Camp Eve

Camp NaNoWriMo begins at midnight!

Sam and I have committed to finishing the first draft of “Buk Tri” during Camp. Based on our current estimates, this will entail writing in the neighborhood of 30,000 words. Of course, that’s just a rough estimate, and we’ll just have to see how the prose unfolds! Nevertheless, it feels very doable, and we are excited to jump in.

As a tangent, both of our spouses have decided to join us for Camp NaNoWriMo! I hope I’m not putting words in their mouths by saying that this is not within either Ashley’s or James’s normal comfort zone. But insanity loves company, so I’m excited that they will be participating with us, working on their own projects.

Wish us luck! And if you are participating in Camp also, happy writing trails to you!!

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Camp NaNoWriMo

I have done NaNoWriMo as well as the Camp version many times in the past. (Every year from 2006-2013!) In fact, portions of both our published novels were composed as NaNo (rebel) projects. I love the motivation and support that NaNoWriMo provides. There’s an incredible energy to it.

The past couple of years I have skipped NaNoWriMo, because I had a couple of babies. :P Seriously, though, I never imagined, before having kids, how much it would affect my writing.

A) Raising little boys takes up a lot of time and energy. During my formerly-most productive times of day, I now either have little boys to care for, or I’m exhausted from caring for said kidlets.
B) Post-partum depression seriously affects my creative energy.

I read an article a few months ago by an author who declared that sometimes mom-writers mistake writer’s block for what is really PPD. This article was a real turning point for me. Previously, I have felt really guilty and/or frustrated with myself when I have struggled to work on my books. I mean, writing novels is supposed to be fun, right? But while battling depression, doing anything creative feels a lot like pulling teeth.

It’s hard because I know our readers have been waiting for our third book for a long time. I get asked periodically when the trilogy will be completed. It’s hard to admit to our readers, whom I want so desperately to please, that I simply haven’t written anything in months. That I haven’t wanted to write. That I haven’t really been able to write.

Happily, the fog of depression is beginning to lift. This happened about a year after my first son was born, so I’m excited to been feeling a bit more like myself only 8 months after the birth of #2. I still struggle some days, but I actually feel like I can commit to Camp NaNoWriMo this time around.

Camp begins on July 1st. My goal is to write 30,000 words. Or more! Since we have already 33k written in Buk Tri (“book three” of our Seventh Empire series), this should put us around one-third complete. Wish me luck!

LTUE Reflections

This past weekend, Sam and I had the opportunity to attend and speak at Life, the Universe & Everything, a science fiction and fantasy symposium held annually in Provo, Utah. We went last year and loved it, and we were excited to be able to attend again. LTUE is a three-day event with panels and presentations on all things SF/F, with a definite focus on writing. There are also readings, signings, gaming and dealers rooms, as well as a banquet.

Of the writing conferences that I personally have attended, LTUE is one of my favorites, for several reasons, the foremost being the atmosphere. LTUE is very personal, in a good way. New York Times bestselling authors rub shoulders with aspiring writers, and the focus of the symposium is a shared love of the genres.

I thought I would share a few things that I learned, observed, and pondered while at LTUE, just for funsies.

Brandon Sanderson should not sit on panels.

I attended a couple of panels on which Brandon Sanderson participated on Friday. Here’s the problem. Brandon Sanderson is a NYT bestselling author. He is famous. He is particularly well-loved in this area, because he’s from this area. He’s also verbose and well-spoken on these topics. So when he speaks on a panel, I don’t care who else is on the panel, they are going to be outshone.

Case and point: the first panel that Brandon spoke on (“Prologues and Epilogues”) he was 10 minutes late. And for the first ten minutes of the panel, every time the door opened, at least half of the eyes in the audience swiveled toward the door. The anticipation was obvious–was Brandon Sanderson going to show up? I’m convinced a fair number of that audience didn’t care in the least about prologues and epilogues, they were there to see their favorite author. And at least three-quarters of the audience were there at least partially because of him. So, needless to say, when he finally walked in, there was a palpable sense of relief followed by an immediate charge of excitement.

Also, no offense to Brandon…he likes to talk. I’m sure he’d admit that to you without hesitation. Pitting his love of talking with the audience’s desire to hear from him (certainly more than they wanted to hear from the other authors on the panel), and his fellow panelists are at a severe disadvantage.

Couple that with the fact that on this particular panel there were no other authors of anywhere close to the experience level/publishing record that Brandon has…

Summary: Brandon Sanderson (and other authors with similar levels of popularity) should give solo presentations. Or sit on panels with authors of similar rank.

90 minute writing sessions

I attended a panel entitled “Recharging your creative battery” from which I hoped to glean some useful tips. Unfortunately, there was a fair bit of “fluff.”

Pause. Let me clarify something.

I’ve attended quite a few writing conferences, and after you’ve been to a couple of them, you start to hear a lot of repeat information. While much of the information is helpful (at least, the first time around) there is still a certain amount of trite, overused writing advice that gets passed on at every writing conference ever. It would be these platitudes which I refer to as “fluff.”

Onward.

The one helpful suggestion that I gleaned from “Recharging…” was based off some research from Europe which indicated that people work best in 90 minute cycles. The idea is, work for a solid 90 minutes, then take a break–go for a run, watch a TV episode, etc–then go back to work. The break in between cycles actually increases productivity, so you are able to accomplish more than you would have if you had worked straight for the entire period.

I really liked this suggestion, and intend to try it and see if it increases my writing productivity.

Meeting cool people

One of my most favorite parts of LTUE is meeting cool people. I love it when people come up after a panel to continue asking questions, or pursue further conversation about the topic that we’ve presented on. It also was fun to talk to readers (and future readers!) at the book signing on Friday night. I love talking with people–fellow authors, aspiring writers, and readers–about our books, about martial arts, about writing, or really about whatever comes up. It’s awesome.

Constructing Languages “When Apostrophes Just Don’t Cut It”

That was the title of a panel that I attended, which, to be honest, turned into something of a disappointment for me. First of all, Orson Scott Card was supposed to be the panel, but didn’t show. Alas. But the panel itself was not what I had hoped. The panelists focused mostly on how to adapt languages such as Spanish or Russian for use in writing, and focused very little on actually constructing a fictional language, which is what I had expected from this panel, especially at LTUE, a science fiction and fantasy symposium.

I’m hoping that I can talk Sam into writing a post on constructing languages, as it’s something that he has experience with and a passion for! (I couldn’t help but think, during the panel, that Sam should have been on it!)

Geeky realities

Most of the people who I interacted with at LTUE were normal, wonderful people. However, there were definitely some…interesting folks there as well. (As is to be expected!) Costumes, hats, and…unique outfits were seen here and there. There was also a certain number of individuals that seemed to lack in the personal hygiene department. Maybe I was just oversensitive because I’m pregnant, but it seemed that the more popular sessions (aka the full sessions, where it got rather warm) were rather fragrant.

That said, I cannot deny the fun that comes from gathering with fellow fans of science fiction and fantasy. Geekdom unite!

More to come

Sam and I sat on three panels this year, and those in addition to several panels that we attended have sparked thoughts for several future blog posts, where we can address the topics in more depth. We look forward to sharing them with you!

Pictures from this week

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Labor Day weekend: a new story

Buk Tu edits have been going well, though slowed by Labor Day weekend. We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback from our editor, along with his usual copious edits. Hopefully the pace will pick up, now that we’re past the holiday, and we’ll be able to crank out the final draft in a timely fashion.

I’ll be honest with you, dear reader, that I’ve been taking a bit of a writing break. I never do that on purpose, because I know from past experience how very difficult it is for me to get back into my usual writerly habits. However I’ve also learned how necessary the breaks are for me, particularly after an intense period such as the Buk Tu revisions. The break helps me rejuvenate, so I am able to focus on the next project. Once I get back into the swing of things.

It’s been four weeks since we submitted Buk Tu to our editor. With the exception of edits (which have required very little of my brainpower so far) I haven’t written anything in that time. And I finally feel ready to do so.

This weekend, amidst game playing, nature walking, and s’more roasting, I started brainstorming our next book. Sam and I have discussed several potential ideas, but I have been circling around one in particular. What was interesting, is when I briefly spoke to Sam this evening, he told me he’s been feeling interested in this same idea as well.

Never fear, Buk Tri (“book three”) will not be put off for long. But I feel that working on another project for a little while will actually help make Buk Tri more fun to write–and ultimately, a better read for you. And hopefully you’ll have a chance to enjoy this new story as well. We’re certainly excited about it!

Cool moments + Cover Art concepts

A couple of cool moments from this weekend—

First, while signing books at the mall yesterday, I had the chance to talk with a family who all read fantasy together. Dad reads the books out loud to all the kids, Mom has to stop herself from reading ahead in secret, and the kids all have a certain degree of enthusiasm for the practice. First of all, it made me decide on the spot that I’m going to read fantasy novels aloud to my children. But the really cool thing was when the father asked for our email address. Turns out one of the daughters, who is 12, is an aspiring writer. This was the highlight of my afternoon, because I remember being that girl. My parents, in like manner, tried to connect me with other authors and publishing people when I was that age. I was tickled to be able to turn around and potentially be a mentor to aspiring writers coming up.

Second exciting thing came yesterday evening. Sam and I got to Skype with our editor last night, and go through some of the preliminary edits. Every time this part of the process comes, I forget how intensive it is. But for the most part it was all agreeable, and we had a good discussion. The really cool part was talking with our editor about the cover art, which is in process. He was able to share with us some of the concepts, and we were told that we should be able to see some mockups here shortly.

Cover art is one of my favorite parts of the publishing process. I am not a visual artist by any means (as in, I can barely draw stick figures). I even have difficulty conceptualizing things in a visual manner, I am far more likely to express them in words. Seeing our story–a world and characters that previously existed only in our collective imagination–take shape in a visual form is fascinating. It helps that our cover artist is fantastic! I am ridiculously excited to see what she produces for Buk Tu.

Superhero Shakedown

Sam and I sat down for a brainstorming session today–I’m actually really excited to be returning this evening to resume the brainstorm…two in one day!–and as is pretty typical for us, we got distracted by a few tangents. One of them had us laughing out loud: we started arguing about which superheroes would be Radiance users, and which would use Void. (If you haven’t yet read Telsharu, the following will be meaningless to you.)

Superman was easy, clearly a Radiance user.

Batman is still under debate. I would argue Radiance, seeing as how he uses his own internal awesomeness to win the day. Sam argues Void, since he manipulates his surroundings and uses resourcefulness (rather than pure inner strength) to succeed. We have yet to come to consensus.

Iron Man isn’t Awakened, but if he were, he’d probably Awaken to Radiance.

Thor, Radiance, no question.

Captain America, Radiance.

Mr. Incredible, Radiance.

But his daughter? We had more debate over Violet, and decided that her powers of invisibility are Void, but the shield was more of a debate. A shield that diverts and redirects energy would be Void, but a shield of pure force/will that stops outside forces, that would be Radiance

That led us to Gandalf (“thou…shall not…pass!”) whom we decided was a Radiance-user. As is Galladriel, though the clairvoyance is more of a Void ability.

It was interesting, because one of our beta readers told us that he felt like Void was more powerful and versatile than Radiance. Sam and I both had to chuckle at that, because we both find Void more interesting to write about. But it made me realize that I need to step up the exposure of Radiance-users in Buk Tu, and in the third book to come. Because Radiance users are equally, if differently, awesome.