Camp Complete!


Camp NaNoWriMo has been won!

I adjusted the goal to 40,000 words about a week in, given some changes that Sam and I made which required me to re-write a couple of chapters. I just hit 40k, and claimed my Camp win!

That being said, the first draft is not yet complete (which was also our goal). I vastly underestimated the wordcount remaining; that plus the re-writes (which count toward my word-count goals but not toward finishing the draft) put me a little behind schedule.

Do not fear! We are getting very close. Within the next couple of weeks, we should have a draft completed and be able to jump into the next step.

Check back soon!

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!!


Returning for NaNoWriMo


I’m getting ready to blast off with National Novel Writing Month 2016. I’ve committed to writing the next 50,000 words in our third book, The Seventh Guardian.

After my success this summer with Camp NaNoWriMo, I know that I am capable of meeting this goal. It will be a lot of work, there’s no doubt. But I am up for the challenge!

I know a lot of people who say that they want to write a book someday. If that’s you, I really encourage you to try out NaNoWriMo. I have yet to find anything that motivates me more than this! It gives me a goal to work toward, and a community of people, locally and around the world, who are all in this together.

It helps to have a supportive husband! My James is wonderful, and during the month of November, he has promised to help, ensuring me the time that I need to write. Thanks, dearest!

If you are also doing NaNoWriMo this year, power to you! Let me know–I’ll be cheering for you!

Camp Success!


I am pleased to announce that Camp NaNoWriMo was a great success! Over the course of the month, I composed 30,021 words of our third book, The Seventh Guardian.


In fact, I reached 30,000 a few days early because my husband and I headed out of town, and I wanted to finish my Camp commitment before we left.

I’ll be honest, Camp was a challenge! I feel very out of practice, when it comes to writing. When I was in college, one of my favorite creative writing professors taught us that there is a big difference between writers, and people who write. Consistency is the key, and I feel really great about the progress that I made this month.

We can’t wait to be able to share the finished project with you!

Writing Martial Arts, Part 2: Philosophies

One of the things that I have learned about being pregnant is that nothing happens quite as you expect. For instance, this post, which was supposed to come out two weeks ago, got delayed due to some scary moments with the baby, a car accident, and plain old preggie-brain.

So, at last we come to Part 2: Martial Arts Philosophies! If you haven’t yet read Part 1, check it out here.

When it comes to the philosophies of martial arts, the first thing that you need to understand is that martial arts are a way of life. True martial artists–particularly true masters–dedicate their lives to the study of their art. It surpasses the physical skills. As my master so often tells me, a true martial artist develops her mind, body and spirit into one great whole.

When you are approaching martial arts in your writing, you must develop the philosophy of your character(s). Without these foundations, your martial art (and your character) will feel incomplete and shallow. To that end, I would encourage you to ask the following questions.

1) What are the tenets of my character’s martial art?

Tenets are the core beliefs of a given philosophy, or in this case, martial art. For instance, the Five Tenets of Taekwondo are Courtesy, Integrity, Perseverance, Self Control and Indomitable Spirit. Though there may be small differences in different areas (I’ve seen Respect plugged in), most Taekwondo schools teach these tenets. Most have them displayed prominently in the dojang. The tenets provide an easy-to-reference guide for what the style believes and practices.

2) How does the fighting style relate to the philosophy?


Have you watched the Karate Kid recently? Both the classic and the new movie are good examples; let’s refer to the new one. Obviously Mr. Han has a different fighting style than Master Li. The fighting style relates directly to what these schools believe. Mr. Han, who teaches the mental and spiritual aspects as much as the physical, emphasizes serenity and maturity. Master Li, whose fighting is brutal and merciless, teaches that nothing must stand in the way of victory. “No mercy!” In order to present a realistic martial art, the way your character fights must match what he believes.

3) What mental/spiritual training does my character practice? How does it relate to the physical training?

Meditation is almost intrinsically linked with martial arts. Every class I teach and attend has a period of meditation, where we practice clearing and focusing our minds. This is the most obvious mental training, but there are moments throughout martial arts training where the mental and spiritual are practiced hand-in-hand with the physical.

When my students are breaking boards, it is perfectly obvious to me when they believe that they can be successful, versus when they doubt or don’t believe. When they believe in themselves, they break. When they doubt, they often struggle or fail. Injury often results. It is part of my task to teach them mental control–sometimes, as simple as this belief in self.

As you approach writing your martial art, think through what kind of mental and spiritual training your character practices. Do they meditate? Do they pray? Do they practice ritual breathing? Do they listen to music prior to fighting? Do they write in a journal after fighting, to process their experience? Do they practice visualizations? Do they have a mantra? Choose what works best for your character, and commit to it.

4) What are the foundations of my martial art?

Where did it come from? If you are writing contemporary fiction, you should determine a country of origin for your martial art, fictional or otherwise. Taekwondo comes from Korea. Karate and Ju-jitsu in their traditional forms are from Japan. Kung Fu from China. Muay Thai from Thailand. Arnis and the other Filipino martial arts. These nations have rich histories, which directly influence these martial arts, their philosophies and their fighting styles. Even if you’re making up a martial art, if you are writing in the real world, you still should determine where it has come from, who founded it, what the history is, and how that nation’s history and personality has influenced the martial art.

If you are writing fantastical fiction, you may have less research to do, but you still need to ask yourself these questions. Your martial art, coming from a fictional country, can end up being anything you want. But in order to depict it in a believable fashion, you still need to have these foundations. How has your martial art developed over time? How has the history of your fictional world influenced your martial art? How is your martial art perceived by people in your world, practitioners and outsiders alike? In order for your martial art to feel real, it needs to have a believable and fleshed-out history, even if you never write about it in the prose. Your readers will sense the difference.

5) What does my character believe?

Keep in mind, every martial artist is different. Sam and I have studied different martial arts, and our philosophies are quite different. But even my husband and I, who earned our black belts at the same school, are quite different in several aspects. (Don’t get us talking about guns!) What is essential for you as a writer is to determine what your character believes, and make sure it is in line with what your martial art teaches–or if not, set it up as a source of conflict, either with the masters of that martial art, or within the character himself.

In summary, the belief system of your martial art is just as essential to develop as the fighting style. Martial arts are a whole package, and if you want to write a believable martial art, you need to think through the philosophy, and determine your character’s relationship with it. Readers, whether they are martial artists or not, will connect with this kind of depth.

In Part 3, we will be getting into the nitty-gritty of how to effectively present your martial art in your prose. Look forward to the next part in our series!

Writing Martial Arts, Part 1: MA Basics

One of the topics that we have thoroughly enjoyed speaking on, at LTUE and elsewhere, is how to create and write martial arts in fiction. Being that we are both martial artists ourselves, we have a great deal of personal experience to draw upon for inspiration. This series of posts is designed for both experienced martial artists and those with no exposure at all, but who all desire to write about martial arts in their fiction.

Part 1: Martial Arts Basics

First, you have to accept that no one post, or series of posts, can expose you to everything you need to know. We just can’t cover it all. You MUST research.

Of course, you could just go out and write. But trust me when I tell you, that when reading fiction that contains martial arts, I can tell the difference between a writer with experience and research, and someone just flying off the cuff. As a martial artist, some of the stuff out there makes me cringe. I’m sure that you don’t want to do that to me.

So, where to start?

I’ve heard the recommendation to take a martial arts class, and I’ve heard that recommendation debunked. Here’s a few pros and cons of this approach.

Hands-on experience
Meet martial artists who can become a resource
Realistic understanding of how a MA school runs
Hopefully gain some useful skills while you’re there

Every martial art is different, so studying at one school is very limited exposure
Takes a long time to actually become proficient and/or learn what you need to know for your story

Here’s my thought: no amount of research can really show you what it’s like to study martial arts. However, you may not need to go through the bruises, the repetition, the nerves, and all else in order to effectively write martial arts. So would I encourage you to take classes? Yes I would, but mostly for PRO #4. I’m a martial arts instructor, and I believe that everyone needs self defense skills. But I can also show you some ways to write martial arts that won’t require you to get a black belt first.

Understand what is actually possible. I saw a Mythbusters episode where they had a “ninja” come and try to catch arrows. Was it possible? Yes–with the right equipment, in the right position, and only once in about 14 tries…and this guy was FAST.

This is where your research comes in. Before you include that super-cool move that you’ve seen on TV a hundred times, find out if it’s something that real people are actually able to do. And then find out if those real people are only the super-skilled-master type, or if not, find out what level of training was required for them to be able to do it. You want to ensure that your character’s abilities match his/her level of training.

Next, study up on some of the different styles of martial arts. You need to understand different styles of fighting, so you can choose one for your character, then accurately represent it in your prose. Is your martial art hard (striking) or soft (deflecting)? Does your character fight with weapons, or open hand? Is your character trained to fight groups, or one-on-one, or both? Does your character fight upright, crouched, on the ground? Does your character prefer to fight at a distance or in close? Most important of all, what is your character’s martial arts’ philosophy? (More on this in Part 2.) In your character’s martial art, what does it take to become a master? What kind of time, dedication and skill does it take to reach “mastery” and where is your character on that journey?

Now, understand this: short fights are the most realistic, particularly one-on-one. When you watch a movie or read in a book that a fight lasted for hours, or days, you are reading nothing but fiction. Skilled martial artists are trained in finishing techniques, or one-hit finishes. Even if you have two masters, there may be a brief exchange of strikes and counters, but it will not be long before someone lands a blow, and most of the time, that blow signals the end of the fight. So in your fiction, you must balance the drama of a drawn-out fight with the realism of the one-hit finish.

Furthermore, keep in mind that no one walks away from a fight unscathed. If you have two competent fighters, there are going to be injuries, some of them devastating. I heard it put very succinctly at LTUE. The winner is the guy who leaves the hospital first. If you have a character who fights without being injured, it’s time to rewrite.

There is a world of resources available for you to begin your martial arts research. Here are just a few of our favorites:

The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi
Codex Wallerstein or other of the German Renaissance combat manuals
The Art of War by Sun Tzu

In Part 2 we will be covering Martial Arts Philosophies, touching on some of the real-world foundations and how you can build on them for your fiction. Part 2 is available here.

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.”


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!