

  23. Go to a shooting range ($-$$)– Another skill to file away in the “I hope you never have to use” section. We live in a country where there are more guns than people, so it isn’t a bad idea to at least learn basic gun safety/handling.

  24. Go to a jazz bar ($)– Jazz is all about improvisation, so no two nights at a jazzy joint will be the same. Dress up, enjoy a cocktail or two, and take in the local talent. Sing or play an instrument yourself? Why not look into options to perform yourself?

  25. Do karaoke ($)- One of my favorite TV shows ever, Angel, featured a karaoke bar frequented by demons and vampires. While your local bar will likely feature human clientele, there’s still something exciting about putting yourself out there and embracing your inner diva.

  26. Go dancing ($)– Salsa, tango, ballroom, clubbing—the options are endless!

  27. Go contra dancing (free-$)- For an extra dose of something different, check out contra dancing. Think Jane Austen-esque reels mixed with folk dancing. These family friendly events are a great way to try something new!

  28. Eat adventurously ($-$$)- You don’t have to go all “Bizarre Foods” on me (unless you want to), but sometimes eating something a little different can help get you in the spirit to try other new things.

  29. Get a psychic reading ($-$$)– Palmistry, tarot reading, pet psychic—whatever captures your fancy enough to suspend your disbelief and embrace the unknown.

  30. Run a themed 5K etc. ($)– Try a color run, obstacle course, or even a zombie run! A great way to get you moving and tap into your imagination.

  31. Investigate local legends (free)- Similar to the ideas about ghost or monster hunting, you might try looking into the local color that makes your town unique. You may gain new appreciation for places you pass every day, or learn of opportunities for continued research and exploration.

  32. Go hang-gliding, para-sailing, or skydiving ($$$)– Who doesn’t have that on their bucket list?

  33. Visit an ethical animal attraction (free-$)– It’s always an adventure to spend some time with furry (or scale-y) friends. Just make sure to do your research and only patronize well-regarded, ethical establishments that put the animals first.

  34. Climb a tree (free)- Hey, it may sound simple, but when was the last time you did it? Just be careful and wear appropriate shoes/clothes. Scraped knees are all part of the adventure, but I don’t want anyone hurting themselves seriously!

  35. Go spelunking or visit a cavern ($)– Another great way to reach your inner Indiana Jones. Though, hopefully, the caves you visit won’t be booby-trapped.


  36. Go snow-tubing, skiing, or snowboarding ($$-$$$)- Just because the temperature drops doesn’t mean your spirit of adventure has to as well. There are snow sport options for every skill level, so try whatever sounds the most fun to you.

  37. Go to a “haunted” house or trail ($)- Like ghost tours, these tend to pop up around Halloween. Nothing like a good jump scare to get you in the Halloween spirit!

  38. Make art or learn a craft ($-$$)- Draw, paint, sculpt, knit, needle felt…whatever calls to you. Think you’re not an artist? Try a guided event like a “sip-and-splash” (aka wine + painting) to learn more.

  39. Visit your local library or check out their programs (free)- Again, no laughing or yawning. I’m 100% serious here, and I’m not just saying this because my mom is a librarian. Despite the stereotypes, libraries are hubs for free speech and expression. Nowadays, some libraries offer a lot more than books, including maker spaces with access to art supplies, recording studios, or 3D printers, as well as a multitude of programs for all ages. In the past few months alone I’ve attended a Shakespearean ball (with free henna tattoos, fairy crowns, and personalized caricatures) and a screenwriting course, as well as hosted a nature walk. So take the great Wishbone’s advice and visit your local library today.

  40. Go treasure-hunting (free-$$$)- This might be the fact that I just marathonned season 1 of Expedition Unknown talking, but there are still many mysteries left to be solved, and treasures large and small left to find. And even if there are no stories of hidden gold in your town, you can check out local antique stores, thrift shops, and yard sales for special finds that might be worth more than you realize.

  41. Go on a weekend trip ($$$+)- Try saving on usual travel expenses by staying with friends (or checking out AirBnB). You can also keep an eye out for deals on plane, bus, or train tickets. This is one adventure that might require you to save-up a bit, but it is definitely worth it if you can. If you do stay with friends, make sure to offer to return the favor if they’re ever in your neck of the woods!

  42. Visit a nearby town you’ve never been to ($-$$)- Here’s an idea on how to travel without breaking the bank. You may be surprised at the interesting places and things to do just outside of your usual haunts, so why not take a day trip out of your comfort zone?

  43. Go to a Renaissance Fair or Celtic Festival ($-$$)- All the fun of going back in time without all the pesky complications of actual time-travel!

  44. Go to a concert (free-$$$)– Whether it’s a local band or someone a little bit bigger, the energy of concerts are hard to beat. Especially fun if you can find one at an interesting venue, like an arboretum or historical building.

  45. Go to a speakeasy ($)– Secret, unmarked doors, prohibition era cocktails, back rooms behind false walls—these are not just things of the past. See if you can learn about the secret spots hidden around your city!

  46. Visit a brewery, distillery, or winery ($$)- Support a local business or visit one of the larger manufacturers of your favorite libation, either way it’s a great way to learn and try new drinks.

  47. Go surfing, paddle-boarding, water-tubing, or boogie boarding ($$)- Just like snow sports, there are water sports for just about every level of skill or daring. Get out there chase those waves!

  48. Go paint-balling or laser-tagging ($)- Remember, humming the James Bond or Star Wars theme music to yourself makes it even cooler (but not too loudly—you don’t want to give away your position).

  49. Go biking (free-$)- Dust off your old ride, borrow a friend’s, or rent one for the day. Even if you haven’t ridden one in years, what’s that saying…?

  50. Go sledding or make a slip-and-slide (free-$$)- This adventure has options for both winter and summer, all you need now is a big hill!

  51. Make a short film ($-$$$)- Whether it’s a goofy movie shot on your cell phone just for fun, or a serious project you might be able to showcase, film-making isn’t just for the Hollywood elites. Check out local competitions or clubs to learn more.

  52. Make a radical change to your appearance ($-$$$)- Get a tattoo. Dye or cut your hair. Pierce something. Whatever it is, sometimes making an external change is a great way to build your confidence and inspire yourself to try other new things! Tip- there’s something magical about pink hair.

Those are my ideas–have any of your own? Please share below and let’s make 2017 the most adventurous year yet!

Hey everyone! As a newbie-vegan, I thought it might be fun and helpful to track my meal plans as I start down this fulfilling journey. So if you’re a newbie-vegan like me, hopefully these “Adventures in Veganism” posts will help you along your journey too. If you’re an old pro, then maybe you’ll get some ideas for yummy new dishes (and I would love for you to share your faves in the comments!). And for all my omnivorous friends out there, I hope you might be inspired to try a dish or two for Meatless Monday.

Here’s the plan for 6/26-7/2: Counting snacks, drinks, and other extras, our grocery bill still came in comfortably under $100. (I cook for two, but two people well over six feet tall, so probably more like four)

Sunday: Vegan “Chicken Parmesan”

  • Gardein chicken tenders with marinara sauce, pasta, and go veggie “parmesan cheese”

Monday: Asian Stir Fry

  • Squash noodles (using a vegetti), tofu, snow peas, peppers, all mixed up with soy sauce/ginger/garlic/coconut oil/thai sweet chili sauce

Tuesday: Meatless Meatball Subs

  • Gardein meatless meatballs in marinara sauce on wheat sub rolls, topped with black olives and goveggie “parmesan cheese”

Wednesday: Tofu Wraps

  • Sliced tofu with mustard (or vegan condiment of choice), olives, peppers, spinach, in spinach wraps.

Thursday: Orange “Chicken” with rice and veggies

  • Gardein (I should really buy stock) “mandarin chicken” with brown rice and veggies of choice (snow peas in this case)

Friday: “Chicken” tenders and fries

  • Gardein chicken strips + frozen french fries (aka easiest food ever)

Saturday: Out with family

I will post these recipes/shopping list as I work through them. It’s going to be a yummy week!

tamaetfcoverIs it hot in here? Or is that just the dragonfire? That’s right, Tamara Shoemaker is back folks! This time to discuss her latest offering, Embrace the Fire. She was kind enough to take time out of her busy, element-bending, dragon-riding schedule to talk to us about love triangles, cliffhangers, and writing tips!

TNK: ETF is your fourth YA fantasy to hit the market. What was your biggest challenge in crafting this tale? Compared to those that came before, do you think it was easier or harder to pull together?

TS: I’ll let you in on a little secret. This book was like driving nails through my fingers. I don’t think I knew where I wanted to take the story until I had already drafted it and sent it to my editor. When she came back with a bajillion pages of developmental notes, I started to get a feel for the great story that was hiding inside three hundred plus pages of mess.

Note to self: always, always know where you want your book to start and end before beginning your draft. It’s immensely helpful in crafting a manuscript.

TNK:Those that read the first book know you left us in a rather precarious state of cliff-hanging at the end of KTF. Will readers finally get the answers they crave? And are you going to throw us right back over that cliff at the end of this one?

TS: Haha! I guess I’ve built up a bit of a cliff-hanging reputation, haven’t I? Mark of Four, Kindle the Flame, and now possibly Embrace the Fire. I do like to leave a good hook to bring the readers back into the trilogy again. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean I need to throw someone off the proverbial cliff… but sometimes I just can’t help it. 😉

To answer your question with maddening obscurity, some questions will be answered in this one, but some will remain shrouded in mystery, and you’ll have to read the third book to answer all the questions.


TNK: You’ve included a number of nonhuman characters (or “creatures”) in this series. From pixies to dryads, griffons to valkyries (and of course, dragons!). How did you go about crafting these characters? The dragons in particular seem to have a fascinating life history and social structure all their own.

TS: I’ve had loads of fun constructing the creature groups and their habits and habitats as I’ve written these books. Dragons are, of course, the best developed, because a.) I have a dragon fetish, and b.) how can you not look past the dragon itself and think about its mating habits and nesting locations and how it fights and how it communicates and about dragon dominance—who has the biggest male-scale?

The creatures were a part of the story from the very start. On the first page of my storyboard notebook, the first day I sat down to start brain-storming, I wrote down every fantasy creature I could come up with, using Google and Facebook to help me come up with ideas. After I had made a comprehensive list, I drew a map of a made-up country and plugged the creature groups into various parts of the land mass. As the story and the map morphed, the history and personalities and character traits of the creature groups expanded as well. It was loads of fun. 🙂

TNK: Those familiar with your work know that you are a master of love triangles. Any hints on what will become of the Kinna/Ayden/Julian situation?

TS: Haha! I’ll throw a hint in free of charge: It will become clear in this book who I have intended to eventually “get the girl.”

Further than that, my lips are sealed. 😉

(TNK:Well guys, you can’t say I didn’t try to get her to reveal something!)

TNK: As I work on writing my own fantasy trilogy, I’ve found that writing the second installment seems to bring its own particular set of difficulties. How many of the secrets/revelations need to come out here, what needs to wait for the third book? How can I develop my characters based on what happened in the first, while still leaving room for growth in the third? Did you experience similar quandaries, or a whole different set of challenges? How did you solve them?

TS: Yes, the second installment is really difficult to plow through and still make it tight, effective, and riveting for your readers. I don’t know if I have any formula that works every time, but one thing I do is to always have my overarching story divided into three places that make good book endings. For my Guardian of the Vale trilogy, I closed the books with the end of a school year at Clayborne, because that was a natural ending point, but I kept a hook in the final few pages to keep readers interested. For Heart of a Dragon, I closed off the main thrust of action at the end of the first two books—following Sebastian’s Tournament in Kindle the Flame, and tailing a major battle at the end of Embrace the Fire, respectively. And of course, I still kept some hooks in there as well.

TNK: As a fantasy writer, I know from my own experiences that the inside of your brain is probably a hectic place with whole worlds bursting to be unleashed. Any advice for those who may have a head full of ideas, but aren’t sure how to begin the process of translating them to the page?

TS: Something that has worked for me when the story is so big and overwhelming in my head is to create character sketches. I’ll take a character that has cropped up in my head and I’ll put them into a random made-up situation. I’ll pull out my notebook and write a couple of pages based on that. As I do, the character blossoms even over a few lines. So when the character comes to the actual manuscript, it’s like I’m introducing an old friend. And then the book begins.

Also, I think for nearly every book I’ve written, I start out writing where I think the story starts, but in the editing stage, I almost always end up writing a first chapter that precedes the original beginning chapter. The truth is, I never really know how to start a book, so I just… start. When I come back later, often the story begins before I ever thought it had, and I have to rework it a little bit.

TNK: Let’s talk heroines for a second. In a lot of traditional fantasy it seems that female characters are either omitted, relegated to damsel, or cast as an unrealistic “fighter chick” parody. Yet in both of your stories your heroines Kinna and Alayne (of Guardian of the Vale fame) seem to walk that tightrope between a relatable girl with vulnerabilities and a fearsome warrior whose bad side is best avoided with grace. How did you go about developing their characters in this way, and why did you choose to do so?

TS: I think that’s because both Kinna and Alayne are reflections of who I truly am and who I really wish to be. So I include opposing characteristics in those two girls, and then they come out a zany mixture of self-confidence and temerity, courage and fear, rationality and thoughtlessness, justice and forbearance. I like to think that every person who reads my books will identify with one side of the character, and perhaps be challenged by the other side.

Thanks so much for stopping by Tamara! Now here’s a little sneak peek of the just released Embrace the Fire!

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—but who can survive the fires of Dragons?

Thanks for reading! Pick up your copy today!

Happy spring everyone! If, like me, you’ve been sorely disappointed by the season’s poor (that is, cold) showing thus far, what better way to warm yourself up then by snuggling up with a good book? Luckily for you, I’ve got just the book. That talented and prolific Tamara Shoemaker has stopped by once again, this time to discuss her latest offering, Shadows of Uprising. Let’s see what she has to say this time around, shall we?


TNK: Tell us about one of your characters from Shadows of Uprising in fifteen words or less.

TS: Daymon—an introvert you hate to love who walks a narrow line between duty and desire.

TNK: Which world would you rather inhabit—the world of Guardian of the Vale or Heart of a Dragon? Why?

TS: That’s a hard one; I’ve spent a lot of time in both worlds, so I have to qualify the statement by saying I thoroughly love both. However, if it came right down to it, I lived with Guardian of the Vale first, and as my first love, it holds me the closest. Cool as Dragons are, particularly if I were able to, you know, ride them without getting eaten, I just can’t quite get over the idea of how awesome it would be to wield one of the four elements. (TNK- I have to agree!)

TNK:What can you tell us about the mysterious “Vale”? Will we learn more about it in the upcoming book?

TS: The entire trilogy centers around the Vale. Throughout Mark of Four, you have a vague mention of it here and there, and all you know is that it has something to do with Alayne and the fact that she can wield all four elements. In Shadows of Uprising, the Vale becomes the central focal point for a power-hungry Alliance that wants to restore the earth to elementals only, and Alayne finds herself caught in the middle of the maelstrom. Guardian of the Vale will focus on the final reckoning when the world has fallen apart and only Alayne can find a way toward peace. I don’t want to say too much, but I can tell you I’m super excited to release that third book. It’ll answer all the questions that have been raised throughout the trilogy and bring the action to a climactic and satisfying end. 🙂

TNK: The first book in this trilogy ended with a rather shocking twist. Can readers expect the same from Shadows of Uprising?

TS: Haha! I admit, I had fun dangling that first ending, but I’ve always been a bit of a pest. 😉 Shadows of Uprising will absolutely leave the reader wanting more, although it doesn’t end quite as abruptly. As it is, I feel like the book leaves the reader with a form of hope, but hope like the hope of an approaching tsunami and one must brace for impact. (TNK- so by hope, you mean terror-fueled adrenaline. That’s comforting :P)

TNK: I’ve been surprised by the choices some of your characters make and the paths they follow. Are you ever surprised by your characters?

TS: Yes! All the time. I usually plan the characters in some detail before I ever even put them on my laptop screen, but they constantly twist my plans. So by the time I’m halfway done with the book, my character notes are useless, because they’ve morphed so much from how they began. Take Daymon Houser for instance (see question #1): he was originally a blip on the screen. I had a short line in my character notes that said: “Daymon Houser – class bully, all around pain-in-the-rear.”

Somehow, he turns around and becomes one of the main heroes that lasts through the entire trilogy. I have no idea how, except that he just wasn’t having it. “I’m worth more than one line,” he shouted at me. “Give me more depth!”

What could I do? My hands were tied (sort of. My fingers could still type, though). 🙂


Well folks, I’d say “that’s all she wrote”, but fortunately for us, she actually wrote an awesome book too. Here’s a little teaser:

Alayne Worth possesses the Vale, an object of mysterious power coveted by other Elementals. Danger shadows her every step when this secret spreads. As she grieves the sudden death of her boyfriend at the hands of the notorious Shadow-Caster, Simeon Malachi, Alayne unravels the mysteries of the Vale and her past.

When she returns to Clayborne to pursue her Elemental training, Alayne is plagued by disturbing visions that predict a dark future. As an ominous Alliance of pure-blood Elementals spreads intolerance across the Continent, Alayne’s visions show evidence of the truth–and reveal a deadly danger to her loved ones. Alayne must conquer her fears and use her power to muster an uprising that will obliterate the only way of life she’s ever known.

Tamara Shoemaker lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with her husband, three children, a few jars of Nutella, and a never-ending carafe of coffee. She authored the Amazon best-selling Shadows in the Nursery Christian mystery series and Soul Survivor, another Christian mystery. Her fantasy books include the beginning of the Heart of a Dragon trilogy: Kindle the Flame, as well as Mark of Four and Shadows of Uprising, the first two books in the Guardian of the Vale trilogy. In her spare time, she freelances as an editor for other works of fiction.

Follow her on social media:

Twitter: @TamaraShoemaker



It’s the most exciting of times again! Another interview with another talented writer. This time it’s returning champ Tamara Shoemaker who, as you will see, has been quite busy since the last time she stopped by the blog over the summer. She just released her newest YA fantasy, Mark of Four (to rave reviews, by the way) and has also started offering her editing services to a few lucky writers. And somehow she still managed to find time to chat with us 🙂


TNK: Thank you so much for stopping by ye olde blog once again! You sure have been busy since your last visit. Back when we were discussing your debut YA fantasy, Kindle the Flame, I asked you if you could trace the origins of your story back to a beginning idea, thought, or dream. Can you do the same for Mark of Four?

TS: Wow, that’s a hard one. Once you’ve plotted out not just an entire novel in all its depth and intricate twists and turns of plot and character development, must less plotted out an entire trilogy, it’s sooo difficult to return to the first thought that began the journey. I think I recently told someone that the idea came when I decided I wanted to write a fantasy. Ideas were tumbling through my brain, and the one thing that kept getting caught in my filter was the number four. There are so many things that are connected with the number four: four seasons, four winds, four horsemen of the apocalypse, four elements. As soon as I hit on that idea, the story started unfolding itself for me, and then it was just a matter of being able to write fast enough to keep up with my thoughts.

TNK: Even though Kindle the Flame came out first, Mark of Four was the first fantasy story you wrote,
correct? What were some of the challenges (or opportunities) you faced while switching gears from mystery to fantasy?

TS: As a reader, I enjoy any number of genres. I’m an avid fantasy reader who also enjoys mystery, romance, historical, and literary, and can switch between any of those without blinking an eye. I assumed that most of my fan base I’d worked hard to build while I wrote mysteries would be the same. While some of my mystery readers did follow me over to the fantasy world, the majority did not, so the challenge has been to find the pockets of fantasy readers, especially as an indie author with a small outreach, and try to gain their interest in my work.

Another challenge has been actual writing style. After writing four mysteries, I felt like I had found a rhythm. Story set-up, inciting incident in the first chapter, and then it’s a race to the end with a major twist just before the big reveal. It was all about heart-palpitations, the thrill and the adrenaline of the race. Fantasy is a completely different world (pun fully intended). 😉 Yes, there’s an inciting incident that needs to happen to ground your reader and let them know what the whole book is going to be about, but the set-up is completely different. It’s not a race to the end; it’s about building an entire universe around these characters, creating systems of language and social classes and intricate detail work of why things happen the way they do. It’s miles away from mysteries, and it was a challenge to learn the new style of writing. Overall, it’s been rewarding, though. While I enjoyed the fast pace of the mysteries, I think a lot longer and harder about my fantasies. I get more involved in them. I actually wish I were the characters in them. 🙂

TNK: I would call Mark Of Four a bit of a genre-blending story, since it includes traditionally magical elements (no pun intended) in a futuristic, almost dystopian setting. But despite these seemingly disparate parts, the story unfolds naturally and doesn’t leave the reader confused at all. Any advice for any wannabee genre-blender writers out there?

TS: Haha! I don’t know if I have loads of advice. What genre-blending there was was mostly by accident. I had a story that had to come out, and the story in my head didn’t ask permission from the genre rule-book before it completely took over. If you think about it, new genres are created all the time. Good friend and fellow author, Margaret Locke [check out her interview here], wrote a romance (A Man of Character), and some of the main feedback she received when she sent it to agents and publishers was that they wouldn’t know where to place it on the shelf, because it was a mix of romantic comedy with magical elements, a genre no-man’s-land. What did she do? She made her own genre: romantic comedy with magical elements. Voila. Problem solved. ;)I’m not sure on what shelf I’d slide Mark of Four. Maybe Young Adult futuristic urban dystopian apocalyptic fantasy with magical elements? Try to pitch that to an agent. 😉 People are enjoying it, and that’s the important thing. I realize that the big publishers will disagree with me on this one, but I don’t think a story should ever be trapped inside a genre. The genre should undergird the story, not vice versa.

TNK: Talk to us a little bit about Miss Alayne Worth, Mark of Four’s heroine. To me, part of what makes her such the perfect protagonist is how easy to relate to she is, even in a world so unlike our own. What makes her stand out to you as a character we will want to read about and root for?

TS: My favorite books are the ones where I can totally see myself in the main character. Not to say I will ever be a Katniss Everdeen and lead a revolution or a Percy Jackson and win a war against Tartarus. But if you think about Katniss and the journey she traveled from page one of The Hunger Games to the last page of Mockingjay, there’s an entire arc of emotions that she went through: the need for security—not just for herself, but for those she loves—the feelings of injustice, the hatred of oppression, the confusion of emotional entanglements, the adrenaline of panic.
I’ve felt every one of those emotions, some more than others, but those are the things that bind me to the main character—not the storyline, but the emotions themselves. That’s what I tried hard to include for Alayne—her feelings of frustration at the miscommunications she has with her mom, her struggles with teen angst and romance, her insecurity in discovering herself in an unfamiliar situation fraught with potential danger, and how she handles all of it. Those emotions are what will connect with the reader, not the storyline itself.

TNK: And, you know I have to ask, let’s talk about the love interests. Where did you find inspiration for your level-headed and charming Jayme Cross, or confident and brash Kyle Pence?

TS: Haha! Of course you had to ask. 😉 I’m such a romance fan; I love watching and reading about the early stages of romantic attraction, seeing how its development affects characters in different ways. Jayme Cross, I modeled after every guy I was drawn to during my teen years. Easy-going, teasing and light-hearted, maybe not the epitome of handsomeness, but certainly attractive in his own way. I didn’t want Kyle Pence to be too close to the same personality, because heaven forbid the reader confuse the two, so I made him as opposite from Jayme as I could: exuding confidence in his ability to “get-the-girl,” competitive, even a little dark sometimes. I really enjoyed coming up with the character descriptions of these two guys. They have such different beginnings, and I’m super excited to explore both of their backgrounds a little more in the upcoming novels.

TNK: Let’s try something a bit different. Can you describe Mark of Four in a single word? (You can use more words to explain why you chose your word).

TS: Wow, you really like the hard questions, don’t you? Okay, hmm, a single word. Here’s one:

Alayne doesn’t know how her life is going to change on page one of Mark of Four. In short succession, her world is rocked by the discovery of some remarkable abilities, what those abilities do, what causes those abilities, who wants those abilities, and most of all, how in CommonEarth she’s supposed to survive the upheaval that results from greed of those abilities.

TNK: And now for the most important question of all, now that the first books in both the Heart of a Dragon and Guardian of the Vale trilogies have been released, how long can we expect to wait before the sequels hit the market?

TS: Sequels! I love talking about sequels! 🙂 Embrace the Fire, Kindle the Flame’s sequel will hit the market in March or April of 2016. The book is undergoing edits right now, but should be ready for an early spring release. Shadows of Uprising, Mark of Four’s sequel is slated for release in July or August of 2016. I’ve just begun a third round of edits on that one.

I’m so excited about these trilogies. They’re both a result of years of work, and I can’t wait to share them with you! 🙂


Now, the teaser for MOF:

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.


Four Elements

Four Powers

Four Paths



Welcome readers to another Author Feature! This week I am so excited to be joined by romance author extraordinaire, Margaret Locke! She was gracious enough to stop by to discuss her latest novel, the regency time travel romance, A Matter of Time. Shall we adjourn to the metaphorical drawing room to learn more?


TNK: Thank you so much for stopping by the blog, Margaret! It’s been quite the whirlwind year for
you. First, you published your debut novel A Man of Character and now its sister novel A
Matter of Time has graced the markets as well. How long have you wanted to be a romance
author? And how does it feel now that the dream is a reality?

ML: I’ve wanted to write romance for nearly as long as I’ve been reading it – and considering I, er, picked up my first romance novel at the age of ten (sorry, mom), that’s been a long, long time. It was a dream I set on the back burner for a number of years as life changed and evolved, but now that I’m here, doing it, I feel as if I finally found what I’m truly supposed to be doing. It makes my heart happy. It makes me feel hopeful in a world that’s often too frightening for me, and it’s that hope and happiness I want to spread to others. (TNK here, Margaret definitely succeeds in spreading that hope and happiness to those of us in the Shenandoah Valley writing community!)

TNK: In A Man of Character you introduced us to your heroine Cat’s best friend, the lovely, quick-witted, but unfulfilled Eliza James who goes on to star in A Matter of Time. When you were writing AMOC, did you always know that you would tell Eliza’s love story next, or was that something that developed along the way?

ML: I love reading series with interwoven characters, so I’ve always known writing such a series was the way I wanted to go, but Eliza’s involvement truly was a bit of an accident. When brainstorming Cat’s story, it occurred to me she ought to have a friend, a sidekick, to help her understand and evaluate the strange goings on in her life. It also occurred to me I was going to have a hard time connecting this first contemporary romantic comedy with the Regencies I’d always intended to write – and I definitely wanted to connect them. And voila, Eliza’s obsession with Jane Austen and subsequent character arc was born!

TNK: I have to say, I’m not usually a romance reader. Yet, I find your work so engaging that from the very first time I read both A Man of Character and A Matter of Time, I could not pull myself away. From talking to other readers and looking over your glowing reviews, I know I’m not alone in this. What do you think makes your stories appeal to both the romance loyalists and the skeptics like me?

ML: Oh, you are so very, very kind, Taryn! The positive responses to A Man of Character stunned and delighted me (and still do), and I only hope to be so lucky with future works. I’d like to think that perhaps there are two angles to this:
1) People have preconceived notions about romance and assume they won’t like it – until they read it and realize romance speaks to human truths, the questions that we all ask – Who am I? What do I stand for? How do I fit into my world? And how do the people around me impact my understanding of my own life’s purpose?
And 2) Wait…I think my 2 is the same as 1: I try to write about issues we all face, in romance and otherwise, so I’d like to believe that even if people don’t give a hoot for the romance, they can relate to the search for understanding, for wholeness, for self-discovery. Either that, or y’all are just indulging me.

TNK: A Matter of Time is your first novel set in the Regency era. It must have been very overwhelming knowing all that research lay ahead of you when you began writing. Any advice for those who may be interested in writing historical fiction, but aren’t sure if they will be able to “get it right”?

ML: I’m pretty sure there’s lots of stuff I didn’t get right. In fact, I’m darn nervous about that, even though I researched and read books and blog posts and asked questions of the experts from The Beau Monde. I’m positive I still fudged stuff up and that I’ll hear about it. I guess that’s part of the learning process, right? I’m actually trained as a historian – I did everything but write my dissertation for my doctoral program in medieval history, though that’s twenty years in the past. I was hoping that would make it easier, but I wonder sometimes if it doesn’t make it harder, knowing how much I don’t know, and how much I’m likely missing! Bwah ha ha. Here’s my advice: yes, read the history. Learn the basics. Learn a little more than the basics. Ask questions of experts. Try to get it right. But also write your story. You can tweak the details as you go, big and small, but don’t let that fear keep you from writing. Nobody gets it perfect.

TNK: All right, now for the really fun stuff. Tell us about your hero, the brooding and undeniably masculine Deveric Mattersley? Should we be prepared to fall in love alongside Eliza?

ML: I sure hope so! I needed a Darcy-esque fellow to suit the Austen-loving Eliza, and I darn well think I found him. Deveric has a number of rather trademark romance hero characteristics – the slightly brooding nature, intense passions, and the like. But I hope I grounded them in believability, in giving him a back story that goes a long way to explain why he is the way he is – and why he needs someone like Eliza James, with her optimistic, bubbly personality, to heal him. I’m rather fond of him, at least – particularly in the bathtub scene, which makes me giggle every time. And I wrote the darn book! (TNK again, I can confirm that Dev had just the right balance of “Darcyness” and realism to make him oh so lovable!)

TNK: It’s only been a year and we have already been lucky enough to get two “Matters of Love” novels, can you tell us a bit about your next project? Whose story can we expect to hit the shelves next?

ML: I actually have a draft of Deveric’s sister Grace’s story, a non-magical (!) Regency, completely written (thank you, National Novel Writing Month [NaNoWriMo] 2014), but then decided as A Matter of Time evolved that it’s Deveric’s oldest sister Amara whose story needs to come first. So that’s what I’m currently working on – Amara’s tale in A Scandalous Matter. However, it’s one big NaNoWriMess at the moment, so it’s gonna take a while to whip it into shape. I’d like to promise two books for 2016, as well, but only time will tell…
      I also have a short story or possible novella in the works giving us the origin story of Cat’s magical manuscript, so hopefully that will find its way into the world in the next year. And then… People have asked for certain characters’ stories, I’ve had some stories in mind for several years, and then new ideas pop into my head as new characters make themselves known. I could be writing elements of this series for a very long time – so here’s hoping people continue wanting to read my work!

AMatterofTime.FrontCover copy

A Matter of Time is available in e-book and paperback format now! Here’s a little teaser:

Nobody would blame widowed twenty-nine-year-old doctoral student Eliza James for giving up on the idea of Happily Ever After. After all, she’s suffered more loss than most people do in a lifetime. But Eliza’s convinced her own hero is still out there, waiting for her, just like in the beloved romance novels she devours. Every girl deserves a Darcy, right?

Only Eliza doesn’t dream of a modern-day prince: she wants the whole Regency experience. She can’t imagine anything better than waltzing in the arms of a duke at a grand ball before being whisked away for a tete-a-tete in a corner of a garden, or the very private seat of a well-sprung carriage. However, finding herself thrust back two hundred years into the arms and life of actual duke Deveric Mattersley—thanks to a magical medieval manuscript—has Eliza realizing some fantasies aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, especially when her prince proves himself less than charming.

Deveric Mattersley, Duke of Claremont, has no interest in marriage, not after convincing himself he’s at fault in the death of his first wife. Determined to atone for his sins, he decrees himself content to focus on the running of his family’s estates, and on raising his son–until the mysterious Mrs. James appears. Who is she? What does she want? And why does she make Dev’s blood run hot in a way no woman ever has?

A bit more about Margaret:

A lover of romance novels since the age of ten (shh, don’t tell mom!), Margaret Locke declared as a teen that she’d write romances when she grew up. Once an adult, however, she figured she ought to be doing grown-up things (such as earning that master’s degree in medieval history), not penning steamy love stories. Yeah, whatever. Turning forty cured her of that silly notion. Margaret is now happily ensconced back in the clutches of her first love, this time as an author as well as a reader.

Margaret lives in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Virginia with her fantastic husband, two fabulous kids, and two fat cats. You can usually find her in front of some sort of screen (electronic or window; she’s come to terms with the fact that she’s not an outdoors person).

Margaret loves to interact with fellow readers and authors! You may find her here:

Twitter: @Margaret_Locke

Thanks for reading!

Credit: Virginia Tech/ John McCormick
Credit: Virginia Tech/ John McCormick

I know. That title is a pretty bad joke. One could even say it was a poultry attempt. Okay, I’m done now, promise. Now, to science!

In a new study published in the online version of the journal Biology Letters, a group of chickens show us just how quickly evolution can take place. A team of scientists led by Oxford’s Dr. Greger Larson looked at fifty years worth of data in order to trace how mitochondrial DNA was passed from mother to daughter. Now fifty years may seem like a long time to us mere mortal humans, but on the evolutionary time scale it’s a drop in the Darwinian bucket. That’s why what the scientists found was so surprising. In just fifty years, this dynasty of chickens had not one but two mutations in their mitochondrial genomes. This means that the rate of evolution for these chickens was fifteen times faster than thought possible, since according to estimates based on fossil studies, scientists had previously thought the rate of change for mitochondrial genomes to be at most a measly two percent per million years.

But the surprising findings don’t stop there. As anyone who has ever marathonned CSI may be able to tell you, mitochondrial DNA is supposed to be passed strictly as is from mother to offspring. But our fine feathered friends were having none of that, as the scientists discovered when they noted an instance of mitochondrial DNA being passed from father to child. Combined with the much higher than expected rate of mutation, this “paternal leakage” shows just how busy evolution can be, even over relatively short time periods. As the study’s lead author Dr. Michelle Alexander said, “Both of these findings demonstrate the speed and dynamism of evolution when observed over short time periods.”

So what does this mean for our understanding of evolution? For one, it underlines the fact that evolution is happening all around us, all the time. And if we don’t see it, it may just be because we aren’t looking closely enough.


Credits: Eurekalert, Biology Letters

Our very first spotlight author, Tamara Shoemaker!
Our very first spotlight author, Tamara Shoemaker!

Hello readers and welcome to an exciting first on my blog- an interview with a fellow writer! I had the great pleasure of picking the one and only Tamara Shoemaker’s brain about her newest release, Kindle the Flame. For those of you who are not familiar with the Shenandoah Valley’s own Shoemaker and her work (you poor, unfortunate souls!) here’s a little background. She authored the best-selling Shadows in the Nursery (comprised of Ashes, Ashes, Pretty Little Maids, and Broken Crowns) Christian mystery series, as well as her latest Christian mystery Soul Survivor. But perhaps even more exciting for fantasy buffs like me, she just released her very first (but definitely not last, stay tuned for more about that later on) Young Adult fantasy book, Kindle the Flame. Here’s a little taste from the back cover:

A girl who never fit in, a young man forced into an outcast’s life, a boy raised without a community, and a ruler who holds the key to their destinies…

Kinna has a Pixie she can’t train and a head full of doubts. Her worst fears come true when she fails the Tournament entrance test. She flees her Clan in disgrace, inexplicably drawn to a Mirage, a rare Dragon she has no business training.

Ayden is cursed—anyone he touches turns to ash before his eyes. He hides amongst the Dragon Clan with the only creatures he cannot hurt. When Kinna frees his favorite Dragon, his world turns upside down.

Cedric grows up in isolation, fostered by an outcast Centaur. When tragedy strikes, he ventures into a strange new world of Dragons, political intrigue, and magic.

Sebastian’s country hovers on the brink of war. Chased from his rightful throne, he schemes to retake his kingdom by any means possible, even if it threatens an ancient agreement that underpins the foundation of his realm.

Only by examining their pasts will these four find their futures. But will they survive the fires of discovery?

Did I mention the gorgeous cover art?
Did I mention the gorgeous cover art?

So if that somehow doesn’t hook you, here’s hoping this will. Without further ado, let’s get to know the marvelous, talented, and down-to-earth Tamara Shoemaker a little better.

TNK: Let’s start at the beginning- can you trace Kindle the Flame back to a single idea, thought, or even a dream?

TS: Kindle the Flame began with my son. I had just finished up writing my first fantasy trilogy (the first of which will be published in November!), and I was feeling at loose ends. I needed to come up with another story idea, so I’d been tossing around story thoughts through my head all day. That night, after I finished brushing my son’s teeth (he was four at the time), he looked up at me and asked, “Mommy, where do I go when I sleep?”

I didn’t understand him at first, but after further conversation, I figured out that he thought he actually went somewhere (like, off his bed into his dreams) when he slept. That idea stuck in my head, and I started putting together a story about a boy who would travel to another world every night in his dreams. This world eventually took on a life of its own, Pixies and Dragons, Sirens and Ogres, Direwolves and Rockmonsters.

In the end, the dream travel didn’t make it in the final cut of Kindle the Flame. That’s sad, because it’s a brilliant idea, but I plan to use it for a future book. I just need to hone my ideas a bit more.

TNK: In my own fantasy writing, I have noticed a tendency for my world (and even characters) to evolve over time. How did Kindle the Flame change from its inception to the final form, in terms of plot and characters?

TS: Well, you just read about how my hero was going to be a boy who dream-traveled. After a few nights of scribbling on my notebook, the boy eventually gained an older sister who was going to discover his dream travel, and eventually go with him. There was going to be an evil king who tried to trap the boy in the world, and then as plans flowed from the end of my pen, the boy disappeared, but his sister’s character had built such a strong connection with me, that I left her in, and she became Kinna. The king, of course, was Sebastian. Any book I write will always have an element of romance, and voila, Ayden appeared. I hated so badly to erase the boy from my plans, so I brought him back as Cedric (I hope this isn’t giving away too many spoilers). 🙂

The dream-travel was the last thing to go in the recycle bin. I clung tenaciously to that story line, but it didn’t work for the story I wanted to write. So, once again, I shelved it, and I plan to use it for another set of books I want to write. (Interviewer’s note- Ooh another series in the works! Can’t wait.)

TNK: I’ve read some of your Christian fiction (though I definitely need to read them all!) You are an adept writer in any genre it seems, but personally I think you really hit your stride with your YA Fantasy work. Did you always know you had an inner JK Rowling, or did you discover your taste for this genre over time?

TS: Well, first, I’m extremely flattered to be compared to Rowling; I have the highest regard for her wizard world and the world-building she so expertly wielded in those books, so any comparison with her is kind of a dream come true for me. 🙂

No, I don’t know that I knew I had an inner fantasy writer hiding inside me, although I probably should have. Many, many of my childhood scribbles delved into a fantastic world with magic and creatures and kingdoms, etc. Those were the stories I enjoyed writing the most, though I did try all sorts of different ones as I grew up: romance, mystery, literary fic, even poetry. Fantasy remains my favorite of them all.

TNK: a running joke amongst us writers familiar with your work that you seem to have a new book written every other week. As someone who has taken years to write a measly two manuscripts, I have to ask: Any tips or advice on how to be as prolific as you are?

TS: Lol! I wish I could write a new book every other week. I have enough stories zooming around in my head to accommodate such a schedule, just not enough time to sit and pound them all out on the keyboard.

I guess the key to my, um, prolific-ness (prolificosity?), is consistency. I rarely let a day go by without sitting down and making myself write. If I’ve had an awful day, the kids just aren’t behaving, the dishes are stacked up, the laundry is undone, I still write. I may not feel like it, and it may be the worst piece of horse-hockey ever to crop up on my laptop, but it’s out and done, and available for editing.

I also set goals for myself. If I’m in the first draft of a novel, I have a goal of a minimum of a thousand words each day. If I’m editing a novel, I have a minimum of a chapter per day edited. Either way, slow step by slow step, I’m approaching the end of a project, and there’s no high quite like the high that comes with the completion of something into which you’ve thrown yourself so thoroughly. (Interviewer’s note- solid advice, hope I can follow it…)

TNK: Back to Kindle the Flame (because honestly I can’t get enough of it!). Writing from four different perspectives must have been quite the challenge. What kind of factors did you consider when creating four unique characters, each strong enough to carry the story in their own right?

TS: Well, it took a lot more mapping of characters. In my previous thrillers, the characters were born and sort of grew over the pages of the manuscripts. I didn’t spend loads of time with their histories and their families and their struggles and their habits beforehand.

With Kindle the Flame, the characters had been well-developed and polished before I ever let them see the page. And then, they grew some more. I’m quite proud of those guys; they have depth that none of my other characters in my other books have seen yet, and they have enough depth to pull them through two more books, as well, I believe.

The advantage of writing from four perspectives is the expanse of area I can cover. When I write from only one perspective, I can only see what that one person sees, and barring major info dumps, the world has a tendency to stay small. Multiply that times four, though, and the world grows exponentially larger. Fantasy is all about world-building, so viewing that world from four different perspectives is a major bonus.

TNK: Any teasers you can give us for the next book in the Heart of a Dragon series? How about for your upcoming Guardian of the Vale trilogy?

TS: Book two in my Heart of the Dragon series will move off of West Ashwynd’s soil and into enemy territory and the neighboring country of Lismaria. The same four characters will be back, but with new struggles and continuing struggles, and new creatures will be introduced as well (which I’m super excited about)! There will be more power struggles, more drama, another love triangle (yippee, scream the YA readers, sarcastically or not), a new Dragon, and a cool twist, which I’m still hammering out in my notebook. (Editor’s note- Umm you can’t write this fast enough!)

And yes! The first book of the Guardian of the Vale trilogy, Mark of Four, will hit the market on Cyber Monday in November. It’s an urban fantasy set in post-apocalyptic earth, and the new source of power is the elements: Air, Fire, Earth, and Water. Elementals can wield one of those four, depending on their bloodlines, but…

Alayne Worth can wield all four. No one knows why. But all the powers in CommonEarth, both good and evil, want her gift. How will she survive the earth-shattering struggle for the power she possesses?

Oh, the excitement! I hope you check it out.

And there you have it folks! If you have been searching for new reading material, Shoemaker certainly has something for everyone. From high-flying dragon adventure, to elemental epics, to heart-stopping, faith-affirming thrillers. I hope you will do yourself a favor and check out her work today. You can start by taking a look at her website, following her on twitter, liking her on facebook, and of course checking her out on Goodreads and Amazon.

Thanks for reading!


Last week’s prompt over at  Flash Friday tasked us to write a 200ish word story that took place in a kitchen based on this photo prompt:


I hope you enjoy my offering, which received a special mention for the “best bait”.


(208 words)

Everything seems louder in the dark.

Especially the screams.

My body catapults out of bed, and before my sluggish neocortex can catch up with the more primal layers of my brain tissue, I’m in the kitchen. Holding a butcher knife. As if that would help.

I take in the scenery as my heart recedes to a more sustainable rhythm. Stainless steel appliances, a swiffer leaning beside the granite-ish counters. No doubt this is my twenty-first century apartment. But when I close my eyes they are still there. Prisoners proclaiming their innocence until their throats run dry and hoarse. Guards wearing their uniforms like a sultan’s robes, gliding through the halls with absolute power over life and death, mercy and suffering.

I should have never let my friends drag me on their so-called ‘paranormal investigation’. Glorified trespassing, more like. But we hadn’t just trespassed on government property, we’d crossed a far more sinister line. I could remember every moment of the doomed adventure, the warning spikes of the electromagnetic field detector, the cold chills, running for the exit. But there was one thing I couldn’t remember: Leaving.

I stare desperately at the kitchen, my home. I am here. I got out.

But why do I still hear them screaming?


Thanks for reading!