Series: Shadows of Valor #2
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Young Adult
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Continuing the story began in Shadows of Valor, Edwin is stuck back at SAC headquarters reeling from the effects of his first mission. Haunted by nightmares and recovering from a training injury, Edwin desperately seeks a solution to the horrors that blast him awake each night without fail. At the same time, war waits for no man, and the Commander assigns him a new mission, one that will take him into the heart of Veracka. Meanwhile, Peggy is offered an ultimatum: accept enhancement or watch as Edwin is sent alone on a mission he may not survive without her. Disillusioned and suspecting her superiors intended this outcome from the beginning, Peggy must face the most difficult decision she's ever had to make. And, even if she takes the plunge, the effort may be too little, too late.
Forgotten Valor, the 2nd book in the Shadows of Valor series is now available. I reviewed the first book and gave it 5 stars. It is one of my favorite recent books. If you like YA science fiction and fantasy with a little romance, give it a try (you can get the first book for free below, and enter a giveaway for the 2nd book).
Interview with Patricia Hamill
For people who haven’t read the series, can you give a brief summary?
Shadows of Valor follows Edwin, a young man who runs away from home to seek revenge for his father’s death at the hands of enemy raiders. He expects to get his chance at vengeance by joining the Orescan army, but instead he is recruited into the Special Air Corps, an elite organization of gifted operatives who fight for their country from the shadows.
And for those who read book one, what can we expect in book two?
In book two, you can expect more about the girl that was introduced in the final pages of book one. Peggy is forced to make a difficult choice, one that may change her forever. Edwin is increasingly disillusioned by the tactics of the Special Air Corps and frustrated by the ongoing order to hide the extent of his abilities from his colleagues. And a new mission looms on the horizon, one that will take Edwin and Peggy into the heart of Veracka.
Where did you get the idea for the series?
Honestly? I got it from a recurring dream. In it, the corps was an elite troop of soldiers who wore ball caps that gave them the ability to fly. Their home base was a tall, cylindrical building where each was assigned a lofty barracks accessible only by flight, all according to rank. Their job was to infiltrate the enemy country, and the main character in my dream did so by pretending to be one of the enemy. It was simple in the dream because all he had to do was change the color of his cap to match theirs. In the process he fell for the enemy princess and saved the day.
As dreams go, it was pretty exciting. I woke up and said wow each time I dreamt it. Sure, it’s kind of cheesy in some ways, but it did provide the spark for Shadows of Valor.
What message do you want readers to get from reading the books?
There are a few messages twined into my books, but most are unintentional reflections of my own views on things. I never realized how much of an author goes into their writings, and each one seems to hold a bit more of me in it. Here are a few things you might get from the Shadows of Valor series:
1. Someone may have wronged you, but you won’t benefit by holding a grudge against them.
2. Support your family, even if you don’t agree with them.
3. Look at both sides of a fight before you judge who’s right and who’s wrong.
4. Remember your obligations and strive to keep them.
5. Sometimes you have to forget who you were to learn who you are.
How long did it take to write the sequel?
It took me about six months to write the sequel and six more to revise, edit and proof it. But I must admit I didn’t spend all that time living and breathing Forgotten Valor. I had a couple of bouts of writers block, took up a book review hobby, and got a bit distracted trying to tame the zombie book I wrote for NaNoWriMo 2012, still a work in progress. I also took a few months to edit another author’s books, which ended up helping me put quite a bit of polish on my own books. And, of course, I have a day job.
Who is your favorite character, or what character was the most fun to write?
Edwin is definitely my favorite. It’s strange because he’s a guy, but that’s probably what I enjoyed about writing him. Early on, back when I first thought I might want to write the story, I read an article on Writer’s Digest on how to write a convincing male character. One of the things it said was to limit how much the male character says and to incorporate non-verbal communication. So, I made Edwin a bit quiet and Peggy a chatterbox. It was fun to do that without making the conversations seem one sided.
I also enjoyed introducing the unnamed girl character at the end of book one. She comes back in book two and I expect her to be even more prominent in book three.
Can you talk about how you wrote it? Did you do any outlining? Did it take you in any unexpected directions?
This is another great question.
I’m what’s called a pantser because I enjoy letting the story tell itself. A side effect of this predisposition towards chaos is that outlines really don’t work for me, but for Shadows of Valor I actually put some (rare for me) forethought and planning into it, primarily with the use of mind mapping. This is a method where you write a topic, person, place or thing in the center of a page and then branch off from it into the possibilities and then branch off from the branches until the page is filled with bubbles of info and lines linking them together. I have a couple of the mindmaps I drew for Shadows of Valor posted on my facebook page. They’re not pretty, but they’re great for taking a creative, random output and putting some order and sense to it.
Another thing I like to do, especially when I get to a part where I have to describe an environment like a room, Edwin’s farm, or the country of Oresca is to draw. I have pages and pages of diagrams, sketches, and doodles that help me describe things in detail. Now, I must admit that sketching is not a strong point for me, but it does help me figure out spacial relationships and solidify the image in my mind.
Finally, I tend to do my best writing with a notebook and pencil, though I sometimes drop those for typing if the story is coming to me strongly. There’s just something about holding the pages in my hand and feeling the pencil scratch against them. Plus, when I type what I’ve written, it helps solidify what I wrote in my last session before I write the next and maybe even do a little polishing while I’m at it.
As far as unexpected directions go, what happened with Turner was pretty surprising. I didn’t plan that, but once the idea struck, I couldn’t write it any other way. I don’t want to say anything else though, as I am trying to avoid spoilers.
If you could go back and change anything in the first book, what would it be?
I’m pretty happy with book one, so there isn’t much, but one thing I considered, based on feedback in a review, was adding a little more evidence of war and troubled times in the countryside. Subtle stuff that might make it seem like there is danger of imminent invasions. In the end, I decided against it because in the world I envision, Oresca is taking most of the fight to Verracka, whereas in Edwin’s earlier memories, the opposite was true.
One other thing I learned from the reviews I received is that I used a little too much detail when describing Edwin’s rooms. I actually did tone those down a bit, especially his room at headquarters, with the latest edition of Shadows of Valor. It all falls back to the drawings I mentioned earlier. I have floor plan sketches of both rooms and even a diagram of headquarters that shows what goes on each level. Sometimes the level of detail backfires.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Being an author was one of my earliest dream jobs. If I remember correctly, I attempted to write my first book, Little Tom Cat, in the third grade. It was about a little cat that was having an adventure. I had something like twenty pages written when we had to move. I remember telling my mom that I had to get my book from my desk at school, but my teacher had already cleared it out and she didn’t know the “scroll” of notebook paper I’d rubber banded onto a toilet paper roll was my work in progress. Yep, I really did roll it up as a scroll. Makes me chuckle to think of it.
I kind of stopped writing for a while after that, but I always did well on creative writing assignments. Some of them I remember quite clearly, even though I’ve lost track of them. In high school I wrote a short story about a young man who battles a dragon to save his town, Crimson Stream. I’ve been thinking of trying to rewrite that one from memory. It was the first really vivid story I ever wrote.
What are your favorite books and authors?
Oh my gosh, there are so many. I’m an avid reader and often re-read books over and over if I loved them the first time through. The first series I ever loved that much was The Lord of the Rings (including The Hobbit) by J.R.R. Tolkien. I remember the first time I read the series I spent three days locked away in my room devouring them and doing little else. I read all four books again this year. Still love them.
Another favorite is The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. I’m reading The Dragon Reborn again right now for about the 12th or 13th time. It’s a fantastic series, so massive I have an entire shelf devoted to it. I’m on a race against time to read through to the last book before my husband leaks a spoiler. He read it first because it was his present last year. Takes several months to get through them all, so I imagine it could be as long as a year before I finally reach it.
Probably the most interesting story I have about favorite books surround one I started reading in the fifth grade. I was given Grayfax Grimwald (Book I of the Circle of Light) by Neil Hancock, read it and loved it. But it was out of print, and those were pre-Amazon days, so the three sequels were nowhere to be found. I remember going into any bookstore I passed and asking about it, desperate to find out what happened next. It wasn’t until ten years later, after I’d grown up and joined the Navy, that I finally found them on Amazon (yay!). I have read them every couple of years since then, and now my copies are so decrepit I had to mend them with magic tape.
Other authors and series I adore are Anne McCaffrey’s Dragons of Pern, Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman’s Death’s Gate Cycle, Robert Asprin’s Myth series, and, of course, J.K. Rowlings’ Harry Potter series. These are books I’ve been reading over and over again over the years. Some newer favorites include David Estes’ Dwellers and Country books (especially Fire Country), Rustin Petrae’s Purga series (I’ve only read the first, but I’ve got #2 in the queue), Gloria Piper’s Train to Nowhere (a standalone), and Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games. There are more, many more than I can list here.
What are you working on right now?
I have a few projects in progress, but my focus right now is my 2013 NaNoWriMo attempt, which I’m calling The Freeze. I started incredibly late, 17 days to be exact, so I’ve got my work cut out for me. The good news is that I only have 38k left to go (as of Nov 22) and five non-work days to push through it, so I’m optimistic (or maybe insane).
The other projects I’m working on are a 1st draft of a sequel to The Golden Ship, a fourth or fifth revision of Fearless (last year’s NaNoWriMo), and, of course, notes and ideas for Shadows of Valor #3, which I plan to dive into this coming January.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
First off, don’t worry about writing something good, just write. The first draft is never going to be perfect, so don’t worry about trying to make it so by editing as you go. Second, don’t get too attached to a particular phrase, paragraph or idea. Sometimes you have to strike something you like for the good of the story. Third, don’t forget why you wanted to be an author. It’s supposed to be fun, so enjoy it. And don’t be afraid to take a break if you need it.
How do you juggle writing with family time?
Pretty well, I hope. I try not to spend more than one weekend day per week writing (as in writing all day), and even on those days I won’t hesitate to take my son somewhere or play video or computer games with my husband. I sometimes write when my son’s in his Taekwondo class or when my husband is watching Ancient Aliens (though it’s hard because that’s a pretty funny show), but usually I’ll try to spend that time enjoying the moment, experiencing life. I also think it’s important to incorporate physical fitness and recreation into each day. I have hobbies, I read, I blog, and I play. If you keep yourself happy, you’ll be a better partner and parent. And as for writing, if you’re happy and refreshed, that’s easier, too.
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