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The Origin Story of SFA

October 23, 2008

So, I don’t think I’ve talked yet about how JLY and I decided to start writing School for Adventurers. Here’s the tale.

It was a dark and wintry night in early December almost two years ago. JLY and I were up late discussing what sort of writing project we should embark on. JLY, KM Ricker, and I are always working on something or another — ever since high school, as a matter of fact — so we usually have something we’re thinking over and writing or drawing for.

We somehow ended up talking about some of our mutual friends from high school… And later, we came across the topic of young adult fantasy books that we loved or hated. We realized that there were two distinct genres that we were interested in for our next project: a high school story or a fantasy story.

And then came the big moment when one of us said, “Why not both?”

The more we thought about it, the more interesting it seemed.

The mission statement of SFA is to answer two questions. The first is “What would a high school for adventurers look like?” The second is “What would happen if all your favorite fantasy characters met each other in high school?”

Answering the first question makes writing SFA particularly tricky. We’re not just telling a story, we’re building a school. We wanted to fill it with fun and interesting classes and people, but we also had to balance that against the plot line– which is why you’ve probably noticed that the main plot is a bit meandering. But, the book is as much about the school as it is about the characters, so it’s important to JLY and myself to keep the focus there. We want SFA to be a world that has tons of possibilities, the kind of story that you would want to live in. It’s difficult, but I think we’ve struck a good balance, which we’re improving with the revisions of the book for the publication.

Answering the second question was a little bit more fun, for me at least. We started by mapping all of the high school stereotypes onto fantasy stereotypes. Of course, the characters aren’t that simple… Or at least, we’ve tried to show the subtleties for some of them. Admittedly, we didn’t have enough time in the first book to get into all of the back story and character development that we’d wanted to, since SFA is primarily plot-driven. Also, we rely a lot on our readers to read between the lines and to be patient as the plot slowly gets to exploring the characters… By the way, the character profiles that we’ve posted on the website are our “public” notes. The files that we keep on each character are far more extensive, with much more depth, but we don’t want to have any spoilers out there, so unfortunately we can’t share all of that information with you.

By the way, while we’re on the subject of stereotypes, I want to put in a defense for all the stereotypes out there in the world. I’ve read some reviews of our story that mention the stereotypes as though it’s a negative… I can understand that opinion. For some of my other writing, I try to avoid stereotypes at all costs. But for SFA, we consciously wanted to play with all the stereotypes we could think of.

Because before anything else, SFA is meant to be a fun young adult fantasy novel. While the title “School for Adventurers” may go a long way in conveying that, I just want to say that we’re not exactly trying to write the next “Madame Bovary“, “Grapes of Wrath“, or “Villette“. Nothing against Flaubert, Steinbeck, or Brontë– those are all masterful novels– they’re not the type of novel we happen to be writing. We don’t want this story to be a character study, and in particular, we -wanted- to try our hand at some stereotypes, and see what fun we can have in playing with them. Besides, when it comes down to it, that’s why we’re writing this– because it’s fun.

When JLY and I sit down to write a scene, we have a test. If we’re not excited about writing it, if we don’t think it’s going to be fun, then we cut it or change it. Of course, in these changes, we always hold true to the core plot… And more than that, I like to think that being flexible and throwing in new elements is also true to the foundation of SFA. From when we started planning it two years ago to last week when we sat down to write the Rankings scene, if we’re not looking forward to writing it, we brainstorm until we come up with something we’re both excited about. So SFA might take some unexpected turns, or it might be whimsical at times, but at the very least, we hope it’s always a fun ride.

KL

By the way, you can thank JLY for this line: “Fell looked at the little girl in front of him. He couldn’t imagine raising a hand against her, let alone fighting her.”

-I- wanted to go with: “Fell looked at the little girl in front of him. He could no sooner punch her than he could punch a kitten.”

Other outtakes:

JLY: The top three Warriors will receive…
KL: Can we say purses? Or would it be too girly?
JLY: Yes, purses. They will be in the season’s top colors—blue, purple—
KL: Shut up! The top three will receive..
JLY: Gold?
KL: Moneybags?
JLY: Gold bags?
KL: Yes, gold bags…filled with more gold!

Also:

“Maybe he should toss a coin to see who goes first. It can’t be heads or tails. Should it be like… fireworks or wheat-shafts.”

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Massive Rewrites, You Say? Why Yes, We’ve Got Those.

September 25, 2008

As you might know, JLY and I finished writing Book 1 on 7/7/08. And then, began editing it. That means we’ve been editing for over two months now. Two months. Of editing.

If you’ve read JLY’s blog at all, you know she’s the perfectionist. She likes it when things are perfect. Me, on the other hand? I like it when things are done.

Which is why editing is painful for me. I wanted to power through it and finish it and submit the book so I can put a big metaphorical DONE stamp on SFA Book 1… But luckily, JLY and KM Ricker (amongst other people) have talked sense into me… So it looks like we might delay publishing until we can go over the entire book again and make it… better…

Sometimes, with editing, I get the feeling that I’m not making things better, I’m just making things different. I hate that feeling… It seems unproductive.

But, JLY and I did have a good round of editing lately, where we rolled up our sleeves and cleaned up some of the Annalise sub-plot (which gets a little messy at times)… Hopefully, what we’re doing is making it better, and not just different.

After some discussion, JLY and I decided to share one of the changes— an added scene, in this case– for the update last week. This scene is in rough-draft (and by that, I mean it hasn’t been gone through any rounds of editing yet). If you read it, I hope you liked seeing what we’ve been bashing our heads against for the past two months or so… The process of ripping open the story and then putting it back together. So to speak.

Oh, to answer the question in the comments, JLY and I have opted not to use a professional editor… Since we’ve already got the two of us, plus KM Ricker’s opinion, I tend to think we’ve got enough opinions floating around… Also, I’m not sure that the quality of professional editing we’d get with a self-publishing company would be that worth it, since the editors don’t work with you for as much time, or as closely. But maybe a professional editor would be a good idea in the future, at some point…

KL

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Reviews, Deadlines, New Favorite Hobbies.

September 10, 2008

First off, I really can’t thank everyone enough for joining the facebook group, posting comments, joining the tangler forum and overall reading the book. My new favorite hobby is checking to see who the new members of the facebook group are, and hoping we break 100 people. ^_^

Also, I’ll admit that every now and then JLY, KM Ricker, and I spend a couple of hours sorting through all of the places where fans have posted SFA links on forums, or mentioned it on blogs or profiles. It’s always a jolt of encouragement to see that someone out there has taken the time to share our story with other people. We really appreciate it!

So… along those lines, JLY and I have submitted our site to a couple of web fiction websites, so I wanted to let everyone know that you can now find a listing of our book at Pages Unbound and the Webfiction Guide. We’ve had so many thoughtful and amazing emails/comments that I thought I’d throw those two links out there to see if anyone would be interested in giving us a ranking/writing a review at one of those sites. (Who wouldn’t want to write a review for SFA? No one, presumably… Right? =D)

Anyway, apparently the only way JLY, KM Ricker, and I can manage to get anything done is to set some strict deadlines… The latest one we’ve set is to try to submit the manuscript to Booksurge by Sept 15th. Given how long the formatting, etc. takes, that should mean the book will be ready to buy in time for the holidays… Hopefully. So, as per usual, we’re scrambling to get everything done, tighten up anything that needs tightening, and add in all the scenes we think make sense to add.

As JLY and I have mentioned a bit, we’re planning on filling in Fell’s arc somewhat more completely, so you can look for a couple more Fell scenes in the first book. Honestly, one of the main reasons that Fell was neglected was the steady-progression nature of his character. Warriors take their lumps and grind through the first year, so that’s what Fell is doing… and unfortunately, that’s not particularly eventful, or plot-relevant… (We can really only have so many scenes where Fell gets beaten up again, right?) But, looking back, we did end up skipping over some parts… So, I can now definitely say that we’re going to round all of that out a little more, particularly the social side of Fell’s first year.

Other than that, just more of the same type of work that we’ve been talking about for the past couple months… the Fell additions are the last major thing on our list, along with a couple other scenes that need looking at… and, realistically, probably going over the entire thing one last time… But, after that! We can submit it! I feel like I’ve been saying that for awhile…

Anyway, I’m looking forward to submitting it, and finally really moving on to work full-on for book 2. We’ll keep you updated as we go along… With hope and much luck, the next time I post, I’ll be congratulating the SFA team on successfully submitting our book to Booksurge by September 15th. ^_^

KL

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Self-Publishing, RSS, Facebook, and Fell

August 24, 2008

Thanks again to everyone who’s been commenting and emailing. KM Ricker, JLY, and I were very encouraged by all of the feedback!

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks working on the non-writing side of SFA. We called a couple of self-publishing companies and spent a few hours talking to each of them so we could figure out what the best company for us would be. After much debate, we decided to go with Booksurge (as David Dunham even recently recommended). We picked Booksurge for several reasons, including the book size (smaller, and more like real fantasy books), and the price buyers pay (which should end up being lower than other companies). The process takes a couple of months to complete, so when it’s available to buy, we’ll be happy to let everyone know!

On top of the self-publishing research, JLY and I also spent many (too many?) hours bashing our heads against the RSS feed, but we finally got it working, so SFA now has an RSS feed. Sign up and stay on top of all the upcoming SFA news. =)

Lastly, you might have noticed that SFA has a shiny new Facebook group, so you can join up and discuss SFA on facebook with other readers, or just show your support. =D Thank you to everyone who has signed up so far!

Whew. Well, hopefully this week it’ll be back to writing. Rai’s prologue will be posted on Friday, so we can see how Eastridge’s resident charmer spent his summer. After that, it’ll be time to dive into the first chapter!

By the way, there have been a few emails and comments asking about why Fell isn’t more involved in Book 1. Originally, we had a few more things planned for him and for the Warrior major, but as it was we felt we were taking too long to get to the actual overarching plot, so we decided to push some of it to the second book.

So, JLY and I have previously talked about this imbalance, and as we’re editing the book, we’ve been looking to see if we can balance the narrative a bit more evenly while still making sense and without getting too side-tracked. So, it’s something we’ve definitely been thinking about and looking into, although I’m not sure what the end result will be. I can, however, say that we’ve got lots of plans for Fell this year.

KL

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8/8/08 and Thanks…

August 8, 2008

As we’re posting the beginning of book two, I want to take a minute to say thanks everyone who’s commented on the blog or sent us an email. I have to admit that there are days when JLY and I start to feel burned out, and hearing that there are people out there who like our story gives us the motivation to push ourselves to work harder, make the scenes better, and keep writing instead of taking a break to play Soul Calibur IV. ^_^*

You might have noticed that SFA doesn’t have any ads, anywhere. And, while we certainly wouldn’t mind someday making ridiculous amounts of money off of our writing, for now, we’re just writing for the love of telling the story. When we hear from readers, it makes the hard work worth it, and inspires us to keep at it. So, thanks to everyone for the emails and the blog comments. We appreciate it more than you know.

To answer Lana’s question (in a comment on the previous post), JLY, KM Ricker, and I have thought about self-publishing the novel, and we’re hoping to pick a publishing service and get a physical copy of the book out there in circulation. We spent part of the last month going through and editing the entire novel– adding some scenes, polishing some of the rough places, and (hopefully) catching all of the typos. If we do end up publishing it, I hope everyone picks up a copy!

But, in the meantime, if anyone out there enjoying the story would like a way to support us, I’d like to put in a shameless plug for you to tell a friend, or a couple of friends, or everyone you know, about SFA. ^_^

In other news, it’s 8/8/08, and that means that we’ve started posting the second book, which actually has a title, and a good one, at that–The Stolen Sword. It took JLY and I longer than I’d like to admit to come up with that title… Someday we’ll post up the outtakes, but probably when they’re no longer massive spoilers for the plot…

We’re starting off this book with a look at a few of the adventurers’ summers, and writing these prologues has been a lot of fun. I hope it’s as much fun to read as it was to write. While the big scenes that JLY and I write have more energy and more excitement, there’s something nice about stepping back, focusing on just one character, and meandering through his or her life, picking up details at random to examine.

Also, in scenes with more than one character, we usually don’t get to spend much time inside any one character’s thoughts, seeing how they see the world. It’s nice to have the freedom to ditch the neutral perspective once in a while and jump into a character’s perspective.

So, this week, it’s Fell. Next week you can catch a glimpse of Averi’s summer. Hope you enjoy it!

KL

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Ending and Beginning

July 31, 2008

We’ve timed our posts on the SFA website so that the ending to the first book will be posted on 8/6/08. And, as you might have heard from JLY’s post, we’re planning on starting the second book and posting the first scene by 8/8/08. Hopefully this isn’t too ambitious, considering JLY and I have spent the last few weeks editing and polishing Book 1, instead of starting Book 2…

At any rate, the beginning of Book 2 also coincides with the end of copious amounts of free time– JLY is off to get some more book-learnin’, I’m headed back into the working world, and even KM Ricker is returning to the trenches of art school.) So, we’ll be returning to once-a-week updates that will most likely take place on Fridays.

Even though starting the second book is a little daunting from this side of it, there’s something exhilaratingly about standing at the edge of this new book. Writing the end of the first book was a lot of tying up loose ends and pulling the plot together. There wasn’t too much room for random scenes or whimsical asides, and for that matter, the story was mostly in place so we didn’t even need to do that much creating. It was mostly just finishing out the road map that we had put in place.

But! Now that we’re starting the second book, it feels like there’s nothing but time and freedom. There are a lot of fun questions to be asked and answered. How has summer changed each of the adventurers? Will people relate the same way as they did before? Yes, we’ve got an outline for where the plot is going, but there’s much more freedom than we’ve been used to operating under.

The feeling of starting over with a new book, is, I suppose, one of possibilities. And what I love about SFA is that these possibilities are everywhere. It’s fun to try to figure out which possibilities to run with, and where to take them. Well, hopefully by 8/8/08, we’ll all know where these possibilities lead.

KL

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As Though We Planned It

July 11, 2008

If you’re following along on the School For Adventurers website, you’ll be reading Chapter 11: Final Examinations over the next couple of weeks. This chapter was fun to write, so hopefully it’ll be at least equally fun to read. ^_^

By the way, if anyone is wondering if we planned the last names to work out so that there would be certain groups for the Final Examinations, I can honestly admit that it was one of many fun coincidences that JLY and I luck into every so often. We have a saying whenever we stumble across something that we didn’t plan, but that works out perfectly and just makes too much sense. We say: As though we planned it.

Because, in all honesty, we both know that the kinds of things we’re pulling together for the end of SFA should have been planned and set up months in advance, and somehow, some of these things are just falling together. And even though there are things we have been setting up for months and months now, it’s sometimes more exciting to realize there’s something hiding in our text that we ourselves didn’t even plant there. It makes the writing feel true– like we’re just transcribing something that’s not arbitrary or made up, but something that had to be called into existence in just this way, to work out and tie together in all these places.

By the way, maybe this is only funny to me, but you’d be surprised how long it took us to come up with the line:

“Not bad, Wisteria.” Lyre said. “But, this isn’t sparring class. […] You forgot about Sariil.”

For about twenty minutes, we were stuck on:

“Not bad, Wisteria,” Lyre said, “But you forgot one thing. Sariil’s-behind-you-with-a-rock!

KL