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Moving Day!

September 23, 2009

As you might have noticed, JLY and I have stopped updating our individual blogs… Because we started a new joint blog! You can visit  it at: http://turningphrases.blogspot.com/

Hope to see you there!

KL

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What I’m Reading

March 31, 2009

I’ve noticed that a lot of people talk about what they’re reading… I guess what you’re reading can say a lot about you. In my case, these days what I’m reading is World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War, and Phase Two Applications. I can thank JLY for World War Z— a late Christmas present– and for the Applications, I can thank all of you. ^_^ Actually, World War Z has technically been put on hold so JLY, KM Ricker, and I can cram every free moment we have full of application-reading. It’s been a couple of weeks, and we’re nearly through all of them, and I have to say that it’s been a fun couple of weeks.

To say that we’re enjoying the Phase Two Applications would be a horrible understatement. Without exception, the applications have been thoughtful and interesting to read. We spend so much time talking about SFA and thinking about SFA, I sometimes feel like we’re in our own little world. It’s like JLY, KM Ricker, and I have been having a party and suddenly we look up to realize other people are there, standing in the room with us. Which is cool. We spend so much time building that world… It’s nice to be able to share it with people who are just as excited about it as we are.

That being said, for anyone who applied, you’re probably curious about just what’s going on behind the scenes over here. Well, I’ll tell you.

First, JLY catalogs everything. You know how she likes spreadsheets. I half suspect she doesn’t really need them–when we were printing them out, I’d call out each person’s name so she could check them off the list and she’d offhandedly reply with the character name and a fun fact about that person. That’s how good she is–she knows each and every one of you.

Anyway, after JLY, KM Ricker, and I printed out each application, we sorted them according to majors.

After that, well, let me describe the scene for you.

JLY sits at my desk, at the corner. She’s in her chair–aptly appropriated by her since it’s the chair that she sits in every time we work on SFA. She has the stack of Thief applications as well as the stack of Cleric applications. KM Ricker is on the couch flipping through the Warrior applications. Me, I’m in a chair at the table, taking a look at the Mage applicants. We’ve each got a slice of chocolate cake, because, why not? I felt like baking.

Two of us read through each application. We go through about a batch of ten, and then we discuss whether or not the applicants might be a good fit.

I really must say, I’m pleasantly surprised by how awesome all of the applications are. And I applaud everyone’s bravery for applying. It’s not an easy thing to write like this, to bare your innermost thoughts. When you do academic writing (essays, or the stray thesis), there are “therefores” and “thuslys” to hide behind. But to write fantasy… That’s putting yourself out there, vulnerable, and saying “I think this is cool” or “I think this is funny”. And that takes guts.

Personally, I don’t think I would have had the courage to put SFA up on the internet or out in printed form if it weren’t for JLY. I can hide behind her and see all of the good parts that she’s written instead of worrying over all the flaws I’ve introduced…

Anyway, the point of this post is to thank everyone who has applied… Thank you for all of your courage to put yourselves out there, thank you for your time and effort in writing your characters, and thank you for the entertainment. =)

Take care,

KL

“I like how you turned my stalkerish nature into something endearing.”

-JLY, after reading this post

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Drowning, and the Results of Averi’s Test

February 13, 2009

As they say in Firefly:

When you can’t run, you crawl. And when you can’t crawl, you make JLY carry you.

(Well, something like that… ^_^)

95% of the time, I need a project to work on. I can’t just watch TV… If I’m watching TV, I need to be writing, reading, drawing, wrapping a present, cooking a meal, eating that meal, or sipping a tall glass of hot chocolate.

It might be high school that did this to me. I’ve talked about it before, but if you haven’t read those posts, here’s the basics: The high school JLY, KM Ricker, and I went to had some strict rules about how tough of a course load a student could take… So of course, JLY and I petitioned to take the maximum course load– AP English, AP Bio, etc. etc. The end result was much too much homework, far too little sleep, and a merciless need for productivity. During those years, I found out just how much I can get done in 24 hours, and I developed a lingering feeling that I always should be meeting that peak productivity.

So 95% of the time, I want to have something to work on. This somewhat compulsive desire to be productive allows me to get quite a bit of work done on any given day. On the other hand, when that 95% wears out, I hit the 5% of the time when I’m flat-out exhausted, mentally burned out, and ready to curl up in a corner somewhere and just watch some mind-numbing reality TV.

I guess the way I would describe it is that it feels like drowning–at first, it’s just a tiring, aching of the limbs. Then it starts to dawn on you how much you’ve spent of yourself, just treading water. Movement becomes harder. You need to convince yourself that it’s worth the effort to push your limbs through the water. Your muscles ache;  it’s a struggle just to breathe. But you keep churning water, because you know that all you need is to keep your head above that water line.

So that’s what I’ve been doing lately… Just treading water.

Luckily for me, I’ve got a JLY. She recently wrote a post titled “Co-Authors Are The Best”. I would like to reply, “JLYs Are The Best”. If JLY and I each have a specialty, I would say that one of JLY’s specialties is in caring about our world… Every little detail of it, which she meticulously chronicles in various Excel spreadsheets… So I fully admit that I’m not really pulling my weight right now… I mean, JLY is practically dragging me uphill over rocks. Big rocks. Sure, I try to help sometimes… It goes something like this:

KL: Okay… Let’s work on… Our guide to the world.
JLY: Are you feeling okay?!
KL: …No… But we should…
JLY: This is like my dream!

And a typical day of us working on answering questions on the forum more or less follows this pattern:

KL: Hmm… What ‘Age’ are they in?
JLY: Oh. They’re in the Iron Age.
KL: What’s the difference between the Bronze Age and the Iron Age?
JLY: Well… (Smiles!) The Bronze Age is like the Mayans…
KL: Whoa, whoa. Okay, as long as you understand what’s going on.

Well, my point is that if you see JLY on the forum, be sure to shower her with praise for her dilligence… ^_^

For my part, I’ve been trying to get back to normal. To that end, JLY and I have tried to do a few more fun things lately. JLY and I don’t make it a practice to schedule in fun, but when we burn out, it becomes inevitable. That’s one of the nice things about co-authoring/co-projecting with your best friends. When we’ve pushed ourselves too far, JLY and I (and KM Ricker, when she’s not toiling over her drawings) get to have fun.

So what do JLY and I do for fun? Well, recently we had what I’d call a ‘Left 4 Dead Party’. This consisted of 2 flat-screen HDTVs, 2 X-Box 360’s, 2 copies of Left 4 Dead that I borrowed from various sources, and 2 very accommodating friends to keep JLY and I alive as we run into walls, fire, and zombie hordes. The night was spent passing two of the campaigns, and to summarize, it involved a lot of JLY and myself shooting our FPS-savvy friends in the back of the head. ^_^* Heh. Our friends have assured us that in the event of an actual zombie apocalypse, the first thing they will do is take our guns and leave us far, far behind.

But there’s only so much zombie-hunting a person can take… Especially when JLY spends about an hour to figure out how to get up each ladder… Our latest distraction was a game based off of Battlestar Galactica. Having not watched much of the series, I wasn’t too enthusiastic about trying it, but it turned out to be one of the funnest boardgames I’ve ever played. I think what I love about it is that the emotions end up being real. There are two traitors for every five-person game, and when I had to stab one of my friends in the back, I felt genuinely terrible, and he felt genuinely betrayed. That game is an emotional rollercoaster, but it’s definitely a good time.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been up to– trying to relax, breathe, and just have some fun without feeling like I need to be doing seven other things at once. My bills are paid, my work gets done at my 9 to 5 job, and there’s gas in my car. Everything else can wait, because every now and then, you need to make time for fun. Right?

Speaking of fun, by popular demand, I put Averi through the Mary Sue Litmus Test today. She scored a somewhat chagrining 39, which in this test equates a Mary-Sue, although not a hopeless one. You can see the full results and read for yourself what a 39 means.

All right, so admittedly, the SFA characters are meant to play off of many of the fantasy tropes. There’s just no getting around a few of them, like:

Is the character related to royalty or nobility?
Has everyone significant heard of the character?
Is the character rich or well-to-do, although she/he doesn’t work?

(Warning, Spoilers for Book 1!)

There are some others that could have been avoided:

Was the character ever abducted?

I read that and thought ‘curses, book 1!’ They weren’t even trying to abduct her… -sigh-

Then there’s this one:

Is the character’s name an unusual spelling of a more common word or name?

I think ‘Avery’ is normally how the name is spelled. In my defense, I only swapped the spelling because I was ripping off one of JLY’s characters from a previous story. That character is named Avery, and I thought changing it to an ‘i’ would be fun… It started out as a place-holder, but when JLY nick-named Wisteria ‘Raven’, all bets were off–I previously had a character named ‘Ravenly’–so more or less, it was a fair trade… Right?

KL

A Parting Quote– for context, we had been laughing over something, rather than working:

KL: Okay… We need to listen to a calming song so we can work.
JLY: No! Not calm! UN-CALM! UN-CALM! *Shakes fist!*
KL: I’m putting that on my blog.
JLY: That’s not funny… It’s not funny to anyone but us.
KL: Yes… Well, that’s never stopped me before.

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The Perfect Book

January 24, 2009

“This is why I’m not good at being witty in real life. I think I’m so clever that I start laughing before I finish what I’m saying.”

-JLY

It’s probably no secret that JLY and I both enjoy writing SFA quite a bit… That should probably be reward enough for toiling over our pages… But I do take great delight whenever I see on the forum or in an email that someone is enjoying reading our work.

On the other hand, it makes me sad, sometimes, to know that some people… okay, possibly a lot of people… aren’t going to like our book.

There are many reasons for this, some of which have already been elaborated on in various comments, and others that are simply reasons I know, reasons that keep me awake at night every now and then, wondering if we should have done things differently.

I should probably admit that this is in no small part my own fault. I’ve developed a bad habit of reading the Amazon reviews for other books. It’s oddly fascinating to read the 5-star reviews, and horribly terrifying to read the 1-star reviews. Even great books, amazing books that are given 5 stars by reviewer after reviewer can be ripped to shreds by a single scathing 1-star review. How can some people hate a book so passionately, and other people love it so entirely?

The answer, I think, is both reassuring and unsettling. It’s just that people have different tastes, different things they look for, different things they love and hate.

For example, with our story, I know there are going to be people who don’t like the pace, people who don’t like the characters, and people who don’t like the plot (or lack there of in the beginning). But I also know– or at least hope– that there will be people who love seeing the school before we launch into the story, people who delight in watching the simple stereotypes blossom into deeper characters, and people who read foreshadowing into the early events that prepared the way for the main plot.

Writing is about making choices, and those choices come with trade-offs. The trade-off to getting a big, fun cast is that you might lose people when you introduce so many new faces at once. The trade-off to spending time on bullies, social events, and all the high school details is that there’s less time for the epic fantasy elements. The trade-off for entertaining ourselves with funny jokes and twists is that we undercut the dramatic elements.

One of my friends recently read our story, and he commented that he was taken by surprise when everything in the ending started happening, since up until then, it’s a happy little story without much danger.

Part of that is intentional. We wanted the twists to come as a significant surprise, but the trade-off is that there’s less urgency early on. Wisteria having a bodyguard, for example, seems completely superfluous at first. Rakam comes off as a slacker tag-along set on annoying her and making an easy buck… But we all know how that one ends.

Ultimately, there are many different ways that we could have told our story… I strongly believe that the published version is much, much stronger than the draft that is on the website. Even so, sometimes I still wonder if we should have told it a different way…

But if writing is about trade-offs, then I think the best we can do is to write from the heart, and write what we love… Because there’s no such thing as a Perfect Book that everyone will love… There will always be people who like a book, and people who don’t. And if you write for someone else, for what you think other people will like, at best you’ll still end up displeasing some readers, and at worst your writing will ring false to your readers and to yourself as well. The best I think we writers can hope for is to write for ourselves, and if someone else happens to like it, then we can consider ourselves very, very lucky.

And on that subject, I have a confession.

If you couldn’t tell, last week’s post is one of my favorites. JLY and I have had this scene planned for quite some time, so we’ve been looking forward to finally getting here. We’ve debated for a while how we wanted to play this scene… Ultimately, we had had to do it this way… It was just too much fun.

There are a lot of different ways that this scene could have happened. Perhaps more dramatically, perhaps with more suspense. But here we are, and I happen to personally like it the way it is.

You see, here at SFA, we write because it’s fun. We wouldn’t be able to sit inside on a Friday night and write for hours if it weren’t fun. We can be serious when we need to be, but our default setting is ‘have a good time’. And I can imagine that a lot of our choices aren’t very traditional, or might be very different than how other writers would do it… But maybe (hopefully?) different can be a good thing?

So that’s my rambling for today, but before I go, my sincerest thanks to everyone like mjkj and Mary who has helped so far with The Great Tagging Project (I’m compulsively checking to see if we ever claim the #1 spot for “Young Adult Fantasy” or “Young Adult”), to everyone who has bought the book, and to each person who has posted a review–Generic Pen Name, Charvale, Aiden Naecea, G. DiStefano, Larry Liang, and Drucilla Shultz–you definitely made our day, week, month! I’m savoring the time while we have a 5-star rating, since I know it’s doomed to not last for long…

KL

Quote for the week:

JLY: We have option A and B.
KL: What should we do?
JLY: Well, ‘A’ sounds funny…
KL: Yeah, let’s do that. Like we usually do. Whatever personally amuses us.

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Asking a Favor – The Great Tagging Project

January 7, 2009

As you might have heard, the book is now available on Amazon.com! I know people are busy, and not everyone has time to give us a review. But here’s an extremely quick way to help us out, and we’d really appreciate your help with it!

Amazon categorizes books through tagging the products. If you look at our page on Amazon and scroll down about a page, you’ll see the heading: “Tags Customers Associate with This Product”. If you tag us (by clicking the checkboxes there, or adding a new tag), we’d be very grateful!

So please please be super awesome and help us out? Be part of The Great Tagging Project of ’09! Our goal is to get 200 tags by the end of the month! All it takes is a few quick clicks.

KL

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Inside Jokes

December 12, 2008

First, in answer to everyone who’s asked about buying the book– It’s not quite available yet. With hope and much luck, it’ll be available in a couple of weeks! We just finished proofing the entire book and KM Ricker has graced us with some high-quality cover art. Now we just have to wait for Booksurge to send us a physical copy to approve.

To get a personal notification emailed sent straight to you from myself and JLY the second we know it’s available, you can send us an email with the subject line “Book” to eastridge@schoolforadventurers.com

Thank you very much to everyone who has emailed us so far, and to everyone who has expressed interest or encouragement! It really means a lot to us. Probably more than you realize. =)

Anyway, I have a trick that I use to prompt JLY into posting on her blog. I usually tell her “people are going to think you’re dead”, and she magically pulls out a post. I realized today that since I haven’t posted on my blog in quite some time, people are going to start thinking I’m dead. So, here’s proof that I’m not.

You might have caught on by now that, while we do take the story seriously at times, we’re not above being silly when the occasion calls for it. However, some of the silly things we like to talk about never quite make the cut of being in the story… So they end up on our blogs.

One of the particularly funny things that’s come up lately is that we use some current day slang and terminology, even though SFA is set in a fantasy world. JLY’s explanation for this is that the slang and terminology just happens to be a coincidence, and that the sources have nothing to do with our modern sources.

JLY: So we should have the same months, but for totally different reasons.

KL: Like the month February… Named after the february bush.

So, if you’ve read this week’s post, you’ll notice that a ‘febuary bush’ did manage to slip in and make the final cut… And now you know why. ^_^ This is something that JLY and KM Ricker and I would usually just chuckle at quietly to ourselves, but today I thought it was worth sharing… But perhaps you had to be there? ^_^*

Well, that’s all for me.

– KL over and out.

Outtake while considering creating a new term for ‘dating’:

“So what’s going on with you and Averi?” Wisteria asked. “You haven’t been wearing your matching bracelets.”

“I’m not exactly going to wear a bracelet around school,” Rai said. “If the Thieves don’t steal it, then the Warriors would never let me live it down. Besides I didn’t keep it. After everything that happened, we weren’t exactly thinking about schnoffelhoffendaaz,” Rai said somberly. “It was the furthest thing from my mind.”

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Done? Really?

October 31, 2008

JLY and I just submitted the Word document with the entire novel to Booksurge late last night… Fingers crossed that there won’t be any problems, and we’ll get it out in time for people to buy as holiday presents! What could be better than sharing SFA with someone you love, like, or barely know? (Really, we’ll take anything…) … Please? ^_^

JLY and I have worked extremely hard to improve the story from what’s on the website. There are new scenes, tons of cleaned up plot lines, and a veritable barrage of properly-used commas. We’ve agonized over making it the highest quality story possible, so we really hope you enjoy it. In particular, anyone who has been bothered by inconsistencies, wished for more details about the world, or wondered what happened to Fell for the middle part of the book should definitely read it!

So if you’ve enjoyed the website, if you’ve enjoyed the story, please save a spot on your bookshelf (and perhaps even a place on your gift list?) for SFA! We’ll let you know as soon as the book is available for purchase– hopefully it’ll be early December or late November!

KL

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