Monday, June 27, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Character Development: How Anakin Skywalker Killed Darth Vader


I've had a number of other authors and blogs approach me about writing "guest blogs" for their sites. The idea is for me to offer my advice on the different aspects of writing from my own experience. The problem I have with this is that I don't see myself as any form of authority on such subjects. I can't tell people what to write or how to write it because I'm no expert myself.

So I've been trying to figure out what kind of advice I could offer. After all, I may not be an expert, but I have been writing for a lot of years. Surely there's got to be something I learned along the way that could help others.

Then Spike TV ran their usual Star Wars marathon over the weekend.

Let me first and foremost say that I am a Star Wars fan. I'd stop myself short of calling myself a Star Wars nerd/geek because I can't speak the alien languages, have read very few Star Wars books, and I don't own nor do I plan to own a lightsaber. Unless it was real. And cheap. And turned everything it touched into candy. As long as it's not licorice. Or apple. Strawberry is good. Orange, too.

Where was I?

Oh, right.

I do enjoy the Star Wars movies. The original three (ahem - the originals, not the special editions) still rank among my favorite movies of all time. And while there were a number of issues that kept the prequels from being nearly as good (Yoda should have remained a puppet, and his lightsaber duel, while entertaining, did not fit with his character), I still found them to be overall enjoyable movies.

Still, there is something that I, along with many other Star Wars fans, cannot look past.

Anakin Skywalker.

Which brings me to the purpose of this post: Character development. I'm going to explore the characters of both Anakin Skywalker and Darth Vader in an attempt to illustrate what can both make and break a good character in the eyes of the audience.

Think back to the first time you saw A New Hope. The doors slide open, and in walked Darth Vader. Clad in black, shrouded by a flowing cape, and his ominous breathing left you wondering just what exactly could've been behind that mask. And as the movie wore on, we were shown a ruthless dictator. He was a being that would choke the life out of someone who simply disagreed, a figure that didn't hesitate to slay his former master at his first chance, and a heartless murderer who sat back and watched while his beloved Death Star blew Alderaan outta the sky. Or stars. Whatever.

Then came The Empire Strikes Back. We find that Vader is obsessed with finding young Luke Skywalker. One would presume that he sought to exact vengeance upon the man responsible for the destruction of the Death Star. But we soon learn that Vader is interested in turning the boy to the Dark Side of the Force. That idea is even more chilling. For Vader, killing Skywalker would be nice, but it would be far more satisfying to turn the Rebellion's newest hotshot pilot against them.

But then we find out the truth. Luke is Vader's son. So it is a man in there, after all. And he's a man with at least some measure of compassion, because he'd rather have his son standing by his side than as another corpse on the battlefield. Luke, of course, refuses before making his dramatic escape. And although you can't see his face, you can tell that Vader is disappointed. Not angry, but disappointed. Seems the man in black might have a heart after all.

Return of the Jedi saw the culmination of Vader's continuing quest to find his son and convert him to the Dark Side of the Force. By the time they meet face to face once again, Vader almost seems unhappy to have to take Luke to the Emperor. He knows, as the audience does, that Luke Skywalker will die if he does not turn to the Dark Side. Yet at the same time, he can't deny his own feelings of compassion that he has for his son. Even when Luke accuses him of having good within, Darth Vader doesn't deny it. He simply turns the conversation in a different direction. He's a conflicted man, dedicated to his duty and loyal to both the Emperor and the Galactic Empire. But inside, there is a part of him that can't argue with his son. He knows Luke to be right.

And of course, in the end, we see Vader's repentance. After seeing the truth with his own eyes, perhaps even inspired by Luke's refusal to take his father's place beside the Emperor, Vader finally does the right thing by sending the wailing old Sith falling to a bitter end within the Death Star's reactor. Or wherever those giant pits all over the Death Star lead to. Seriously, those space stations were riddled with design flaws.

So there it was. Darth Vader, ruthless murdering Lord of the Sith still knew right from wrong. And in the end, even he was capable of repentance. It was a powerful story and a great message.

Then George Lucas decided to go back to the beginning and tell the stories of how Anakin became Vader in the first place. This, he said, was his plan from the beginning. After all, the first Star Wars movie was Episode IV.

And this, ultimately, would tarnish the name, image, and character of Darth Vader, who up until that point had arguably been one of the greatest villains of all time.

In Episode I, we were introduced to the wide-eyed youth named Anakin Skywalker. Cheesy dialogue between he and Padme aside, little Anakin was portrayed as the shining example of innocence, a light in the darkness. And while that's fine considering he was just a boy, the seeds of Darth Vader needed to be sown from the very beginning. Given the cold-blooded nature of the man in the black mask, one would've expected that at least a hint of those tendencies should've shown in little Anakin Skywalker. More specifically, a dose of anger could've gone a long way.

Vader's most defining trait was his anger. His temper got away from him so frequently that he nearly choked a man to death just for disagreeing with him over the power of the Death Star. When one of his admirals made a slight tactical blunder, Vader choked him out too. Anger was his weakness. That was made very clear throughout the entire original trilogy.

Why, then, was little Anakin's "weakness" portrayed as fear over losing his mother? Fear!? Darth Vader knew nothing of fear! It didn't fit with his character at all.

And when Episode II rolled around, the Anakin we were treated to amounted to little more than a cocky teenager. What's worse, his main character conflict became his love for Padme despite the fact that Jedi aren't supposed to have emotional attachments. In order for any of this to make sense, Vader would've at least had to have referenced a lost love at once or twice for the audience to make the connection. But Vader never even hinted at anything having to do with Luke's mother. Vader's motive was always to ensure the lasting dominance of the Empire and to see the will of the Emperor carried out no matter what the cost. His actions, attitude, and ruthlessness came from his deep determination to maintain order in the universe by whatever means necessary. In order for Vader's evolution to have made any sense, Anakin would've needed to share that passion for those ideals.

Granted, there were a few moments when it seemed like Lucas might take the story in that direction. Anakin's conversation with Padme in the meadow, for example, addressed his feelings about democracy. He felt that "someone wise" should make the leaders of the various worlds across the universe agree on political policies. Had that subject been explored a bit more, it would've had far greater effect in connecting the Anakin Skywalker of the new movies with the Darth Vader of the old. It wouldn't have to get overly political; a single scene where Anakin witnesses the bickering of the Senate could've done the trick. Something to further establish his feelings that the Senators could get far more accomplished if they didn't spend every session arguing.

In the meantime, Anakin's slaughter of the sandpeople finally showed us a taste of the anger that drove Darth Vader. The scene that followed with Padme, however, undermined the whole thing. I mean, the dialogue was great as Anakin proclaimed that he'd slaughtered them all, even the women and the children. But as a young man who was beginning to succumb to his anger and hatred, it would've been far more beneficial had he not been tearfully remorseful about it. That took away from the direction Lucas was trying to take Anakin's character. Had he been proud of himself - maybe by brushing off any objections from Padme - it would've foreshadowed the eventual birth of Vader brilliantly.

I will say that Episode III did a better job of depicting the development of Anakin's political ideology than Episodes I and II. With the Jedis' lack of trust in him combined with being denied membership of the council, it was only natural that he would begin to wonder why they were excluding him from their plans. At the same time, a growing need to remove Chancellor Palpatine from power led to the idea of the Jedi taking over the Senate to ensure a smooth transition. With Palpatine in Anakin's ear planting the seeds of dissension and Mace Windu's attempt to kill the chancellor (to which Anakin proclaims, "It's not the Jedi way!"), it made far more sense for him to turn his back on the Jedi and become the Emperor's apprentice. To him, the Jedi had turned their backs on their own ideals. From his eyes, it really did seem as though they were plotting to take over the republic as Palpatine had said.

If Lucas had rolled with that story alone and connected it with with my earlier suggestions regarding Anakin's polical ideals, his purpose and mission would've been far clearer and certainly more believable. But the focus was still on Anakin's relationship with Padme. His main concern was still all about saving her life. For a man on the verge of turning his back on the Jedi, ready to slay them all - adults and children alike - along with anyone else who stood in the way of the Chancellor, the idea that he could still be obsessed with saving Padme seemed unrealistic. His number one focus had become the protection of the newly-formed Galactic Empire. The Dark Side had consumed him through his anger, and morality had apparently slipped away. A more realistic approach would've been for him to blow Padme off entirely. "He ceased to be Anakin Skywalker and became Darth Vader. When that happened, the good man who was your father was destroyed." The Darth Vader of Episode IV wouldn't have cared if Padme was bawling her eyes out. He would've shoved her aside and gone on his way.

No, he would've used the Force to choke her to death before going on his way.

Had that happened, followed by a tense scene in which doctors rush to save the babies, it would've established the Darth Vader we all grew up with. It would've solidified Vader as one of the most memorable villains of all time (although I don't think anything can really change that anyway, I just feel that the Anakin Skywalker we were treated to tainted the legacy of Darth Vader).

Plus, we never would've been subjected to this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WWaLxFIVX1s
Then again, without that scene, we never would've gotten this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjPmjwszr2w
But I digress.

Character development can be one of the more difficult aspects of writing. But I think what I've illustrated here is that the character's actions and experiences must directly relate to what he or she will ultimately become. I mean, think about your own life. We are all products of our upbringing in one way or another. Each memory, each experience, each lesson learned, each battle lost, each struggle overcome, they all come together to form the people we are today one way or another. Characters must be same the way. It's how we identify with them.

And if you can't identify with the characters of your stories in one way or another, why are you writing about them?

Just my opinion.

God bless,
Kevin

Friday, June 17, 2011

Author Interview: P.H.C. Marchesi

P.H.C. Marchesi has written a wonderful young adult sci-fi/fantasy story entitled Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes. As most know, this genre is where my imagination takes flight, so it was great to chat with another author with a passion for the same. We sat down for an interview recently. Here's what she had to say.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and lived there for several years until my family moved to Vienna, Austria. I attended the International School in Vienna, learned English and German (in addition to Portuguese, which was my native language), and met kids from all over the world. I also got the chance to travel to several countries, and experience different cultures. Eventually I came to the United States for college, and then graduate school. Now I teach literature to undergraduates and write young adult fantasy. I can’t imagine a better life! I also adore animals, and share my life with a variety of rescued pets.

2. How long have you been writing?

As a kid, I remember writing little picture books that I illustrated and put together myself. I also remember writing for different occasions: for example, one of the earliest things I wrote was a eulogy on the death of a beloved pet fish. I didn’t know it was a eulogy back then, of course. All I knew was that I had to write something, because it was the only way I could deal with the situation. As I grew up and continued writing, I found that I preferred writing high fantasy – especially since I spent a great deal of time daydreaming about different worlds, anyway! I learned to put my feeling, experiences, and life observations within the fantasy worlds I created.

3. What is Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes about?

The novel is about thirteen-year-old twins whose lives change drastically when a planet from a different dimension, Miriax, recruits them to seal a dimensional hole that allows evil aliens to travel beyond their dimension. From that moment on, the Kitt twins find out that the universe is full of life-draining Klodians, space ghosts, cities in jungles, books that choose their readers, walls that spit on you, and lilac tea served with mushrooms. Shelby and Shauna also discover certain special powers they have, and realize that those alone aren’t enough to defeat evil and turn them into heroes.

4. How did you come up with the plot?

Gradually! I knew what would happen at several key points when I began writing, and I knew most of the ending long before I knew bits and pieces in the middle. The story went through several drafts, so that I could eliminate inconsistencies, polish the characters, and even change my mind about certain things. I suppose I could also say that I’ve been coming up with the plot for years, dreaming about different worlds, exciting adventures, and so on – and I’ve known for a long time that I wanted a boy and a girl to be the heroes of the book. I wanted to write a novel where both were equally important and interesting, and where both had to work together to do something great.

5. Tell us about Shelby and Shauna.

Shelby and Shauna are thirteen-year-old fraternal twins. They are, as siblings often are, completely different from each other. Shelby is impulsive and daring, as well as fiercely loyal. His sister, Shauna, is introverted, optimistic, and determined. Because they’re such different people, they complement each other, though (of course) sometimes they also annoy each other! They haven’t had an easy life, and so they’ve learned to rely on each other. At the beginning of the book, they live in a tiny attic apartment in Manhattan, and dream of doing incredible things.

6. What do you feel sets your book apart from others of the same genre?

In my novel, the boy and the girl co-star as heroes. In addition, the premise of two planets from different dimensions (Miriax and Klodius) orbiting Earth is something new. The world of Miriax, to which Shelby and Shauna Kitt travel, is entirely different from any fantasy world I’ve read about. Maybe this is because, having grown up in different countries, I read books from different cultures. Or maybe it’s because the different places in which I lived all merged together in my imagination to create Miriax.

7. Did you have any specific goals when writing this title? Any themes or ideas or concepts that you wanted to get across to the audience?

I wanted to show that heroism can mean many different things. I also wanted to highlight the value of friendship, teamwork, creativity, courage, and compassion. These are, I think, essential qualities for individual and global success in the 21st century.

8. How long did it take you to write? Did you hire any outside help such as a cover artist or editor?

I had a complete draft after a year, and then had to put the project on hold because I was nearing the completion of my graduate degree. After I graduated, I began to work on the book again, and it went through several more drafts before I felt I was done with revisions and the novel was ready. I then hired a cover artist to do the cover.

9. Who has been your biggest supporter in your writing aspirations? How do they support you?

My family. I was fortunate because my creativity and imagination were always encouraged and valued. I had room to grow. I had moral support to take risks. And, most importantly, I was allowed to daydream, and thus eventually create the world of Miriax.

10. As I'm sure you know, many readers like to find their favorite authors on social networking websites like facebook and twitter. Do you have any social network links you'd like to share?

The novel has a FB site with regular updates and giveaways at http://on.fb.me/iDEkCo, so please visit! I’m on twitter (@PHCMarchesi), and I have a blog at http://shelbyandshaunakitt.blogspot.com/, which I would love for readers to visit.

11. What do you feel are the most important aspects of a great book?

An exciting story, interesting characters, a creative/innovative premise, and writing that does justice to all of these.

12. Have you ever sat down to write a scene only to have the story take you in a completely different direction than you had planned?

Oh yes – often! I love when that happens, because that’s when writing is at its most spontaneous. Usually this means that the unconscious mind has been working on the story, and has figured out where it should be going. As a writer, you have to be flexible and allow the story room to grow in a direction you might not have foreseen.

13. And just for fun, favorite movie or television series?

To be honest, I’ve watched very little television recently. Between teaching at a university and writing, I’ve had almost no time to sit in front of the TV and watch something from beginning to end. As a child, ET and the Star Wars trilogy were my favorite movies, and I was completely hooked on sci-fi shows such as Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, and Buck Rogers. Later it was Babylon 5 and Star Trek:Voyager, which I still enjoy.

Thank you so much for stopping by for a chat! I wish nothing but the best for you and your book!


Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes at Amazon.com
Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes at Barnesandnoble.com
Shelby and Shauna Kitt and the Dimensional Holes at Goodreads

Friday, June 10, 2011

Author Interview: Jason G. Anderson

Jason G. Anderson, author of Cryoskip's Footprints, was gracious enough to take some time to talk with us about his short story. Here's what he had to say.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Australia, in the small island state of Tasmania. I was born in the north of the island (Devonport), but moved to the south (Hobart) to attend university. I was lucky enough to get a job soon after graduating, and ended up staying here. I work in Antarctic science (as an assistant, not a scientist), where I help scientists manage the large amount of data they generate/collect. It's interesting work.


How long have you been writing?

I'm a relative newcomer to writing fiction, only really starting to focus on writing it in 2010. Before that, I had been writing some roleplay gaming material, and self-publishing it in PDF form.

I'd entertained the idea of writing fiction for many years, but like many people I'd never done anything about it. Around September 2010 I decided it was time. With NaNoWriMo coming up, I decided that would be the real test for me. If I completed it, and still enjoyed writing at the end, then I knew it was something I could become committed to. I managed to successfully finish, and I've been writing ever since.


What is Cryoskip's Footprints about?

Cryoskip's Footprints” is the second story in what I've called the Atomic Wasteland Tales. It's set in a world that suffered a global nuclear war decades ago, and the survivors are doing the best they can to live and survive in the ruins of our world.

Footprints deals with two people who were alive before the war, but for some reason (unknown to them), they were kidnapped and put into cryogenic suspension. When they work up (years before the story), they found themselves in the wastelands. Over the years one of the two main characters (Butch) has decided to settle down as best he can, but the other (Derek) has never given up his search to find out why they were “slept”. In Footprints, Derek believes he has found somewhere that could give them some answers, and he manages to convince Butch to join him in investigating the site.

Unfortunately, they aren't the only ones looking for the site.


How did you come up with the plot?

The seed of the plot came from a news story my wife was reading, about a family in the US who had bought an old missile silo and converted it into a home. I imagined a company doing something similar to a larger military base (especially a company that wanted to do some secretive research), and the story grew from there.


Tell us about Derek and Butch.

Derek is the action hero of the story. We see early on that he's a good fighter, and he is the one driving the group forward. It's obvious that his time in the wastelands has changed him (not for the better), and he has never given up the quest to find out who they mysterious Cryoskip were. I guess it's fair to say that it is his obsession. So far he's not willing to sacrifice everything to find the answers he's after, but there may come a time soon where he has to make that choice.

Butch is the tech guy of the story. He was a computer tech before he was slept, and likes to tinker with the few working items he finds (or trades for). He has settled down, in an attempt to make some sort of normal life for himself, but he is still willing to put all that on hold when Derek visits him. He obviously has some issues from the early years that they spent in the wasteland, although no details are covered in this story.


How long did it take you to write Cryoskip's Footprints? Did you hire any outside help such as a cover artist or editor?

Footprints was a real bear to write, and took much longer than it should have for it's word count (10k words). I started it in mid-January, but didn't manage to finish it until late April. I struggled getting the words from my head to the keyboard.

I did the cover art myself (using a stock photo and some manipulation in Photoshop), but I hired Lynn O'Dell (Red Adept) to edit the story for me. I'm currently planning to hire Lynn for all my editing work, as I find her a pleasure to work with.


As I'm sure you know, many readers like to find their favorite authors on social networking websites like facebook and twitter. Do you have any social network links you'd like to share?

Absolutely! You can find me on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/jason.g.anderson, and I'm on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/JasonGA. I don't spend a huge amount of time on either, but I try to keep any eye on everything.

Of course, I also have my normal website at http://www.jasonga.com


What do you feel are the most important aspects of a great book?

For me, it is a combination of the characters and the overall story.

I have to like (or at least understand and barrack for) the characters in a story for me to want to continue reading. Ideally the characters should grow in some way over the story, but that doesn't necessarily have to be the case if they are challenged in a significant way. The characters are our eyes and ears in the world of the story, and any failings here can ruin an otherwise good book.

The overall story is equally important though. I want something to happen in the book – something interesting, exciting, thrilling, or even scary. Most importantly, the story should have an ending. It doesn't have to be an end that ties everything up neatly. The author can leave a few side-elements unresolved. But I shouldn't get to the end and have the feeling the author forgot to write “To be continued...” after the final paragraph.

Really, at the end of the book I want to be able to look back over everything that's happened, and say that it was an enjoyable ride.


Have you ever sat down to write a scene only to have the story take you in a completely different direction than you had planned?

Many times! Not so much in the short stories I write, but the two novels I have in progress have had many scenes where I thought the characters would do X, and I found them suddenly doing Y.

I usually keep the changes because it means my subconscious has come up with some new ideas that are probably better than my initial planning, but I do stop for a few moments to consider what the new actions mean to the overall story. It could well mean that some things I have planned for later need to be changed, and it's better to make those changes earlier rather than later. If nothing else, it gives my subconscious something new to work on :)


And just for fun, favorite movie or television series?

I have quite a few favorite television series – I couldn't pick just one. Doctor Who was a childhood favorite, and I've really enjoyed the new series that started in 2005. From the SyFy channel I like Sanctuary, Warehouse 13, and Eureka. Finally, the series Lost Girl that showed last year was very intriguing (I liked how they were playing with all the fey myths), and I'm really looking forward to the new season.

And I have to say I think TV executives who believe a mid-season break is a “good idea” should be taken out the back and shot.

Thank you so much for stopping by! Best of luck to you!




Cryoskip's Footprints at Amazon.com (US)
Cryoskip's Footprints at Amazon.com (UK)
Jason G. Anderson at Goodreads.com

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

All Books on Sale through 2011!

Hey everyone, got some great news to tell you all about!

From now through the end of the year, you can get Key to the Stars, Volume I of The Fourth Dimension series, for free at the following sites!


Barnes & Noble - Nook
Apple iBookstore - iPod / iPad
Feedbooks - Kindle/Nook/iPod/iPad/Sony eReader
Sony Reader Store - Sony eReader
Kobobooks - Kobo eReader
Diesel eBooks - Diesel
Smashwords - ALL


Additionally, you can purchase the rest of my books on each of these sites for just $0.99 each!

Amazon.com - Kindle
Barnes & Noble - Nook
Apple iBookstore - iPod / iPad
Sony Reader Store - Sony eReader
Kobobooks - Kobo eReader
Diesel eBooks - Diesel
Smashwords - ALL


I do apologize that Key to the Stars is not free on Amazon.com, but Amazon doesn't give the option to list a book as free. You can, however, get Key to the Stars for your Kindle from the Feedbooks link at no cost!

The prices for all of these will go up starting in 2012, so get these deals while you can!


Thank you so much for your interest in my books. After reading, please don't forget to post reviews to each website!

Questions? Comments? Feedback of any kind is always welcome! Just send an email to kevindomenic@yahoo.com. And be sure to bookmark Searching for Heroes and visit often for news on sales, new books, author interviews, and much more!

Thanks again!

God bless,
Kevin

Friday, June 3, 2011

Author Interview: Tara Shuler

This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Tara Shuler, author of the Blood Haze series. She was kind enough tell us about herself, her writing, and Shelter, the first entry into her vampire series.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.


I'm an avid gamer. I enjoy playing Call of Duty: Black Ops, Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Splinter Cell, Legend of Zelda games, and several others. I love almost all types of music. I love science fiction. I consider myself a bit of a nerd. (And I'm proud of the title!)

I'm a very creative person. If it's creative in nature, I've probably tried it at least once. I'm a graphics designer, writer, and artist.

One of my biggest goals in life is to learn to play the piano really well. I've never had the time or money for professional lessons.

2. How long have you been writing?

I've been writing short stories off and on since I was about eight years old, and I wrote a novella when I was fifteen. I just started writing novels in February, 2011.

3. What is Shelter about?

Shelter is about a seventeen-year-old vampire named Alice Wright. She's been tutored at home all her life, and hasn't had much interaction with humans. Her mother decides to send her to a human high school for her senior year, and she has to try to fit in with the humans the best she can, even though she's actually just as afraid of them as they would be of her if they knew what she was. She meets a couple of guys who both develop feelings for her, but they both have secrets that cause serious problems for her.

4. How did you come up with the plot?

It's a little strange, because the plot came up with me, so to speak. I'd already written a novella a few weeks earlier, and I planned to make that into my first book series. However, I started writing a new story one day and it took on a life of its own. It just started playing like a movie in my head, and I had to type like crazy to keep up.

I wanted to write a story with a strong female lead. A lot of books I've read in the genre have human females and male vampires, and the human females are often weak or somewhat unlikable in some way. I wanted the heroine in my story to be the star of the show, rather than the men who fell for her.

5. Tell us about Alice Wright.

Alice is a seventeen-year-old vampire. She's a very strong person, although it's a little difficult to see in the beginning of the story. She's actually afraid of the human students at school, because she's always been taught that vampires really have to blend into human society as seamlessly as possible in order to avoid detection. She struggles with her fear of not fitting in, and manages to find some great friends in the process. Of course, those friends turn out to complicate her life in ways she never could have expected!

6. What do you feel sets your book apart from others of the same genre?

A lot of books in the genre have weaker females, or they focus on the male characters so much. I wanted a series where the female is the lead. I wanted her to be strong and protective, rather than the one who needed to be protected. Don't get me wrong... the men in her life are extremely protective of her. But she is smart, and strong, and very capable of taking care of herself (and others.)

7. Did you have any specific goals when writing Shelter? Any themes or ideas or concepts that you wanted to get across to the audience?

The main thing I wanted was to show that women don't have to play the victim, and they don't always have to have men protect them. Sometimes, they can (and should) take care of themselves, too.

8. How long did it take you to write Shelter? Did you hire any outside help such as a cover artist or editor?

I wrote the draft in less than one week, and I edited it in another week. I created the cover art and design myself. I didn't have the money to hire anyone. Fortunately, I'm kind of a one-woman show!

9. Who has been your biggest supporter in your writing aspirations? How do they support you?

That's a tough question. I'm not close with my family because of various issues. I guess my biggest supporters have been my children. They've been incredibly encouraging through the entire process.

10. As I'm sure you know, many readers like to find their favorite authors on social networking websites like facebook and twitter. Do you have any social network links you'd like to share?

The book series has an official website at: http://www.bloodhaze.com

I'm on Twitter at: http://www.twitter.com/TaraShuler

And I have two fan pages set up for myself and the series:

http://www.facebook.com/BloodHazeSeries
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tara-Shuler/159042924159061

My personal Facebook page is at:

http://www.facebook.com/TheRealTaraShuler


11. What do you feel are the most important aspects of a great book?

I feel character development is probably the most critical element. If you can't develop some sort of emotional attachment to the characters, it's hard to enjoy the story, no matter how good the plot itself happens to be. I also feel that it's vital to paint a picture of every scene in the reader's mind. Dialogue is important, and action is essential, but if the reader can't see it in their mind, nothing else matters.

12. Have you ever sat down to write a scene only to have the story take you in a completely different direction than you had planned?

Absolutely! When I started to write Shelter, it was going to be very different from the story it is now. The characters took me in a completely unexpected direction, and I am so grateful they did!

13. And just for fun, favorite movie or television series?

I am a die-hard Twilight fan. I absolutely love the series. As for television, I really love Supernatural, Doctor Who, Torchwood, and other sci-fi and paranormal type shows.

14. Do you have any other books available?

Book two in the series, Storm, is also currently available. Book three is due to be released later in May 2011. Not to give too much away, but in books two and three, the action really builds, and Alice discovers she has a lot more "power" than she ever realized!

I also have another series in progress. It's another vampire-based romance, but geared more for adults rather than young adults, and it's a little darker.

Thank you so much for taking the time to share your work with us, Tara!


Shelter (Blood Haze: Book One) at Amazon.com
Shelter (Blood Haze: Book One) at Smashwords.com
Shelter (Blood Haze: Book One) at Barnes & Noble.com
Tara Shuler on Goodreads